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Tadeusz MAJERSKI (1888–1963)
Concerto-Poem for piano and orchestra (1946, rev. 1956; scoring rev. and ed. Emilian Madey, 2008–9) [16:34]
Piano Quintet in the Form of Variations (1953) [14:55]
Cello Sonata (1949) [11:40]
Four Piano Preludes (1935) [8:13]
La Musique Oubliée: Three Musical Pictures (1948-49) [5:46]
Three Pieces for Piano (1935, 1953) [4:25]
Michał Drewnowski (piano)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Emil Tabakov
New Art Chamber Soloists; Arkadiusz Dobrowolski (cello)
rec. RSNO Centre, Glasgow, 15 December 2015; K Penderecki Hall, Radom, November 2013

These are first recordings of works by a Polish composer-pianist few will ever have heard of; I certainly hadn't. He seems to have chosen Lwow rather than Warsaw as his primary workplace. A pupil of Rozycki who then spent two years studying in Leipzig, he was counted among the first generation of Polish dodecaphonists in the 1930s. The evidence of this CD suggests he adopted his own modified and romantically adapted approach. I had at first wondered if we were about to be ushered into the presence of another Darmstadt adherent but the music is quite otherwise.

The Concerto-Poem put me in mind of Ireland's Legend and Bax's Winter Legends but is more accommodating of stretches of dissonance; he was born five years after Bax and died ten years after Bax's death. Mystery shimmers its mercurial way through these pages but there's strenuous ice-block drama too alongside French horns calling out and filaments of solo violin appearing and melting back. Majerski touches on the late-romantic territories of Rachmaninov and Medtner during the swelling heroics at 10:00 and 11:31 and at the very close. The Concerto-Poem is recorded - as are the other pieces in a different venue - in full-on sound. The performances are passionate to match the essence of these strenuous and protestingly unruly slices of this composer's imaginative world.

The other works tend towards brevity, which is intriguing given that romantics of this and earlier eras have tended to spread themselves more than Majerski. The brilliant and very enjoyable Piano Quintet in the Form of Variations is cotton-wool cocooned and very surgingly romantic for its date although folk elements do enter the fray (tr.6). The rounded and appealingly melodic dignity of the Cello Sonata has the same rolling majesty to be found in John Foulds' very much earlier Cello Sonata and there's gambolling energy in the last of the two movements.

The Four Piano Preludes comprise a shrouded Misterioso that shakes off the mist with the same bell-tower heroism to be found in the Concerto-Poem. A sternly martellato-characterised Allegro follows with a bleakly dark and mesmerising Andante and a rushingly ruthless microscopic Presto that might well have been crafted by the likes of Ornstein or Cowell. The baritonal chiming introspection of the first of the Three Musical Pictures contrasts with the pessimistic In the Dark and the comforting blue horizons of At the Crossroad. This latter mood essay should be in the repertoire of all concert pianists. Of the Three Pieces the steely coruscating Etude (1963) is succeeded by the sinister concentration of Unsentimental Waltz (1935) and, from the same year as the Waltz, a little Prelude is clearly from the same mother-lode.

If you are looking for parallels among Majerski's countrymen then he is closer to Szymanowski than to the Polish high priests of the 1960s - closer, not a facsimile.

The story of the life of Majerski is recounted by Michal Drewnowski. You can fill out the biographical picture from an interview with Andrzej Nikodemowicz on the Toccata site.

Another fresh and refreshing revival from Toccata selected from an unfashionable and untilled corner of the Polish field.

Rob Barnett



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