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Ryszard SIELICKI (1916-2005)
Chamber Works
Violin Sonata (1945?) [14:36]
Reverie (Légende hebraïque) for violin and piano (1998) [5:43]
Jankel's Mazurka (Hommage à Yehudi Menuhin) for violin and piano (1999) [7:19]
Melody for cello and piano (1940s?) [4:22]
Burlesca - Polish Dance for cello and piano (1940s?) [5:08]
String Quartet no. 1 in F minor Polish (1944) [24:18]
Opium String Quartet (Agnieszka Marucha (violin I); Anna Szalińska (violin I); Magdalena Małecka-Wippich (viola); Olga Łosakiewicz-Marcyniak (cello)); Pawłowski Tomasz (piano)
rec. June 2016, Uniwersytet Muzyczyny Fryderyka Chopina. DDD

Acte Préalable show no signs of fatigue in their mission to revive the fortunes of composers whose names and music were never or hardly known outside Poland. Many of their resurrections have centred on nineteenth century composers; not so here.

Sielicki, we are told in Edward Sielicki's liner-note (Polish and English), had great domestic success with popular music, including mass market songs, musical comedies, a children's opera and music for fairytales. His music tuition in Warsaw was brutally terminated by the Second World War after which he studied in Minsk and then in Moscow, latterly with Yuri Shaporin and Dmitri Shostakovich. Having graduated he returned to Warsaw in 1948 where he worked with Polski-Nagrania and promoted many fine Polish artists including Kulka and Wilkomirska. He balanced this with composition and overseeing a series of publications including Musica Antiqua Polonica and Polish Jazz.

The present world premiere recordings help us to become au fait with a composer who was no revolutionary but who had singing values to communicate. The Reverie (Légende hebraïque) is a comparatively recent piece - typically introspective and capricious. The stately Jankel's Mazurka has a good theme that mixes the dignified heritages of two dances: Kujawiak and Mazur. The Melody is said to be from Sielicki's Soviet years. Its dipping and cresting contours are grateful and would grace any young cellist's folio. As expected from its title, the cello Burlesca is at times even more lively. Dedicated to Szymanowski, the inspiration seems to have been the folk culture of the Tatra mountains. It quotes from a Polish song and ends in a sudden accelerating flurry of notes.

The annotator claims a modern style for the String Quartet. True, there is an occasionally complex density to the weave of instrumental lines. Add to that a Bartókian edginess in the first movement but this is no more challenging than the instrumental writing in Warlock's The Curlew. Gentleness is at work in the short central Andante cantabile. The 14-minute finale is a Theme and Variations on the Polish song Za górami, za lasami, za dolinami. Sielicki makes moving folk-inflected play with the song with results that are tart and sweet.

The compact three-movement Violin Sonata is "dedicated to the memory of Shostakovich" yet was completed in 1945. The dedicatee died in 1975 thirty years before Sielicki's death. Naturally, there is nothing stopping a work that has, to all intents and purposes, lain in a drawer being given a dedication thirty years later. The Sonata was written at about the time that the composer was studying with Shostakovich so one can see how this may have come about. For all its brevity the Sonata is a lanky, big-boned, dramatic piece that is rife with heroism and delight, quiet and joyously shouted. While the notes quite plausibly claim kinship with Prokofiev, Weinberg and Janáček this score often sounds more like the violin sonatas of a number of English composers including Howells, Rootham and Dunhill. There's an unsullied sweetness and directness of utterance about this very attractive music.

The performances here seem more than adept and the sound quality is suitable forthright.

Rob Barnett



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