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Kazimierz SEROCKI (1922-1981)
Sonata for piano (1955) [19:39]
The Gnomes: Children’s Miniatures (1953) [7:53]
Suite of Preludes (1952) [12:53]
A piacre: Suggestions for piano (1962-63) [8:19]
Adam Kośmieja (piano)
rec. 14-15 November 2015, European Center Matecznik “Mazowsze”, Otrębusy.
DUX 1284 [48:46]

Kazimierz Serocki was a highly talented pianist as a child, later pursuing an interest in modern music in Paris and Darmstadt and becoming known as the creator of Polish ‘sonorism.’ The DUX label has of course covered large scale works such as Pianophonie and the Romantic Concerto. There are barely any recordings of these solo piano pieces around, and those that there are lead us back to the DUX label as parts of recital programmes, so we can sit back and enjoy this without being too bothered about picky comparisons.

The most significant work here is the Sonata, which is a powerful statement indeed. The first movement has something of Prokofiev’s tensile energy in its jabbing rhythms and dark cadences. This is followed by a remarkable Veloce which to my mind has a connection with the finale of Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in its dramatically intense single line. The Elegiaco third movement is the ‘exceptionally beautiful’ heart of the sonata, a beauty that builds to reveal granite-like strength rather than tenderness. The Barbaro close is again an intense and driving force, though even at its peaks this is not so much aggressive as impassioned, the spirit of Prokofiev once again the shade through which its energies are refracted.

The Gnomes might be familiar to those with young piano students around – I certainly remember trying them and finding some of them anything but childish, though I was never much of a pianist. The artful combination of folk-influence and creative invention makes these a distinctive collection comparable with and as good as the better-known collections of Bartók.

The Suite of Preludes is claimed as ‘an atonal piece’ in the booklet notes, but while tonality is blurred there is always movement within tonality and, to my ears at least, quite strong tonal intent in most of the pieces. The second, Affettuoso, has for instance quite a blowsy jazz-tinged feel in its opening and closing material, and while there are modernist elements there are as many that refer to composers of the past, something also remarked upon in Ewa Szczecińska’s notes. These are all superb pieces and deserving of far wider attention.

The only truly avant-garde piece here is Serocki’s last work for piano solo, A piacre: Suggestions for piano. This is the kind of score that gives freedom to the player, for instance in segmenting different musical fragments that can then be played in any order, ‘at one’s own discretion.’ This sort of thing was of course all the rage at that time but Serocki nevertheless retains a close control over his musical material, and his creative fingerprints are still very much in evidence.

Adam Kośmieja’s performances on this recording are sublime and authoritative, true virtuosity in the service of the music. The recording is also excellent, the piano sound deep and detailed but with plenty of air in the sound. It’s a shame Serocki didn’t write more than 49 minutes-worth of solo piano music, but what there is must be considered well worth acquiring.

Dominy Clements



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