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Wojciech GAWROŃSKI (1868-1910)
Berceuse Op. 2 No. 3 [4:56]
Quatre Preludes Op. 14 [8:27]
Kołysamka Op. 11 No. 5 [3:07]
Menuet Op. 18 No. 2 [3:33]
Sérénade “Morceau Caractéristique” Op. 18 No. 3 [3:13]
Sonata for Viola and Piano Op. 22 [19:49]
Sérénade antique Op. 24 No. 2 [4;28]
Pieśń Miłości Op. 24 No. 3 [6:54]
Pieśń wieczorna Op. 25 No. 1 [4:54]
Noturno w noc księzycową Op. 26 No. 1 [5:43]
Marcin Murawski (viola)
Anna Starzec-Makandasis (piano)
rec. Wacław of Szamotuly Music School, Szamotuly, Poland, 2018

Like many readers I had to ask, ‘who is Wojciech Gawroński’, or to give him his full name, Wojciech Rola-Gawroński? And here we must thank Jan A. Jarnick, the mastermind behind the Acte Préalable label and his goal of producing discs of music dedicated to forgotten Polish composers. In his series of discs, he has unearthed some really interesting and unjustly neglected composers and their music, with this present disc being a further example of why projects such as this are so valuable.

Wojciech Gawroński was born in Sejmany, near Vilnius in the then Russian Empire, but due to the strong ties to Poland, through the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he identified as Polish. He began learning music from an early age (his father being his first teacher), giving his first concert as a pianist at the age of eleven. He went on to study at the Music Institute in Warsaw, gaining his Diploma in 1891. He then moved to Berlin, where for a short time he took private lessons with Moritz Moszkowski. On his return to Poland he settled in Warsaw, becoming a well respected pianist, teacher and composer, winning a number of awards, both at home and internationally for his compositions. He was thought of as a gifted performer of the music of Bach and in particular Chopin, on whom he became an authority, even giving a series of lectures on Chopin at the Warsaw Philharmonic.

Gawroński’s music is highly romantic in structure and expression, as with the Sonata for Viola and Piano which is thought to be the oldest example of a viola sonata from a Polish composer. This current disc offers a number of charming shorter pieces which were originally composed as songs or pieces for violin or cello and piano, which have been transcribed for viola by Marcin Murawski, the violist on this disc, and I must say that they have a certain charm and attractiveness. The first of these is the lovely Berceuse, which although a relatively early work, shows a degree of maturity. Other examples of such works are the Pieśń Miłości or ‘Love’s Song’, and Pieśń wieczorna, Night’s Song, both of which were originally composed for violin and piano and come across well in the transcription for viola, their passion and emotion brought out well by the deeper instrument.

The Sonata for Viola and Piano from around the turn of the twentieth century, is the star of the show. It is a deeply characterful work, especially the first movement with its reminiscences of Polish folk music and dances. The second movement is a wonderfully evocative Adagio sostenuto which, as the booklet notes suggest “brings to mind the funeral march by Chopin”, whilst the final movement offers some forward-looking passages more akin to the music of France than of the Poland of the time.

The disc also contains some of Wojciech Gawroński’s piano music with the Quatre Preludes, all named after the first four months of the year, clearly showing the influence of Chopin. The Menuet and the Serenade Morceau Caractéristique are charming miniatures, the Menuet once again showing Chopin’s influence. The Sérénade antique on the other hand shows a deal of originality in the way that it develops the baroque style of Domenico Scarlatti into a waltz.

All the pieces presented on this disc are wonderful examples of romantic and late romantic music; even in transcription the character of the composer shines through. I for one hope that Acte Préalable follow this disc up with a further disc of Gawroński’s music, especially if it were to be the two string quartets discussed in the booklet notes, as we have presented in this disc, music by a genuinely neglected composer.

Not content with playing the viola, something he does very well indeed, and transcribing some of the pieces for the instrument, Marcin Murawski has also written the informative and helpful booklet notes, whilst Anna Starzec-Makandasis proves to be a very accomplished soloist and accompanist. The recorded sound is very good with the little reverence in the piano not detracting from my enjoyment of this wonderful disc.

Stuart Sillitoe



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