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Juliusz ZARĘBSKI(1854-1885) Complete Works for Piano
Piotr Sałajczyk (piano, CDs 1-4)
Maria Szwajger-Kułakowska (piano, CD 4)
rec. 2014, Concert Hall of the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music, Lusławice, Poland DUX 1181/84 [4 CDs: 277:00]
Juliusz Zarębski was only thirty-one when he died in 1885, so he never reached full artistic maturity. The summit of his achievements is undoubtedly his Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 34, written in the last year of his life. I got to know it many years ago in an excellent recording on the Pavane label with Waldemar Malicki and Varsovia String Quartet. Zarębski’s studies progressed rapidly; he completed his six-year course at the Vienna Conservatory in just two years. This was followed by a period of guidance and mentorship under Franz Liszt, ostensibly to improve his interpretative skills. His solo career was brief, ending in 1880, when he assumed a professorship at the Brussels Conservatory teaching piano, a post he held for the last five years of his life.
Aside from the Piano Quintet, Zarębski's output seems to be devoted exclusively to the piano. Dux have made a wise decision to set out the music in opus order, facilitating a comprehensive overview of the development of the oeuvre, and how the composer's expressive ability evolved. The earliest works can be divided into two types: études incorporating a teaching element clad in musically satisfying garb, and Polish dances and folk melodies forged into pleasing salon repertoire, in response to public demand.
Polish dances form a substantial portion, with mazurkas and polonaises offering outstanding examples. The Grande polonaise, Op. 6 is a virtuosic tour-de-force, combining Chopinesque lyricism with Lisztian bravura. The Fantasie polonaise, Op. 9, as its title suggests, evinces a wealth of imagination and fantasy. At 13 minutes, the Polonaise mélancolique, Op. 10 is sizeably drafted, notable for its harmonic audacity. Zarębski was also fond of the mazurka, and the florid embellishments of the two Concert mazurkas Op. 8 and Op. 15 have an attractive allure.
The fusion of virtuosity and pedagogy is a characteristic of the études. They are a far cry from dry academic exercises, instead constituting beguiling minatures. However, the pieces that attract me most are the Impromptu-Caprice Morceau de concert, Op. 14 and the Ballade, Op. 18. I am surprised the latter is not better known. Its passionate, romantic mien would surely win it many friends and admirers.
CD 3 features late solo works which suggest a more refined expressiveness. They provide some of the finest music in the set. The Novelette-Caprice, Op. 19 is capricious and mercurial, whilst the Berceuse, Op. 22 has a glowing limpidness which is rather seductive. The lilting rhythm of the Barcarolle, op. 31 has an almost hypnotic effect. The Tarantelle, Op. 25 carries you along with its rhythmic buoyancy and drive.
Zarębski’s four-hand works on CD 4 date from various periods of his life. The publication houses of the day were always keen to request them, as they must have been popular and sold well. The works do not really aspire to much more than salon entertainment. Nevertheless they are tuneful and pleasing to the ear, and prove the composer’s abundant melodic gifts.
I am pleased that Zarębski’s entire opus-numbered piano output has been issued in one box set rather than volume by volume. I commend Ryszard Daniel Golianek’s well-written booklet notes for their detail. Piotr Sałajczyk’s intelligent, thoughtful and inspired playing does full justice to this attractive music. He is joined by Maria Szwajger-Kułakowska on CD 4 for the four-hand works. The recorded sound is excellent. The set has given me many hours of pleasure.
CD 1 [60:52]
Menuet, op. 1
Étude de concert, op. 3
Grande polonaise, op. 6
Trois études de concert, op. 7
Mazurka de concert, op. 8
Fantaisie polonaise, op. 9
Polonaise mélancolique, op. 10
CD 2 [69:04]
Les Roses et les Épines, op. 13
Impromptu-Caprice, op. 14
Mazurka de concert, op. 15
Suite polonaise, op. 16
Valse sentimentale, op. 17
Ballade, op. 18
CD4 [73:25] (works for 4 hands)
Danses polonaises, première série "Trois danses galiciennes", op. 2
Danses polonaises, deuxième série, Quatre mazurkas, op. 4
Rêverie en do mineur, op. 5
Passion en sol majeur, op. 5
Polonaise triomphale en la majeur, op. 11
Divertisseement à la Polonaise, sur des motifs nationaux, op. 12
"À travers Pologne", danses et mélodies, op. 23
Chant du départ
Le mal du pays