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Jerzy GABLENZ (1888-1937)
Songs – Volume 1
Barbara Lewicka (soprano)
Beata Kosk (mezzo-soprano)
Donata Zuliani (alto)
Fr Robert Kaczorowski (baritone)
Anna Mikolon (piano)
rec. 2017/18, Studio Radia Gdańsk, Poland

Yet another neglected Polish composer thankfully brought to light by the publishing house and record label Acte Préalable. This time the music of Jerzy Gablenz, a composer who does not even have a Wikipedia page, with the music here being part of a proposed larger series dedicated to the composer’s songs, and in doing research for that series the piano music was discovered and it was decided to include it in this, Volume 1 of his songs.

Jerzy Gablenz was born in Cracow, the son of a business man and amateur pianist, whilst his grandfather on his mother’s side was a director of the Cracow Conservatory. This musical heritage rubbed off on young Jerzy, who began learning the piano at an early age followed by the flute, on which he became a virtuoso; he later learned the organ and the cello. He had hoped to study music at university, but the family insisted on law, he did however, keep up practice on his musical instruments and took private lessons in composition, musical theory and the history of music. After he finished his university studies he was put to work in the family business, with his father giving him more and more responsibilities as time went on. During this period, he continued to find time to perform and compose; this was the case even after he became a factory owner.

I found his music enjoyable yet difficult to judge due to the differing influences and styles that he composed in. For instance, the opening Bagatelles that open this disc can be seen to have a contemporary French feel, especially the second movement Vivo, yet some of his songs and other piano works present on this disc have a somewhat conservative mid-nineteenth century central European feel, even of Mozart. It is for this reason that it is difficult to discern which is Gablenz’s own personal style.

As suggested the opening Bagatelles have a French feel, although that is not the case with all of them, since the first is in the form of a chorale, as in the great Austro-German tradition. It is the middle two bagatelles that have the French feel, with the Vivo sounding like a cross between Satie and Fauré. The final one has a highly stylised waltz theme running through it, with a touch of Spanishness.

The opus 7 songs, and indeed all the solo songs on this disc, are very lyrical and remind me of the likes of Carl Loewe, Hugo Wolf and even on occasion, Othmar Schoek. The highlight, for me, of Op. 7 is the second song, ‘Tyle miłości przebolało we mnie’, or ‘So Much Love Got Over Inside of Me’, a song of unrequited love in which the singer goes through the whole gamut of emotions.

The Op. 3 Morceaux are two charming character pieces, and whilst it would be wrong to dismiss them as salon music, they are not the finest of the works presented here. The first, Melodie in D, is perhaps the stronger, whilst the following Menuett would not be out of place in a Haydn or Mozart sonata. These pieces sound to me like student pieces, for here we have a composer composing in an older form, perhaps as a kind of musical exercise.

The Terzettos are again French-sounding, they display the difficulties of writing for the three female voices, soprano, mezzo-soprano and alto, and blending the different timbres together. I am happy to say that Gablenz achieves this well, especially in the final piece on the disc, ‘Dobranoc’, or ‘Good Night’.

The Three Improvisations were apparently inspired by following a “Miss ‘Go’ Schoen,”, his future wife, the first contains a walking theme that is reminiscent of the use of the Promenade in the Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky; these are pieces of great tenderness and appeal.

The three Opus 5 songs also remind me of Mussorgsky, especially in the way that the composer uses the voice to colour the music. The songs are dark-sounding, and Fr Robert Kaczorowski has a voice to match the texts.

The opus 8 Bagatelles are curious pieces, especially since the second sounds as if it wouldn’t be out of place in the ballroom of a Regency town. Compared to these, the two Skizzen have an air of Chopin about them, especially the first. The booklet notes talk about the “fairytale-like atmosphere”, but then the subtitle, ‘Es war einmal’, does mean ‘Once Upon a Time’.

There are many things to like about this disc, and the fact that it introduces me to a new composer is the least of them. The singing is excellent throughout, I especially liked the dark edged tone of Fr Robert Kaczorowski’s baritone, whilst the piano of Anna Mikolon is wonderful. The disc is well recorded, and the notes are helpful especially as the texts and translations of the songs are included. I look forward to hearing the second disc of his songs which is already in preparation.

Stuart Sillitoe

4 Bagatelles for piano op. 1 no. 1
Moderato in A flat Major [2:07]
Vivo in D minor [3:51]
Andantino triste in B flat minor [5:20]
Tempo di valse in A flat Major [3:42]
3 Songs op. 7
Z Księgi Radości [3:59]
Tyle miłości przebolało we mnie [3:57]
Wracaj ty do nas [3:06]
2 Morceaux op. 3
Melodie in D Major: Allegro moderato [2:18]
Menuett in G Major: Tempo di menuetto grazioso [2:37]
2 Terzettos op. 4
W majową noc [8:15]
Gdy ranek majowy [5:13]
3 Improvisations for piano op. 1 no. 4
Allegro non tanto in B Major [3:03]
Con moto in E flat Major [3:08]
Con anima in G minor [1:59]
Pielgrzym op. 5 no. 1 [2:24]
Tęskniłem wieki op. 5 no. 5 [1:25]
Z liryków op. 5 no. 7 [3:21]
2 Bagatelles for piano op. 8
Moderato in G minor [2:20]
Scherzo in B flat Major [1:52]
2 Skizzen for piano "Es war einmal" op. 24
Moderato in D flat Major [2:01]
Scherzo in E flat Major [1:59]
Dobranoc op. 19 [10:02]



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