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Forgotten Polish Music for Four Hands
Maria Agata SZYMANOWSKA (1789 –1831)
Grande Valse in F major [3:44]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810 – 1849)
Variations in D major on a Theme by Thomas Moore, op. posth. (edited by Jan Ekier) [6:08]
Karol MIKULI (1821 – 1897)
Andante con Variazionie in E minor op. 15 [8:05]
Julisz ZARĘBSKI (1854 – 1885)
Divertissement ŕ la Polonaise op. 12 [9:51]
Karol KURPIŃSKI (1785–1857)
Coronation Polonaise in D major [5:13]
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860 – 1941)
Tatra Album op. 12 [15:31]
Maria Szymanowska Piano Duo (Agata Górska-Kołodziejska, Anna Liszewska)
rec. 2017, Grażyna and Kiejstut Bacewicz Academy of Music, Łódź, Poland
DUX 1433 [48:32]

The Maria Szymanowska Piano Duo (Agata Górska-Kołodziejska, Anna Liszewska) derives its name from the Polish composer Maria Agata Szymanowska, who was one of the first professional virtuoso pianists at the beginning of the nineteenth century and among the first pianists to play her concerts from memory – a decade before Franz Liszt or Clara Schumann. Her professional piano career began in 1815, and performances in England, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Holland were soon to follow. A number of these performances were given in private for royalty. In later years Szymanowska composed for the Russian Court at St Petersburg, where she continued to give concerts, taught music, and was in charge of a very fashionable salon. The 100 piano pieces she composed are typical in the stile brillant of the era that preceded Frédéric Chopin and clearly had an impact on Chopin's musical language, thus her Grand Valse in F major is fittingly placed as first track on this CD. Agata Górska-Kołodziejska specialises in early-Romantic as accompanist, music for solo piano and for four hands and published “The Style Brillant in Early-Romantic Polish Music.” Anna Liszewska is an accomplished accompanist and teacher. As both have a profound interest in the Polish musical heritage, they founded the Maria Szymanowska Piano Duo in 2013 and have embarked on many an interesting project since.

When thinking of forgotten Polish piano music, it comes as a surprise actually to find a work by Chopin on the track list as well. How wonderful to see that even with canonized composers there is still something to discover. It certainly is a good idea to put Chopin into direct contact with his predecessors and successors on this disk. Karol Kurpiński was one of the most revered composers before Frédéric Chopin, and helped to lay the foundations of a national style and prepared the ground for Polish music of the Romantic period, while both Julisz Zarębski (1854 – 1885) and Karol Mikuli (1821 – 1897) are probably the least known composers to be found on this compilation – but very worthwhile listening to.

The booklet comes in English and Polish and gives short biographies of the pianists and information on the composers. Unfortunately, the paragraphs that deal with the composers and their pieces are very short, as more background would have been desirable, especially in order to have them lose their stigma of being “forgotten”. Additional personal research might be considered to make up for this. The good quality recording was made on a Yamaha C7X 6425935, albeit a period instrument (for the respective pieces) would certainly have enhanced the atmosphere. Still, this CD offers a very beautiful collecting of piano music for four hands, from the time of the duo’s namesake up until Paderewski. Overall the mixture is very interesting. When listening, one would not necessarily think that these pieces have been forgotten. On the other hand, despite being highly enjoyable to listen to, they have nothing unique to set them apart from other pieces of their age. However, as timepieces of historic value and listenability they deserve to be once again unforgotten.

Maximilian Burgdörfer

 




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