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Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Music of my home
Miscellanea. Série de morceaux - Thème varié op. 16-3 (1885-87) [9:52]
Humoresques de concert – Minuet in G op. 14-1 (1886) [3:49]
Miscellanea. Série de morceaux – Nocturne in B flat op. 16-4 (c.1890-92) [3:47]
Humoresques de concert – Sarabande op. 14-2 (1887) [3:12]
Humoresques de concert – Cracovienne fantastique op. 14-6 (1886) [3:26]
Violin Sonata in A minor op. 13 (1885) [30:40]
The days of Roses op. 7-1 (1882-85) [2:25]
Little Lily of the Valley op. 7a (1882) [2:43]
From 12 Songs on poems of Catulle Mendes op22, Le ciel est très bas op. 22-3 (1903) [2:33]
Un jeune pâtre op. 22-5 (1903) [1:28]
Viduité op. 22-8 (1903) [4:07]
Katarzyna Duda (violin)
Hanna Samson (soprano)
Jacek Jaskuła (baritone)
Robert Morawski, Robert Marat, Cezary Karwowski (piano)
rec. 2018, Paderewski Center in Kąśna Dolna, Poland
Booklets in Polish and English, no song texts or translations
DUX 1560 [68:05]

In December 2018, Polish artists were invited to Paderewski Court, the Polish home of famed pianist, composer and statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski, to record his works in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining independence. The results, issued by Polish label Dux, give a flavour of Paderewski's instrumental and vocal music. Five piano works and five songs frame the largest work on this disc, the half-hour Violin Sonata, played here by Katarzyna Duda and Robert Morawski.

The programme opens with the Thème varié , the third of the seven pieces that make up Paderwski’s Miscellenea op. 16. I am always surprised that this little gem is not better known. The six variations are fanciful and ingenious in their changes of mood and colour, and the finale is a virtuosic, quicksilver perpetuum mobile. Robert Marat plays well but for me he misses the command of Earl Wild (Vanguard Classics ATM-CD-1657) or the larger-than-life playing of Ryszard Bakst (Polskie Nagrania-Muza XL-0097 LP). His Minuet in G is a little inflexible for me but perhaps I am too accustomed to Paderewski’s own recordings (Appian APR6006 and APR7505). The other pianist here is Robert Marat’s student Cezary Karwowski. He makes a worthy showing in three items: the hauntingly beautiful Nocturne in B flat, the simple but elegant Sarabande from 3 Ancient dances (companion to the famous Minuet), and the virtusoic Cracovienne fantastique. I could have liked a little more abandon in this final piece but that is a minor caveat.

In the early Violin Sonata, Katarzyna Duda nails her romantic colours firmly to the mast from her first entry. Prominent portamenti mark the long notes of the brooding opening melody. Throughout the entire Sonata, the performance is characterised by broad tempi and luxuriant rubatos. Konstanty Andrzej Kulka and Waldemar Malicki (also on Dux, review) take four minutes less over the first movement. Much of that is due to Duda and Morawski’s dramatic tempo changes and almost palpable pauses at phrase ends, where both performers try to draw as much as possible from every note. The performances are splendid – exciting, dramatic and passionate – but some may find that the very individual rubato does not bear repeated hearing.

Finally, we hear songs from two different periods. The early op. 7/7a songs are melancholy (The days of roses are vanished) and light-hearted (Little Lily of the valley). Both are harmonically and stylistically what you would expect: lyrical and, to my ears, with an almost folk-song-like quality, especially op. 7a. Hanna Samson’s voice is not unpleasant but I prefer the depth and richness of Anna Radziejewska on Dux0585 (review). The three songs from the op. 22 set come from a different sound-world, and present an unfamiliar side to those who know the Paderewski of the celebrated Minuet. They are dark and brooding, declamatory and clad in shifting chromatic harmonies occasionally reminiscent of the French Mélodists. Jacek Jaskuła’s voice is well suited to the dramatic style, although I could nit-pick about small occasional lapses of intonation. That said, I still prefer Radziejewska or Stefania Toczyska, who sings the complete op. 22 on DUX0197; they both exhibit a more polished sound and are better supported by their accompanists (Mariusz Rutkowski and Jeff Cohen respectively).

As a general introduction to less familiar facets of Paderewski’s compositional career, this is an interesting release. I hope it will encourage listeners to explore further.

Rob Challinor

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