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Stanisław MONIUSZKO (1819-1872)
String Quartet No.1 in D minor [12.27]
String Quartet No.2 in F major [16.18]
Lullaby [1.59]
Waltz in E flat minor [3.02]
Nocturne [2.41]
Polonaise [5.07]
Daniel Polka [1.27]
Contredanses for piano four hands [8.16]
Henryk MELCER-SZCZAWIŃSKI (1869-1928)
The Spinner [3.00]
Old Corporal by Stanisław Moniuszko. Paraphrase for piano [6.18]
Piano Trio in G minor, Op.2: Andante con moto [10.26]
rec. 2019, Concert Hall of the Arthur Malawski Podkarpaca Philharmonic, Rzeszˇw
Stanisław Moniuszko International Competition of Polish Music in Rzeszˇw - Volume 1
DUX 1653 [72.26]

This enterprising CD, one of a series of six (reviews of Volume 5 ~ Volume 6), is a veritable box of delights, turning our attention to music little known in Poland, and almost ignored beyond the nation’s borders. Recorded live at the 2019 Stanisław Moniuszko International Competition of Polish Music in Rzeszˇw, it gives the opportunity not only to enjoy some highly engaging pieces, but to do so in the company of technically accomplished young musicians.

Moniuszko is rightly considered the father of Polish opera, most notably in Halka and Straszny Dwˇr (‘The Haunted Manor’), which have a toehold in the repertoire outside Poland (and are delightful). But he was also a prolific composer of piano pieces and songs. The two String Quartets were student works from 1839-1840. They are notable for both their classical forms and their concision, and the composer is characteristically tuneful, especially in the rustic inspiration of No.1. The mood of No.2 is more restrained, even sombre, and the fourth movement has some interesting expression. But these are not major works. (An alternative recording, coupled with Juliusz Zarębski’s Op.34 Piano Quartet, with the Plawner Quartet is available on CPO 555124-2, recorded in 2018).

The piano pieces are delightful miniatures. The Lullaby from 1872, may be Moniuszko’s final work. The selection on the disc fairly reflects the composer’s interest in dance-forms, generally with some light-hearted charm. Most enjoyable.

Henryk Melcer-Szczawiński, often known just as Henryk Melcer, is little-known and less recorded. His Piano Concertos 1 and 2 (the only two he wrote) may be found as Volume 44 of Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto Series, from 2008, played by Jonathan Plowright and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Christoph K÷nig conducting (Hyperion CDA67630). He was distinguished as teacher, conductor and pianist, and on the evidence of the pieces here, more than competent, if conservative, as a composer, though he ceased composition around 1907. He loved the music of Moniuszko, and the works here reflect that devotion, in idiom and inspiration. The two piano pieces here have their distinctive charms, but most immediately appealing is the Andante from his early G minor Piano Trio (1892-1894). Its catchy themes are instantly appealing and linger in the memory. It would be good to hear the complete work. It was apparently recorded by the Warsaw Trio on the AP label (date unknown), together with the Violin Sonata in G minor and the Dumka for violin and piano, but I can find no trace of a copy. Perhaps the admirable Dux label could fill the void.

Recording quality is fine, despite the odd cough to remind one that these are live performances, though some might prefer the recording of the piano pieces to be a little more distanced – page turns are occasionally just audible. Notes, in Polish and English, are most informative and thorough, complementing an exciting release.

Michael Wilkinson

Performers
├tma Quartet
Quartetto Nero
Eryk Parchański (piano)
Daniel Ziomko (piano)
Andriuti-Shemchuk Piano Duo
Michał Dziewior (piano)
Szymon Atys (piano)
Apeiron Trio



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