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The Stanisław Moniuszko International Competition of Polish Music 2019 - Prize Winners
Teodor LESZETYCKI (1830 – 1915)
Arabesque in the Form of an Etude, Op. 45 No. 1 [1:53]
Aleksander TANSMAN (1897 – 1986)
Sonata rustica [12:22]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810 – 1849)
Etude in C sharp minor, Op. 10 No. 4 [2:09]
Henryk Mikołaj GÓRECKI (1933 – 2010)
Piano Sonata Op. 6 No. 1 [12:20]
Witold MALISZEWSKI (1873 – 1939)
5 Variations, Op. 5 No. 4 [7:03]
Joachim KACZKOWSKI (c. 1789 – 1829)
Duo concertant in F minor for two violins, Op. 10 No. 1 [14:44]
Tadeusz PACIORKIEWICZ (1916 – 1998)
Sonatina for two violins: III. Presto [4:45]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882 – 1937)
String Quartet, Op. 56 No. 2 [10:49]
Wojciech KILAR (1932 – 2013)
Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn [11:25]
Pavel Dombrovsky, Ryszard Pawlak, Mateusz Krzyżowski (piano)
Gidaszewska/Laguniak Duo
Ātma Quartet
Cracow Golden Quintet
rec. live, 20-27 September 2019, Concert Hall of the Artur Malawski Podkarpcka Philharmonic in Rzeszów, Poland
First Recording - Kaczkowski
DUX 1658 [77:47]

The first edition of the Stanisław Moniuszko International Competition of Polish Music was held in Rzeszów at the end of September 2019. The aim of the competition is of course to give young musicians an opportunity to present themselves and hope that recognition will lead to further engagements. But in this particular competition another aim is to promote the music itself – maybe an even more important goal. Polish composers have created valuable music during the 19th and 20th centuries, but many of them are more or less unknown, not only to the concert going public but also to the practising musicians. Thus the participants in this competition were given a list of more than one and a half thousand works by fifty Polish composers. Among them were also composers whose names are still remembered but whose works are rarely performed. The organizers of the competition now dearly hope that some such works now will be performed and attract both musicians and concertgoers to widen their knowledge of some byways of Polish music. This disc presents the prize winners in the two categories pianists and chamber ensembles, recorded live during the competition. Browsing through the list of composers represented I’m sure most readers will recognise some composers who have ‘survived’: Tansman, Chopin (of course), Górecki, Szymanowski and Kilar, but there are also names that few even fairly informed readers will be unfamiliar with. If those names will appear in concert programmes in the future the organizers have reached an important goal. The quality of the participating musicians also turns out to be on a high level, as these recordings testify to.

We meet to begin with the First Prize Winner in the pianist camp, Russian Pavel Dombrovsky, who has an impressive CV with successes in a number of previous international competitions. He is represented first with a miniature by Teodor Leszetycki. He was famous in his day primarily as a teacher, who during more than 30 years in Vienna taught myriads of students, including Vieuxtemps and Bruckner. The decorative Arabesque played here is slightly reminiscent of Jacques Ibert’s Le petit âne blanc (The little white donkey), persistently trotting forward along the road. More substantial is the Sonata rustica of Alexander Tansman, who is hardly forgotten but, as the liner notes say, ‘forgotten as a Polish composer’, having lived permanently in Paris after WW1. The three-movement sonata, composed in 1925, nods at both Ravel and Stravinsky, but has a personal tinge anyway. The opening Allegro is lively and charming, the calm Cantilena has blues feeling (Ravel!) and the Danza festiva is mercurial, quite fun and entertaining. Some spicy dissonances provide a post-war atmosphere. That he as his third entry plays an Etude by Chopin, is easily explained: every participant had to choose a Chopin etude in the first stage of the competition, and Pavel Dombrovsky selected the one in C sharp minor, Op. 10 No. 4. It is excellently played!

The Second Prize Winner, Polish Piotr Ryszard Pawlak, was also well-merited when he entered the competition. The composition included here is Henryk Górecki’s Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 6, which he wrote 23 years old in 1956. But he never performed it at the time, and when he did almost 30 years later he still wasn’t satisfied and revised it further before he had it printed in 1990. The first movement is energetic, rhythmic, motoric and repetitive – there is a short episode that is slow and inward – before a rhythmic finale. Repose comes in the short second movement Grave pesante e corale, with a religious atmosphere. But this is shattered in the final movement Allegro vivace ma non troppo. This is music that dances and the motoric ostinato from the first movement returns. There follows an inward melodious interlude, but the initial dancing comes back and concludes this stimulating work.

Third Prize Winner Mateusz Krzyżowski has selected a composition by Witold Maliszewski, reputed to have taught composition and theory to Witold Lutosławski. Since Maliszewski was rather conservative and rarely made any explorations outside the tonal system, student and teacher had little in common but the student still appreciated his teacher’s skills. Five Variations Op. 5 No. 4 was a prize winning composition in a competition in Warzaw in 1901. It is, naturally, a tonal work filled with virtuosic and vital music.

By that we leave the pianists and move to the chamber music section. First Prize Winner was a violin duo, the Gidaszewska / Łaguniak Duo. Their choices of composers are truly off the beaten track. Little is known about Joachim Kaczkowski, apart from his being a violinist who toured all over Europe, was private teacher and composed. He is briefly mentioned in the press and Chopin appreciated him. Deux Duos concertants pour Deux Violons by him were published in Leipzig in 1812. Both duos were played during the competition and No. 1 in F minor was recorded. Presumably it has never before been recorded. It is in three movements: a lively first movement, a slow Poco adagio quasi andante, filled with warm feeling and an Allegro that oozes with life and joy. This is no barnstorming music but highly entertaining and pleasurably and grateful for the players. It is superbly played and all three movements are delectable.

Closer in time is their second offering. Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz died as recently as 1998, but his Sonatina dates from 1955. He wrote a lot of music, from stage works and symphonies to piano etudes, but it is rarely performed and even less is recorded. The third movement from the Sonatina is a worthy tribute to this composer. The playing is expertly.

Second Prize in the chamber music section was shared between the Ātma Quartet and the Cracow Golden Quintet. The Ātma Quartet is represented by two movements (out of three) from Szymanowski’s String Quartet No. 2 and neither the composer nor this quartet are underrated or forgotten. On the contrary both Szymanowski Quartets are frequently heard and recorded and Quartet No. 2 is even available on CD with the Ātma Quartet, coupled with quartets by Panufnik and Penderecki, released just over a year ago. So there is no wonder their playing is so assured. We are vouchsafed the first two movements: the impressionist Moderato dolce e tranquillo and the Bartókian Vivace scherzando, energetically rhythmic and filled with dissonances. It’s a pity there was no room for the finale, but the disc is filled to the brim as it is and the complete quartet is, as I said, available elsewhere.

The Cracow Golden Quartet is a traditional wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn). Their choice is Kilar’s Quintet, written by a 20-year-old still student in 1952. Kilar is of course well-known, both in Poland and abroad, but not for his chamber music. Internationally he is predominantly famous for his film music, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Ninth Gate and The Pianist, and this youthful quintet amply demonstrates that even at the beginning of his career he had deep understanding of the personalities of the various instruments – a necessity when composing expressive and colourful film scores. This is highly entertaining music and again it is regrettable that there was room for only three of the four movements.

This is a valuable document from a competition that hopefully will continue and live up to its aim: to advocate lesser known Polish music. There is a goldmine hidden under the Polish soil – or rather in various archives.

Göran Forsling

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