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Halina KRZYŻANOWSKA (1867-1937)
Cello Sonata in F minor, Op.47 (c.1927) [18:20]
Violin Sonata in E minor, Op.28 (1912) [17:54]
String Quartet in A major, Op.44 (c.1920) [20:03]
Anna Wróbel (cello), Grzegorz Skrobiński (piano), Andrzej Gębski (violin), Małgorzata Marczyk (piano), Camerata Vistula String Quartet
rec. 2019, European Centre Matecznik ‘Mazowsze’ in Otrębusy, Poland
DUX 7647 [56:43]

Halina Krzyżanowska was born near Paris in 1867, the daughter of a Polish émigré father and a French-born Polish mother. She studied piano with Le Couppey, harmony with Louis Ganne, and counterpoint with Giraud and though this training was thoroughly French she was imbued with Polish spirit, her early student compositions including six Mazurkas and a Dumka. Thereafter she often appeared in the dual role of executant-composer and won a teaching position in Rennes at the Conservatory where she worked for many years.

Most of her surviving works are for her instrument, the piano, and there seems to be limited documentation available regarding the three chamber pieces on this disc. She appears to have had an association with the Cantrelle Quartet, a fine French ensemble, whose first violin, William Cantrelle, is the dedicatee of the string quartet and whose cellist, Hypollyte Lopès earned the dedication of the Cello Sonata, though it’s not known if he ever performed it. The String Quartet dates to 1920 and was premiered five years later by Cantrelle’s group. It’s an elegantly constructed three-movement work, the highlight of which, despite a warmly unexaggerated slow movement, is probably the finale. Here her sense of Gallic grace is evident, as much as her control of her material – she’s unafraid to thin textures. There’s no attempt to break new ground, the music remaining powerfully rooted in the French, not Polish, quartet tradition.

The string sonatas reinforce this affiliation. The Cello Sonata was written not too long after the quartet, one imagines, but the first documented performance seems to date from 1927. Its initial exuberance is coupled with a strongly lyric core, not least in the lovely tenderness of the Andantino with the piano oriented to the treble and Fauré the lodestar. The confident finale, with a jaunty fugato, is notable for her predilection for imitative writing for the two instruments – this crops up in the Violin Sonata too – and whilst her dual heritage might have suggested a Krakowiak for the finale, her training was altogether Gallic and this would hardly have been considered. The Violin Sonata is rather more conventionally late-romantic and passionate. Again, there is an affinity with Fauré, the overlapping lines of the Andante are expressive and open-hearted, the finale boldly delineated, whimsically scattered with light-hearted piano pointing. Freewheeling brio ensures the work’s success and its avoidance of overtly virtuosic showmanship is strongly to its credit.

The fine performances and recording show these three works in the best light and the notes, written by cellist Anna Wróbel, provide as much information as is known. It also punctures a few myths – such as the one that suggested a family relationship with Chopin. Krzyżanowska was clearly a solidly gifted composer, though equally undeniably a minor one.

Jonathan Woolf

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