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Acte Prealable Polish CDs

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Ignacy KRZYŻANOWSKI (1826-1905)
Piano Works 2
2 Chant sans paroles Op.28 (1864) [9:30]
Trois Mazurkas Op.38 [8:06]
Souvenir à ses élèves Op.40 (early 1870s?) [8:36]
No.1 Dumka in G, No.2 Romance in E
Memento capriccioso Op.46 (1879) [4:57]
Romance in D Op.36 (1875) [5:19]
Trois Krakowiaks Op.35 (1875) [11:43]
Polonaise de concert No.6 in A Op.37 (1875) [6:09]
Sonata in B flat minor Op.45 (c.1882) [25:23]
Laurent Lamy (piano)
Rec. 2016/2018 at Polskie Radio Studio S1
ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0463 [79:51]

This is the second volume devoted to Ignacy Krzyżanowski (the first is reviewed here) and the ninth in the ongoing series Disciples of Chopin, following on from four volumes devoted to Thomas Tellefsen (1823-1874) and three to Julian Fontana (1810-1869). The latter composers were at least familiar names and I have enjoyed the Fontana recordings. Ignacy Krzyżanowski on the other hand is completely unknown to me. After lessons with his father he studied with Franciszek Mirecki (1791-1862) in Kraków. An introduction to Liszt followed and he moved to Paris where he studied piano with Hippolyte Calet and, sporadically, with Chopin. A severe eye illness curbed his performing activities but he continued as a composer and pedagogue, taking up a post as professor at the Musical institute in Warsaw and playing a great part in the musical life of the city until his death in 1905.

The booklet includes an extract from an article published in Dziennik Poznański just after Krzyżanowski's death in which he recalls details of his relationship with Chopin. He tells of his first meeting with Chopin and his trepidation at playing for him and of being assigned Clementi and Cramer études to work on. Many weeks would pass between lessons; latterly Chopin would encourage Krzyżanowski with his compositions while at the same time pointing out that the exercises he was assigned at the conservatoire were following dry rules which would not teach me to create. They also discussed the fact that Chopin's mother's maiden name was Krzyżanowska though they did ascertain that they were not related; curiously it appears that in the 20th century the families were finally connected, in a somewhat convoluted manner, by marriage; the grandfather of Krzyżanowski's granddaughter's husband married Chopin's grandniece – names and details are in the accompanying booklet.

There is no doubt of the influence of Chopin on Krzyżanowski's writing however and genres linking both composers abound; Mazurka, Krakowiak and Polonaise are represented and his romances and chant sans paroles share qualities with the nocturnes. The first of the Chant sans paroles is a lilting Barcarolle that finds deeper waters as it continues. Of all the works recorded here the undated Mazurkas most clearly show the influence of Chopin, with gentle harmonic turns making the second mazurka a particular delight. In recital I have heard a selection of Chopin's mazurkas interspersed with marvellous examples by his fellow Poles Ignaz Friedman and Aleksander Michałowski making for a remarkably satisfying set and I could imagine these would fit in just as well. If a change from triple time was needed then the three Krakowiaks of 1875 would provide an exciting duple time alternative. All three have distinctive dance like outer sections, from the hearty stomping rollick of the first to the urgent snap of the third. More lyrical central sections feature in all three and the placing of the set before the second of the Chant sans paroles is appropriate, its dumka like opening melody making it a poignant cousin to the krakowiaks. The other dance here is the A major Polonaise, his sixth, composed in the same year as the Krakowiaks. This larger scale dance opens in grand style, reminiscent of Chopin's familiar example in the same key but Krzyżanowski is his own man and this short motif is varied even in the three times it appears in the first 14 bars. The piece unfolds like a series of dances within a larger framework. More lyrical themes appear and harmonically we move through several keys and moods; I love the sadly tripping melody right in the heart of the piece.

Krzyżanowski sole piano concerto was unpublished and the manuscript was destroyed in the Warsaw rising leaving the Sonata in B flat minor op.45 as his major large-scale composition. It shares it's key with Chopin's familiar Sonata op.35 and opens with an introduction marked Grave but that is where the similarities end. The slow introduction to the opening movement is an extended section that moves through keys in an exploratory fashion before the main part of the movement begins; an allegro con brio that is enjoyable without treading any new paths. Faint echoes of Chopin naturally as well as Schumann, Mendelssohn and even Schubert can be heard in the themes and figuration but it is no less agreeable for that. The andante cantible is the real emotional heart of the sonata and what a beautiful piece it is, with its warmly coaxing first theme and gently shifting moods. The third and final movement is an energetic piece, urgent and driven but with some lyricism and playful dance-like passages in its pages.

When I first listened to this disc I was concerned that some of the melodies were edging towards sentimentality but Krzyżanowski always forestalls this with a change in dramatic focus or a new harmonic direction. There is plenty to please here and Laurent Lamy is sure-footed and reliable, obviously connecting with this music. As always Acte Prealable's notes, in Polish, English and French, are informative and comprehensive and the whole series is well-thought out. I shall seek out volume 1 and look forward to further volumes – there are several opus numbers still to go and hopefully this will be as complete a survey as the Tellefsen and Fontana recordings.

Rob Challinor



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