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Władysław ŻELEŃSKI (1837-1921)
Einfache Preaeludien [13:14]
Fugen & Fughetten [17:58]
Imitirte und tematische Praeludien [5:41]
Pastorale in D major [5:33]
Andante for 3 clarinets [4:42]
Gustaw ROGUSKI (1839-1921)
Organ Preludes vol. 1 (c.1873-1886) [29:33]
Andante for 3 clarinets [4:24]
Stanisław Maryjewski (organ)
Andrzej Schab, Jaremi Zienkowski, Krzysztof Rogowski (clarinets)
Rec. 20-23 May 2020, Cathedral of St. John Evangelist and St. John Baptist, Lublin.
ACTE PRÉABLE AP0480 [81:17]

Władysław Żeleński may be an unfamiliar name today, but after broadening his horizons through studies in Prague he became a central figure in Polish musical life, being involved in the founding of Warsaw’s Music Association and becoming its director, as well as being appointed the first director of Karków’s Music Conservatory in 1888. Żeleński’s piano works and choral music have appeared on the Acte Préable label, as has some of his chamber music, though there are apparently a number of lost opuses and works that are known about but are yet to be re-discovered, a state of affairs to a certain extent addressed in this recording of recently unearthed organ works.

With 2021 being the 100th anniversary of both of these composer’s deaths, this is a timely reminder of their presence. Indefatigable finder and publisher of forgotten music Jan A. Jarnicka unearthed a series of youthful manuscripts of Żeleński’s organ works, and this recording is very much a meeting of like minds, with organist Stanisław Maryjewski also being an enthusiast for bringing unknown music to life. All of these pieces are well crafted but conventional. The Einfache Preaeludien are brief and gentle in character, reminding me of the kind of ruminative music organists play during the collection at church services. There are plenty lovely moments here, but the Fugues are more lively and interesting. With no documentation for the music here - all of these pieces were omitted from an original catalogue of Żeleński’s works - we are left with only a certain amount of surmise and anecdote for guidance. There appears to be a certain amount of pedagogical intent in this music, though the Fugues are of a quality that makes them excellent concert works. The influence of J.S. Bach is inescapable here, and can also be found in the Pastorale in D major. The Imitirte und tematische Praeludien is relatively dense in its inventiveness, in which an opening phrase is ‘imitated’ and given a number of sophisticated variations, the Allegro moderato second of two movements being something of a climax to this entire programme.

Two rather unexpected pieces for three clarinets have been included here, and while there are examples to draw on from Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms this was a genre not really taken up in Poland. Once again there is little information on these pieces, but both are nicely composed and are pleasantly entertaining, though Żeleński’s Andante pushes into upper registers that sound to be at the limits of comfort. I think it might have been a better idea to place these together in the programme, but with barely a pause for breath we instead launch into Gustaw Roguski’s Organ Preludes after the first Andante. Gustaw Roguski was another important educator and a significant figure in the development of Polish organ music. He was taught among others by Hector Berlioz in Paris. The twelve Organ Preludes recorded here are again assumed to have a pedagogical purpose, being a series of miniatures that deal with various technical aspects of organ playing. As with Żeleński’s music these are conventionally tonal pieces that don’t go in for heavy chromatic harmonies, but are by no means devoid of charm or interest. Roguski’s focus with these preludes is on the manual keyboards with limited uses of pedal registers, which adds to their general lightness of texture.

Nicely recorded and played with sublime musicianship by Stanisław Maryjewski, this is a release that fills a gap in our knowledge of Polish organ music from the 19th century. The music itself is attractive in a largely unimposing way; not representing anything revolutionary but by no means deserving of eternal neglect. Władysław Żeleński’s Fugen & Fughetten and his Imitirte und tematische Praeludien should certainly be considered significant additions to the organ repertoire.

Dominy Clements

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