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Henryk PACHULSKI (1859-1921)
Piano Works (and Chamber) 3
Deux Mazurkas Op 18 (1903) [6:46]
Prelude in C minor Op 8 No 1 arr. for violin and piano
Trois Pièces Op 3 (1888) [9:03]
Trois morceaux Op 4 for cello and piano (c1888) [8:16]
Feuilles d'album Op 16 [7:21]
2 Songs Op 14 [5:16]
Deux Pièces Op 9 [5:30]
Morceau de fantaisie Op 4 No 2 arr. for violin and piano [2:15]
Chanson triste Op 4 No 3 arr. for violin and piano [2:32]
Album de Jeunesse Op 23 (1906): Book 1 [24:05]; Book 2 [13:30]
Marche solennelle Op 15 [5:14]
Moment musical Op 22 No 1 [2:26]
Anna Mikolon (piano), Alicja Rumianowska (mezzo-soprano), Anna Sawicka (cello), Andrzej Kacprzak (violin), Stanisław Maryjewski (organ)
rec. 2018-20 at Radio Gdańsk and the Seminary Church, Lublin, Poland

Henryk Pachulski was born in Łazy near Siedlce and studied at the Warsaw Music Institute before travelling to Moscow to attend Anton Rubinstein's masterclasses. He remained in Moscow for further study and ultimately taught there. He had initially been helped by Nadezhda von Meck and her husband and in time he became a friend of Tschaikowsky, acting as an intermediary between the composer and von Meck. Pachulski's credentials are excellent: he studied piano with Rudolf Strobel and Pavel Pabst and composition with Stanisław Moniuszko, Władisław Żeleński and Anton Arensky and it was this and Tschaikowsky's recommendation that enabled him to take over the piano class at the Moscow Conservatory, a post he held until 1917.

My first encounter with his name was the C minor Prelude that appeared in an old piano album given to me by a neighbour when she found out I was studying the piano (it appears on this CD in an arrangement for violin and piano). Until relatively recently that was it, no more pieces, perhaps a mention in a piano encyclopedia. Thankfully Acte Prealable are venturing into all aspects of Polish music and many old scores are having the dust blown from them. For Henryk Pachulski this means that so far 15 of his 32 works with opus numbers and one of his transcriptions (for 4 hands) have appeared and more are to come. Though I somehow missed volume two (review) I have volume one and play it often; it is chock full of richly idiomatic romantic writing (review).

Volume three mixes solo piano works, which make up the majority of his output, with what appears to be his only chamber music and songs – certainly amongst his published opuses though I haven't yet ascertained what his Op 30 is. The three Morceaux for cello and piano are a melody in B, a fantasy piece and a Chanson triste; all are melancholy songs without words ably displaying Pachulski's melodic gifts. I was particularly taken with the slow waltz of the chanson triste; both this and the fantasy piece were arranged by Pachulski for violin and piano and are just as effective in that guise. I prefer the violin versions though perhaps that is more because I find the playing of Kacprzak slightly more appealing than that of Sawicka though both play these pieces well. The afore-mentioned transcription of the C minor Prelude from Op 8 is equally effective though this time the arrangement is by Alfred Moffat (1863-1950), a Scottish musician who made many transcriptions of songs from Purcell onwards and made great study of 18th century violin music.

In his review of volume 2 Philip Buttall asks for recordings of Pachulski's orchestral suite and piano and orchestra version of his Fantaisie as well as his numerous songs. I confess that I see no songs listed beyond the two that are recorded here. The words of Tolstoy are set here, Passion spent and Oh, do not try to calm the alarming spirit. Both are short tales of unrequited love and passions unchecked and both could easily have come from Tschaikowsky's canon. Pachulski transcribed at least one of Tschaikowsky's songs for solo piano as well as several orchestral works for solo or four-hand piano and much of the style found its way into his own writing. I prefer mezzo-soprano Rumianowska's voice in her darker lower register; she is less successful in some of the higher sections where a touch of harshness enters. The only other non-piano item here is a transcription for organ by the composer of his Moment musical from the 3 piano pieces Op 22, a beautiful, meditative work.

The piano works here are all influenced by the Russian school combined with Chopin. The opening Mazurkas are perfect examples; the short works of Arensky immediately come to mind in both though the second has more of the Polish master to it. His three pieces Op 3, like much of his music, date from his years in Russia. There is a lovely relaxed song without words followed by a spinning song, suitably virtuosic with its fast alternating figuration between the hands and a melody that glides swan-like above. A restless Impromptu closes the set. I was particularly taken with the second of the 4 albumleaves, a delighfully melancholic little miniature and one I'm adding to my repertoire. The score that I have seen of the Impromptu from his Op 9, subtitled à la Schumann has a footnote that supposes that its opening was inspired by the opening of Schumann's Sonata Op 11 and then drily remarks it is interesting to note how a Teuton thought is reflected by a Slavic mind. There is certainly an influence of Schumann in this opening as also is in the central section but to my mind it has echoes of the figuration of Kreisleriana or the Arabeske rather than the Sonata. Its companion is an engaging little etude, with treacherous figuration influenced by the D flat study from Chopin's Op 25.

The largest set on the disc is his Album pour le jeunesse, similar in scope to examples by Tschaikowsky or Schumann. They have pedagogic as well as artistic value and there are studies, canons and fugues amongst their number as well as a Chorale dorique followed by The same choral figured. There is a skipping Scherzino, a gentle waltz in un peu de rêves, a sailor's song and a monk's song. They are divided into two books and the second book seems to be a little more advanced – certainly Près de la source, en forme d'étude is trickier than its counterpart in book one

Anna Mikolon is a fine pianist and does Pachulski proud. Stylistically there are no surprises here, just good quality music in the mould of the Russian miniaturists but it deserves an outing and it is all pleasurable listening. Acte Prealable founder Jan Jarnicki has the manuscript of the unpublished Third Piano Sonata Op 32 which is being recorded for a future volume and it would seem that we shall have the complete Pachulski works in this series. Jarnicki mentions around 16 items without opus numbers, mostly transcriptions of other composer's works, Moniuszko, Zelenski and more Arensky amongst them. There are also transcriptions of Tschaikowsky's 5th and 6th Symphonies and the Capriccio Italien for solo piano so I would hope that these form part of the collection.

Rob Challinor

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