Wednesday 26 August 2015

Eda Records continue their invaluable series Poland Abroad with works by Jerzy Fitelberg Tadeusz, Zygfryd Kassern and Michał Spisak in live performances by the Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christoph Slowinski

Eda Records’ invaluable series Poland Abroad has reached Volume 6 bringing more world premiere recordings, this time of works by Jerzy Fitelberg (1903-1951), Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern 1904-1957) and Michał Spisak (1914-1965). The series is dedicated to the many unknown treasures of Polish music from the 20th century written by Polish composers in exile.

All of the works on this new release were recorded live at the Warsaw Music Encounters Festival with the Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra  conducted by Christoph Slowinski with trombonist Andrzej Sienkiewicz and pianist Grzegorz Gorczyca

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Jerzy Fitelberg was born in Warsaw in 1903, the son of composer Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953). He studied with Franz Schreker (1878-1934) in Berlin before moving to Paris then New York where he died. The Allegro of his Concerto for trombone, piano and orchestra (1948) opens with a scurrying motif for strings accompanied by trombone phrases. Piano phrases open a fast moving theme that is developed by the trombone and piano through some attractive tumbling passages sometimes easing before regaining the spirited forward momentum. The movement rises to a peak centrally before suddenly slowing and quietening only to inexorably move forward gaining in speed and dynamics, pushing to the coda.

Variations brings a slower rhythmically forward moving mellow theme introduced by the trombone, accompanied by quiet pizzicato strings. The piano enters to share the theme with the tempo soon increasing as the music becomes more volatile. There are some whimsical passages in which these two fine soloists are terrific before a slow meditative passage, wonderfully written. A little solo violin passage over strings arrives before the piano brings a sudden outburst followed by a trombone sequence as the piano continues its descending phrases. Suddenly the mood lightens as the music playfully moves ahead. There is a more thoughtful passage before the trombone leads with the orchestra to a quiet coda, but it is the piano that leaps up as we go into the final movement.

A joyful Allegro energico finds the trombone bringing some fine mellifluous melody. The music rises to a little climax before falling quieter as both trombone and piano push the music forward gaining a real galloping forward thrust. Later the music slows in a lovely passage for soloists over a hushed orchestra who bring some lovely string sounds, before suddenly rushing to the coda.

I really enjoyed this fine work. It receives an impressively played live performance.

Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern was born in Lemberg, Galicia (later Polish Lwów) in 1917 and studied at the conservatories of Lwów and Poznań. He later went to Paris where he met Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) before moving to New York where he died. Amongst his works are operas, concertos and piano music, some of which are influenced by Polish folk music.

His Concerto for String Orchestra (1943) is in four movements opening with an Allegro deciso e molto ritmico from the lower strings in a rhythmically forward moving theme. There are some finely written, woven string lines before the music slows though retaining an underlying pulse that threatens to move the music forward. The music slowly gains momentum, gaining more of a flow with the rhythmic pulse still maintained underneath. Eventually the movement achieves an incisive forward propulsion that brings with it some fine string textures. As the gentler flow is regained, a solo violin accompanied by a cello brings a lovely moment, finely written, with some brilliant textures before the orchestra rejoins to bring the coda.

The little Minuetto takes a more leisurely pace with the various strings bringing lovely layers before the Adagio opens quietly, mournfully and hauntingly, achieving a melancholy theme that increases in intensity as it rises, the lower strings soon taking the lead before rising through the orchestra, ever more quickly. The music falls as a pizzicato motif on lower strings brings back the slower brooding theme with the coda bringing a gentle resignation.

The Rondo brings a lighter rhythmic theme that gently bounds ahead with some fine string phrases that point up the melody, always with a subtle dissonance that is really attractive. There are some terrific string textures before we are led to the coda.

This is another really fine work with some particularly fine string playing from the Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.

Michał Spisak was born in Dąbrowa Górnicza, Poland in 1914. He studied with Kazimierz Sikorsky (1895-1985) in Warsaw before travelling to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. He survived the occupation of France living in Voiron near Grenoble later returning to Paris where he died. Influenced by the neo-classicism of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) he was considered one of the most outstanding composers of his generation. His Concertino for string orchestra (1942) is in three movements starting with an Allegro that rises up with energy to flow ahead with a brightness and sparkle right through to its vibrant coda.

The following Andante rises up before moving forward with a sombre theme. There are some fine lower string textures that underpin this fine music. Despite its attempts, it never rises much above its brooding nature.

The Allegro vivace scurries ahead full of energy showing just how fine the strings of the Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra are There is some terrific writing for strings, clear textured, full of lovely individual details before staccato phrases and pizzicato strings lead to the coda.

Lovers of 20th century and, particularly, Polish music should investigate this new disc. There is not a work here that doesn’t deserve to be heard. These live recordings have a brilliance and impact that is first rate. There are excellent booklet notes.

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