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20th-century Polish Harp Concertos

Tansman / Sikorzak-olek / Maksymiuk
Release Date: 09/24/2013 
Label:  Dux Records   Catalog #: 953   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alexandre TansmanTadeusz PaciorkiewiczBoguslaw SchaefferMarceli Poplawski,   ... 
Performer:  Anna Sikorzak-OlekAdam TrybusDariusz KorczJan [Double Bass] Kotula,   ... 
Conductor:  Anna Jaroszewska-MrozJan PruszakBogdan OledzkiMichal Klauza,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 25 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

20TH-CENTURY POLISH HARP CONCERTOS Anna Sikorzak-Olek (hp); Adam Trybu? 2 , Jadwiga Kotnowska 6 (fl); Gra?yna Strzeszewska 5 (hp); Anna Jaroszewska-Mróz 1 , Jan Pruszak 2 , Bogdan Ol?dzki 3 , Micha? Klauza 4,5 , Jerzy Read more Maksymiuk 6 , cond; “Amadeus” CO of Polish R; 1 Polish Radio and Television O, Warsaw; 2 Natl Polish RSO, Katowice 3-6 DUX 09530954 (2 CDs: 145:09)

TANSMAN 1 Music for Harp and String Orchestra. PACIORKIEWICZ 2 Concerto for Harp, Flute and String Orchestra. SCHAEFFER 3 Harp Concerto. POP?AWSKI 4 Morceau de concert. MOSS 5 Voyage. MAKSYMIUK 6 Music for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra

This is a hefty collection of unfamiliar music, and, given the cost of Dux’s CDs (at least in the United States), it will set listeners back a chunk of change. Still, it is worth the outlay, although I think only the rare listener will enjoy all of it equally.

Relatively speaking, the most famous composer here is the one who is first to be represented: Aleksander (or “Alexandre”) Tansman. At a young age he moved to France, and later to the United States. He wrote film scores in Hollywood, and a number of guitar works for Segovia. Chandos has released four discs devoted to his symphonies (of which there are nine), although the last release in that project came out in 2009, suggesting that there won’t be any more. His Music for Harp and String Orchestra dates from 1981, just five years before his death, and its dedicatee was Nicanor Zabaleta, who apparently never played it. It is in four movements (Toccata, Sarabande, Cadenza e allegro , and Finale), and, as the movement titles suggest, the music is neoclassical and rather old-fashioned. Despite Tansman’s insistence that he was a Polish composer, this work is as French as French can be. I find it very listenable, but not especially distinctive. It’s like Ravel without Ravel’s genius. Here, it is performed in an arrangement by soloist Sikorzak-Olek and Piotr Moss. (The booklet notes are not clear about what the original version was.)

Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz’s Concerto for Harp, Flute, and String Orchestra is similarly neoclassical in style, and indeed, except for the addition of a flute, I suspect that many listeners will be unaware that Tansman’s work ended and Paciorkiewicz’s began, unless they follow the display on their CD players. Paciorkiewicz (1916–1998) apparently remained in Poland his entire life. This is the first recording of his music to come my way, and only the second time a recording of his music has been reviewed in Fanfare . This three-movement Concerto, perhaps somewhat pastoral in its mood, is very conventional, and skillfully composed. (The composer was a lifelong academic.) The last movement reminds me of Vaughan Williams. It’s hardly a thriller, and ultimately, perhaps not highly memorable, but there’s nothing flawed or offensive about it, and it’s a relaxing way to spend almost 20 minutes.

Younger still—in fact, he is still alive—is Bogus?aw Schaeffer, who is described in Dux’s useful booklet notes as an “ enfant terrible of Polish music.” His Concerto (1986) is much freer in style than the two previous works, and it did not surprise me to read that Schaeffer is an occasional jazz pianist. (At the same time, there’s little that is “jazzy” about this score, apart from a longer passage in the third movement.) Throughout the course of its five movements, ranging in length from five to eight minutes, Schaeffer tries on a number of styles and textures, and if there is a logic behind any of it, then I can’t hear it. That doesn’t make the Concerto a bad work, or even an unapproachable one (although it will take considerably more patience than the works by Tansman or Paciorkiewicz). It does go on, though. Let’s just call it a mystery which repeated auditions might eventually solve.

CD 2 begins with the Morceau de concert (1911) by Marceli Pop?awski (1882–1948), which was composed for chromatic harp. Here, it is performed in the soloist’s own arrangement, which means, I think, that she adapted it for today’s more usual pedal harp. Pop?awski’s music appears to be a rarity even in his native Poland. Much of it was lost during World War II, and this Morceau de concert has been recovered only in the last decade. Its name suggests a “morsel” of music, but in fact, this is a 22-minute work for harp and orchestra. Pop?awski’s teachers included Reger and d’Indy, and he also worked with Glazunov. It is the latter that I hear most strongly in this work—not the symphonies, however, but Glazunov’s ballet scores. (There are strong suggestions of Tchaikovsky as well.) The Morceau ’s lovable opening idea immediately grips the ear, and the composer rings many interesting changes on it as the work progresses. Of the works on this CD, this one has the strongest chance of entering the international repertory. It is not to be missed.

Voyage , by the aforementioned Piotr Moss (b. 1949), is a concerto composed in 2000 for two harps and orchestra. He’s another Pole living in France. He calls this work “a journey to the land of sound fantasy,” which is not very helpful, but I think he means Voyage is a travelogue of moods and impressions. If real estate is all about location, location, and location, then Voyage is all about color, color, and color. The style is modern and episodic, but it’s not as disorienting as Schaeffer’s Concerto. It’s not particularly profound or logical (there’s that word again) either, but it is entertaining and imaginatively scored, tickling the ears and imagination much like a movie directed by Steven Spielberg tickles the eyes and one’s free-floating nostalgia. Here’s program music in search of a program. Why not make up your own?

If Jerzy Maksymiuk’s name is familiar outside of Poland, it’s for his work as a conductor. His Music for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra dates from 2008 and displays his talents as a composer. In this work, the orchestra doesn’t make an appearance until the fourth of its seven movements; the first three display Maksymiuk’s imagination in composing for the two solo instruments without any sort of accompaniment. This work is more like a suite than a formal concerto. It’s more abstract than the two other works on this second CD, and also, for the most part, darker. Like most of the works in this collection, it gets better the more you hear it. Don’t judge this pair of discs after a single hearing.

Throughout, the performances seem excellent. I say “seem” because I have nothing to compare them to, but at no point did I feel that there was more to this music than what Sikorzak-Olek and her various colleagues were presenting. She seems comfortable playing in a variety of styles, and she receives polished support from the other musicians involved. Because it contains recordings made over the course of 25 years (Paciorkiewicz’s work was recorded in 1986, Tansman’s in 2011, and everything else in between those two), this collection had even more potential to become an incomprehensible assortment of parts that didn’t fit together, but the strength of the musicianship, as well as the consistency of the engineering, makes it work. So, although this is a pricey compilation with a weak spot or two, I’d still recommend it—and not just to those who like the harp! The Morceau de concert is not to be missed.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Music for harp & string orchestra by Alexandre Tansman
Performer:  Anna Sikorzak-Olek (Harp)
Conductor:  Anna Jaroszewska-Mroz
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1981 
Date of Recording: 12/07/2011 
Venue:  The Concert Hall of the Adam Mickiewicz 
Length: 19 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Concerto for harp, flute & string orchestra by Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz
Performer:  Adam Trybus (Flute), Anna Sikorzak-Olek (Harp)
Conductor:  Jan Pruszak
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1980 
Date of Recording: 10/14/1986 
Venue:  Polish Radio's Witold Lutoslawski Concer 
Length: 19 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Harp Concerto by Boguslaw Schaeffer
Performer:  Anna Sikorzak-Olek (Harp), Dariusz Korcz (Viola), Jan [Double Bass] Kotula (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Bogdan Oledzki
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1986 
Date of Recording: 01/19/2007 
Venue:  The Grzegorz Fitelberg Hall of the Cultu 
Length: 35 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Morceau de concert, for harp & orchestra by Marceli Poplawski
Performer:  Anna Sikorzak-Olek (Harp)
Conductor:  Michal Klauza
Period: Modern 
Written: 1911 
Date of Recording: 11/25/2010 
Venue:  The Grzegorz Fitelberg Hall of the Cultu 
Length: 22 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Voyage, for 2 harps & orchestra by Piotr Moss
Performer:  Grazyna Strzeszewska (Harp), Anna Sikorzak-Olek (Harp)
Conductor:  Michal Klauza
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2000 
Date of Recording: 03/04/2009 
Venue:  The Grzegorz Fitelberg Hall of the Cultu 
Length: 24 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Music for flute, harp & orchestra by Jerzy Maksymiuk
Performer:  Anna Sikorzak-Olek (Harp), Jadwiga Kotnowska (Flute)
Conductor:  Jerzy Maksymiuk
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008 
Date of Recording: 04/22/2008 
Venue:  The Grzegorz Fitelberg Hall of the Cultu 
Length: 5 Minutes 38 Secs. 

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