Notes and Editorial Reviews
Nocturnes: in c,
Polonaises: in f?,
Mazurkas: in A?,
class="ARIAL12"> op. 68/3;
Waltz in a,
Janusz Olejniczak (pn) (period instrument)
FRYDERYK CHOPIN INSTITUTE 11 (62:13)
This album is part of a series devoted to Chopin’s music performed on period instruments. The piano in question is an Erard made in Paris in 1849. One selection, the “Military” Polonaise, is played on an 1848 Pleyel. I have heard two other pianists in this series play the Erard; they are Dang Thai Son and Fou Ts’ong. Of the three, Janusz Olejniczak gets the largest sound from it. In his hands, one can hear resemblances to a modern concert grand. This CD marks my first encounter with Janusz Olejniczak. He also is the first Polish pianist I’ve heard on these Chopin Institute CDs. I suspect he is best known in the U.S. for playing on the soundtrack of Roman Polanski’s movie,
. He also acted the part of Chopin in a Polish film,
La note bleu
. He studied with Witold Malcuzynski and Paul Badura-Skoda, among others.
Although Olejniczak captured fourth- and sixth-place prizes in competitions, he is an excellent example, as is Frederic Chiu, of a serious artist who passes under the radar of competition judges, often because of playing that is too striking or individual. It is ironic that Olejniczak has since sat on competition juries in Poland and abroad. He reminds me greatly of the Russian pianist, Moscow Conservatory professor and Chopin specialist, Evgeny Malinin. I heard Malinin give an all-Chopin recital at Rutgers University in 1990, a program that I floated out of at the end. Both Olejniczak and Malinin treat Chopin as an essentially lyric genius, emphasizing the long line in his works. Olejniczak has recorded extensively in Poland and elsewhere, including a great deal of Chopin. If he is not as well known as some of the artists in this Chopin Institute series, his performances on this CD are fully up to their standards.
The highlights of this collection are the three polonaises. They receive full-blooded treatments, with ringing authority. Olejniczak offers plenty of little touches to point up the nationalistic quality of this music. The performances are comparable to my favorite recording of the polonaises by Adam Harasiewicz, another native Pole whose reputation is often obscured by that of better-known international artists. Harasiewicz employs less rubato that Olejniczak does, but he is just as passionate. The two nocturnes, given at a measured pace, are deeply emotional; op. 48/1 reaches quite a pitch of fervor. The Waltz is taken at a slow, agreeably meditative tempo. The five mazurkas offer a kaleidoscope of feelings. They are presented with a luminous sound that perhaps hints at Arthur Rubinstein’s influence. Chopin’s last Mazurka, op. 68/4, which ends the program, receives a richer toned and less despairing rendition than Fou Ts’ong’s on the same Erard piano.
Olejniczak has arranged these works into a sequence that is deeply satisfying in performance. I had no trouble listening to this CD again and again. The sound engineering, from a Polish radio studio, is excellent. The program notes, unfortunately, are prolix and only intermittently interesting. Nevertheless, this disc is in the upper echelon of Chopin programs. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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