• New CD Note (Zarębski & Żeleński/Hyperion)

I’ve been an advocate of Juliusz Zarębski’s Piano Quintet for years and so I’m delighted that Hyperion has just released this new recording. It’s accompanied by the Piano Quartet by his slightly older compatriot, Władysław Żeleński. If you haven’t come across either composer. you’re in for a treat.  Zarębski in particular is a gem largely hidden outside his native Poland, even though in his short lifetime (he died of tuberculosis aged just 31) he was renowned across Europe as a stupendous pianist. A pupil of Liszt, he wrote mostly piano music, some of it stylistically advanced for the time. He composed the Piano Quintet in the last year of his life (1885), and I don’t think that I’m overstating it when I assert that it rivals any other example of the genre.  One of these days, it will be more widely recognised for the masterpiece that it is.

Here’s the link to my booklet note for Zarębski and Żeleński, or you can scroll the CD NOTES tab above.  Here’s another link, this time to an earlier post about the Zarębski Quintet, plus one I wrote a few weeks ago on Zarębski, Zarzycki and Żeleński.

NEWSFLASH!  In its review, the BBC Music Magazine (Christmas issue 2012, p.93) awarded the CD ✭✭✭✭✭ for Performance and ✭✭✭✭✭ for Recording and also made it its ‘Chamber Choice’.  Thoroughly deserved – bravo to Jonathan Plowright and the Szymanowski Quartet.  It was also nice – and unexpected – to read the last sentence: ‘With the inclusion of Adrian Thomas’s expert sleeve notes, this represents another invaluable Hyperion release’!

NEWSFLASH no.2!  On Radio 3’s CD Review on 9 February 2013, Andrew McGregor gave an enthusiastic response to this CD, also drawing on what he called “Adrian Thomas’s excellent notes”.  Thanks Andrew!

NEWSFLASH no.3!  Jonathan Plowright has passed on to me a ✭✭✭✭✭ online review in Audiophile Audition, dated 13 February 2013.  It ends: ‘Adrian Thomas’s excellent liner [notes?] tell some intriguing musical stories[.]’.

NEWSFLASH no.4 and no.5!  Another great review for this CD from Steve Arloff, including several references to the notes, including ‘the excellent booklet notes’: online review on MusicWeb-International.  Previously on MusicWeb-Interntional, its Classical editor Rob Barnett also posted an enthusiastic review, including the comment: ‘Adrian Thomas provides the much-needed commentary and does so with both style and sterling content’.

• BBC R3 NGAs 2012: A Third Polish Quartet

A third Polish string quartet has become a member of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artist scheme.  The appointment of the Apollon Musagète Quartett (2012-14) follows on from the successes of the Karol Szymanowski Quartet (2001-03) and the Royal Quartet (2004-06).  Both the Szymanowski and Royal quartets have since made distinguished careers, although of the three only the Royal Quartet still seems to be based in Poland.

All three quartets are active in the recording studio.  The Royal Quartet’s CD of the three Górecki quartets (2011) has been critically acclaimed, and its follow-up CD of the quartets by Lutosławski and Penderecki is due for release early next year.  Even more imminent is the Szymanowski Quartet’s recording with Jonathan Plowright of Zarębski’s Piano Quintet and Żeleński’s Piano Quartet.  All of these recordings are on Hyperion.

I’ve not been able to find out anything about the Apollon Musagète Quartett prior to its founding in Vienna in 2006, so I don’t know what the players’ Polish roots are.  Its Polish repertoire includes works by core composers – the two Szymanowski quartets, Bacewicz’s First Piano Quintet, Lutosławski’s Quartet, Górecki’s First, Penderecki’s Der unterbrochene Gedanke and Third Quartet – and also a few surprises: Żeleński’s Variations on an Original Theme, and arrangements of a cappella choral pieces by the Renaissance composer Wacław z Szamotuł and of two piano études by Chopin.  The Apollon Musagète Quartett is due to release a CD on the Oehms Classics label next year of quartets by Lutosławski, Górecki and Penderecki.

It would be good to learn of plans by any of these quartets to take up the music of Polish composers of their own generation.  There have already been some interesting collaborations outside the standard chamber-music repertoire.  Perhaps the most intriguing venture by the Apollon Musagète Quartett has been with Tori Amos, touring with her and contributing to the Night of Hunters CD (2011).

Cue not-too-wobbly video of ‘Shattering Sea’ from a tour date at the Manchester Apollo.


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