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Hyperion Records

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Girl with a Jug (c1900, detail) by Apoloniusz Kedzierski (1861-1939)
Photograph © Copyright by Wilczynski Krzysztof / National Museum, Warsaw
Track(s) taken from CDA67905
Recording details: December 2011
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: December 2012
Total duration: 36 minutes 19 seconds

'Hyperion's useful coupling of the Zarębski with Żeleński's quartet makes this disc specially welcome and the playing is first-rate' (Gramophone)

'An outstanding account of Zarębski's Piano Quintet, capturing the score's emotional intensity … a performance of passionate warmth … making this recording doubly valuable is the even rarer Piano Quartet in C minor by Wladyslaw Żeleński … gentler and yearningly introspective, it is nevertheless full of soaring melodies, and folk-inflected scales and rhythms reinforce a certain Slavic tone. Again, the performance is impeccable … another invaluable Hyperion release' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Zarębski's Piano Quintet confirms a feel for Lisztian harmony allied to a commanding formal sense that should have been the springboard into an eventful maturity and, even so, is not so far behind those by Brahms, Dvořák or Franck as a significant contribution to the medium … the Piano Quartet by Żeleński is complementary in almost every respect … the pianism of Polish specialist Jonathan Plowright has an eloquence and poise which meshes with the strings in a master-class of responsive ensemble playing. Warmly spacious sound, and detailed booklet notes by Adrian Thomas, only add to the disc's attractions. Hopefully this partnership will record more Polish chamber music of the late Romantic era' (International Record Review)

'The combination of Hyperion's state-of-the-art recording, an inspired repertoire choice and committed, musicianly performances makes this disc a winner. Both composers here are deserving of further exposure … Żeleński's Piano Quartet is darkly Romantic and the players display a clear rapport, with Plowright careful never to obfuscate textures; the highlight is the gorgeously sustained, rapt Romance … mystery infuses the ululating surfaces and metric feints of Zarębski's Quintet's Adagio … in which the demonstration standard recording really comes into its own. A fascinating disc, lovingly produced' (International Piano)

'British pianist and specialist in Polish music Jonathan Plowright is well supported by the Szymanowski Quartet from Poland, and the performances of both works are exemplary for their passion and emotional sweep' (Singapore Straits Times)

Piano Quartet in C minor, Op 61

Allegro con brio  [11'59]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Zelenski’s Piano Quartet in C minor, Op 61, shares the romantic outlook of Zarebski’s quintet and of another Polish piano quartet, by Zygmunt Noskowski (1846–1909). These three works share a yearning lyricism and passionate momentum that owe something to Mendelssohn and Schumann as well as Brahms, yet there is also a Slavic element that sets them apart from these composers’ works for piano and strings. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Zelenski’s first movement. The opening idea, with its sharpened fourth, has a folk-like tone, although this is more colouristic than substantive. Even so, the sharpened fourth appears again in the third movement, Intermezzo, and it is embedded in some of the piano writing in the Finale.

The first movement is indicative of Zelenski’s ability to mould high lyricism with a strong sense of momentum. The piano plays a key role, while the string trio is often used in unison for maximum expressivity. The second theme is especially eloquent. Zelenski repeats the exposition, before pursuing a development of shifting tonalities and dramatic contrasts. Most subtly and seamlessly, he ushers in the recapitulation by starting it part-way through the first theme. As in the first movement of Zarebski’s quintet, the coda’s forward drive is interrupted for a last moment of lyrical reflection. There is an unusual diminuendo on the final open-fifth chord.

The Romanza in A flat that follows is a song without words, initiated by the cello. Its wistful tone gives way to a central idea played by the string trio, its searching semiquavers leading to an impasto-like texture that ranges from troubled to stormy. As this subsides, the opening theme floats in, molto tranquillo, although the recapitulation proper comes a little later. Zelenski treats this as an opportunity for further variation and drawing together of the movement’s themes.

Although the third movement in G minor is called Intermezzo, its roots lie in the mazurka, with its first-beat rhythm and second-beat punctuation. Zelenski’s take on this Polish dance is quirky. The movement begins off-key and off-beat and the air is one of whimsy rather than regular foot-stamping. A singing second idea in B flat interrupts the mazurka briefly. There are two contrasting episodes: dark string murmurings in E flat major, brought to order by the piano, and a scampering idea in G major, which also reappears to round off the movement.

The Allegro appassionato has all the hallmarks of a classic sonata finale. At heart it is a tarantella, surging forward even though there are lyrical temptations put in its way. The second subject, played by the piano in octaves, is a perky idea, sounding rather like a fugue subject. It in turn gives way to the high-flown lyricism familiar from earlier in the quartet. After the second subject is indeed treated to a brief fugato at the end of the development, Zelenski, as in the first movement, reintroduces the main theme, part-way through. A brief coda brings the quartet to a rousing end with a final motivic hint in the piano of its very first theme.

from notes by Adrian Thomas © 2012

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