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Bolesław SZABELSKI (1896-1979): Concertino (1955):
Henryk Mikołaj GORECKI (1933-2010): Refrain for orchestra
Eugeniusz KNAPIK (*1951): Islands (1983)

Zbigniew RAUBO – piano Adam WAGNER – violin solo Piotr RURANSKI– double bass solo The Silesian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Mirosław Jacek BLASZCZYK

DUX 0865

A good conspectus of orchestral music by composers of the "Katowice circle". I heard music of Szabelski when I was researching Polish music in the '60s, but he rarely appears in UK schedules. The attractive piano concertino embraces neo-Romantic and pointillistic textures, synthesised in the finale.

Gorecki is not to my taste - too slow in his developments of ideas which can be quite striking, but pall with repetition.

But his pupil composer-pianist Eugeniusz Knapik's Island (1983) is my preferred item here. He was a member of the Polish '1951 Generation' (c.f. Spain's 'Generation of '51') opposed to "the absolutism of the avant-garde", and his music is in a line from late Beethoven via Brahms, Mahler & Skriabin, with Messiaen an important inspiration.

This work has a complex structure with sections preceded by cadenzas for violin and double-bass, symbolizing that we are "on an island drifting in the universe - every human being an island as well..." [Tomasz Jez].

Messiaen Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus

Eugeniusz Knapik (piano)

DUX 0848/49 [56:57 + 73:11]

Marvellous to discover only afterwards that Knapik is also a very significant pianist !

His very early (1979) recording of Messiaen's Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (1944) is one of the very best. Dramatic events and martial law in Poland balked its planned release in 1981 and left it on the shelf for many years. Presented at long last in a striking book-casing, with comprehensive notes, I wasn't eager to hear yet another Vingt regards, having known and studied it intensively since hearing it from Loriod and Ogdon.

The latter inspired Knapic in 1969 - "a charismatic English English pianist John Ogdon - for three days I walked like in a delirium" - but this one is truly engrossing and will retain a prime place on my shelf and often on our CD player. A special feature is his voicing of the notes within the chords - magical.

Great praise and appreciation is owed to the skills of original engineers and to those who have created this belated CD release. A full and duly enthusiastic review is on MusicWeb, their Dominy Clements assuring us that the analogue-taped piano sound is full, rich and warmly detailed, and tape hiss not an issue.

Do buy both discs from one of my favourite labels.

Peter Grahame Woolf