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Mozart • Żeleński: Piano Quartets

Paweł Wakarecy (piano), Jakub Jakowicz (violin) et al (NIFC)

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Mozart • Żeleński
Mozart: Piano Quartet No. 1, K478; Zelen´ski: Piano Quartet, Op. 61
Paweł Wakarecy (piano), Jakub Jakowicz (violin), Katarzyna Budnik (viola), Marcin Zdunik (cello)
Frederick Chopin Institute NIFCCD 110   63:48 mins

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The principal point of interest here for most collectors will be Władysław Żeleński’s C minor Piano Quartet. Throughout his long career, Żeleński (1837-1921) was not only a dedicated composer of chamber music, but also selflessly organised chamber performances of the classics in his salon at home. The Piano Quartet is a relatively late work, inspired by the sudden death of his beloved wife in 1904. The first three movements were composed in quick succession later that year, but then work on his opera An Ancient Tale intervened, and it was not until 1909 that Żeleński found time and inspiration to compose the finale.

Dedicated to Wanda Paltinger Tybergova, a distinguished pupil of the legendary Theodor Leschetizky, the quartet is an impassioned work in the Romantic tradition that evinces the composer’s unstinting admiration for Schumann and Brahms. It could hardly wish for more ardent and inspired advocacy than it receives from this young Polish team, who shape even the most generic of phrases with a haunting memorability. Played like this, as though it was a cherished masterpiece, it defies belief that such a hugely accomplished and attractive work could have waited so long to receive such distinguished advocacy.

The Mozart is a more appropriate coupling than at first it might appear, as the original manuscript is the only one of Mozart’s held by the Frederyck Chopin Museum in Warsaw. Played with the same musical sensibilities that characterise the Żeleński, some might find the result a shade cantabile espressivo, yet in context it serves as a poignant reminder of just how far Mozart was ahead of his time.

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Julian Haylock