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Grazyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969) Piano Quintet No. 1 (1952) [25:04]
Juliusz ZAREBSKI (1854-1885) Piano Quintet in G minor Op. 34 (1885) [33:58]
Aleksander LASON (b1951) Chamber Music No. 1 Stalowowlska (1974-78) [13:29]
Lason Ensemble (Krysztof Lason, Agnieszka Lason (violins), Elzbieta Mrozek-Loska (viola), Stanislaw Lason (cello), Piotr Salajczyk (piano))
rec. Witold Lutoslawski Concert Studio, Polish Radio, July 2011
CDACCORD ACD 178-2 [72:33]


Here we have three piano quintets by Polish composers played in Poland by a Polish group. More to the point, here we have total delight from beginning to end of a varied, well filled and recorded disc.
I must admit to knowing of only two of these composers before listening and to not having heard any of these works before. That said, the Zarebski has been recorded several times before, most recently on a recent much praised Hyperion disc with Jonathan Plowright and the Szymanowski Quartet that I have not heard. The Zarebski is indeed by some way the most impressive work here: impassioned, varied, and well constructed. The composer was a piano student of Liszt and the music is clearly strongly influenced by him in style. The rhetorical gestures, phrases recurring between movements, the general eloquence and the sheer beauty of sound all catch the listener’s attention right from the start and do not let go. I have been unable to obtain a score or to listen to other versions, but what is heard here sounds extremely convincing to my innocent ears, with no lack of conviction from the performers.
Also on offer is the earlier of two Piano Quintets by Grazyna Bacewicz. It has a clear elegance and precision of manner together with real individuality. This is to be heard especially in the funeral march in the slow movement and in the folk inspired rhythms of the second movement. Again, the performance is wholly convincing. The final work, by Aleksander Lason, is named after its first performance at the “Young musicians for a young town” Festival in Stalowa Wola. It is the shortest work on the disc but its strong individuality and character make it in some ways the piece that makes the biggest impression. There are echoes of Lutoslawski and Messiaen but it is never a mere clone of their writing. I am unclear as to whether the Ensemble is named after the composer or after its three members with the same surname but they certainly seem to have a real affinity for the sound-world of this music.
The piano quintet is a notoriously difficult medium, with a terrible risk of excessively thick and unvaried textures. It is noticeable that the great masterpieces of the genre – Schumann, Dvorák, Brahms, Shostakovich and so on - adopt radically different solutions to the inherent problems of balance and texture. All three composers on this disc have similarly been able to find new solutions, and the results are immensely enjoyable. I was uncertain what to expect when I received this disc, but it gave immense pleasure from beginning to end.
John Sheppard

see also review by Byzantion