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Romuald TWARDOWSKI (b. 1930)
Spanish Fantasia (Fantazja hiszpanska) (version for violin and orchestra) (1984) [10:35]
Serenade for string orchestra (2003) [11:08]
Violin Concerto (2006) [17:23]
Niggunim - Melodies of the Hasidim for solo violin and orchestra (1991) [12:43]
Capriccio in Blue - George Gershwin in memoriam for solo violin and orchestra (1979) [10:00]
Kinga Augustyn (violin), Toruń Symphony Orchestra/Mariusz Smolij
rec. 2017, Hall of Karol Szymanowski, ZSM, Toruń, Poland
NAXOS 8.579031 [62:21]

Twardowski is a Pole who was born in Vilnius. A Nadia Boulanger pupil, he originally studied piano and composition at the Lithuanian State Conservatory, then moving to Warsaw. Among his profuse catalogue are operas on Cyrano de Bergerac (1962), Tragedy or the Story of John and Herod (1965) and Lord Jim (1973). In the 1980s he increased his stage complement with operatic works on Maria Stuart and the History of St. Catherine.

This music bows in with smokingly clamant confidence. The ten-minute no-holds- barred Spanish Fantasy is along an exotic-filmic tropic that stretches from Rózsa in King of Kings mode to Rimsky's Capriccio Espagnol. The disc sets out its stall with an orientation placing it alongside Waxman's Carmen Fantasy and Saint-Saëns' Caprice Andalou. It's just that Twardowski and Augustyn have turned up the candle-power. The soloist later shows that she responds to the gentler romantic facets of this composer as much as to the kindling flames.

The Serenade for Strings is a full spectrum work with plenty of thudding energy and a jolly demeanour. It's pretty much of a Polish avatar of the Wirén Serenade with a heartfelt bluesy Andante at its core. There's none of the severity of writing encountered in the string orchestra concert works of Waxman and Herrmann.

The compact Violin Concerto is not showy but its warming neo-romantic ways are patent. It's on the Glazunov and Kabalevsky side of the Walton Concerto but with mementos of all three. I cannot over-stress how accessible this music is yet it evidently has musical substance.

The attractive and early Niggunim - from almost thirty years ago - explores distinctly middle-Eastern ways. This single-movement work comes before the concluding Capriccio in Blue - George Gershwin in memoriam from 1979. This takes its first steps in Paganinian cantabile before putting its best foot forward with a Gershwin-style strut and some heatedly slaloming and rhapsodic clarinet along the way.

Twardowski's catchy and accessible music is, on this showing, likely to have audiences in the palm of his hand as much as Kapustin and the populist nationalist folk works of Svetlanov and Weinberg.

The liner essay is by Frank K. DeWald. As for the recordings, they are bright and bouncy.

Rob Barnett

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