A celebration of Polish music for piano including lesser-known works from the 20th century by Dutkiewicz, Bacewicz, and Szymanowski, alongside Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28.
Andrzej Dutkiewicz Three Sketches in Retrospect
Grażyna Bacewicz Ten Etudes (selections)
Karol Szymanowski Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Opus 8
Frédéric Chopin 24 Preludes, Opus 28
Poland has produced some of the greatest pianists in music history. A selective list of these legendary figures includes: Chopin, Paderewski, Tausig, Josef Hofmann, Godowsky, Leschetizky, Moszkowski, Arthur Rubinstein and Krystian Zimerman. It is therefore no surprise that there were also a number of great Polish composers from the 19th and 20th Centuries. Daniel Glover will explore three less often performed Polish composers from the 20th Century, as well as the universally beloved genius, Frédéric Chopin.
Dutkiewicz’ Three Sketches in Retrospect (1985) was inspired by the untimely death of Eugene List, one of Mr. Glover’s early principle teachers. The Sketches begins with a powerful movement entitled Hymn (Hymnus). It quotes from Gregorian Chant, is written without bar lines, and features modal chords built exclusively on white keys. This combination of an ancient style with a modern sensibility is representative of the composer’s approach throughout. The second movement, Mazurka (Eugene List’s favorite genre), displays Dutkiewicz’ Polish national pride, but is tempered with just enough dissonance to stamp it as a work of the late 20th Century. The final movement is a minimalist Pastorale, featuring undulating alternating hands chords, meant to conjure up the austere soundscape and atmosphere of a large cathedral. The chord structures bear a superficial similarity to Chopin’s Prelude in E minor.
Grayżna Bacewicz was a prolific violinist/composer who also happened to be an outstanding pianist. She produced seven violin concertos, a piano concerto, and a concerto for two pianos. Her piano music is supremely well written for the instrument, and follows in the path of her compatriot Karol Szymanowski. She once stated that no contemporary Polish composer could escape the influence of Szymanowski. Bacewicz’ Ten Etudes are clear descendants of Szymanowski’s 12 Etudes, Opus 33. They are similarly of modest scope and duration, and yet manage to give the pianist a musical and technical challenge. As with Szymanowski’s 12 Etudes, Bacewicz’ etudes are without key signature, and yet seem to gravitate towards chord structures which seem familiar under the pianist’s fingers.
Szymanowski’s Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Opus 8 (1904) is the earliest of his three piano sonatas, and was entered in a composition competition meant to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 1910. Szymanowski received first prize, and the composer later regarded it as the most important composition of his earliest style period. One can discern in it, on the one hand, strong echoes of youthful fascination with the music of Chopin and Scriabin and on the other – an attempt to face the challenge of the heritage of German Neoromanticism, personified by Wagner, Richard Strauss and Max Reger. It’s four movements are capped by a remarkable double fugue in the finale. The entire sonata is a pianistic and compositional tour de force.
Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Opus 28, are among his most original and enduring compositions, but they were not well understood by his contemporaries. Schumann’s critique indicates his lack of enthusiasm, if not downright misunderstanding as to Chopin’s intentions: “They are sketches, beginnings of etudes, or, so to speak, ruins, individual eagle pinions, all disorder and wild confusions.” Liszt was somewhat more complimentary: “Chopin’s Preludes are compositions of an order entirely apart … they are poetic preludes, analogous to those of a great contemporary poet, who cradles the soul in golden dreams ….” Posterity has sided with Liszt’s opinion. Critics, audiences and pianists continue to be fascinated by these intimate and brief works, which reveal Chopin’s soul in every bar. There is no cycle of pieces, with perhaps the exception of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, which so effectively and economically demonstrate a complete encapsulation of a composer’s style and personal approach as these 24 Preludes. George Sand said it best: “There is more music in a Chopin Prelude than all of Meyerbeer’s operas.”
Pianist Daniel Glover has performed in 42 states and 25 countries throughout Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and the Caribbean. He holds a master’s degree from New York’s Juilliard School, where he attended as a scholarship student. Among his numerous competition awards is first prize in the prestigious Liederkranz Competition in 1990. Mr. Glover has trained with such luminaries as Eugene List, Abbey Simon, Jerome Lowenthal, Nancy Bachus and Thomas LaRatta. He currently resides in San Francisco.