You never know what you’ll get when a label releases music by unknown composers. Here the Szymanowski’s and Plowright bring us piano quintets by two Poles plucked from the relative obscurity of the early 20th century. At a time when trailblazers like Stravinsky and Schoenberg were making their modernist mark, many others were remaining faithful to the good old ways of 19th-century Romanticism. Ludomir Różycki and Ignaz Friedman are two such late, Late-Romantics.
First up on the disc, Różycki’s Quintet is a wonderful find. Its opening movement has a brooding, romantic character, marked by dramatic swells with gentle hints at the French impressionist sound that had also inspired his more famous compatriot and the quartet’s namesake. The second movement is more solemn, with a greater sense of darkness and melancholy. Plowright and the Quartet are in perfect synchronicity here, elegantly capturing the Adagio’s various moods, particularly cellist Marcin Sieniawski in his impassioned solos. The third movement is perhaps the freshest sounding, having some of the effervescent character of Ravel’s String Quartet second movement.
Ignaz Friedman was a pianist-composer with an Australian connection. As a Jew during Nazi-occupied Poland, he was granted a lucky escape when he received the opportunity in 1939 to tour to Sydney, where he would stay and live out the remainder of his life. Friedman’s Quintet is probably a less convincing and imaginative work than Różycki’s, being harmonically rich, though thematically a bit dry. It’s not without its moments, however. Particularly in the second movement which features warm, lyrical lines in the strings, played with great sensitivity by the members of the Quartet.