ZYGMUNT NOSKOWSKI: Orchestral Works Vol. 1: Morskie Oko (1875); Symphony No. 1 in A major; Pan Zolzikiewicz (1888) Overture – National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Slawek Wroblewski (Symphony), Gabriel Chmura (Morskie Oko), and Zygmunt Rychert, conductors – Sterling CDS10832, 64:35 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Here is another welcome release from Sterling. Although Zygmunt Noskowski’s star may not shine quite so brightly as it once did, he had an enormous influence on a whole generation of Polish composers, including Karol Szymanowski to name but one. Born in Warsaw in 1846, he studied there from the age of eighteen, before going to Berlin in 1872. After working in Europe he returned home in 1880 where he remained until his death in 1909.
His First Symphony dates from 1875, and is thought of as the first Polish symphony. Written while he was still studying with Friedrich Kiel in Berlin, it’s a substantial work of some 44 minutes in a traditional four movement format. It rises above generic mid-European works due to its interesting orchestration and Polish colour. The Adagio cantabile is quite lovely, and the scherzo following an effervescent vivace.
“Morskie Ako” is a tone poem written around the same time as the symphony and inspired by a lake in the Tatras, pictured on the booklet cover. Finely crafted with much atmosphere, this is one of the composer’s most frequently-played works. “Pan Zolzikiewicz” (Mr. Zolzikiewicz) is an overture from the incidental to a play of the same name, and acts as an excellent encore to this introduction to Noskowski’s music.
The recordings are a co-production with Polish radio and the sound quality is very good, nicely airy in the best tradition of European radio productions. Performances are excellent, Chmura and Rychert delivering readings of suitable intensity. The booklet in Polish and English is thorough and informative, and sheds much light on this unjustly neglected composer. This is an excellent addition to Sterling’s rich catalog.
— Peter Joelson