As its director, he helped shape the face of Polish classical music in the early 20th Century. As a composer, he was a craftsman of the first rank. Żeleński wrote in the late-Romantic style of Brahms, tempered with Polish folk music traditions.
This release presents two of his most expansive chamber works. The Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello is based on a Latin maxim. Roughly translated, it’s “I call the living, I mourn the dead, I repel lightning.” Each phrase sets the character of a different movement.
The first, which “calls the living,” is a traditional sonata-allegro that’s brimming with energy. The slow second movement may mourn the dead, but it does so in an elegiac fashion. The music exudes more hope than sorrow. The lively finale suggests that repelling lightning is nothing more than a game.
It’s a composition that works just as well if you don’t know the program (which is what good music should do). The Trio Lontano delivers a masterful performance. I especially enjoyed the interchanges between the instruments when lines overlapped.
For the Piano Quartet, the trio added violist Adrian Sanciu. The extra instrument thickens and darkens the ensemble sound. And that’s just the effect Żeleński wants. The quartet is a more mature work and a more somber one.
Here emotions are heartfelt, yet frustrated. There’s a sense of yearning that runs throughout the work. I found it quite beautiful and moving. If you enjoy late-Romantic chamber music, you should give this a listen. This is exceptional music by a truly talented composer.
Trio Lontano; Adrian Stanciu, viola