USC Thornton professor, pianist Bernadene Blaha, and Swiss violinist Laurence Kayaleh are featured on a new album of Polish romantic music released in December on Naxos (8.574220). These internationally renowned artists perform the unjustly neglected violin sonatas of  Władysław Żeleński (1837-1931)and Zygmunt Noskowski (1846-1909).

From the Naxos website

Both Zygmunt Noskowski and Władysław Żeleński were leading exponents of Polish nationalism in the period from the last quarter of the 19th century. Noskowski is best remembered as a symphonist but his large-scale Violin Sonata in A minor is an imposing work that suggests the influence both of Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata and of Brahms. Żeleński was as eminent a teacher as he was a composer, seeking to broaden Poland’s provincial outlook through works such his opera Janek (Naxos 8.660521–22). His Violin Sonata in F major typifies the essentially conservative idiom that Żeleński pursued in his maturity.

From violinist Laurence Kayaleh’s website

Both works were written in the heart of romanticism. Passionate, and yet respecting the sonata form, they often evoke a lyrical character with subtle dialogues between the instruments. These sonatas have the characteristic of being very contrasting in atmospheres and moods, moving quickly from a dramatic and fiery character, to an espiègle and a humorous one, including phrases imbued with remarkable beauty and innerness.

While listeners can appreciate the influence of Noskowski’s symphonic writing within his sonata in A minor – for which the composer was particularly renowned, having been a great conductor himself – they will enjoy the crystalline writing, as well as the influence of Polish folk music in Zelenski’s sonata in F major.

Zygmunt Noskowski, who was one of the most famous Polish pedagogues of his time, was the teacher of the prominent Karol Szymanowski, a composer I am particularly fond of.

In addition to having been a composer, pianist, conductor and teacher, Zelenski also held a PhD in Philosophy, this aspect certainly having had a significant influence within the artistic depth of his work.

Kayaleh and Blaha prepared for the recording of this album with a recital in Southern California on the Classical Crossroads’ “Second Sundays at Two” series, which was livestreamed on November 13, 2022 from Rolling Hills United Methodist Church. Read David J Brown’s review of the recital at LA Opus: Or watch part of their performance from the recital in the Naxos Video Highlight of the Month below.

[Sources: artist communication,, Clickable Chamber Music Newsletter from Southern California]