A Concert Review by Marek Zebrowski

Pianists Grzegorz Mania and Piotr Różański—also known as the Zarębski Duo—performed an afternoon of attractive music for piano four-hands on Sunday, February 25. Presented by the USC Polish Music Center, the concert was held at Murphy Recital Hall on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Observing the anniversaries of two Polish composers—Maurycy Moszkowski and Juliusz Zarębski (both born in 1854), Mania and Różański interspersed their program with music by three women composers, Hanna Kulenty (b. 1961), Katarzyna Kwiecień-Długosz (b. 1978), and Anna Rocławska-Musiałczyk (b. 1987). The Zarębski Duo’s LMU presentation was rounded off by more piano four-hand music by Ignacy Friedman and Aleksander Tansman.

The recital opened with Zarębski’s Reverie et Passion, Op. 5, a harmonically and melodically adventurous composition that received just the right dose of late romantic glow and tasteful rubato from the two pianists. Racławska-Musiałczyk’s minimalPrelude and Hanna Kulenty’s Van proved to be very effective minimalist works that, under the hands of Mania and Różański, received a highly engaging and virtuoso treatment. Although less ambitious and seemingly simpler, four selections from Cinderella: Seven Aphorisms for Piano by Kwiecień-Długosz were short and musically descriptive, inevitably eliciting a warm response from the audience.

But it was in the elegantly virtuosic Five Waltzes, Op. 51 by Friedman and selections from Tansman’s En tournant la T.S.F. that the Zarębski Duo demonstrated their full technical brilliance, impeccable ensemble work, and mature musicianship. Careful touch, exquisite phrasing and great dynamic depth were applied especially to these two charming works and to the three Moszkowski selections. His sure-fire war horses (Hungarian Dance, Valse, and Polonaise from Op. 11) closed the Zarębski Duo’s magisterial presentation, which filled the concert hall with a rich tapestry of sound.

The partnership of Dr. Mark Saya, Chair of the LMU Music Department, Dr. Wojciech Kocyan, Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at LMU (pictured above with the performers), was instrumental in inviting the Zarębski Duo to appear in Los Angeles. A choice audience, including members of the Modjeska Art & Culture Club, were in attendance and, just as everyone else, they were delighted to hear this program of indubitably attractive salon music. Before the age of recordings, arrangements of music for piano four-hands were the sole medium capable of bringing orchestral and chamber music repertoire to wider audiences, and thus became a staple of “At Home” soirees in the Victorian era. It is comforting to see that quite a few contemporary composers in Poland continue to explore this genre’s potential by writing many new, ambitious and captivating works. Their reception is particularly successful when presented by two able pairs of hands, as the program recently heard at LMU’s premiere concert space clearly demonstrated.

[Photos credit: Maja Trochimczyk]