Tansman: Orchestral works

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Aleksander Tansman was a very interesting and eclectic composer. The Fourth Symphony, previously recorded by Israel Yinon on Koch in a performance of very similar (high) quality to this newcomer, has plenty of dissonance and a gnarly, contrapuntal finale that recalls Hindemith. But like Hindemith, Tansman knows just when to let consonant harmony and a good tune or two seep through the texture, and the result is curiously compelling and always interesting. The Four Polish Dances are, as you might expect, immediately appealing, but their sophisticated scoring raises them well above the ordinary for music of this type.

These two works are framed by a couple of Baroque-influenced pieces: the Bach transcription closes the program, while the Frescobaldi Variations make a substantial curtain-raiser. This piece exists in two versions: for full orchestra, and as played here, for strings alone. Somehow this version strikes me as more faithful to the original theme, and the variations never stray very far. A few tart dissonances toward the end betray the music’s relative modernity (1937), but I can’t imagine anyone being put off by this lovely work–particularly as it’s very warmly played by the strings of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic (in Bialystok) under Marcin Nalecz-Niesiolowski. Very natural, vivid engineering completes a wholly enjoyable picture.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: none

ALEKSANDER TANSMAN - Variations on a Theme of Frescobaldi; Symphony No. 4; Four Polish Dances; Nun kommt der Heiden Heiland (Bach chorale arrangement)

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