Monika Wolinska / Sinfonia Varsovia

Eugeniusz Morawski

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Because most of the output of the prolific Polish composer Eugeniusz Morawski was lost in World War II, including manuscripts of his operas, symphonies, chamber music, and songs, there is precious little to base a revival on. But this recording by Monika Wolinska and the Sinfonia Varsovia does cast light on his orchestral music, insofar as recording three symphonic poems can do justice to the composer or give an idea of his style and sound. The epic late Romanticism of Richard Strauss immediately comes to mind in Don Quichotte (1909), with its propulsive, heroic themes and virtuosic writing, though Morawski seems to have been more directly influenced by Strauss' Don Juan, rather than by his Don Quixote. The confident handling of instrumental effects showed Morawski was a creative orchestrator, though his working of thematic materials is loose and episodic. The works based on poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Ulalume (1914-1917) and Nevermore (1911), are much less derivative and show a more adventurous approach to chromatic harmony, dissonance, and unstable tonality. Yet these are still well within the expectations of post-Romantic music, and even in his most complex explorations, Morawski stops short of modernism. The performances are for the most part clear and easy to follow, though the density of the textures and murky harmonies at times make details a bit indistinct. Wolinska gives the orchestra clear direction, and together they convey a sense of commitment to these pieces that bespeaks national pride, as well as interest in this forgotten composer.

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