This CD preserves a concert given in 2006 by the Brandenburgische Staatsorchester Frankfurt under Jürgen Bruns. Though given in Germany by German musicians under the joint auspices of Berlin University and Deutschlandradio Kultur, the program features entirely the works of Polish composers, most of them driven into exile during the first half of the twentieth century. For those interested in the development of Polish culture, the historical importance of this disc is incalculable.
Fortunately, its musical value is nearly that exalted, introducing to the wider world excellent if hitherto nearly unknown pieces. In superbly polished and deeply felt performances, Bruns and the Frankfurt musicians create wholly convincing performances of works with which they could hardly have been familiar beforehand. Grzegorz Fitelberg's The Song of the Falcon from 1905 is a symphonic poem based on "Gorki's Tale" of the same name in which a wounded falcon describes the joys of freedom, and though Fitelberg eschews programmatic invention in the interest of musical cogency, his heroically surging and radiantly glowing work captures the essence of the work to perfection. Eugeniusz Morawski's Nevermore from 1911 is a symphonic poem based on Poe's "The Raven" that likewise avoids programmatic representation for direct embodiment of the spirit of the poem. But where the spirit of Fitelberg's work was radiant and heroic, the spirit of Morawski's work is dark and stormy with a feeling of dread and doom that becomes palpable by the end.
Szymon Laks' Poème for violin and orchestra from 1954 is a combination concerto and suite in expanded sonata form with a lyrical opening that transforms first into a development, then into a fugue, then into a mazurka, and finally into a funeral march. Joined by keen-toned violinist Klaudyna Schulze-Broniewska, Bruns and the Brandenburgische Staatsorchester Frankfurt again find the Poème's expressive heart. The final work on the program is Alexandre Tansman's Hommage à Ersame de Rotterdam, a four-movement work from 1969 that approximates a four-movement symphony with slow outer movements surrounding fast central movements. As in Fitelberg, Morawski, and Laks' works, the sheer compositional skill of Tansman's Hommage is prodigious, and, as in those works, the emotional and spiritual effect of the music is profound. Though a bit distant, the digital sound here is still colorful and vibrant.