Various Artists

Polish Harpsichord Music, Vol. 2

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This second disc of Polish harpsichord music played by keyboardist Urszula Bartkiewicz contains items that are as obscure as those on volume one, with not only the pieces but most of the composers missing from reference books and large databases of classical recordings. Bartkiewicz's notes, whether because of the translation from Polish to English or otherwise, again seem a bit disjointed and don't fully justify using a harpsichord in music composed around the year 1800. This program, however, is more successful, both historically and musically, than the one on the first volume. Bartkiewicz does refer to one published set bearing the puzzling indication that the music is suitable "for clavichord, guitar, and other instruments," which doesn't mention a harpsichord but does indicate that these pieces were aimed at a domestic market where the fortepiano might well still have been a financial stretch. Bartkiewicz's biggest advantage here is that the music fits that niche as well. It consists mostly of dances and variation sets that have a lot of Polish flavor and very little of the contemporary Viennese and central European influence heard in the larger works on the earlier release. The dances are mostly polonaises, and Bartkiewicz's big French-school harpsichord gives them a lot of zip. The three pieces marked Andante and variations (tracks 4, 8, and 16, the tracklist is only in Polish) give Bartkiewicz a chance to show her chops in some fairly intricate passagework. But the chief attraction here is the chance to hear what the polonaise, mazurka, and waltz sounded like a couple of generations before Chopin learned them. While it would be helpful to know more about the penetration of the fortepiano in Eastern Europe, anyone interested in the music of the region can enjoy this disc.

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