The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Cracow Duo: Jan Kalinowski (cello) Marck Szlezer (piano)
Composer: Tansman

Prolific Polish-turned-French composer Alexandre Tansman (1897–1986) has found ambassadors in the vibrant young Cracow Duo and Polish record label Dux. Tansman, whose glittering career centred on Paris, wrote his Second Cello Sonata (1930) soon after a trip to the US, where the jazz he heard found echoes in its scherzo. This movement, the most striking of the three, is taken at virtuosic speed here, its dazzling piano part leading the way in snappy changes of metre over cello pizzicato line, with impressively spot-on ensemble – a combination again used most effectively in the whimsical Molto vivace of his Fantaisie.

Piatigorsky, Casals, Cassado – the cellists who premiered Tansman’s works testify to success in his lifetime that hasn’t stood the test of time. Jan Kalinowski shapes the slower movements’ undulating phrases beautifully, but too often the music meanders without ultimate direction. The Partita (1955) contains the most original and challenging music on the disc, its central Dialogue and Aria reaching joyous heights of expression.

Kalinowski and Marck Szlezer, friends since childhood, have a wonderfully natural rapport and there is an arresting quality to their playing that gives life to the music, even when its content is less than inspiring. The recording, though sometimes favouring the piano too much, is nonetheless of good quality.