The advertising blurb for this CD is not reserved. It states that Roman Statkowski is ‘one of the most brilliant successors to the Romantic genres popularised by Chopin … yet he is hardly known outside Poland’. It declares that his ‘music is full of sparkling energy, rhythmic vitality and a mass of wonderful melodies.’ Even the briefest of encounters with these piano works will prove that this assessment is not an exaggeration. He is yet another one of many ‘forgotten’ composers who deserves to be rehabilitated.
A few biographical pointers may be of interest. Roman Statkowski was born in Kalisz on 5 January 1859. Whilst pursuing a degree in law at the University of Warsaw, he also began to study composition at the Conservatory. Statkowski later moved to St Petersburg where he studied under Nicolai Soloviev (1846-1916), Anton Rubinstein (1829-94) and Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908). After teaching at Kiev, he returned to Warsaw in 1904 as professor of composition at the Conservatory.
Statkowski’s catalogue is not huge: he composed two operas, a number of chamber works and a good deal of piano music. There are two orchestral pieces, a Polonaise and a Fantasy, which were once relatively popular in his native land. His opera Filenis won first prize at the International Opera Competition in London in 1903.
His music has a number of influences including Chopin, Schumann, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss. Statkowski died in Warsaw on 12 November 1925.
I suggest listening to this music in largely chronological (opus number) order, taking each set of pieces at a time. There is not a great deal of development in the content and musical style of this music. It is believed that most of the music presented here was composed between 1886 and 1906. Virtually all these pieces are attractive, post-romantic and ‘imbued with lyricism, poetry and noble tenderness.’ The Toccata, op.33 in particular pushes towards Rachmaninov in it sheer powerful romanticism. If I could only hear one piece it would be ‘Auprès de la fontaine’ from the stunning Six Pieces, op.16.
The liner-notes give a good introduction to the life of this ‘unsung’ composer, as well as a detailed discussion of each work. I do wonder why Barbara Karaskiewicz has chosen not to give the dates of each of these works: five minutes in Grove gave me nearly all the information I required, although there it is clear that some scholarship needs to be applied to Statkowski’s works list. I could find no reference to the date and location of the recording, save that it was made in 2012. Both these items are important for many listeners.
I have found reference to two previously released volumes of Statkowski’s music performed by Karaskiewicz. They were issued on the Polish record label Acte Préalable APO126 and APO176. Volume 2 was reviewed on this site by Jonathan Woolf in 2009. I have not heard these recordings. There does seem to be a considerable overlap of repertoire.
Polish-born pianist Barbara Karaskiewicz has taken Statkowski’s music to heart and clearly has a great love and understanding of all these pieces. They are beautifully played.