Władysław Żeleński had the Six Character Pieces for piano, op. 17 ready around 1871, although it is quite possible that he composed them earlier, even in 1864. Such is indicated by the opus number. At that time he was giving opus numbers to works in chronological order of composition. This set is dedicated to Auguste Auspitz-Kolár, a pianist whom Żeleński could have met on one of his trips to Vienna. The composer published these works in 1872, with Gotthard of Vienna, in two books under the common title Sechs Charakterstücke. The present edition is based on Ludwig Doblinger’s Viennese edition (cat. no. 1221 comprises the Praeludium, Promenade and Tanz, cat. no. 1222 the Canon, Scherzo and Abschied).
The compositions collected in Żeleński’s opus 17 have been unjustly forgotten. Their undeniable qualities include advanced harmonies and expressive melodic writing, as well as a wide range of textural means and composition techniques. Quite ‘densely’ written, these miniatures may prove challenging, but the right fingering eliminates many difficulties of performance.
The second book of Władysław Żeleński’s Six Character Pieces contains three miniatures: Canon, Scherzo and Farewell. They manifest characteristic features of the composer’s style, such as the use of counterpoint and a rich, organ-like texture.
The Canon, with its emotional charge and build-up of tension, brings to mind miniatures from the brilliant piano cycles of Robert Schumann. A very simple phrase is imitated canonically between the top voice and the two bottom voices, passing through different keys. A touch of finesse is added by the triplet figuration in the middle plan.
The next miniature is a classic Scherzo in ABA form. The outer sections, with an imitated theme, are in G minor. With its rather ominous, perhaps somewhat tragic, character, it contrasts with the middle section, Un poco più tranquillo, in the parallel key of G major, which clearly represents a more luminous, dance-like episode in this set of works.
The title Farewell given to the last piece in opus 17 may stir associations with Ludwig van Beethoven’s only programme sonata, Les Adieux. This miniature is far more expansive and texturally richer than the other works in this set. The virtuosic elements are of the highest order, not overwhelming the composition, but emphasising its powerful emotional charge.
Each of these miniatures can function as a separate work, but when played as two three-part cycles they fall into logical wholes, in which the climax is reached in the last, most elaborate piece. Yet a performance of all six works from both books, so the whole of Żeleński’s opus 17, allows us to discern an even larger cyclical form, developed in an equally deliberate way. - Anna Miernik
- ISMN 979-0-2740-3423-8
- Language of edition: pol, eng
- Cover: softcover
- No. of edition: 1
- Published: 2021