Rachel Franklin presents Chopin and his heir

June 05, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Chopin, Sonata No. 2 ("Funeral March") in B-flat Minor (opus 35) and Ballade No. 4 in F Minor (opus 52), and Juliusz Zarebski, "Novellette Caprice" (opus 19), "Grande Polonaise" (opus 6), "Serenade Burlesque" (opus 20), and "Suite Polonaise" (opus 16), performed by pianist Rachel Franklin (Endeca EN/RF-199401).

Rachel Franklin, a young Baltimore-based British pianist, gave a lovely recital last year at the Walters Art Gallery, in which she performed some of these pieces. This record confirms the fine impression she made at that time.

Franklin's Chopin playing is sensitive and accurate, and shines more impressively in a beautifully organized performance of the poetic F Minor Ballade than in a somewhat too restrained reading of the heroic "Funeral March" sonata.

But the highlights of the disc are the works by Zarebski (1854-1885). Almost entirely forgotten today, this Polish pianist-composer was, as Franklin explains in a fine program note, widely considered Chopin's heir before he succumbed -- as Chopin did -- to tuberculosis at a tragically early age. He was apparently a wonderful pianist. He was a student of Joseph Dachs, who also taught Vladimir de Pachmann and Isabelle Vengerova, and he had some lessons from Liszt, who thought he was one of the most brilliant of the younger pianists.

But it is his music for which he will be remembered, thanks to Franklin. These are elegant salon pieces somewhat in the manner of Moritz Moszkowski, who was born the same year but lived until 1925. Why some of Moszkowski's music -- his encore pieces, at least -- have remained in the repertory and Zarebski's have disappeared is not difficult to explain.

Although their content is shallow, Moszkowski's cleverly put-together pieces achieve a brilliant effect with a minimum of effort. Zarebski's music is much more serious. It is also much more difficult to play, and, while musically more rewarding, its effect (at least superficially) is less brilliant.

Like Chopin before him and Szymanowski after him, the young composer was interested in the roots of the music of his native country in its folk dances.

His pieces feature an imaginative use of color and boldly piquant modulations that suggest that had helived -- for the three years that separate the earliest of these works from the latest show real progress -- he might have left the world of the salon far behind.

Anyone interested in music of the piano needs to investigate this recording. So far as one can tell, it is the only representation of Zarebski's solo pieces in the current catalog, and Franklin's intelligent and elegant performances are not likely to be surpassed.

HEAR THE MUSIC

To hear an excerpt of Rachel Franklin's recordings, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6190 after you hear the greeting.

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