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Dux in May

The Polish label Dux is uncommonly interesting but relatively little known in UK.

This month's batch ranged from Chopin & Martinu to 21st C music, Gabrys' Bassolo and orchestral music by Piotr Moss, all those of high quality and recommended for further exploration.

Lech Napierala's Mazurkas selection [DUX0791] is played with enormous sensitivity on a suitable instrument (a Bösendorfer?). Seven of Chopin's (the last embedded in the Polonaise Op 44) are complemented by a group of Szymanowski's and eight by the lesser known Roman Maciejewski (1910-98) which stand up well in such august company.

Martinu engendered suspicion because of his productivity (over 400 works !) but they remain a treasure trove for chamber music players.

Flutist Agata Igras-Sawicka and her colleagues do well by the sonata and several trios; delightful music which we found idea for listening to over breakfast [Dux 0768].

Piotr Moss (b.1949) studied with Nadia Boulanger, Bacewicz & Penderecki and he is a prolific versatile composer. His Friedrich Pictures (Wanderer over a sea of fog, National Gallery London, L) are vivid, owing something no doubt to his experience with film music.

Most arresting on his disc is the longest work, a unique concerto for two harps, which alongside their virtuosic duetting are often "embedded in the orchestra's timbre" [Dux 0820].

The first of Aleksander Gabrys' double-bass double discs features recent cutting edge music by his father Ryszard, and substantial concertante works with orchestra by Szalonek and Boguslawski, little known names, but strong exploratory music.

Gabrys' second disc has Cage, Grisey, Scelsi, Pritchard, Xenakis, and others you too may not have heard of, putting the bass (mostly solo) through its paces. The Xenakis is a truly major piece, 13 mins long, one of prodigious difficulty, we are told, which our own Barry Guy was one of the first bassists to tackle.

What a pity that Dux didn't help listeners by giving track timings for the "four factures" - does that mean successive sections, possibly not? But whilst listening, I sought in vain for "the final part with bar fingering which brings us down seven times"; finally I decided that this relates to the last few seconds of the piece ! Perhaps some of the difficulty with this important double-disc is in translation from the Polish? That really should always, if at all possible, be entrusted - or at the least checked - by a native English speaking musician or musicologist. With assistance from the Polish Cultural Institute I am sure we could find such a one in UK pwiling to help you?

All well recorded and worth hearing twice [Dux 0800/01].

Peter Grahame Woolf