From article about Mazurka-Festival: Janusz Olejniczak – one of the most renowned classical pianists of the country – opens the second half of the concert with a Mazurka by Frédéric Chopin. The musicians of Janusz Prusinowski’s Trio – in fact a quartet – are standing beside the elegant grand piano. Olejniczak starts the virtuosic music: sparkling arpeggios, fully resounding bass notes, luxurious chords… Suddenly, in the third part of the Mazurka, the band joins: flute, fiddle, a rustic double bass with only one string and a huge drum with a large rattling cymbal mounted on the top. Chopin’s exquisite romantic music mingles with the sound of the Polish village. A clash of two worlds – but it works fine….
Tom Daun, Folker, 2010
2008’s album Mazurki by the Prusinowski Trio was the most inspiring to come my way out of Poland that year, and this new one maintains the standard. No reconstructionist attempts to bring back a past era; these musicians are going for what, to past generations and now, makes these tunes and rhythms and ways of playing good.
The music they produce, lurching, rhythm-jumping is vigorous, grainy-textured, even appearing rough on the surface, but in no way is any of the playing anything but extremely skilled; these are contemporarily aware players, with deep love and understanding of central Polish traditional music and its techniques. There are frequent reminders of the wanderings of some Polish dance-forms across Europe, particularly to Sweden; Zawierucha, for example, has that stretched three-beat Swedish polska hesitancy, as does the first part of Namolny Gosc Weselny before it moves into an almost Breton-like 4/4.
For this album, and often live, the trio is a quartet; I assume it was previously a limiting factor that if Janusz Prusinowski was fiddling he couldn’t simultaneously play the small traditional bass, and the other two were generally fully occupied. So Piotr Zgorzelski bows or plucks the bass where it’s needed, with Prusinowski on ecstatic fiddle, ringing hammered dulcimer, Polish accordion and harmonium and main vocals, Michal Zak adding strident shawm, softer-toned wooden flutes and clarinet, and Piotr Piszczatowski thudding big baraban drum and tambourine, with guests on occasional trumpet and double bass.
Except for the final song, the group’s own elegiac setting of an anonymous poem, all of the constantly interesting, rhythmically varied material on the album – mazureks, obereks, kujawieks, wiwaks, polkas and walking dances – that they’ve learned in the course of meeting and playing with surviving older village musicians, some of whom can be seen in the photos on their MySpace site. They don’t mimic these players; they internalise their techniques, apply their own wider musical influences and expertise, and convey the thrill and dance-impulse in an album full of spirit and listenability.
Andrew Cronshaw, fRoots, review of „Serce” album, 2010
„Serce“ means „heart“ – and that’s exactly where this CD aims at. Traditional music from the heart of Poland, freshly treated and played with a big heart. The approach of Prusinowski’s Trio (in reality a quartet) resembles the practice of a historically informed Early music ensemble. Traditional instruments of Polish folk music are used: fiddle, a shaky old akkordion, wooden transverse flutes, some simple reed instruments, a very rustic bass and rattling percussion. The repertoire, too, is mostly traditional: Kujawiaks and Mazurkas, Obereks and Polkas from Masowia, the region along the river Visla. The performers have learned from old village musicians – not only how to play the melodies, but also the significance and the role of music: it shall come right from the heart. And this, maybe, makes it so different from the playing of an Early Music ensemble. It is not about reconstructing sounds of the past – it’s all about evoke emotion. The band succeed in reaching that by investing a lot of their own creativity: melancholic improvisations, songs rendered with a fragile but intense voice, surprising changes of key, rhythmic freedom, wonderful trumpet solos. Music that revokes times long gone by – but still deeply rooted in our present time.
Tom Daun, review of „Serce” Album, 2010
Frédéric Chopin’s 200th Birthday Party – A Polish Jazz Celebration was presented at Carnegie Hall on October 4 presented by the High Arts Society of Warsaw, Poland . This show was arranged to demonstrate the composer’s source of inspiration – folk music, as well as his work being a source of inspiration of jazz and contemporary music. The ambitious concert was performed in Chicago, New York City and Inowrocław, Poland.(….)
The Janusz Prusinowski Ensemble, in my opinion was the standout of the evening. Focused and concise, they offered the rural perspective of the music from the country side that influenced and inspired the great artist. With antique instrumentation they presented an expression of vitality and authenticity.
“Oj chmielu, chmielu” (their first selection) is the oldest known ceremonial wedding song, sung during oczepiny, when the bride symbolically passes into the state of married ladies and when a bonnet replaces her head wreath. From the scratchy, clear-toned folk violin to the emotional shawm, punctuated by the baraban cymbal-drum and the rhythmic foot step-stamp motif of the musicians, the tune resonated through the hallowed establishment of Carnegie Hall.
The shawm, a medieval and Renaissance musical instrument of the woodwind family made in Europe from the late 13th century until the 17th century was developed from the oriental zurna and is the predecessor of the modern oboe. The instrument gave the song a hypnotic transcendental quality.
The song is derived from pagan times, before the adoption of Poland’s baptism in 966. Its tonality of the pentatonic and modal scale indicate an even earlier origin of the melody. The second piece was a suite of melodies that may have inspired Chopin including “Czemu nie orzesz, Jasieńku,” which is reflected in Mazurka in G minor, Op. 24 No. 1 with its rhythmic rubato, minor scales and minor subtleties of melody and harmonic accompaniment. Theaccents of przytup stamping broke into dance by the final rendition of Chopin’s Mazurka in D major, Op. 33, No. 2.
The national mazur is based on the folk mazurek (chłopskie mazur), but it represents a break with folktradition. Compared to the rural version,it differs by being filled with dotted rhythms. At the end of the 18th century the Mazurka became part of the piano repertoire and it reached perfection in the hands of Chopin. Upon examination it becomes clear that these compositions contain a blend of various traditions, dominant among which are the national mazur and the folk kujawiak. A triple-time round dance with a crescendo rhythm, the kujawiak consisting of the slow “sleeping” ksebka, followed by the true kujawiak odsibka – a “whirling dervish” of a mazur or oberek rhythm. (…)
Staś Kmieć, Polish American Journal Today, 2010
Mazurki brings us the wonderfully wiggly cross-rhythms – a triple beat but with stresses that can cross it in fours, fives or sevens – of the village mazureks (mazurkas) from Mazovia, Poland’s flat central region, played, with great skill and tremendous lift, by fiddler and occasional cymbalist Janusz Prusinowski, with baraban drum, tambourine and droning 3-string bass from Piotr Piszcatowski, joined by Michal Zak’s wild shawm and flute. Suddenly the similarly wiggly, asymmetric three-beat polskas of Sweden, which are indeed descended from the mazurka, have a direct connection.
It’s a magnificent album. These guys play with high skill and all the fire and rhythmic energy of the village musicians they’ve learned from. Prusinowski describes his damascene moment. “In an Andrzej Bienkowski film I heard the Józef Kedzierski band. It was a revelation: the authenticity, intensity and ease that I had been looking for throughout the world existed right here, beside me, in my own language”.
What’s probably that same film, of Kedzierski in 1986, can be seen on YouTube via ethnographer, photographer and painter Bienkowski’s website, www.andrzejbienkowski.blox.pl.
In his note to the Prusinowski album, Bienkowski writes, “No other dance aroused such euphoria in dancers and got musicians into such a trance”. Like Swedish polska there too, then. And, like polskas, mazureks are played differently in each village. But mazureks have short songs that go with them, and Bienkowski reckons that the variation of these songs because of local dialect and personal expression is reflected in the variations in mazurek melodies. The rhythm, though, is all-important, and in sung mazureks it’s connected with rhythmic rural work as much as with dance. On the CD too there’s singing, from Prusinowski and two female traditional singers, Maria Pezik and Maria Siwiec.
Far, as Bienkowski points out, from the elegant, waltz-like mazurkas known to the world through Chopin and others, this is music to ignite a new mazurka craze, as polska in Sweden became an obsessive heart to the traditional music revival. It could certainly send a thrill through the ranks of Swedish fiddlers, and lead to Mazovia mazureks creeping into the spelmansstämma buskspel sessions.
(And, food for the body as well as the mind, there’s unusual added value in the CD pack: multilingual recipe cards for the cream-toffee-topped Easter cake also known as mazurek).
Andrew Cronshaw, fRoots Magazine, review of „Mazurki” album, 2009