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Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op.22 (1870) [22.42]
Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)

Concerto for String Orchestra (1948) [14.16]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)

Agnus Dei (1980-84) arranged for string orchestra by Boris Pergamenschikow (1994) [6.36]
Wojciech Pławner (violin)
Beethoven Academy Orchestra/Paweł Przytocki

Recorded in the Concert Hall of the Silesian Philharmonic in Katowice, May 2005
DUX 0524

A short all-Polish programme is the engine that drives this Dux disc. Itís issued under the auspices of the Ludwig van Beethoven Association, whose Beethoven Academy Orchestra does the honours throughout. Other than that I must say it is hard to gauge the target audience for a concert such as this. The disc is short measure; thereís a young soloist in a warhorse concerto now more admired in the breach than in the performance, some orchestral Bacewicz and thereís the short but intense Penderecki Agnus Dei in this string orchestra arrangement.

Whatever the merits or demerits of the programme itís always good to hear a young soloist in the Wieniawski D minor, a work once colonised by such as Heifetz, Elman and Stern Ė more recently Perlman has placed his stamp on it. Pławner was a prize-winning twenty-one year old when he recorded it and he has a nice, sweet, clean style, not always entirely in tune in the early stages. He doesnít quite sculpt the lines as glamorously as his epic predecessors and some of the orchestral playing is inclined to be a touch inert as well, though thereís a first class principal clarinettist. Pławner employs some decent lower string work in the slow movement, which he takes with lyrical impress, and shows a fine pair of passagework heels in the finale. Itís a promising performance but not especially distinctive.

For most people itís the Bacewicz that will prove the major draw though her Concerto for String Orchestra has been recorded a number of times before, not least by the Cracow Philharmonic under Roland Bader on Koch Swann back in the mid 1990s when it was coupled with the composerís Third Symphony and also by the Polish Chamber Orchestra slightly earlier which was, in truth, a better recording. Written in 1948 this is a bustly neo-classical work, not one of her most individual or characteristic, but one that builds a good head of steam. The first movement is classic sonata form and has concertante-like moments for solo violin (her own instrument) and cello. It possesses an urgent freshness and in the slow movement a warm lyricism thatís not quite untouched by a certain aloofness. The pizzicato-laced finale has vivid rhythmic impetus and polymetric drive. It makes for diverting listening in a good performance such as this one.

The Penderecki Agnus Dei is a powerful, concise threnody, a melancholic utterance of immediate impact.

That alone wouldnít be enough to compel interest; the Bacewicz is a strong piece and as interest in her works has increased of late Iíd be happy to recommend it to those yet unaware of it. But itís very much to be sampled before purchase, as this is more a souvenir of an event than a cohesively designed sequence in its own right.

Jonathan Woolf



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