> STOJOWSKI Piano Concertos CDA67314 []: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Zygmunt STOJOWSKI (1869-1946)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor Op. 3 (1891) [35.01]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat major Prologue, Scherzo and Variations Op. 32 (1908) [33.01]

Jonathon Plowright (piano)
BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
rec 6-7 June 2001, Caird Hall, Dundee
HYPERION CDA67314 [68.12]



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Hyperion present two lanky ambitious confident concertos for the twenty-eighth volume in their Romantic Piano Concerto series.

Stojowski was born Zygmunt Denis Antoni Stojowski in Strzelce in Poland. Later he adopted the clumsier but perhaps easier to pronounce 'Sigismund'. Abandoning early studies in Cracow he went to Paris and there worked with Diémer, Dubois, Massenet and Delibes. In 1891 he gave a concert of his own works with the Colonne Orchestra. This was the forum for the First Piano Concerto and the Ballade for orchestra. Paderewski gave him piano lessons. European tours as soloist culminated in emigration to the USA in 1905 - the same year as his almost namesake, Leopold Stokowski. He settled in New York and played in concert with all the major US orchestras. Stojowski spoke and wrote six languages and corresponded in phenomenal quantity all over the world.

There are in excess of one hundred compositions. Paderewski played his Rhapsodie Symphonique (1907) in New York (and there is, by the way, a recording of this work on ABC Classics). Marcella Sembrich-Kochanska sang his songs. His violin pieces were played by Wilhelmj, Kochanski and Enescu. The works include Symphony in D minor (1901), Violin Concerto (1908), Cello Concerto, two violin sonatas (1894, 1912), cello sonata (1898) and these two piano concertos (1893, 1914). His Prayer for Poland was written for chorus and orchestra in 1916 and presumably parallels the wartime sentiments of Elgar's Polonia.

The opening of the First Concerto is like a great wave slowly cresting and breaking as a prelude to a moonlit episode. It may well have been heard and imbibed by Stanford for I felt the parallels with Stanford's 1912 Second Concerto quite frequently. This is a case of Stanford crossed with Saint-Saëns - perfumed and loquacious - spinning fantasy and commonplace side by side. There is some magically still poetry in the lento at 09.00 and this is picked up in the andante which takes something from Beethoven's Moonlight and Pastoral. The allegro con fuoco? Well, if the attention intermittently drifts and the thematic interest is slender, the experience is pleasing - a period piece.

The Second Concerto is also known by its triptychal title. There are ten variations preceded by the theme and each episode is separately tracked. Stojowski does much better here and sentimentally viscous though it may be the great theme in the prologue at 0600 is one of which to be proud even though it gets some rowdy quasi-vaudeville pacing as things progress. The theme has Slavonic overtones and is given the full glittering treatment. Stojowski brings a great feeling of heroic summation and breadth. He catches the same mood as Medtner in the leonine drawing of breath and surging forward of the last five minutes of the Ballade Concerto. On top of this Stojowski reintroduces the strong theme from the first movement and does it extremely well. The work ends consummately and calmly; the work of a composer confident in his own powers.

Jonathon Plowright has done well here. I do not underestimate the work that goes into these projects. I am sure that Stojowski would have been proud of Plowright's work which advocates these concertos to a generation to whom the two concertos were strangers. The only criticism across the concertos would be that when the strings of the BBC Scottish 'lean' on the big lyrical themes they do not sound as affluent and well-nourished as they might.

Hyperion attain their usual resplendent standards in all departments. Joseph A Herter's notes are de rigueur and are much more than a summation from the easily available enyclopaedic sources. His performance history from the 1890s up to date makes good reading. While I would happily have settled for less depth these notes complete the picture and make acquisition of this disc a comprehensive experience. The notes are in French and German as well ... and in full. No corners cut.

Now Hyperion we hope you will not stop this series. We still need the two (2 and 3 not to mention the two symphonies) by Bortkiewicz, Holbrooke's Second Orient and Symphony No. 8 Dance for piano and orchestra, Joseph Marx's Castelli Romani (effectively his second concerto), the concertos of Roger Sacheverell Coke (a British Rachmaninov disciple), two piano concertos by Théo Ysaye (1865-1918, the brother of Eugène) and Arthur Somervell's Highland Concerto (1920) and Normandy Variations (1910) for piano and orchestra.

Rob Barnett

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