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Polish Fantasy
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17a (1888) [33:34]
Fantaise Polonaise, Op. 19b (1893) [22:37]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
Partitac (1971) [19:17]
Felicja Blumental (abpiano/charpsichord);
aVienna Symphony Orchestra/Helmut Froschauer; bInnsbruck Symphony Orchestra/Robert Wagner; cPolish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Krzysztof Penderecki.
rec. cPolish Radio Studio, Katowice, Poland, 1972. ADD
BRANA RECORDS BR0028 [75:31]

An interesting coupling, this. The value of this disc lies primarily in the Penderecki; the work is dedicated to Blumental. Listening to the disc straight through is a rather disorientating experience after the relative straightforwardness of the Paderewski, so perhaps it is better to isolate this work if it is your primary focus. It is magnificently performed, with the composer in firm control of his Polish forces. The ominous, discordant trampings in the strings, the scoring that almost invokes Stockhausen-like electronic gestures all point towards the adventurous side of Penderecki. There is some simply stunning harpsichord playing, and also some lovely silvery scoring towards the end. A memorable recording.
The Paderewski A minor Concerto is just the sort of repertoire in which Blumental excels -  see my review of her disc, Pupils of Beethoven. A shame the recording lacks depth for the violins take on a disconcerting shrillness. The piano writing often tends towards the Chopinesque in its decorations and certainly exhibits much fluency. Blumental is expert at this fluency; a pity the orchestra is not of better calibre as ensemble can sometimes be rather ropey and tension can sag as a result.
The night music of the second movement is rendered with a lovely light touch, while the finale glitters. This last movement in fact includes an effective chorale-like section: around the two-minute mark. Very few clouds mar the brightness of this movement, and Blumental ensures it dances brilliantly towards the end. If a more modern recording is required, this concerto appears on Hyperion played by the fine pianist Piers Lane (see review).
The Fantaisie Polonaise is undemanding fare. There is a Slavic feel to the opening - dare I say sub-Mussorgsky?; perhaps more Rimskian! - but it turns out there is much fun to be had, not least the glittering glissando from Blumental after seven minutes is up.
Colin Clarke

see also review by Glyn Pursglove


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