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Henryk MELCER (1869-1928)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor (1892-94) [28:59]
Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor (1898) [37:27]
Jonathan Plowright (piano)
BBC Scottish SO/Christoph König
rec. City Hall, Glasgow, 7-8 March 2007
The Romantic Piano Concerto - vol. 44
HYPERION CDA67630 [66:41] 


Melcer was born in a small town on the outskirts of Warsaw. He simultaneously acquired degrees in music and mathematics in Warsaw and continued studies in both subjects in Vienna. His piano teacher there was Leschetitsky. His worklist is not large. Apart from these two concertos there is a symphony the full score of which is lost and various other works including two operas only one of which was completed. 

To the disc in hand … These are two lively concertos with their roots in the late-Romantic tradition. They resonate with the more famous concertos by Liszt, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. 

Despite the liner-notes the First Concerto strikes me as more under the influence of Brahms than Liszt. There is a strenuous leonine and regal strength about the first movement. It reminds me of Brahms' first concerto although the fugal central episode is outside the Brahmsian reference. There is an especially peaceful middle movement after which comes the irresistibly graceful, playful and folk-inflected Vivo; touches of Tchaikovsky 1 here. If the First Concerto occasionally also smacks of Saint-Saëns in his most decorative mode the Second more consistently recalls Tchaikovsky in his first two piano concertos. The emotional depth of the writing is finer than that of the by no means unattractive first concerto. This is a work in which gravitas and grace meet in equipoise. Even if a measure of stagey grand guignol obtrudes into the finale of the second concerto it is done with splendour and sovereign conviction. The orchestral writing is resourceful and full of engagement. 

Jonathan Plowright's ability to identify with works of such obscurity and brilliance does him credit. More to the point he has this wonderful ability to articulate to listeners the delights and joys of these utterly forgotten works. I still remember the lively advocacy he brought to the two Stojowski concertos and solo piano music. He is ably supported here by the BBC Scottish. 

The eminently readable notes by Joseph A Herter complete the picture rather well.

Rob Barnett


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