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Polish Spirit
Mieczyslaw KARŁOWICZ (1876–1909)
Violin Concerto in A Op.8 (1903)
Emil MŁYNARSKI (1870-1935)
Violin Concerto No.2 in D Op.6 (1898)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude from Partita in E BWV1006
Vittorio MONTI (1868-1922)
Csárdás arranged Nigel Kennedy
TRADITIONAL
Danny Boy
Nigel Kennedy (violin)
Polish Chamber Orchestra/Jacek Kaspszyk
Filmed in the Philharmonic Hall of Bydgoszcz, 9 June 2006  
DVD format; DVD-9; linear stereo DTS 5.1 surround; Dolby Digital 5.1 surround; region free NTSC;
EMI CLASSICS 3799349 [110:00] or 3799342 (CD)

 


The DVD of Polish Spirit is released in tandem with the CD. The CD however is a studio recording whilst the DVD captures a performance given in the Philharmonic Hall of Bydgoszcz in June 2006. There Kennedy coupled the Karłowicz and Młynarski concertos, interspersing them with Bach and ending with two encores; Monti and Danny Boy. For the CD he kept to more traditional Polish models and had a brace of Chopin arrangements.

The DVD is prefaced by a documentary feature called “The Adventure” in which Kennedy talks about the two works. He sits in a fluorescent green hat, casually unshaven, in a mountain hut. He mentions how he’d been given a recording of the Młynarski by a Polish admirer after a concert several years ago but had only listened to it fairly recently and that his interest had been kindled by it. It was the Kulka recording and collectors will know that the Polish player recorded both these concertos. The concertmaster of the Polish Chamber Orchestra is briefly interviewed and, at slightly greater length, conductor Jacek Kaspszyk.  There are also shots of the rehearsal where Kennedy sports his now obligatory Guinness t-shirt and stomps around the stage in mildly deranged fashion.

The performances, before a warm and effusive audience, are full of power and veritable eloquence. You’ll find the sound of the CD is appreciably better in terms of depth, definition and clarity and the performances have the edge at least in terms of neatness and maximal ensemble between the soloist and his estimable colleagues. But the live performances on DVD do capture very well the undeniable allure of Kennedy’s committed and absolute dedication to these two works.

For the concert Kennedy dons his accustomed motley and Doc Marten boots. He greets the concertmaster and conductor with his cringe-making “closed-fists-touching” greeting. Turning to the audience he wishes them dobrý večer (“Good Evening” in Polish – Kennedy spends much of his life shuttling between Malvern and Krakow) and announces the music in English. Then we’re off. Camera angle shots are unobtrusive and intelligently directed. When a phrase comes off we can catch a quick smile of complicity between soloist and conductor. He plays both concertos exceptionally well and the added adrenalin of the live performances brings its own reward in terms of heightened expression – this despite the fact that he’d been touring the same works for some time before committing them to disc; indeed he mentions in the interview that they’d recently been touring them throughout Germany.

It would be necessary to listen to the CD to make comparisons with the Kulka recordings of both works or the Tasmin Little or Dorota Anderszewska Karłowicz discs or indeed Wanda Wilkomirska on Polski Nagrania – the last of which, regrettably, is currently unavailable. But Kennedy plays with wonderful warmth – the tone can roughen in places but that is a product of expressive commitment and the eloquence of the slow movements  - especially the Młynarski - is often breathtaking. I can’t forgive him the gurning and the fist touching, though I’m more inclined to forgive him in the finale of the Młynarski when he turns and plays to the first desk of the violins like a café fiddler.

His Bach is thoughtful and intense. The Monti is a riot – flirty and naughty, entering Tzigane territory, and involving a long walk through the orchestral ranks and back to the stage. The whole thing lasts forever. The orchestra loved it, so did the audience and, God damn it, so did I.

For those who want the concertos I’d recommend the CD. For those who want to enjoy the rare visual experience of these concertos I’d be happy to suggest the DVD though the sound is palpably inferior.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 


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