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
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
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.