RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Homage to Paderewski
Jószef WIENIAWSKI (1837 – 1912)
Étude Op. 44 No. 22 [2:50]
Ernest SCHELLING (1876 – 1939)
Nocturne (Ragusa) (1926) [6:57]
Béla BARTÓK (1881 – 1945)
Three Hungarian Folk-Tunes Sz66: Andante tranquillo, rubato [0:53] 4 Allegro non troppo, un poco rubato [1:02] 5 Maestoso [1:20]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893 – 1960)
Elegiac Mazurka [2:51]
Theodore CHANLER (1902 – 1961)
Felix LABUNSKI (1892 – 1979)
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895 – 1968)
Hommage à Paderewski [3:55]
Eugene GOOSSENS (1893 – 1962)
Richard HAMMOND (1896 – 1980)
Darius MILHAUD (1892 – 1974)
Bohuslav MARTINů (1890 – 1959)
Mazurka H284 [1:51]
Joaquín NIN-CULMELL (1908 – 2004)
In Memoriam Paderewski [1:16]
Emerson WHITHORNE (1884 – 1958)
Hommage Op. 58 No. 2 [4:06]
Vittorio RIETI (1898 – 1994)
Allegro danzante [1:54]
Ernest SCHELLING (1876–1939)
Con tenerezza [3:41]
Karol RATHAUS (1895 – 1954)
Sigismond STOJOWSKI (1870 – 1946)
Cradle Song [2:28]
Jaromír WEINBERGER (1896 – 1967)
Étude in G major [4:11]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 – 1976)
Mazurka elegiaca Op. 23 No. 2 [8:21] ¹
Aleksander ZARZYCKI (1834 – 1895)
Chant du printemps Op. 34 No. 1 [3:10]
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857 – 1944)
Étude symphonique Op. 28 [5:54]
Felix BLUMENFELD (1863 – 1931)
Kujawiak – Obertas No. 2 from Suite polonaise No. 2, Op. 31 [3:12]
Jonathan Plowright (piano)
with Aaron Shorr (piano) ¹
rec. January 2011, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk
HYPERION CDA67903 [75:32]
What Hyperion did for A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen [CDA67767] and in their Hommage à Chopin album [CDA67803] they have now done for the Homage to Paderewski album from publishers Boosey & Hawkes. The album of music was planned in 1941 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the pianist’s first American concert tour in 1891. But Paderewski’s death in June meant that the project was put on hold and appeared the following year in memoriam. There were seventeen pieces in all in the book, though this disc contains twenty-two pieces from twenty-one composers (Ernest Schelling provides two); these other pieces were not written for the anthology, but were dedicated to Paderewski. For the record these are the works by Wieniawski, Zarzycki, Chaminade, Blumenfeld - and Schelling’s beautiful, impressionistic, and extensive Nocturne, though his Con tenerezza was included in the 1942 album.
The album proves both musically satisfying and emotively fascinating. The music veers from evocations of Polish dance rhythms to threnody with startling immediacy. There’s a stark compression to some of the compositions, and a more extensive exploration to others. Bartók’s Three Hungarian Folk-Tunes Sz66 open the book, Jonathan Plowright exploring the richly chorded splendour of the final Maestoso with great weight and balance. Arthur Benjamin’s deftly coloured Elegiac Mazurka is a brilliantly incisive piece – powerfully rhythmic in his best style – whilst the much less well-remembered Theodore Chanler’s Aftermath is a kind of song-without-words of great feeling.
In fact each piece is strongly characterised and differentiated; Felix Labunski’s memorial to his erstwhile mentor is a powerful Threnody, with its lovely, nostalgic aria-like central panel. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Hommage seems to celebrate in sound Paderewski’s vital, energetic personality, whilst Eugene Goossens has focused instead on a terse, even gaunt approach, based on Chopin’s Prelude in C minor, which is revealed explicitly at the end. One of the real ‘finds’ here is English-born but long-time American resident Richard Hammond, whose Dance nearly out-Bartóks Bartók and out-Prokofievs Prokofiev. Appropriately, Milhaud contributes a brief Chorale, Martinů a swirling Mazurka to conjure up Paderewski’s national dance, little-known Emerson Whithorne a solemn Hommage, and Vittorio Rieti a dazzling Allegro danzante.
Schelling had died by the time the album was produced – in fact he predeceased Paderewski by two years, which caused the Polish pianist much grief - and his piece, submitted by his widow, is a warm tribute. Rathaus’s Kujawiak is laid-back, whilst Weinberger’s Etude is noble, virtuosic and full of Polish songfulness – indeed he embeds a national song into the piece.
Britten’s Mazurka elegiaca was written for two pianos and was thus unsuitable for the volume and had to be published separately. It’s played with drama by Plowright and Aaron Shorr. Chaminade’s Étude symphonique is Chopinesque in the extreme, Blumenfeld’s Kujawiak a glittering example of Golden Age panache, and Wieniawski’s Étude passionate and virtuosic.
This is no mere archival curiosity, no archaeological reclamation without true musical foundation. The Paderewski album contains great variety, power, rhythmic vitality and charm. It’s been brilliantly brought to life by Plowright who, I have always found, is a natural studio performer, one who can transcend the supposed limitations of such an undertaking to bring a richly communicative spirit to bear. Of his technical command, we hardly need comment; he’s terrific. The recorded sound is also first class - natural, warm, without flaw. An outstanding disc then.
An outstanding disc.