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Ignacy Feliks DOBRZYŃSKI (1807-1867)
Overture to 'Monbar, or The Filibusters', op.30 (1836-38) [10:44]
Piano Concerto in A flat, op.2 (1824), reconstructed Krzysztof Baculewski [40:33]
Characteristic Symphony in C minor (Symphony no.2) (1834/1862) [36:24]
Andante grazioso (original slow movement of Symphony no.2) (1834) [8:39]
Emilian Madey (piano)
Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Łukasz Borowicz
rec. Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio, Polish Radio, Warsaw 5-9 October 2009; 9-12 March 2010 (Piano Concerto).
CHANDOS CHAN 10778(2) [51:26 + 45:12] 

At one time Ignacy Dobrzyński is said to have been as well known in Poland as Chopin, with whom he once shared the teacher Józef Elsner. One left Poland and found fame, the other remained in Russian-occupied Warsaw and was ultimately all but forgotten. Bits and pieces of Dobrzyński's music have appeared on disc in recent years, but very few monographs. The opera overture, piano concerto and symphony offered here by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Łukasz Borowicz for Chandos make for a varied and enjoyable, though not essential, table d'hôte

The pirate-painting Monbar Overture is of a generally Rossinian nature - cheerful, catchy, with an exuberant finale. Though not quite as huge as the Piano Concerto, the Symphony is nevertheless a substantial work. Dobrzyński gave it a new second movement more than a quarter of a century on, and that is the version heard here - although the attractive original movement has thoughtfully been included by way of bonus. The ostensibly nationalistic Symphony is no stand-out masterpiece - Dobrzyński's own title is perhaps more revealing than he intended - but it is tuneful and very well-crafted in the way many lesser symphonies of the time were. The final movement, oddly, sounds not unlike a Rossini overture itself, brimming with high spirits and operatic-style reprises.
 
The best work of the three is, ironically, the Piano Concerto. Ironically, because Dobrzyński was only seventeen when he wrote it. In that respect it is an astonishingly assured work, elegantly proportioned, sophisticatedly orchestrated and with an abundance of pianistic and symphonic ideas. In some respects this is an an unfortunate pairing for the Symphony by Chandos - Howard Shelley's recording of the Piano Concerto was released only last year by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute (NIFCCD101, paired with Franciszek Lessel's) to widespread praise. Chandos made their recording in early 2010, more than six months after Shelley's, which was done live at the 'Chopin and his Music' festival in Warsaw - thus it seems unlikely no one at Chandos was aware of it. It might have been more revealing at any rate if Borowicz and team had recorded Dobrzyński's First Symphony, which indeed the PRSO already have in their repertoire.
 
On the other hand, the Chandos version is sufficiently different - many minutes longer than Shelley's, and taking advantage (controversially, it must be said) of a reconstruction by composer Krzysztof Baculewski from Dobrzyński's original deletions. The concerto itself does not resemble those of Chopin, but rather Johann Hummel's or Friedrich Kalkbrenner's crowd-pleasing, bravura-stoked works. Bizarrely, the first known performance was not given until 1986. Polish soloist Emilian Madey, himself a composer, gives a suitably heroic performance of this epic work.
 
Sound quality is pretty good, but never reaching the heights one or two prominent reviews of this disc indicate - a suggestion of lossiness in the strings sections is hard to escape. The two CDs only add up to a single plus a quarter of an hour, but as Chandos are only charging single-disc price, the timing is actually extremely generous. The trilingual booklet notes by Adrian Thomas are interesting and well written. Moreover, the text goes almost to the edges of the page - what a tree-saver, if this marks the beginning of the end for the label's notoriously wasteful margins! Madey and especially Borowicz stare out from the booklet in a strikingly dour, humourless way - quite what the origin of their severity is, is unclear. Not Dobrzyński's music, for sure.  

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