Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914-1991)
Violin Concerto (1971) [24:52]
Cello Concerto (1991) [19:58]
Piano Concerto (1961) [24:03]
Robert Kabara (violin); Roman Jabłonski (cello); Bogdan Czapiewski (piano)
Symphony Orchestra of the Stanislaw Moniuszko Academy of Music, Gdansk/Zygmunt Rychert
rec. 2014, Concert Hall of the Stanislaw Moniuszko Academy of Music, Gdansk
DUX 1176 [68:53]

With Andrzej Panufnik’s centenary not long behind us there are some good performances to look back on, though not so very many additional record releases. This Dux disc was recorded in 2014 but the booklet notes don’t hint at its having any commemorative significance.

The Violin Concerto has appeared in the past on the Conifer label and elsewhere and is given a good performance here. Robert Kabara is more rhapsodic than some in this work, and his expressive tone floats effectively over the orchestral strings in the central Adagio. The energetic effects of the final Vivace have a sharpness and vigour that is quite compelling.

Collectors will want the dedicatee Rostropovich who can be found on the NMC label when it comes to the Cello Concerto, but Roman Jabłonski is adept at expressing some of the enigmatic mystery in this, Panufnik’s last major composition. The fairly restricted sounding acoustic doesn’t help much in this tricky work, and the winds and horn wrestle with rather than revel in the all of those close dissonances. Panufnik’s later works are preoccupied with symmetry, and the abstract lines and strange non-resolving harmonies give the impression of taking the musicians in this recording too far beyond their comfort zone. The second movement is admirably energetic but those drums sound a bit boomy and the acoustic picture is more confused than compelling.

The Piano Concerto betrays one dud recording trick from the outset, the added resonance given to the piano and indeed the rest of the orchestra being returned to us in mono and distracting a little from the impact of that opening cadenza and anything that stands out or is followed by silence. If you want to hear the full glory of this technical faux-pas play the opening flourish of the last movement and see where your ears take you. Bogdan Czapiewski is a skilled and spirited player, and he and the orchestra give their all in the Entrata. The rather artificial studio sonics continue in that magical central movement however, with the percussion sitting right inside your left ear if you are listening on headphones. The pure wind tones that are supposed to rise above everything and outline the essence of the movement just sound strained. The final Presto molto agitato just about hangs together rather than overwhelming us with virtuoso brilliance. I have no doubts as to the sincerity and commitment of the musicians throughout this CD, but the end results alas do not triumph over the competition.

This programme is duplicated with some big name soloists over on the CPO label, Michael Cookson admiring the performances more than the works themselves (review), Gary Higginson also adding some interesting background anecdotes (review). I think Alexander Sitkovetsky has the edge over Robert Kabara in the Violin Concerto though not by such a huge margin. Kabara is a tad less assured and has one or two moments of edgy intonation where Sitkovetsky is faultless and poetic at the same time. Raphael Wallfisch and the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra ease themselves into and bathe amidst the strange glories of the Cello Concerto where Jablonski and Stanislaw Moniuszko Academy struggle, so this is no contest. The Piano Concerto with Ewa Kupiec is also superior in just about every regard, but most certainly in terms of recording quality.

I had so wanted to be able to embrace this admirably conceived programme from Dux. Panufnik’s concertos are fine and underrated works but need careful nurturing for their case to advance as music evolves in the 21st century. With regret I can’t say this recording helps much in this regard, and were I back in my now non-existent record shop I would be strongly guiding you towards CPO 777 687-2 rather than Dux 1176.

Dominy Clements


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