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Witold MALISZEWSKI (1873-1939)
Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 14 (1907) [40:27]
Piano Concerto in B flat minor, Op. 27 (1938) [30:30]
Peter Donohoe (piano)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates
rec. RSNO Centre, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 1-2 June 2015.
SACD Hybrid Multi-channel

Byzantion's review of a Maliszewski disc from Acte Préalable was not enough to lodge the name of this composer with me. No, it was BBC Radio 3's Through the Night programme that did that. Several times, over the last couple of years, they have broadcast his Symphony No.1 in G minor (Op.8)  and Festive Overture in D (op. 11) in versions by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra under CPO regular Lukasz Borowicz. Both the present disc and a promising Bortkiewicz entry containing the Violin Concerto and Othello (now that's one I cherish reviewing) derive from the last sessions in the Henry Wood Hall - a converted church. Many of Dutton Epoch’s sessions with the RSNO have been recorded there. The acoustic is lively and resoundingly rewarding in music of this type. The two Polish radio recordings pointed in the direction of an entrenched and very late-romantic scion of Glazunov. The works chosen here by Martin Yates are in the same tropic.

Polish-Ukrainian Maliszewski was the founder of the Odessa Conservatory and a professor at the Warsaw Conservatory. He was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov in Saint Petersburg. The Revolution saw him fleeing to Poland and making a living in the 1920s as a teacher and then as Director of the Warsaw Music Society. His compositions include ballets, five symphonies, chamber music, piano pieces and a Requiem (1930).

Martin Yates and the RSNO make quite an event of the Third Symphony which bristles and heaves with Slav passion. This could easily be a lost symphony by Glazunov and can match honour with the latter composer's prime symphonies: 4-6 and 8. The penultimate movement is a light-toed sequence of theme and six variations, here separately tracked, a considerate decision by Dutton. This format presents dangers associated with prettiness but Maliszewski and Yates manage to avoid a collapse of tension into balletic frou-frou. Towards the end of the final variation Maliszewski doffs his metaphorical hat in the direction of Rimsky's Capriccio Espagnol. The riotously whirligig finale is up there with the best of Borodin and Glazunov. In this context let's not forget the symphonies of Kolessa and Bortkiewicz; all well worth hearing.

The burly Piano Concerto was written the year before Maliszewski's death and amid the gathering of clouds that brought the Second World War. This is another strong work and the parallels are not with the two Glazunov piano concertos but with the deadly serious passions of the piano concertos by Bortkiewicz, Rachmaninov, Dobrowen, Scott (a strong voice here) and, by repute, Ivan Dzerzhinsky. It's not a matter of decorative glitter with Maliszewski but of emotionally eloquent thunder, brilliance and shimmer. Donohoe is fully equal to the extreme and exciting demands of the solo part.

It is good to see Dutton working with Peter Donohoe. The last time I heard this master pianist was in Northampton when he played (twice) Malcolm Arnold's Field Fantasy - a work which on that occasion he expounded in its full glory. It was one of those occasions where the music which I thought I knew fell into devastating focus for the first time; all this despite arduous concert circumstances.

Dutton are not the only label to mix rare compositions by various composers on one disc. However, it's a practice I do not favour although I recognise that on occasions it may be unavoidable. For their wonderful International series Dutton keep it to one composer per disc as they do here. Long may it remain so.

I hope that there will be more Maliszewski from Dutton - the last two symphonies next, please - but since they continue to delight by striking out in path-finding directions let's also hope that they will find room for more. I would cite the Poe-based tone poems of Edgar Stillman Kelley, the early symphonies of Dimitrie Cuclin, the two piano concertos of Ivan Dzerzhinsky and the orchestral music of two Americans: Edward Burlinghame Hill (a CD from the Austin Symphony seems to have stalled) and Cecil Effinger.

Until then you can enjoy this disc: revelatory music and utterly committed playing that is strong on a sense of occasion. There's a helpful liner-note by Bret Johnson.

Rob Barnett



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