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Boris PAPANDOPULO (1906-1991)
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1959) [29:32]
Violin Concerto (1942) [45:49]
Oliver Triendl (piano)
Dan Zhu (violin)
Rijeka Opera Orchestra/Ville Matvejeff
rec. 6-13 June 2016, HNK Ivan pl. Zajc Rijeka
CPO 555 100-2 [67:31]

Croatian composer Boris Papandopulo was born in Honnef am Rhein and died in Zagreb. Born of privileged and artistically-inclined parents he rose to a position of eminence in the Croatian musical world. There's a great deal of his music but he is reputed to have lost interest in much of it after completion.

His composition master was Blagoje Bersa - he of the orchestral piece Sunny Fields. Leading posts in Zagreb's opera house and radio orchestra sustained him before, during and after WWII. He also guest conducted the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. As a composer, he was sympathetic to large and noble symphonic structures; not that he was short of humour. There are three operas, three ballets, various concertos, chamber music and piano pieces. A selection of the piano music has been recorded by Nicholas Phillips and issued on Albany. Mike Herman mentions his Symphonies Nos. 1 (1930) and 2 (1946) and a clutch of three other named symphonies from the 1980s.

There's a handful of various major piece for voice(s) and orchestra including a Croatian Mass which has been recorded. Jim Samson in his excellent and lavishly detailed book "Music in the Balkans" (2013, Brill) speaks of Papandopulo as "formidably gifted and prolific". Samson mentions his works in the same breath as the Adriatic Symphony (1940) by Krsto Odak, memorable for its glittering sea visions. Papandopulo and CPO are not new partners as can be gathered from useful reviews of the label's other earlier CD (review ~ review).

The three movement Piano Concerto No. 3 is open-textured, tonal, clever, cool, engaging, entertaining and feel-good. With a touch of Ravel and of Kodaly, it's implacably and flashily sinister with a rhythmically propulsive first movement. This is followed by a sighingly-nocturnal fairy-tale Andante. The finale picks up on the 'cool cat' mood of the first movement - a Croatian 'take' on Malcolm Arnold or George Gershwin.

The big-boned lyrico-dramatic Violin Concerto is again in three movements. Its intense and deeply laid-on romantic style is related to Miaskovsky's Concerto of 1938 although its themes are not quite as memorable as those in the Miaskovsky. There's also a touch of the Sibelius and the Ivanovs even if the folk element is more tacit than in the superb Ivanovs. The brass have a stormily mordant edge and a feral brilliance at the end of first movement. The central Andante sostenuto is placid, serene and spiritually tempered. It's a measured and melancholy smile of a movement. The finale has the character of a city in festival with Rimskian touches along the way and a fiery close.

Both Oliver Triendl and Dan Zhu with orchestra and conductor are majestically apt for the task of reviving this barely known music. As for the recording it short-changes neither the musicians nor the listener. The liner-notes are by Davor Merkas and are in German and English.

We need to hear more Boris Papandopulo - perhaps the two numbered symphonies. While we are on the subject of Croatian music CPO would do well to take a close look at Krsto Odak's Adriatic Symphony (1940).

Rob Barnett


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