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Paul KLETZKI (1900-1973)
Violin Concerto (1928) [35:15]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 61 (1933) [22:14]
Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)
Partita for violin and orchestra (1988) [17:58]
Robert Davidovici (violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Grzegorz Nowak
rec. Cadogan Hall, London, 2013

Łodz-born Kletzki, with a sterling reputation as a conductor, also wrote music and in quantity. There are three symphonies (1927, 1928, 1939), a Sinfonietta (1923), Vorspiel Zur Eine Tragödie (1926), a piano concerto (1930), three string quartets (1923, 1925, 1931) and a violin sonata 1924 among much else.

Kletzki as a composer is emerging at a leisurely pace. This is the world premiere recording of the Violin Concerto (1928) and follows other Kletzki revivals on disc: Second Symphony, Piano Concerto and chamber music. His manuscripts were feared lost during World War 2 but the score of the Concerto came to light having been found in a chest which was opened by the composer's widow in 1973. Robert Davidovici gave the work its post-war premiere at the Lincoln Center in 2007 where the conductor was the ever-intrepid Leon Botstein. Unusually, the work is dedicated to a singer: the tenor Richard Tauber. Before 1933 it was played in Germany 15 times by Georg Kulenkampf but then found oblivion.

It is a lavishly florid work rich in dense undergrowth of ecstatic expression somewhat akin to the works by Szymanoswki and Schoeck. I am indebted to the notes by Timothy L. Jackson who writes with a direct-speaking style defying academic expectations or prejudice. Jackson describes the Kletzki as an example of "post-tonal tonality". It's an opulent mix; no bare-bones here, just plenty of Brahmsian and even Straussian cholesterol. A surprise then that the saxophone puts in an appearance in the final Allegro Giocoso at 7.00. The movement bounces along on athletically-sprung tendons. Flashy extroversion in the violinist solo is the order of the day. The close after a stern ostinato is just a shade too orthodox - seemingly written from the primer of how to end violin concertos. Still, a most enjoyable piece.

The four-movement Szymanowski concerto is given an unhurried pulse, in touch with the more ecstatic pages from King Roger. It also channels a folk-inflected pounding energy. The whirling Allegramente precedes the nationalistic finale which flitters and scintillates. This is not an unfamiliar work although it has to work harder to keep a grip on my attention by comparison with the First Concerto. In that sense it's rather like the two violin concertos by Prokofiev.

Pupil of traditionalist Witold Maliszewski, Lutosławski served a brusque and buffeting apprenticeship in Nazi-held Warsaw. He survived there alongside his piano-duet partner Andrzej Panufnik. These two composers took radically different paths. Panufnik eventually departed communist Poland and made his way in the UK becoming a composer with a distinctive, almost religious, gift for magical near-silence and battering fortissimo statements. Lutosławski stayed in Poland but as the barriers crumbled and then fell his often avant-garde music found favour, premieres and celebrity champions in the West. His Partita is in five fairly modernistic delicate movements. The Largo from the Partita (movement III) shows a poetic reflex and finds eloquence among its fine dissonances. We are told that the finale pays implicit tribute to the Berg Violin Concerto. Overall the Partita is a tough but rewarding work.

The liner-notes - and they are very full - are welcome indeed and well done. It's just a shame about a couple of typos: Jeux Venetians should be Jeux Vénitiens and the name of composer whose theme is the subject of the Kletzki variations is Emile Jacques-Dalcroze not Emile Jacques Dalcroize.

There's masterly playing by Robert Davidovici who has made a particular mission of the Kletzki. Davidovici is up there with the giants of today alongside Vadim Gluzman; forgive me but I am still taking in Gluzman's playing in Gubaidulina's Offertorium.

Credit to Grzegorz Nowak, Principal Associate Conductor of the RPO who seems to have a well-matched appetite for the uncommon and deserving as well as for the popular classics. The laurels also extend to the technical team (Andrew Mellor and Mike Hatch) who deliver a punchy yet yielding sound.

Three Polish violin concertos — in substance if not name — and one of them in a world premiere recording.

Rob Barnett



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