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Piano Concertos 1 and 2
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Boris PAPANDOPULO (1906-1991)
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1959) [29:32]
Violin Concerto (1943) [45:49]
Oliver Triendl (piano)
Dan Zhu (violin)
Rijeka Opera Orchestra/Ville Matvejeff
rec. 2016, HNK Ivan pl. Zajc Rijeka
CPO 555 100-2 [67:31]

Papandopulo’s father was a Russian aristocrat whose name discloses his Greek ancestry, whilst his mother was a famous Croatian singer, Maja Strozzi, admired by Thomas Mann for possessing what he called ‘perhaps the most beautiful soprano voice of our time’. His family was profoundly cultured and steeped in the artistic milieu of Croatian creative life. His music is tremendously exciting and invigorating and draws on a wide corpus of influences, as the two concertos show.

One of his most devoted contemporary exponents on disc has been Oliver Triendl, one of the world’s hardest working and yet under-appreciated recording artists. The 1959 Piano Concerto No.3 opens with some insinuating impressionist elements but these are soon dismissed in a welter of lilting melodies played first orchestrally and then extrapolated by the garrulous soloist. The ethos is droll, the mood filmic, with giocoso freedom pervasive. There is much made of the mock-brass attacks, the opening movement ending with the solo piano reflecting on earlier material. The central slow movement’s lyric poetry and generous warmth is interrupted on occasion by Gershwinesque paragraphs, though perhaps the model was the similar central movement in Ravel’s Concerto. With a Boogie start, the finale ensures the concerto continues to cover stylistic bases – there’s some more Gershwin in the solo passages – which makes the rather madcap cadenza all the more acceptable, as well as the very brash final furlong. This headlong, whimsical, pan-stylistic concerto has a great deal of heat and attractive, if necessarily derivative features. It’s a bizarre joy to listen to.

The companion concerto is very different. For one thing it was completed in 1943. It’s a much bigger structure, though once again crafted in thee movements, full of texture and colour. It opens with a threnodic hymnal introduction and introduces a quasi-cadential passage for the soloist, whose throaty tone down in the lower strings is balanced by fluty upper voicings. There’s some lovely contrapuntal writing for the winds and a vein of deep nostalgia running throughout over the extended span, as well as orchestral grandeur. The slow movement is a sweetly gentle fantasy on a Croatian song – beautiful, softly textured, the orchestra supplying a supportive tissue for the fiddle’s spinning lied and its elfin, almost otherworldly elegies. The buoyant folk-inclined finale is bright and exciting.

These concertos are full of infectious rhythmic brio and exciting melodic and lyric panache. They have outstanding advocates in Triendl, Dan Zhu and the ever-perceptive marshalling hand of Ville Matvejeff, whose orchestra plays with intense commitment throughout in a well-judged acoustic. Documentation is excellent too, so if you fancy something fresh and zesty, lend an ear to this disc.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett



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