Boris PAPANDOPULO (1906-1991)
Small Concerto for Piccolo and String Orchestra (1977) [14:33]
Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra (1962) [21:53]
Five Orchestral Songs for baritone, string orchestra and harp (Totensonntag 1920; Rock'n'Roll; Judenliedchen; Lied der Granaten; Sing in den Wind) (1961-62) [24:09]
Michael Martin Kofler (piccolo flute)
Jörg Halubek (harpsichord)
Miljenko Turk (baritone)
Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim/Timo Handschuh
rec. 2015/16, Ev. Matthäuskirche Pforzheim-Arlinger
CPO 777 941-2 [60:50]
With his Greek-sounding name, Boris Papandopulo is nevertheless one of the pillars of Croatian music. This is by no means CPO's only Papandopulo disc and on this occasion they showcase works with string orchestra. Their other CDs include the Second and Third Piano Concertos.
The quarter-hour Piccolo Concerto left me with the feeling that Croatia's Malcolm Arnold was stepping forward. It's a capricious three-movement piece with an equable balance of peacock display, loose-limbed jackanapes fun and yielding folk poetry; the latter especially in the central Romanza. The first and last movements, Predigro and Igro positively heave with display and fun.
The Harpsichord Concerto is also in three movements. The first movement is a blisteringly detailed Toccata which gambols and tumbles forward but which congeals a little towards its end. It's an accessible score but the folk element you can hear in the Piccolo Concerto is here concentrated in the finale. The touching, slightly sentimental and darkening middle movement forms a centre of gravity and a fulcrum for the blithe, scorchingly active and incessantly athletic Rondeau finale.
The Five Songs add to the string orchestra what feels almost a luxury: an omnipresent harp, which, rather than contributing a lush soft focus, underscores these far from warm songs. We hear a hollowly fearful Totensonntag 1920 and a Weill-like Rock'n'Roll which, while athletic as the finale of the Harpsichord Concerto, is also threaded through with manic fear. The mournful Judenliedchen, a controversial product of its time, bemoans Jesus' fate. Weill and Dessau come to mind in the cold expostulation that is the setting of Lied der Granaten. This chilling sequence of declamatory songs ends with the protest and bereavement that is Sing in den Wind. These songs are meet companions to the cantatas and song-cycles of Theodorakis, Alan Bush and Bernard Stevens.
The songs are resolutely sung in German and their words are given in the booklet alongside translation into English.
The blessedly lengthy programme notes are by Davor Merkaš and are in German and English.
Messrs Kofler (piccolo flute); Halubek (harpsichord) and Turk (baritone) are fully up to the demands of the unfailingly tuneful concertos and the contrasting excoriating libation of the songs.
Can I just re-enter my pleas for Papandopulo's Symphonies Nos. 1 (1930) and 2 (1946) and his three other named symphonies from the 1980s. I wonder when and where any of them were last performed. There is certainly a case for hearing more Boris Papandopulo, at the very least to satisfy a growing curiosity about his music.
While we are on the subject of Croatian music someone would do well to take a close look at Krsto Odak's glittering and oceanic Adriatic Symphony (1940) heard several times on the BBC Radio 3's "Through the Night" programme.