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Raul KOCZALSKI (1885-1948)
Piano Concerto No.3 in C major, Op.125 (c.1936-37) [26:16]
Piano Concerto No.4 in B flat major, Op.130 (c.1938) [29:51]
Joanna Ławrynowicz (piano)
Orkiestra Symfoniczna Filharmonii im. Henryka Wieniawskiego w Lublinie/Wojciech Rodek
rec. 2018, Filharmonia im. Henryka Wieniawskiego, Poland

The earlier release of Raul Koczalski’s First and Second Concertos occasioned genuine admiration and now here is the second volume of this series – though note that Acte Préalable has also just released a disc devoted to the string concertos whilst a chamber music volume is already available. I knew Koczalski composed but had always assumed, given his fame as a pianist, that his time would have been limited. Not a bit of it, as a check of his work list will demonstrate.

The Third Concerto seems to have been composed before – but not long before – 1938. Koczalski takes his protagonist straight in, to unveil a jocular cantilena and much delicate tracery. The piano is spurred to romantic action by the orchestra’s winds and brass in particular - there’s something Mendelssohnian about the loquaciously elegant wind writing - and the whole effect is charming. A brief and, for the time, very old-fashioned Allegretto is followed by a slow movement long on Schumannesque lyricism and liquidity and a jovial March finale full of open-air confidence. There’s evidence of more Schumann-inspired writing and just a touch of Rachmaninov in the chording.

The Fourth Concerto followed soon after and adheres to much the same four-movement scheme. Here the piano is verdant and the orchestra full of colloquial ease. Again, Schumann looms large with an admixture of late Romanticism. If you’re not looking for Scriabin or Berg all this is fine, especially as there are many felicities of colour and orchestration to be heard. Is that a celesta, for example, that appears several times. The Scherzo here is both quirky and rather beautiful – gorgeous moments for the orchestra and then also the piano before a switchback. Undoubtedly Koczalski, at his best, possessed a truly poetic spirit and has the tact and taste not to pile on the expression in the slow movement. His finale is jovial and terpsichorean, the piano striking a rather chamber-like posture, leaving it to the orchestra to explore solemnity, grandeur and nobility.

Joanna Ławrynowicz’s thoroughly committed and sensitive performances are finely interwoven with Wojciech Rodek’s astute direction. If you liked the earlier volume you will find this brace of concertos just as much to your liking. I prefer the Fourth for its whimsical and lyrical richness, but both are well worth hearing. Then dig out the transfers of Koczalski 78s and broadcasts to round out your listening.

Jonathan Woolf

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