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Emil MŁYNARSKI (1870-1935)
Violin Concerto No.1 in D minor Op.11 (1897) [26:55]
Violin Concerto No.2 in D major Op.16 (1916) [27:02]
Piotr Pławner (violin)
Arthur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra/Paweł Przytocki
rec. 2019, Evangelical-Augsburg Church of St Matthew, Łodź
DUX 1606 [53:55]

Every so often someone does their best for the Młynarski D major Concerto but it never seems to stick in the fringes of the non-Polish concert circuit. Konstantin Kulka tried first – a player with a strong tone and personality to match – and more recently Nigel Kennedy, invigorated by his Polish experiences, released a CD and DVD (see review) in which he played with characteristic involvement. He included Karłowicz’s meaty Concerto in A.

Now comes a putative successor to Kulka in the shape of Piotr Pławner who goes one further than his eminent older colleague by recording both Młynarski concertos, something that has already been accomplished by Eugene Ugorski in his recording with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Michał Dworzyński on Hyperion (see review) where they added Zarzycki’s Introduction and Rondo Cracovienne in volume 15 in the label’s Romantic Violin Concerto series. This was, in fact, the premiere recording of the First Concerto.

Pławner and Piotr Przytocki tend to take rather more time over phrasing than Ugorski and Dworzyński and this makes clearer the Bruch-like elements that pervade much of the writing, its lyricism and cantilena elegance, as well as its eruptive romantic drama. Whilst the first movement cadenza owes much to the precedent of the Brahms-Joachim there is much innocent warmth in the slow movement and geniality in the charmingly ornamented virtuoso flourishes of the finale. The orchestral tapestry here is at the zenith of Polish Romanticism.

The D major Concerto plunges the soloist straight in, conversationally speaking, and it is undeniable that this is structurally and expressively the more substantial and impressive work. Interplay between the soloist and the orchestra is far more pronounced, for example, and the cadenza is more personalised than the rather generic example in No.1.Pławner ups his vibrato width in the slow movement, a rhapsodic ‘quasi nocturnal’ of great beauty, and rooted in a kind of popular ethos that prefaces the exultant and unabashed finale, replete with supple virtuosity and extrovert answering figures between Pławner and orchestral choirs.

The booklet notes are attractive, and the performances committed and sensitive; qualities that Pławner invariably deploys. The recording is what I’d term ‘perspectivey’ possibly as a result of the church acoustic and which means it lacks the last in bloom. But I wouldn’t let that put you off, given the fine performances. The ideal solution would be Pławner as soloist with Hyperion’s sonics but that’s not happening so it’s a tricky decision for a prospective purchaser, given that Hyperion has an extra work and better sound but Pławner is the more naturally gifted stylist.

Jonathan Woolf

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