CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21; RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 – Witold Malcuzynski, piano/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Paul Kletzki – Guild

by | Jul 12, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21; RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 – Witold Malcuzynski, piano/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Paul Kletzki

Guild GHCD 2323, 65:11 (Distrib. Albany) ****:

The Chopin F Minor Concerto (20 November 1946) marked the first collaborative inscription from Polish piano virtuoso Witold Malcuzynski (1914-1977), who had established himself as a world-class artist in 1937, at the third international Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Malcuzynski brought a distinct pearly play to his naturally expansive, bravura style, and his repertory embraced music from Bach to Rachmaninov, Brahms to Szymanowski. The antiquity of tradition is present in both the Chopin Concerto and the Rachmaninov Third (26-27 April 1949), in that Kletzki takes significant orchestral cuts made in the scores that were fairly conventional at the time.  The Chopin Concerto finds Malcuzynski in splendid, fluent form, easily rivaling his compatriot Rubinstein in seamless execution and polished, rounded phrases. The brittle Columbia shellacs of the period have been restored in good sound, but side breaks are a bit too noticeable. Besides the delicacy of touch and idiosyncratic rubato applied by Malcuzynski, what sells the performance is the stunning orchestral tremolandi in the Larghetto movement, as an anxious storm of emotion passes by the poet’s songlike recitative. The movement dances and ebbs as required, the London Times having called Malcuzynski “a masterly expositor of Chopin’s lyrical spirit.”

CBS at one time offered distinct performances of the Rachmaninov Third on record; along with Malcuzynski’s version, a competent realization existed with Cyril Smith. Here, Malcuzynski takes cuts which the composer authorized. Kletzki and Malcuzynski set a quick pace for the first movement, the horns and the pianist urging each other to swift runs and impressionistic color mixes. The CBS sound is distant, so we have blurred timbre in the woodwinds. The big line in the strings comes through, however, a taste of what Kletzki might have done with the composer’s E Minor Symphony. Lovely, suave legato passages from Malcuzynski, the sort of empressement that balances vigor with a light heart. The militant passages receive the Horowitz treatment, big spans and bold fioritura, with a liquid, forceful cadenza. Sweet harmonies for the Intermezzo, then a steady semi-martial pace for the Alla breve, runs, ornaments, and repeated notes in agile abundance, all synchronized tastefully with the veteran Kletzki. Restoration of the Rachmaninov suffers no unseemly joins.

— Gary Lemco

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