Homage to PADEREWSKI = J. WIENIAWSKI: Etude; SCHELLING: Nocturne; Con tenerezza; BARTOK: 3 Hungarian Folk Tunes; BENJAMIN: Elegiac Mazurka; CHANLER: Aftermath; LABUNSKI: Threnody; CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO: Homage a Paderewski; GOOSSENS: Homage; HAMMOND: Dance; MILHAUD: Choral; MARTINU: Mazurka; NIN-CULMELL: In Memoriam Paderewski; WHITHORNE: Hommage; RIETI: Allegro danzante; RATHAUS: Kujawiak; STOJOWSKI: Cradle Song; WEINBERGER: Etude in G Major; BRITTEN: Mazurka elegiaca; ZARZYCKI: Chant du printemps; CHAMINADE: Etude symphonique; BLUMENFELD: Kujawiak and Obertas from Suite polonaise – Jonathan Plowright, piano/ Aaron Shorr, piano (Britten) – Hyperion CDA67903, 75:32 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Royal Academy of Music laureate Jonathan Plowright follows his “Homage a Chopin” CD with this rather spectacular tribute to Polish piano virtuoso and political patriot Ignaz Jan Paderewski (1860-1941). In 1942 music publishers Boosey & Hawkes assembled an album of piano music intended to celebrate the golden anniversary of Paderewski’s first American tour, 1891. Plowright includes the seventeen pieces meant for that publication, plus works by Schelling, Wieniawski, Zarzycki, Chaminade, and Blumenfeld that were nevertheless dedicated to Paderewski.
After a tour de force from Josef Wieniawski, younger brother of the violinist Henryk, Plowright performs a lovely expansive 1926 Nocturne (Ragusa) by Ernest Schelling, much in the style of Debussy. Bartok’s Three Hungarian Melodies (1914-1918) exploit Dorian and Mixolydian scales, often in leaping fourths, as part of their angular melodic style. The Maestoso resounds from Plowright’s Steinway with singular force. Australian Arthur Benjamin provides a heavy-footed Elegiac Mazurka he likely wrote in Vancouver at the opening of WW II. Theodore Chanler studied with Boulanger in Paris, and his romantic Aftermath, lasting barely one minute, is a little gem. Labunski’s Threnody features a deep bass part to the lyrical top line, the cantabile middle section quite tender, a hint of Ravel‘s Pavane. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was a Jewish musician who found refuge in Hollywood, California. His glittery Homage a Paderewski has a swanky vitality that concludes with a startling cadenza. Eugene Goossens, then conductor in Cincinnati, takes Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor as the basis of his dark miniature Homage.
Richard Hammond’s Dance allows Plowright a percussive toccata a la Bartok in mixed metrics, pounding and gamelan-glittery, in turns. Milhaud’s polytonal Choral moves in 5/4, a stately, idiosyncratic hymn. Martinu contributes a ternary-form Mazurka whose middle section, presto vivo, sends a few brief sparks. Joaquin Nin-Culmell likewise produces a mazurka In Memoriam Paderewski whose syncopations in the middle derive from competing meters. The haunted Hommage of Cleveland composer Emerson Whithorne crosses four staves in falling triplets, Lento. Vittorio Rieti, like his teacher Respighi, favors a neo-Classical style, and Allegro danzante bubbles with Scarlatti. Con tenerezza is the tempo marking of Ernest Schelling’s last piece, otherwise untitled. It lies somewhere between Liszt and Debussy, a striking meditation in chromatic colors. The Kujawiak in triple meter by Rathaus proves angular but lighthearted, Chopin crossed-fertilized by modernity. Sigismond Stokowski studied with Paderewski for several years. His Cradle Song takes its inspiration from a Spanish-American berceuse he learned from his Peruvian wife, Luisa. Weinberger, famous his opera Schwanda the Bagpiper, utilizes the same patriotic hymn for his G Major Etude that Elgar incorporates into Polonia, his symphonic prelude dedicated to Paderewski.
Plowright shares the spotlight with pianist Aaron Shorr for Benjamin Britten’s Mazurka elegiaca, composed for two pianos and so published separately. The longest of the “homages” on this disc, the piece casts a funereal pallor in Chopin’s conceits, intimate and melancholy, percussive and hortatory. Zarzycki’s Chant du printemps plays like the quintessential salon morceau in lulling arpeggios and strummed melody. The relatively extended Etude symphonique by Cecile Chaminade resembles a Chopin nocturne, although the filigree lacks his level of inspiration. Like the preceding Zarzycki work, Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words offer better models. The Allegro appassionato section perks up our ears. Plowright concludes with music by Felix Blumenfeld, whose nephews include Karol Szymanowski and Heinrich Neuhaus. The Kujawiak, Allegro, quickly evolves into a spirited Obertas, Vivo. In the Chopin manner, Blumenfeld develops his national rhythms in syncopations and agogic shifts. The last page whirls off the music paper.
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