PADEREWSKI: Piano Concerto in a; Polish Fantasy – Kevin Kenner, p./ Orch. of The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Bialystok/ Marci Nalecz-Niesiolowski – Dux

by | Jan 15, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

PADEREWSKI: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 17; Polish Fantasy in G-sharp Minor, Op. 19 – Kevin Kenner, piano/ Orchestra of The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Bialystok/ Marci Nalecz-Niesiolowski – Dux 0733, 55:40 [Distr. By Qualiton] **** :
American piano virtuoso Kevin Kenner (b. 1963) extends his authoritative hegemony in Polish repertory with two large concert works by Ignaz Jan Paderewski ((1860-1941) recorded 9-15 November 2010. Paderewski composed his A Minor Concerto between 1882-1884 in Vienna, under the tutelage of pedagogue Theodor Leschetizky, the dedicatee. The late Earl Wild occasionally made brilliant use of the work as a vehicle for his own brand of technical firepower, the music obviously derivative of the Chopin style.
Conductor Nalecz-Niesiolowski (b. 1972) has a responsive and resonant ensemble in his Bialystok Philharmonic, especially as the first movement by Paderewski sports a driving rhythmic impulse (a mazur) in high spirits and imaginative coloration. The lack of any transcendent melody likely contributes to the Concerto’s relative obscurity. Often, the writing for the orchestra, especially the strings, outshines the rather decorative gloss of the keyboard. The Romanze: Andante takes its pages directly from Chopin’s F Minor Concerto, a three-part song that begins lyrically and tenderly (with violin obbligato) and then evolves into a passionate, rhapsodic outcry. The delicacy returns in broken chords for the keyboard over woodwind, string, and horn pedals of refined sentiment. The last movement, Allegro molto vivace exhibits the folk energies of the krakowiak in the form of a blistering etude in perpetual motion. The alternative theme assumes the character of a chorale, ripe for exploitation in the coda. The actual material of the dance seems fluffy and rhetorical, much in the manner of the Litolff Scherzo. Kenner’s pearly play throughout proves charming and infectious, but he cannot make this work profound.
Paderewski penned the Polish Fantasy on Original Tunes in 1893 while he sojourned in Normandy. Structured much like Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy in one movement, the piece subdivides into four sections of decidedly Polish-national mode. The music definitely projects a slinky sensuous quality, rife with bravura filigree and suave harmonic transitions. A mazurka rhythm pervades the entire piece in the manner of through-composition. Tuneful and upbeat, the Fantasy projects more energy and allure in its economy of means and varied orchestral timbres than the blustery Concerto. Kenner sells this piece as an authentic romp, the spirit of which occasionally reminding me of the joys of the MacDowell D Minor Concerto, which Kenner would do well to explore.
—Gary Lemco

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