The Romantic Piano Concerto Vol 88: Gablenz, Paderewski – Jonathan Plowright – Hyperion

by | May 29, 2021 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

PADEREWSSKI: Fantasie Polonaise on Original Themes, Op. 19; GABLENZ: Pian Concerto in D-flat Major, Op. 25 – Jonathan Plowright piano/ BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ Lukasz Borowicz – Hyperion “The Romantic Piano Concerto,” Vol. 83 CDA68323 (3/23/21) 66:27 [Distr. by PIAS] ****:

This unusual pairing finds Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) and the relatively unknown Jerzy Gablenz (1888-1937) together as part of the ongoing “The Romantic Piano Concerto” cycle from Hyperion Records. While those who know the larger compositions of Paderewski recall his Piano Concerto in A Minor from 1888, his 1893 Fantasie remains a rarity, its premiere having been given 4 October 1893, with conductor Alberto Randegger (1832-1911). It was to be Paderewski’s final work for piano and orchestra; and while Bernard Shaw lamented its “waste of [Paderewski’s] finest powers” on music that is “brilliant, violent, ingenious, here and there romantic” but still “offends all my notions of artistic economy,” the American critic Henry E. Krehbiel found “ proclamations of great pomp and pride, ebullitions of the most unconstrained merriment, tender plaints, dreamy musings, and wild outpourings of passion.”

Portrait Ignacy-Paderewski

Ignacy Paderewski

Cast in one prolonged movement with four sections, Paderewski’s Fantasie possesses a kind of unrelenting, hurtling energy, even its slower moments. A virtual Polish Fantasy, the music consists of original rather than national tunes, in the manner of Chopin’s Op. 13 Fantasy on Polish Themes. Paderewski sets his opening motif in G# minor, 2/4, that permeates the rest of the score. The general affect, with its runs and eruptions of tutti, reminds us certainly of Liszt. The music can swirl in the form of a Polish dance in C A Major, ¾, and linger in an elegy cast in the home key, using a secondary theme from movement one. The last movement, Allegro giocoso, proves the most theatrical, meant to arouse fans and patrons to an enthusiastic ovation. After a clarinet introduction, Paderewski turns to the Krakowiak dance format, Chopin’s standby rhythm, for a strong and syncopated turn in A-flat Major, the enharmonic key the music has been seeking for some time. Only a brief moment of weepiness appears in the oboe, then a cadenza for instrumentalist Plowright, and a mad dash of a coda, presto – piu presto that ends with a mighty splash. It all might seem superficial but dazzlingly so, more a reflection of Moritz Rosenthal’s catty remark when he attended a concert by the great Polish virtuoso-composer: “Well, he might be a great pianist, but he’s no Paderewski.”

Krakow-born Jerzy Glabenz, despite a capacity for prolific composition, remained thwarted by his mixed ambitions between music and legal studies. Add to his internal divisions a tendency for procrastination and lack of acumen for musical contracts, and hos obscurity seemed assured, especially after his untimely death in an airplane accident outside of Warsaw in November 1937. The Piano Concerto in D-flat performed here by Jonathan Plowright dates from 1926, but it remained unperformed until 1977 at a concert in Sato Domingo with pianist Jozef Stompel.

The piano makes an initial solo entry, Allegro con brio, the responsive orchestra aggressive and mercurial in temper. The movement proceeds in a meandering manner, in which the main theme does reappear selectively, and Plowright has a substantial cadenza. In a note, Plowright complains of the demands made upon his technique, the spans asking for Rachmaninoff’s hands of a tenth or twelfth on four notes! Plowright detects a strong influence of Chopin’s G Minor Ballade. Gablenz like the piano to muse in liquid arpeggios in the upper register, an effect he repeats while modulating from E Major back to his more dramatic statement in the home key. The cumulative sensibility of this first movement, which lasts the better part of 24 minutes, proves rather rhapsodic in the manner of Moszkowski or Henselt, the musical tissue either convincing or “Hollywood” superficial, alternately. 

Portrait Jerzy Gablenz

Jerzy Gablenz

A glockenspiel announces the second movement in F Minor, Andante cantabile, with five delicate strokes, repeated. At first this music presents us a lovely nocturne, magical in texture, scored effectively with the BBC woodwinds, especially the flute, oboe, clarinet and horn. The idyllic music becomes darkly ominous, and the music, attacca, proceeds to an extended last movement, Allegro maestoso. A kind of Mendelssohnian fury erupts, with lavish scalar moves in the keyboard while the orchestra brass and winds engage in some dialogue. Stentorian flourishes dominate in a sort of four-note “fate” motif, then a series of chromatic scales we hear in Tchaikovsky’s B-flat Minor Concerto. When the sentimental melody returns, as harmonized by piano and orchestra, it resembles a film score for something starring Jane Wyman and directed by Douglas Sirk. The gestures, sure enough, remain large, the pianistic demands after the brief, moody cadenza daunting. Despite the Herculean impulses and pianistic flourishes, Gablenz lets his solo, after a last solo passage, have no part in the coda, left entirely to his brass forces. A musical curio, a sophisticated party entertainment in Romantic gestures? You decide how often you wish to hear it.

—Gary Lemco


Paderewski and Gablenz Concertos on Hyperion



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