Spisak: Violin Concerto / Panufnik: Violiun Concerto /
BACEWICZ: Violin Concerto No. 1 (1937). TANSMAN: Five Pieces
for violin and small orchestra (1930). SPISAK: Andante and Allegro
and String Orchestra (1954). PANUFNIK: Violin Concerto (1971).
DELIUS: The Walk to the Paradise Garden. A Dance Rhapsody
No. 1. A Dance Rhapsody No. 2. In A Summer Garden. North Country
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 19. USTVOLSKAYA: Concerto
for Piano, Strings and Timpani
Naxos has issued this important CD of music for violin and orchestra by lesser-known Polish composers of the 20th Century. The Bacewicz concerto is a pleasant virtuoso work and it is surprising that major violinists haven't been attracted to it. The five pieces by Tansman are charming, and a rarity is the Andante and Allegro by the virtually unknown Michael Spisak. Panufnik's 1971 concerto is much better known but it hasn't attracted major violinists. All of this music is played with virtuosity and beautiful tone by Piotr Plawner who has enjoyed a distinguished career in Europe and the United States. Winner of many prizes, he displays his remarkable abilities in these vivid performances. Orchestral support is top-notch, recorded in 2014 in Berlin's Jesus-Christus Church. A fine release of unusual repertory, beautifully presented.
A major addition to the Naxos series of American Classics is this disk of music of Kevin Puts (b. 1972) one of the most important contemporary composers. He has won many major awards including the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music for Silent Night..Here we have two major works. Symphony No. 2 which reflects the composer's reaction to the 9/11 tragedy. It begins with a serene landscape interrupted by the chaos of the attack (surprisingly tonal) and ends softly with a sense of hope. It was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music and had its premiere in April 2002 with Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony. River's Rush (which does not sound like its title) was commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony and premiered by them in 2004 with Leonard Slatkin on the podium. The Flute Concerto was commissioned by Bette and Joe Hirsch for the Cabrillo Festival fn Santa Cruz, California, of which Marin Alsop has been Music Director for a quarter-century. The premiere was in October 2015 with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony with Adam Walker, principal flute of the London Symphony, as soloist. The concerto is a brilliant work with much virtuoso display, and an odd effect can be heard in the final two minutes when members of the orchestra clap rhythmically. It seems rather odd that the BSO didn't play for this recording. Instead it was made with the fine Peabody Symphony Orchestra, recorded in Miriam Friedberg Concert Hall of the Peabody Conservatory. The Peabody Orchestra is first-rate, and audio is state-of-the art. Program notes are by the composer. A fine issue!
Over the years British conductor Richard Hickox (b. 1948) had an extraordinary career on the British musical scene, respected by all. His sudden death at the age of 60 in 2008 was a major loss. During his career, he recorded profusely making about 280 recordings for Chandos. I treasure many Hickox recordings, particularly the first five symphonies of Sir Malcolm Arnold. He specialized in Delius and recorded just about everything including all of the major works. Now collectors have an opportunity to own a number of tthese as listed above, newly remastered and sounding better than ever. This disk has maximum playing time (76:51) and is mid-price. A great bargain for collectors!
Galina Ustvolskaya (1919 - 2006) was a leading composer during her era with a distinctive sparse style. She lived all of her life in Russia and studied with Shostakovich, who was very impressed with her although their relationship was sometimes troubled. Ustvolskaya did not compose very much music, but her works include five symphonies (each of which has a vocal part), much chamber music and several concertos and works for solo piano. This new CD offers the the rather short (18 minute) Piano Concerto composed in 1946. Broad themes prevail, there is much dissonance and the works concludes with a seemingly endless C-major coda. It surely is not a virtuoso display piece. It is easy to understand a why other pianists avoid it. It surely receives a fine performance on this new recording where it is oddly coupled with Beethoven's Concerto No. 2.The concert was recorded October 26, 2015 in Germany's Richard-Jakoby Hall of the Hanover University of Music Excellent audio. Here is an opportunity to hear a neglected major work by a leading Russian composer.
R.E.B. (December 2016)