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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67562
Recording details: December 2006
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: August 2007
Total duration: 15 minutes 16 seconds

'Jonathan Plowright shines a powerful light on Paderewski … you have a pianist clearly in love with every bar of Paderewski's romantic rhetoric and it would be hard to imagine playing of greater sympathy or a more intimidating visceral strength and cogency. A pianist who excels in music's darker undercurrents and declamations, he clears every daunting hurdle with awe-inspiring ease, making a formidable case for one of music's neglected byways. Finely presented and recorded, this is a valuable and surprising issue' (Gramophone)

'A distinctive and distinguished melodic voice shines through … everywhere there is always a strong sense of forward momentum … in Jonathan Plowright these works have a near-ideal interpreter. Not only does he negotiate Paderewski's dizzying virtuoso demands with evident ease, but also his ability to bring an almost string-like tone to the more lyrical passages constantly fascinates in this excellent recording' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It's all dense music, highly wrought, and Jonathan Plowright plays it quite superbly, with an enviable range of keyboard colour' (The Guardian)

'All three works provide the listener with an incredible musical journey; a kaleidoscope of pianistic ideas with fleeting echoes of Rachmaninov, Brahms, Debussy, and even elements of earlier music with its elegance and trills, yet in no way derivative. The playing is world-class; understated virtuosity at its best. Plowright easily integrates all the difficult elements—and Paderewski described the Op 23 Variations as his best and most difficult work—into the musical lines as if they don’t exist' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The music is by turns lyrical, tender, propulsive and bizarre … Plowright, who has made lesser-known composers a specialty … performs with conviction and panache. He gives Paderewski his due, revealing the seriousness of purpose, the lighthearted charm and a penchant for self-indulgence' (San Francisco Chronicle)

'A pianist who clearly believes in the music, who has studied it with appreciation and insight. Jonathan Plowright fits the bill admirably—and he has the technical wherewithal to do it justice. He unfolds the extended Fugue of Opus 23 imperiously; here the astringency of Paderewski’s conception perfectly caps what has gone before. This is fascinating music impressively performed, recorded and annotated—and cannot be recommended too highly' (ClassicalSource.com)

'Jonathan Plowright semble avoir parfaitement saisi que l'esprit qui y souffle est celui de la musique et non du simple piano. Il leur donne une unité, une densité qui méritent l'admiration, soulignant l'envergure et l'humilité d'un compositeur à redécouvrir vraiment' (Diapason, France)

Variations and Fugue on an original theme in A minor, Op 11
composer

Variation I  [0'43]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Variations and Fugue on an original theme in A minor Op 11 is a set of fourteen variations with a fugal finale. Its straightforward nature again shows Paderewski’s closeness to Brahms, with whom he had much contact when he was studying in Vienna in 1884–5. The theme, Andante non troppo, has an uncomplicated sixteen-bar structure and a melodic-harmonic simplicity (with a touch of modality at the start) that gives scope for the wide-range of treatments that follows. The early variations are standard fare, although III and IV introduce elements (feroce grace-notes, ‘oompah-oompah’ dance rhythms) that suggest that Paderewski might have had his tongue in his cheek. Variations V–VII are in the tonic major: V combines con forza with tranquillo in a flexible tempo rubato, VI implies that Paderewski knew Brahms’s ‘St Anthony’ Variations, and the accentual teasing of VII carries over into VIII, which reinstates A minor. IX returns to the style of the opening, this time with chromatic elaboration in the harmony, and is complemented by the gentle asynchronicity of X. XI is a march of the tumbril, rather than a conventional funeral march, though its sombre tone is immediately dispelled by the sweeping right-hand glissandos of XII. The academic side of Paderewski’s compositional thinking at this time is evidenced by the canonic treatment of XIII, mollified temporarily by the chordal musings of the last variation, XIV. The fugue that follows is really a pastiche of eighteenth-century practices, with trills aplenty. Its amiable quirkiness is assured by the contrast between the opening rising phrase and the ensuing chromatic descent, with its almost foppish ornamentation. Once again, the ‘antique’ shows its hold over Paderewski’s imagination.

from notes by Adrian Thomas © 2007

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