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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67314
Recording details: June 2001
Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Mike Clements
Release date: February 2002
Total duration: 32 minutes 52 seconds

'Jonathan Plowright’s performances are a rare example of technical and musical integrity … both sound and balance are natural and exemplary' (Gramophone)

'Stojowski could hardly have found a better interpreter than Jonathan Plowright, who plays with affection, understanding and sometimes breathtaking virtuosity' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This is a welcome addition to the Romantic Piano Concerto series that Hyperion is issuing. Jonathan Plowright plays both concertos brilliantly, and Martyn Brabbins leads the orchestra enthusiastically. The sound is superb' (American Record Guide)

'Jonathan Plowright has the chops and instinct for this kind of music … The first piano concerto alone would make this new release a must for mavens of neglected Romantic era works. However, its companion piece takes matters entirely to a new level. Stojowski’s Piano Concerto No. 2 deserves to be far better known, and this recording supplies an excellent introduction' (Fanfare, USA)

'Jonathan Plowright and Martyn Brabbins give both works an ardency that’s all the more persuasive for its detail of light and shade' (The Irish Times)

'A composer with a strong personal identity that never falls back on the commonplace or routine. Jonathan Plowright is on breathtaking form' (International Piano)

Piano Concerto No 2 in A flat major 'Prologue, Scherzo and Variations', Op 32
Editions Huegel, Paris/United Music Publishers Ltd., London

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Concerto No 2 in A flat major for Piano and Orchestra (Prologue, Scherzo and Variations) Op 32 was written during the summers of 1909 and 1910 at Chamonix. The manuscript of the full score, as well as sketches for the concerto, are currently found in the composer’s family archives at the home of his son Henry in New York. (They are soon to be donated, however, to the Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California.) The concerto’s world premiere took place with the composer at the piano and Arthur Nikisch at the helm of the London Symphony Orchestra at Queen’s Hall on 23 June 1913, and a year later it was published by Heugel & Cie. in Paris. On 1 March 1915, Stojowski premiered the work in America under the title ‘Piano Concerto No 2’ with the New York Philharmonic and conductor Josef Stransky at Carnegie Hall. Another Carnegie Hall performance—actually two—took place one year later at the beginning of March with Paderewski performing the work under the title of ‘Prologue, Scherzo and Variations’ with the New York Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Walter Damrosch. The concerto’s dedication reads Au Maître Paderewski Hommage d’affection reconnaissante. On the same programme still another work dedicated to Paderewski was played for the first time in America: Edward Elgar’s symphonic prelude Polonia, a work which includes a quotation from Paderewski’s Polish Fantasia for piano and orchestra, Op 19.

Paderewski’s performance of the concerto caused quite a sensation in New York. There was such a demand for tickets for the concert on 4 March that an open rehearsal had to be added on 2 March. At the concert on 4 March the audience refused to leave. It was only after innumerable bows, accompanied by tremendous applause, that the hall once more dimmed its lights and let Paderewski, who was breaking the Symphony Society’s rule forbidding soloists to play encores at orchestral concerts, return to the piano and play Stojowski’s Chant d’amour.

The New York Tribune’s appraisal of the concerto read:

The Stojowski Prelude, Scherzo and Variations Mr Paderewski has played before, and a rehearing emphasized the unusual beauties of this composition. It is not merely music for the virtuoso, though it is music of extraordinary difficulties; it is also music uplifted by a true melodic inspiration, shot through with much color and filled with incisive and unexpected rhythms. The orchestral accompaniment is in itself music of great beauty, yet always properly subordinated to that of the solo instrument. Needless to say, Mr Paderewski gave his pupil’s work a performance of high excellence and exquisite euphony.

Although all the critics hailed Stojowski’s masterpiece, several of them had one common criticism: the concerto was too long. It turns out, however, that this was due to Paderewski’s performance time, a solid 45 minutes, and not because the composer had written an exceedingly long concerto which in the hands of others takes only approximately 33 minutes to perform. Another critic, this one for The New York Journal, wrote:

Without reservation it is excellent music in itself and excellently written for the solo instrument. The Prologue is a trifle diffuse, but the Scherzo is a brilliant piece of writing, and the theme of the finale has genuine beauty and impressiveness. Some of the variations might with advantage be omitted. With some pruning the piece ought to become a welcome addition to the not too unhackneyed orchestral repertoire of the pianist.

Stojowski, however, may have taken this criticism to heart. When the composer performed the concerto once more with the New York Philharmonic under Willem Van Hoogstraten’s direction in Carnegie Hall on 16 November 1924, the sixth variation was cut from the last movement.

The concerto is played without pauses between movements. The Prologue (Andante con moto) displays the composer’s resources, imagination and prize-winning contrapuntal skill. In a review of the Boston concert, Philip Hale of The Boston Herald wrote: ‘The Prologue is really a first movement. It is, on the whole, the best constructed and the most expressive.’ Of the dazzling second movement Scherzo (Presto), he wrote:

Stojowski’s concerto has many pages that at once win favor. It is tuneful and the themes are easily grasped; the Scherzo is vivacious and a free use of pulsatile instruments keeps the attention going … The Scherzo contains much that is only agreeable tinkling, but the swiftness, a certain grace, and a sparkling instrumental dress insure immediate popularity.

In his description of the last movement’s theme (Maestoso e moderato molto) and ten variations, Louis C Elson of the Boston Daily Advertiser wrote:

The theme of the finale is a splendid one, both intrinsically and for variation purposes. But we scarcely like the variation form for a concerto finale; it generally puts ingenuity in the fore, and poetry in the background. Nevertheless, these variations were in excellent contrast of power, rhythm, and general treatment, and the final pianissimo ending came as a surprise.

from notes by Joseph A Herter © 2001

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