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Track(s) taken from CDA67630

Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor

1898; Lwów; dedicated to Theodor Leschetizky; first performed in Leipzig in August 1898

Jonathan Plowright (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Christoph König (conductor)
Recording details: March 2007
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: January 2008
Total duration: 37 minutes 16 seconds


'The Second Concerto from 1898, also in three movements, is crowned by a hair-raising final Allegro con fuoco, a remarkable tour de force which, were it ever to be heard in a concert hall, would have you on your feet at the end cheering … Plowright enhances his glowing reputation as a musical alchemist of rare distinction with a transcendent technique' (Gramophone)

'Melcer's own abundant originality shines out frequently, notable in the marvellously poetic latter portions of the first movement of the C minor Concerto … Jonathan Plowright and Christoph König have done a superb job of absorbing Melcer's idiom. Care over both works' expressive rhetoric is everywhere apparent in performances that suggest affectionate familiarity … clearly a distinguished addition to this fascinating series' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Jonathan Plowright explores more of the Polish keyboard repertoire with these technically unforgiving but hugely enjoyable late 19th-century works by Henryk Melcer. The first bursts with melodic invention … the second requires tremendous stamina from Plowright, who plays almost continually, ending with a massive final allegro that will take your breath away. Christoph König and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra accompany with panache' (The Observer)

'This Hyperion release is simply stunning. Jonathan Plowright taps into the Polish vein with the required vision and power … the plaudits for Plowright … confirm a colossal musical mind and matching technical ease' (International Record Review)

'If the First Concerto is a heroic barnstormer in post-Lisztian mode, the Second … is flavoured with Chopinesque, neoclassical reminiscences, à la Saint-Saëns, and features an utterly enchanting second theme and infectiously dance-like finale. Plowright sounds completely unfazed by even the most note-splattered pages, throwing himself into the fray with abandonment and aplomb' (Classic FM Magazine)

'There's plenty to enjoy here … the excellent Jonathan Plowright performs with conviction. If you're an adventurous musical archeologist who's been enjoying the earlier installments of Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series, you'll definitely want this on your shelves as well' (Fanfare, USA)

'Jonathan Plowright is the right man to handle these minor monsters. No matter how many notes Melcer throws in his direction and how dense the orchestra's sound, Plowright fights his way to a triumphant victory … he is a constant joy … it is a pleasure to discover these rare Romantic piano concertos from the Hyperion stable—long may they continue' (Pianist)

'No matter what Melcer throws at him, Plowright not only emerges completely unscathed but sounds as though he's having the time of his life' (International Piano)

'The Second Concerto is on a larger-scale (37 minutes), the first movement opening with the piano alone, somewhat introspectively, in the manner of one of Brahms's 'late' piano pieces, with some decorous woodwind interjections lightening the mood, the strings increasing the pace with dramatic impulse. The piano, not stirred, continues to muse, but the combatants, if they are, then become heated together as the movement progresses—with plenty of pianistic fireworks—and without compromising the piano's ability to express regretful feelings in a shapely manner … the slow movement begins unexpectedly—with a trumpet solo, sounded as if from a barracks and somewhat 'Last Post', before the piano enters with a haunting melody that is to dominate—and will prove equally effective on full strings. The finale is scintillating and, at 3’14”, there arrives a majestic passage that could pass as a National Anthem! Throughout Jonathan Plowright plays with dedication, affection and technical aplomb and is well supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Christoph König. The recorded sound is superb—with ideal balance between piano and orchestra and between warmth, presence and clarity—and is transferred at a level that respects dynamic variety. Joseph A. Herter's booklet note is enlightening' (Classical Source)

'Jonathan Plowright provides a masterclass in dexterity at the keyboard, rising to meet all of the composer's challenges with a combination of scintillating virtuosity and deft sensitivity. The end of the C minor Concerto's opening movement is particularly telling, as he delivers the brilliant cadenza with utter authority before gently whisking the music away with a flourish of almost impossibly quick semiquavers. Plowright is adroitly partnered by Christoph König and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, who more than do justice to Melcer's imaginative orchestrations whilst also relishing the frequent interplay between soloist and ensemble' (Musical Criticism.com)
It was while he was living in Lwów that Melcer finished his Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, which won the Paderewski Prize in the concerto category of the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Competition in Leipzig in 1898. This competition was for Polish composers only, and Melcer’s Paderewski Prize should not be confused with the prize of the same name also established by Paderewski at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States for American composers. Melcer was awarded the prize ex aequo with Emil Mlynarski, who submitted his Violin Concerto in D minor, Op 11. They shared the 500-rouble award for best concerto. Their colleague, Zygmunt Stojowski, however, was awarded the Paderewski Prize for best symphony and received an award of 1,000 roubles. The jury was chaired by the conductor Artur Nikish and also consisted of the composer and conductor Carl Reinecke, the cellist Julius Klengel and the music critic F R Pfau.

The Piano Concerto No 2 is in three movements and dedicated to Melcer’s Viennese mentor Theodor Leschetizky. It was first published by Léon Idzikowski in Kiev and Warsaw in 1913. The concerto’s first movement, Allegro moderato, is in sonata-allegro form and in triple metre. The second, Andante non troppo lento, is in three-part song form and in common time beginning in C major, using a motif based on the interval of the sixth. The finale, Allegro con fuoco, in duple metre with whirling rhythms and a dance-like character, is a sonata-rondo form. The premiere took place in Leipzig in August 1898 and its first Polish performance was heard later that year in Lwów. The first commercial recording was made by the pianist Teresa Rutkowska in 1980, with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Józef Wilkomirski. An earlier archival recording made for Polish Radio in 1952 by the pianist Józef Smidowicz (a participant of the Fifth Anton Rubinstein Competition in St Petersburg in 1910) and the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, with Jan Krenz conducting, was issued in 1999.

Melcer’s concertos demand technical virtuosity, versatility and stamina on the part of the pianist. About a minute into the first concerto, for example, the soloist is challenged with very rapid octave arpeggios in the right hand. In the second concerto the third-movement cadenza (where the second theme appears) poses another severe technical challenge for the pianist. Most of all, though, stamina is the main problem, especially in the second concerto where the pianist plays almost continuously. In her biography of her father Wanda Melcer quotes a review that appeared in the Kurier poranny following a performance in Warsaw of the second concerto on 30 October 1912. The critic Roman Jasin´ski wrote: ‘It is necessary to wonder why the Concerto in C minor does not find a permanent place in the repertoire [in Poland]. There are themes full of expression in Polish character that are developed so splendidly and broadly that they leave us enraptured … An unforgettable impression remains after hearing the Concerto.’ Ninety-five years later, the same remarks hold true.

from notes by Joseph A Herter © 2008

Alors qu’il vivait à Lwów, Melcer acheva cette œuvre qui remporta, dans la catégorie concerto, le Concours Ignacy Jan Paderewski (Leipzig, 1898). Ce concours s’adressait aux seuls compositeurs polonais et le prix Paderewski décerné à Melcer ne doit pas être confondu avec le prix du même nom également instauré par Paderewski à la fin du XIXe siècle, mais aux États-Unis, à l’intention des compositeurs américains. Melcer termina ex aequo avec Emil Ml/ynarski, qui avait présenté son Concerto pour violon en ré mineur, op. 11. Tous deux se partagèrent les cinq cents roubles de récompense. Leur collègue Zygmunt Stojowski obtint, lui, le prix Paderewski de la meilleure symphonie, doté de mille roubles. Le jury, présidé par le chef d’orchestre Artur Nikish, comprenait le compositeur-chef d’orchestre Carl Reinecke, le violoncelliste Julius Klengel et le critique musical F. R. Pfau.

Le Concerto pour piano no 2, en trois mouvements, est dédié au mentor viennois de Melcer, Theodor Leschetizky. Il fut publié pour la première fois en 1913, à Kiev et à Varsovie, par Léon Idzikowski. Le premier mouvement, Allegro moderato, est en forme sonate-allegro de mètre ternaire. Le deuxième, Andante non troppo lento, présente une forme Lied tripartite dans une mesure à quatre temps s’ouvrant sur ut majeur, avec un motif fondé sur l’intervalle de sixte. Le finale Allegro con fuoco, aux rythmes tournoyants et au caractère dansant, est une forme sonate-rondo en mètre binaire. L’œuvre fut créée à Leipzig, en août 1898; sa première exécution polonaise eut lieu un peu plus tard cette année-là, à Lwów. Le premier enregistrement commercial (1980) fut gravé par la pianiste Teresa Rutkowska avec l’Orchestre de la Philharmonie Nationale de Varsovie placé sous la direction de Józef Wilkomirski. En 1999 parurent des archives réalisées pour la Radio polonaise en 1952 par le pianiste Józef Smidowicz (qui avait participé au cinquième Concours Anton Rubinstein à Saint-Pétersbourg, en 1910) et l’Orchestre symphonique national de la Radio polonaise, à Katowice (direction Jan Krenz).

Les concertos de Melcer exigent du pianiste virtuosité technique, adaptabilité et endurance. Le premier concerto est ainsi commencé depuis une minute lorsque de très rapides arpèges d’octaves à la main droite viennent défier le soliste. Dans le second concerto, c’est la cadenza du troisième mouvement (où apparaît le second thème) qui pose un autre défi technique de taille. Mais le difficile est l’endurance, surtout dans le second concerto, où le pianiste joue presque continûment. Dans la biographie qu’elle consacra à son père, Wanda Melcer cite un compte rendu paru dans le Kurier poranny en écho à une exécution du Concerto no 2 (Varsovie, 30 octobre 1912). Le critique Roman Jasin´ski écrivit: «Il faut vraiment se demander pourquoi le Concerto en ut mineur n’est pas définitivement inscrit au répertoire [en Pologne]. Certains thèmes débordants d’expression, empreints de polonité, sont développés avec tant de splendeur et d’ampleur qu’on en reste extasié … Ce Concerto laisse une impression inoubliable.» Des propos qui, quatre-vingt-quinze ans plus tard, n’ont rien perdu de leur justesse.

extrait des notes rédigées par Joseph A Herter © 2008
Français: Hyperion Records Ltd

Melcer vollendete sein Klavierkonzert Nr. 2 als er in Lemberg lebte und gewann damit den Paderewski-Preis in der Konzertkategorie des Ignacy Jan Paderewski-Wettbewerbs in Leipzig 1898. Dieser Wettbewerb war ausschließlich für polnische Komponisten und Melcers Paderewski-Preis darf nicht mit dem gleichnamigen Preis verwechselt werden, der Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts in den USA, ebenfalls von Paderewski, für amerikanische Komponisten eingerichtet wurde. Melcer teilte sich den ersten Preis von 500 Rubeln für das beste Konzert mit Emil Mlynarski, der sein Violinkonzert in d-Moll, op. 11 eingereicht hatte. Ihr Kollege Zygmunt Stojowski erhielt jedoch den Paderewski-Preis für die beste Symphonie und 1.000 Rubel. Der Dirigent Artur Nikisch war Vorsitzender der Jury, der auch der Komponist und Dirigent Carl Reinecke, der Cellist Julius Klengel und der Musikkritiker F. R. Pfau angehörten.

Das Klavierkonzert Nr. 2 steht in drei Sätzen und ist Melcers Wiener Mentor Theodor Leschetizky gewidmet. Es wurde 1913 von Léon Idzikowski in Kiew und Warschau zuerst veröffentlicht. Der erste Satz des Konzerts, Allegro moderato, ist in Sonatenallegro-Form und im Dreiertakt. Der zweite, Andante non troppo lento, in dreiteiliger Liedform und Viervierteltakt beginnt in C-Dur und verwendet ein Motiv, das auf einer Sexte basiert. Das Finale, Allegro con fuoco, im Zweiertakt mit wirbelnden Rhythmen und tanzhaftem Charakter, steht in Sonatenrondo-Form. Die Uraufführung fand im August 1898 in Leipzig statt, und die erste polnische Aufführung war später im gleichen Jahr in Lemberg zu hören. Die Pianistin Teresa Rutkowska machte 1980 die erste kommerzielle Aufnahme mit der Warschauer Nationalphilharmonie unter Józef Wilkomirski. Eine frühere Archiv-Aufnahme von 1952 für den Polnischen Rundfunk mit dem Pianisten Józef Smidowicz (einem Teilnehmer im fünften Anton Rubinstein-Wettbewerb in St. Petersburg 1910) und dem Nationalen Symphonieorchester des polnischen Rundfunks unter der Leitung von Jan Krenz wurde 1999 veröffentlicht.

Melcers Konzerte erfordern technische Virtuosität, Vielseitigkeit und Durchhaltevermögen vom Pianisten. Nach etwa einer Minute im ersten Konzert wird der Solist mit schnellen Oktav-Arpeggien in der rechten Hand herausgefordert. Im zweiten Konzert stellt die Kadenz im dritten Satz (wenn das zweite Thema erscheint) eine seriöse technische Herausforderung. Aber Ausdauer ist das größte Problem, besonders im zweiten Konzert, in dem der Pianist nahezu durchweg spielt. In der Biographie ihres Vaters zitiert Wanda Melcer eine Rezension, die nach einer Aufführung des zweiten Konzerts am 30. Oktober 1912 in Warschau im Kurier poranny erschien. Der Kritiker Roman Jasin´ski schrieb: „Man muss sich fragen, warum das Konzert in c-Moll [in Polen] keinen festen Platz im Repertoire findet. Die ausdrucksvollen Themen in polnischem Charakter werden so wunderbar und breit verarbeitet, dass sie uns hinreißen … Das Konzert hinterlässt einen unvergesslichen Eindruck.“ Diese Bemerkungen treffen auch 95 Jahre später noch zu.

aus dem Begleittext von Joseph A Herter © 2008
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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