John Allison
BBC Music Magazine
August 2021

Even by the fascinatingly obscure standards of Hyperion’s long-running Romantic Piano Concerto series (this is Vol 83), Jerzy Gablenz’s Piano Concerto in D flat is quite a collector’s item. The Kraków-born Gablenz (1888-1937), who is not even remembered by Grove, was reasonably prolific but responsibilities in the family food factory (which under his stewardship specialised in canned cucumbers) got in the way of compositional fulfilment. His only opera, Bewitched Circle, was completed in 1920 but not premiered until 1955, and his Piano Concerto had to wait even longer—51 years—for its first performance, given in 1977 in the Dominican Republic, where one of his sons was living.

Striking in places and an enjoyable listen, but hardly a rediscovered masterpiece, it is sometimes ungrateful for the soloist to play and brassily orchestrated. Jonathan Plowright makes the best possible case for it in partnership with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Łukasz Borowicz, a champion of neglected Polish music. The slow movement features occasional notes on the glockenspiel—to modern ears disconcertingly like the ping of a text message landing in the middle of a performance.

Paderewski’s Polish Fantasy (1893), his last work for piano and orchestra, is an altogether more refined work, the whole of which could fit into Gablenz’s long first movement. If less memorable than Paderewski’s own Piano Concerto, it is still by turns melancholy and glittering across its four connected movements, and Plowright—who has made Paderewski a speciality—delivers all the required virtuosity.