MLYNARSKI Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2. ZARZYCKI Introduction et Cracovienne in D. Mazurka in G • Eugene Ugorski (vn); Michal Dworzynski, cond; BBC Scottish SO • HYPERION 67990 (64:52)
Volume 15 of Hyperion’s series devoted to The Romantic Violin Concerto comprises Emil Mlynarski’s two violin concertos and two shorter works by Aleksander Zarzycki. The program opens withRead more Mlynarski’s First Violin Concerto, a work that, according to Tully Potter’s booklet notes, received a warm reception but fell immediately into oblivion until Piotr Plawner returned to it three years ago. Mlynarski, a violin student of Leopold Auer (he also studied piano under Anton Rubinstein and composition under Liadov), understood the violin thoroughly; and the declamatory and dramatic opening solo of his concerto exemplifies the full extent of his sympathy for his instrument’s virtuosic capabilities. Still, the movement’s slower themes and their harmonies recall Dvorák’s Slavic outpourings more than they do the musically simplistic pyrotechnical feats of violinist-composers’ warhorses. Eugene Ugorski plays these more languid moments warmly and sympathetically, even if he sounds a bit edgy in the fireworks. He makes the cadenza, almost the movement’s center, sound like a technical fantasy (which, according to Potter, Mlynarski wrote out) although it stays close to the music’s thematic materials. He sings straightforwardly in the slow movement, which ends in dark orchestral sonorities but returns to the more extroverted mood of the opening movement in the more virtuosic finale, with its near-brashness alleviated by nostalgic-sounding and strutting interludes.
The Second Concerto, premiered, according to Potter, by Mlynarski’s violin student Paul Kochanski (with the composer-teacher conducting), seems less focused on display and is wider in its harmonic palette, though equally (or perhaps more) emphatic in its declamation and symphonic grandeur. Once again, the cadenza comes smack-dab in the movement’s middle; and, seemingly less arbitrarily technical than its corresponding passage in the earlier concerto, it fits well into the movement’s generally more settled expressivity. Many listeners may judge that this relative equanimity suits Ugorski’s style even better than did the earlier work’s frenetic posturing. The slow movement, based, according to Potter, on a folk song, seems more sophisticated and colorful than its counterpart, at least in this reading by Ugorski and Michal Dworzynski, although perhaps that earlier Adagio will communicate more directly to listeners. In any case, the finale dances in this reading with the same gaiety (reminiscent of the passagework in the finale of Max Bruch’s Second Concerto) as did the First Concerto’s Allegro vivace; and its episodes sound particularly atmospheric.
Zarzycki’s unfamiliar Introduction et Cracovienne in D Major, with its Andantino so haunting in Ugorski’s and Dworzynski’s reading and its vivacious dance, may appeal to general listeners more than do Mlynarski’s somewhat less ingratiating works. Ugorski’s intonation remains pure throughout its passagework and his energy, or that of the orchestra, never flags. The composer’s mazurka, a piece that David Oistrakh recorded, hasn’t suffered a similar obscurity; in Ugorski’s recording, the orchestra may provide a colorful backdrop, but violinists will find Oistrakh’s panache in the work hard to beat, even with this kind of enhancement.
With its sympathetic performances, Hyperion’s compilation makes available works at the fringes of the violin’s repertoire. Explorers, as well as aficionados of the instrument, should hardly need a recommendation, but general listeners may not respond so enthusiastically to the music, hearing it simply for itself rather than as a part of a larger pattern. Recommended more enthusiastically, therefore, to the former, rather than to the latter, kinds of listeners.
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