In 1941 Boosey & Hawkes planned an anthology of piano pieces by 17 contemporary composers to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ignace Jan Paderewski's American debut. However, with the pianist's death on June 29th of that year, it eventually was published as a memorial edition. Seventy years later, Jonathan Plowright has come up with the fascinating idea to record the anthology's pieces all together, along with five other compositions dedicated to Paderewski. Excepting Chaminade's delightfully flashy Étude symphonique, Britten's enchanting Mazurka elegiaca for two pianos (in a debonair performance with Aaron Schorr at the second piano), and Ernest Schelling's Nocturne (Ragusa), all of theRead more works are brief, largely unfamiliar, and absolutely captivating.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Hommage à Paderewski channels this composer's cosmopolitan, harmonically sophisticated style through the filter of a Chopin Mazurka, yet makes a couple of Debussy-like detours. By contrast, Eugene Goossens' Homage, Felix Lebunski's Threnody, Theodore Chanler's Aftermath, and Darius Milhaud's Chorale are stark and introspective. Martinú's Mazurka, Rathaus' Kujawiak, and Weinberger's G major Étude fuse virtuosic sparkle and musical substance.
The intense side of Bartók's lyricism permeates his Three Hungarian Folk Songs, although for percussive Bartókian rhythm you have to go to Richard Hammond's Dance--a marvelous piece in its own right. Deft rhythmic invention and spicy melodic charm also characterize Vittorio Rieti's Allegro danzante, which is one of my favorite pieces in the collection.
Plowright's enthusiasm, natural musicality, and idiomatic ease with such a wide range of styles makes you forget about his effortless, flexible technical mastery and range of nuance and tone color. All piano mavens ought to investigate this unusual, stimulating, and very well recorded program.