The record with Paweł Szymański's music performed by the well-known pianist Maciej Grzybowski is one of the first publications of the Polish Audiovisual Publishers released together with the EMI label. It opens the entire series of recordings of this outstanding composer and leading Polish postmodernist signed by PWA. The album is opened by the now famous Two Studies, one of the most recognizable pieces by Szymański, characteristic of his style, which defines a specific technique of surconventionalism (composer's definition), consisting in revealing only parts of the musical narrative, so that the listener must reconstruct the whole by imagination "ragged" rhythmic course.
Collection of all five Beethoven piano concertos, played by a young Vladimir Ashkenazy at the height of his piano-playing career. Accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the great conductor Bernard Haitink, this was a first for television.
One major popular composer of Romantic orchestral music whose work, outside of his ubiquitous symphonic suite Scheherazade, is not terribly over-recorded is Russia's Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. That, and a tendency toward what for him was an "orientalist" strain in harmonic practice and orchestration, makes Rimsky-Korsakov an ideal choice for the recordings on BIS of a relatively new ensemble, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1997 by conductor Kees Bakels. It is a testament to the skill of Bakels as an orchestra builder that he has raised such a fine musical organization in just eight years. Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol is intended as a follow-up to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra's recording of Scheherazade, already issued, and as an added bonus, the great Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa joins the orchestra as guest in Rimsky-Korsakov's all-too-seldom-heard Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, Op. 30. The music, recorded at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas Hall in Kuala Lumpur, is both very well played and recorded. The Capriccio Espagnol gets off to a great start, with Bakels the orchestra is strongly sympathetic to the piece, though careful ears can pick out some raggedy ensemble in the last section. Ogawa alone is enough to make the Piano Concerto shine, and thankfully Bakels provides comfortable and gracious support to Ogawa's magisterial artistry.
An ardent nationalist, Geirr Tveitt found inspiration in the folk melodies of the Hardanger fjord and promoted this little-known material in his songs and orchestral works. Tveitt's music is tinged with nostalgia and Norwegian brooding, communicated in a familiar neo-Romantic style that was considered reactionary by critics, but was easily accepted by audiences. The Piano Concerto No. 5, premiered by Tveitt in 1954, is in three movements. The piece is agreeably melodic with modal inflections, yet it has enough muscularity and harmonic bite in places to suggest the influence of Ravel and Prokofiev. Nils Mortensen executes the piano part with hard-edged brilliance, and the orchestral accompaniment is strong without overwhelming the soloist. The Variations on a Folksong from Hardanger is, loosely, a concerto for two pianos and orchestra. Less coherent than the Piano Concerto No. 5, the Variations tend to ramble, and Tveitt's self-indulgence and impulsiveness may have contributed to this piece's episodic construction. Mortensen and fellow pianist Sveinung Bjelland are a solid pair, always synchronized and audible above the orchestra. The Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud, plays with sufficient vigor and color, though this moody music affords them few opportunities to shine. The sound is fairly soft in places, so volume adjustments may be necessary.