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Plowright adds shine to Polish centenary

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Paderewski • Stojowski
Paderewski: Piano Concerto; Nocturne in B flat; Stojowski: Symphonic Rhapsody
Jonathan Plowright (piano); Sinfonia Iuventus/Łukasz Borowicz
Warner Classics 9029578756

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With the centenary of Polish independence this year, we are likely to hear more of Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), the virtuoso pianist-composer who was a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles and served as Poland’s first prime minister. His magnificent Piano Concerto (1888) has never quite disappeared and virtuosos have recorded it; outstanding versions include those by Earl Wild, Barbara Hesse-Bukowska, Kevin Kenner and Nelson Goerner, and perhaps significantly the work appeared (played by Piers Lane) on Vol. 1 of Hyperion’s now epic Romantic Piano Concerto series.

Here Jonathan Plowright cements his already proven connection to Paderewski’s music with an invigorating performance, showing stamina for the long first movement and poetic sense in the central ‘Romanza’. If he lacks the full cultivation and insouciance that makes Kenner (on Dux) perhaps the finest exponent of all, the orchestral performance under Łukas Borowicz is as good as any and the recorded sound is vivid. Paderewski’s popular Nocturne in B flat major rounds the disc off as a quietly consoling encore.

Both Plowright and Borowicz have previously recorded Zygmunt Stojowski (1870-1946) for Hyperion; here they collaborate on the world premiere recording of his Symphonic Rhapsody. Completed in 1900, five years before Stojowski emigrated to America, the music inhabits a world not far from that of Rachmaninov, without matching all that composer’s sweep. These performers make exciting work of its episodic nature, with Plowright again showing the expressive power of virtuosity.

John Allison

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Listen to an excerpt of this recording here.