Duke (Dukelsky)

COMPOSERS: Duke (Dukelsky)
ALBUM TITLE: Duke (Dukelsky)
WORKS: Piano Concert (orch. Dunn); Cello Concerto; Homage to Boston
PERFORMER: Sam Magill (cello), Scott Dunn (piano); Russian PO/Dmitry Yablonsky
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559286
Broadway aficionados will be familiar with the name of songwriter Vernon Duke, aka the Russian-born Vladimir Dukelsky. And Serge Diaghilev liked Dukelsky’s early Piano Concerto so much that he commissioned a ballet from him – the now forgotten Zéphyr et Flore – for the Ballets Russes. One sees Diaghilev’s point: the Concerto is full of breezy 1920s appeal, heavily influenced by Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto in its single-movement design and uninhibited invention. Purple patches include a coda that spotlights Dukelsky’s liking for eccentric harmonic sidesteps. It isn’t known why he never orchestrated the score, but Scott Dunn’s arrangement, again taking its cue from Prokofiev, sounds entirely convincing. The Cello Concerto of 1945, commissioned by Koussevitzky and composed for Gregor Piatigorsky, takes the Piano Concerto’s eccentric streak to an extreme: the outer movements are so packed with ideas that these don’t have much room to move. The central Adagietto is much more impressive, developing from its elegiac opening trumpet theme into a darkly sustained musical processional. Homage to Boston is a likeable piano suite of musical snapshots of Dukelsky’s adopted city. Dunn and Magill are two strong soloists, their style no more over-emphatic than that of the music itself. And the orchestra’s contributions have plenty of verve and energy.