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COMPOSERS: Skrowaczewski
LABELS: Reference Recordings
WORKS: Concerto Nicolò; Concerto for Orchestra
PERFORMER: Gary Graffman (piano); Minnesota Orchestra/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
Though Stanislaw Skrowaczewski is better known as a conductor, like many of his generation he’s also an accomplished composer, and his experience of standing in front of an orchestra means that the musical textures are always clear, something helped by the bright, open recording. The title of the Concerto Nicolò (for left hand only) refers to Paganini, and it’s yet another piece based on the 24th Caprice, but Skrowaczewski doesn’t take the whole theme as a basis for variations, just the first five notes. They permeate the whole work, which otherwise doesn’t have much memorable melodic content, with too much directionless rushing around, though there’s much atmospheric scoring in the slower music. At 74, Gary Graffman is still a powerful player, even if there’s some loss of agility in the passagework. The Concerto for Orchestra is the expected display piece only in the first of its two movements, and the orchestra provides the necessary sparkle, but it also responds to the deeper substance of the long Adagio, subtitled ‘Bruckner’s Heavenly Journey’. Here the long-breathed string lines and cushioned brass writing pay tribute to the Austrian symphonist, while the harmonies and use of percussion place the music firmly in the 20th century. A disc that saves the best till last. Martin Cotton