WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Jonathan Plowright (piano); BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67314
Zygmunt Stojowski (1869-1946), a pupil of Delibes and protégé of Paderewski, spent much of his career in France and the USA, yet at the turn of the century his international reputation was as one of Poland’s leading composers and pianists. Many great contemporaries performed his works, yet that reputation has totally evaporated over the years. Joseph Herter’s booklet notes suggest this was because Stojowski stuck doggedly to the late-Romantic idioms which make him a natural for inclusion in Hyperion’s ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series, but perhaps this is too simplistic.
Granted, the piano-writing in the First Concerto is masterly, and Stojowski has a talent (or penchant) for arresting gestures. Yet the outer movements seem stronger on rhetoric than on memorability; the best part of the work is the quiet, Romanza-like slow movement.
The Second Concerto is more impressive. Formally quite innovative, it’s subtitled ‘Prologue, Scherzo and Variations’: the central scherzo is scintillating and some of the variations develop incisively one from another, though the theme they’re based on, like some in the First Concerto, is rather trite. Still, the work makes an interesting alternative to the Rachmaninoff and Medtner concertos and would merit the occasional outing in concert. Stojowski could hardly have found a better interpreter than Jonathan Plowright, who plays with affection, understanding and sometimes breathtaking virtuosity. Calum MacDonald