Torpedoed by what must have been a horrible performance, Tadeusz Baird (1922-1981) wanted to have his 1949 Piano Concerto forgotten as quickly as he wrote it (which would have been three months). It turns out, though, that under the much more able hands of Adam Wodnicki and the direction of Jerzy Swoboda conducting the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, the work is really no less lovely and enchanting than those of his colleagues Kazimierz Serocki (1922-1982) and Jan Krenz (*1926) presented on the same disc, which is to say: very much so. What it may lack, when listened to wedged between his two compatriot’s concertos, is the amount of immediately recognizable moments. To say that it pales in comparison would be going too far; but it doesn’t call attention to itself in the same way the jaggedly bombastic first movement of Serocki’s concerto does, or the characteristically percussive last movement of Krenz’.
Baird, Serocki, Krenz, Polish Piano Concertos,
Adam Wodnicki / Swoboda / Ntl. Polish RSO Katowice
Baird’s composition is a chromatic and polytonal work with an emphasis on bold and ever changing rhythms and a demanding solo part. It doesn’t offer stylistic surprises to anyone familiar with the musical world of Stravinsky, but it will still surprise—especially given the composers’ own damning opinion of it—for the many fine ideas, the homogeneity, and the enthusiasm it contains.
Jan Krenz composed his “Concertino” for piano and small orchestra in 1952 and it is nearly as inviting a work for the clarinet as it is for the piano. The small orchestra and orchestration makes this a slightly more nimble but not smaller and certainly not lesser work. Bright-eyed and with immense charm in the solo piano part, it contains moments of baffling beauty. Parts of the slow movement—something I find true for a whole slew of neo classical piano concertos of that time, including the two others on this disc—invariably remind of the slow movement in the Ravel concerto.
Kazimierz Serocki’s aptly titled “Romantic Concerto” closes with a flamboyantly grand finale that would do any late 19th century concerto proud. Why this 1951 neoclassical work, which just lends itself to a veritable blockbuster performance, still remains unpublished is difficult to fathom; it didn’t meet the composer’s own standards, but mine are apparently lower and I would agree with the musicologist Tadeusz Zieliński who deems it “one of the most beautiful piano concertos in Polish music after Chopin [which should] take its rightful place in our concert life.”
That’s incidentally where would like to see all three concertos end up: In concert—and not just on Polish stages or by Polish artists—where any one of them could substitute for the Ravel or one of the Prokofiev concertos to zero disappointment of the audience. Iwona Lindstedt, author of refreshingly lucid liner notes, comes to the same conclusion. Performances and sound are absolutely first rate. If you like Hyperion’s “Romantic Piano Concerto” series (but maybe had to make occasional allowances for the romantic slop included there), this disc should rank very highly on your Want List.
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