Jonathan Plowright / Lukasz Borowicz / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 67: Rózycki

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Hyperion's large Romantic Piano Concerto series (this is the 67th volume) has yielded a lot of fair-to-middling music and a few gems. This release of music by Ludomir Rózycki, unknown outside his native Poland, fits into the latter category. Yes, it's true that the Ballade in G minor, Op. 18, is harmonically conservative for 1904, to say nothing of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 43, of 1917-1918 and the World War II-era Piano Concerto No. 2. All these pieces are essentially late Romantic in style. But none is derivative or stale. The Ballade is a student work, but already captures the essence of Rózycki's style, which infuses great spontaneity into traditional forms. Note especially the delightfully understated conclusion to this work. The first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 (track two) makes a good place to start when sampling the album. It has a slow introduction of a sort, but with an unusual conversational quality that seems organically linked to the explosive "Allegro" that follows with syncopated figures. The second movement of this concerto is as close as Rózycki comes to straight Romantic melody, but even here he offers unexpected divagations. The Piano Concerto No. 2 is a more personal work, quoting some of the composer's own songs; the booklet notes are useful in understanding what's happening, but in general this work too has a feeling of total freedom in the use of conventional forms. The level of virtuosity is very high but poses no problems for pianist Jonathan Plowright, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Lukasz Borowicz gets the spontaneous quality of the music. An entirely satisfying album of music that ought to inspire further performances of these pieces in concert.

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