Nigel Kennedy - Polish Spirit

Kennedy’s accounts of these neglected concertos are first-rate

Author: 
Guy Rickards

Nigel Kennedy - Polish Spirit

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2
  • Nocturnes, No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 9/1
  • Nocturnes, No. 2 in E flat, Op. 9/2

Emil Mynarski’s main claims on posterity hitherto have been as father-in-law to Arthur Rubinstein and as a conductor of some note. (In the latter capacity he was involved with the founding of the Warsaw Philharmonic, held a post in Scotland from 1910 to 1916 and conducted the premiere of Szymanowski’s King Roger). But he was also a violinist – he studied with Leopold Auer – and a composer, his teachers including Liadov and, for instrumentation, Rimsky-Korsakov.

Mynarski’s two violin concertos date from 1897 and 1917. The Second in D major given here is the only work of his that I can recall having encountered and am baffled as to why it is not more widely known (even despite Konstanty Kulka’s earlier Polskie Nagrania recording – nla). In some respects quietly unprepossessing, the concerto is beautifully put together with some splendidly idiomatic writing in the lively outer movements and a meltingly lovely melody in the central Quasi notturno. It is not hard to see why this work appealed so much to Kennedy and he responds with some of the most sheerly poetic playing I have heard from him in some while. There is an appealing sense of discovery to his performance and his enthusiasm makes him an exciting advocate, ably supported by the Polish Chamber Orchestra.

The Karowicz Concerto (1902) is the lesser work though better known (this is the fourth recording currently available). I concur with David Fanning’s assessment (1/07) that it is no masterpiece, its earnestness seeming as much striking a pose as genuine expression. It has its good points, however, with some warmly lyrical writing throughout. Kennedy is at his most persuasive, more convincing of its merits than either Little or Anderszewska, and the support from Kaspszyk is faultless. The two Chopin Nocturnes prove pretty makeweights in Debski’s arrangements but it is the Mynarski that is the real find here.

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