Polish Music (Kaspszyk)
It is over 10 years since I first encountered Emil Mynarski’s music, with his marvellous Second Violin Concerto played by Nigel Kennedy (EMI/Warner, 11/07). Since then, not much has been added to his discography but once again it is Jacek Kaspszyk, the conductor for Kennedy, who directs the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in his F minor Symphony, Polonia (1910). Playing for a full 40 minutes, the symphony dominates the disc.
Mynarski (1870-1935) was a composition pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and it shows, most particularly in the sparkling Presto scherzo which, in the composer’s programme, symbolises hope for Poland’s release from partition and foreign domination, eloquently depicted in the preceding Adagio. Poland’s past and hopes for the future are the themes of the outer movements, the music shot through with the flavour and rhythms of Polish dances, such as the oberek and cracovienne. Written in a late-Romantic style, this is an attractive score, played with compelling fervour.
The couplings are lighter but no less nationalistic in tone. Penderecki’s 2015 Polonaise is not so much a setting of the dance as a tone poem on the idea of it. An appealing concert-opener, I doubt anyone listening with an innocent ear would guess Penderecki as its creator. Weinberg’s Polish Melodies (1950) are more individual, written at a time of personal danger having fallen foul of the Soviet regime. The orchestration in the first dance reminded me a little of Nielsen, curiously; elsewhere there are touches of Shostakovich (in lighter, raucous vein). The four dances make an endearing and appealing set that at times looks into the abyss but turns away. Excellent performances, fine sound.