RÓŻYCKI Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2
The first thing to say (because it is the first thing you will notice when you play this disc) is that this is an outstanding recording of a piano and orchestra. The soloist is ideally placed in the sound picture, with the City Halls in Glasgow providing a clean, crisp acoustic allowing every detail to emerge with character and clarity. Hats off to David Hinitt (engineer) and Jeremy Hayes (producer). Even more impressive is the partnership between soloist and conductor. For the second time in this series, Jonathan Plowright and Łukasz Borowicz are like alchemists in the way they can raise first-class second-rate music to another level, a couple of fiercely combative squash players at times, two firm friends reminiscing on a long country walk at others. Borowicz’s control of his Scottish players is quite masterly, and Plowright should be paid in bags of gold to reveal how he produces such a rich, singing tone throughout the enormous dynamic range he conjures up, from thunderous roar to mere whisper.
As to Vol 67 itself, I have now listened to it straight through several times with increasing enjoyment. I do think this is one of the more worthwhile discoveries of Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series, certainly up there with the Stojowski concertos, for instance (Vol 28, 6/02), which, as it happens, also features Plowright.
Ludomir Różycki (1883-1953), little known outside his native Poland where he spent most of his career, was a pupil of Zygmunt Noskowski and Engelbert Humperdinck. All three works – the Ballade (1906) and the Piano Concertos Nos 1 (1918) and 2 (c1943) – have dangerously highly calorific helpings of gorgeously spun Romantic themes set against a richly orchestrated backdrop and pages of bravura piano-writing, in short epitomising what most of us think of as a Romantic piano concerto. Among many memorable highlights are the Ballade (10'35") with its apt but unexpected ending, the first movement of the Second Concerto (written in war-torn Poland) and its defiant, life-affirming finale. Reassuring, as comfortable as Sunday night on the telly – only a hair-shirt cynic could fail to enjoy Różycki.