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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The five stars are for the Second Concerto. The rest is less essential but worth hearing., 6 April 2014
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This review is from: The Romantic Violin Concerto [Eugene Urgorski, Michal Dworzynski] [Hyperion: CDA67990] (Audio CD)
Emil Mlynarski, a Polish violinist, conductor and composer was born in Kibarty, Lithuania in 1870. After an early career as a solo player he moved to Warsaw in 1897 where he was soon appointed Kapellmeister at the Teatr Wielki. He was instrumental in the formation of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in 1900 and conducted its inaugural concert the following year. Mlynarski's conducting career included a stint as conductor of the Scottish Orchestra and he also made regular appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1929 he moved to Philadelphia where he took the conducting course at the Curtis Institute but, in 1931, he returned to Warsaw suffering from severe arthritis. He died in 1935. He was, apparently, a thoroughly good egg. Both Artur Rubinstein, who married his daughter, and Szymanowski spoke very highly of him and, in a memorial speech she gave at the Curtis Institute, Mary Louise Curtis Bok called him "one of the finest persons in the world".

The First Violin Concerto, here receiving its first recording, was written in 1897 and, as a recipient of a prize in the Paderewski Composition Competition, was published the following year. It is very much a virtuoso work, taking as its model the concertos of Wieniawski in particular. It gets better as it proceeds. Neither of the first movement's main melodic elements, the opening chorale-like theme and a winding second subject, are really memorable. The transitional material provides a little rhythmical interest but the movement is badly let down by a lengthy cadenza which, though thematically relevant, is a poor substitute for a proper development section.

The ternary slow movement is an improvement; the publisher thought so highly of it that he made it available separately. Although it is again rather plain melodically, this movement is well sustained and far more subtly constructed than the first. The truncated reprise of the opening section means that the music ends rather sooner than you expect, however.

The lively finale, perhaps suggested by the finale of Bruch's famous concerto, is the best movement. Cleverly, the brief introduction includes elements of both main themes. The first is catchy and the second, first heard on the orchestral strings, is passionate though not very distinctive. Mlynarski maintains momentum throughout the movement and the concerto ends in virtuoso fashion.

Nineteen years but only five opus numbers separate the first concerto from the second. This is a far more accomplished work and is well worth getting to know. The first movement begins with an important rhythmical idea which introduces the fine main theme. It is a lovely melody which, with its fluid rhythm, disguised augmented fourth and, later, a minor inflexion, shows its composer moving confidently forward stylistically. The orchestral and solo parts are also far better integrated. The movement grows organically and you will need to listen several times to follow its progress. Indeed, the music seems almost monothematic....although that rhythmic idea returns to provide a little stiffening from time to time. There is a brief development section and this time the cadenza comes in the right place.

The slow movement is quite lovely. It is built, apparently, on a folksong. Again the music grows organically. Notice. for instance, how, when the violin repeats the opening tune in its low register, a new idea is introduced on the oboe (at 1 min 25 secs). This becomes more far more prominent as the music progresses. The movement also features some exquisite writing for the soloist in harmonics.

The lively main theme of the finale may seem a little scrappy at first but the movement is again well sustained and there is some highly attractive contrasting lyrical material including a passage for muted violin in double stops suggestive of old Vienna.

The disc also includes two short but entertaining virtuoso dance pieces by Zarzycki. They are superbly dispatched by Ugorski.

Mlynarski's Second Concerto should not be missed. I got to know it from Nigel Kennedy's "Polish Spirit" disc where it is coupled with Karlowicz's concerto. Both performances of Mlynarski's concerto are excellent. Kennedy's slightly slower tempo for the slow movement allows him to distil an ounce more poetry from the music but Ugorski's technique is a little more assured and this pays dividends in the finale. I also liked Ugorski's sweet tone and fast vibrato. He really is a superb player. Both discs are highly recommendable, then.

(There is also a disc of the Second Concerto, performed by Konstanty Kulka, coupled with Mlynarski's Symphony on the Polskie Nagrania label. I haven't heard this but I see that the performance of the concerto is quicker than either Ugorski's or Kennedy's. The timings for the slow movement, for example, are: Kennedy: 9 mins 5 secs, Ugorski: 8 mins, Kulka: 6 mins 58 secs. The Polskie Nagrania disc won't be cheap!)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very welcome concertos etc., 28 April 2014
C. Redwood - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Romantic Violin Concerto [Eugene Urgorski, Michal Dworzynski] [Hyperion: CDA67990] (Audio CD)
Before hearing this CD for the first time, I was not familiar with any of the pieces. Hyperion state that Mlynarski 1st Violin Concerto and Zarzycki Introduction et Carcaovienne are both first recordings. I must say that I found Mlynarski's first violin concerto to be very well worth getting to know. I really enjoyed it - so much so that I was tempted to listen to it again before moving on to the second! Having heard the second, I would say that my personal preference is for the first over the second. The last movement of the second, though is very good and reminds me of Karlowicz's Violin Concerto.

To my ears, the Introduction part of Zarzycki's Introduction and Caracovienne sounds rather like a second movement of a violin concerto. Likewise the Caracovienne, sounds like if could be the finale of a violin concerto - it is certainly a very attractive piece - at times almost sounding like a Johann Strauss Waltz! The Mazurka is likewise a very attractive piece - again almost sounding like a finale of another violin concerto.

Eugene Ugorski, a young Russian soloist, gives excellent performances of all works and is well heard in the recordings. He certainly has a beautiful tone, and plays with great taste and judgement. He manages to get a very subtle rubato into his performance, which works very well.

The recording is well up to usual Hyperion standards with the violin just slightly forward in the mix, so that every note can be heard. It is difficult to assess tempi, when you are unfamiliar with the works, but at no point did I sense them to be too slow. Occasionally I felt the pieces could perhaps benefit from being taken a little faster - but no real concerns here.

If you enjoyed the Moszkowski and Karlowicz concertos in the same series, then I suspect you will enjoy this disc of Romantic Violin Concertos.
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