Wow! cpo have done it again with this exciting release. Having thoroughly enjoyed their earlier issue of Croatian composer Boris Papandopulo's Sinfonietta and second piano concerto I was eager to hear his third together with his violin concerto. It easily surpassed all my expectations. The piano concerto is a witty, immensely enjoyable, amiable, lively piece with a rich (and unusual) orchestral palette, especially in the vivid use of percussion. Oliver Triendl never disappoints. He is a top notch , versatile pianist who yet again rises brilliantly to the occasion in unfamiliar repertoire. The jazz inspired finale is a great foot-tapping romp. It would go down a storm at a Promenade concert.
And talking of inspiration it is followed by the truly remarkable violin concerto. This substantial work (almost 46 minutes) was written in 1943 amidst the horrors of World War II when Papandopulo was 37 years old. It is a glorious, inspired piece heavily charged with emotion, its melodic line in the violin abounding in refined ornamentation. The dramatic and passionate first movement is huge (nearly 25 minutes) culminating in a long, unaccompanied cadenza, breathtaking in its intensity. It requires immense control, technical prowess and virtuosity to deliver it. The slow movement is heart-meltingly serene; sublimely beautiful with an elegiac, rhapsodic theme based upon a Croatian folk song. The finale is an energetic, exuberant, impassioned tour de force. By the end I was ready to leap to my feet and cheer!
The prodigious young Chinese violinist, Dan Zhu, has been performing publically since he was nine years old. He is absolutely superb in every respect producing an incredibly beautiful tone. He delivers a stupendous, compelling performance, executing the difficult helter-skelter passages as well as producing incredible whispered pianissimos. I shall be looking out for other recordings of this exceptional artist. The orchestration is brilliant and thrilling with the wonderful Croatian orchestra, led by its Finnish-born conductor, playing as if their lives depended on it. The recording, as one has rather come to take for granted with cpo, is magnificent capturing every little detail. It can be so easy to give the appellation "masterpiece" but I really believe this concerto fully merits that accolade. It ought to be a firm fixture in the international concert repertoire. Hopefully this recording will inspire others to take it up. As you may have gathered my enthusiasm knows no bounds and I do not have enough superlatives to do it justice.
If I see on Amazon's pages a composer of whom I have never heard, I am always tempted to splash out. There are some duds which will remain gathering dust on my shelves, but this spirit of adventure has brought to my attention the works of three really greats; Taneyev, Catoire and above all Medtner. Besides that, it affords me the pleasure of sticking two fingers up to the appalling way I was taught Music History at a highly respected University. The lectures never mentioned any of the three, though I think I remember one professor mentioning Medtner to me in private. I had never heard of Papandopulo either but I would like to express my agreement with the critical views expressed in the other reviews on these two works. The Piano Concerto is remarkable; yes there are obvious influences, but a genuine voice emerges and the jazzy third movement is a delight. The Violin Concerto is a darker affair with a an immense first movement that climaxes in a searing and impassioned cadenza. (Incidentally the Violin Concerto has been recorded before). If anybody is interested in exploring the composer further, I would like to recommend highly the Croatian Mass, or Hravatska Misa. Written much earlier than the two works on this cd, it comes from a different sound world. Anybody who loves Rachmaninov's Vespers will love the Croatian Mass and it receives a spirited performance from a Zagreb choir with four idiomatic and excellent soloists.