KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI - Piano Concerto 'Resurrection'

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KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI - Piano Concerto 'Resurrection' - Flute Concerto - Barry Douglas (Piano) - Antoni Wit (Conductor) - Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra - 747313269679 - Released: March 2013 - Naxos 8.572696

Scored for a large orchestra, including triple wind and a raft of percussion, Penderecki's Piano Concerto, heard here in its 2007 revision first performed by Barry Douglas, renews the composer's direct involvement with the 'grand' concerto tradition that culminated in Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. Its sub-title 'Resurrection' refers to the melody based on a chorale of a non-religious character, which gradually make its way into the foreground before emerging with striking power at the work's climax. The more modest forces used in the Flute Concerto place no restriction on this work's exceptional emotional range and kaleidoscopic colours. {Naxos}

Composed in 2001, and then revised in 2007, the Piano Concerto 'Resurrection' is written on an epic scale, segmented into 10 movements but played as one continuous development without breaks. It is at times bursting at the seams with activity, counter-balanced by moments of tender lyricism and great outbursts of ardent and passionate emotion. It contains all the features of a piano concerto from the 19th and 20th centuries, including the usual interplay between soloist and orchestra, with plenty of instances imposing stiff technical demands and requiring virtuosic panache from the pianist as well as moments of deep expression. And wrapped inside all these notes and ultra-romantic gestures, Penderecki's unique technique and harmonic style burn strong. Its main subject, the hymn like, plaintive and yet uplifting melody, is presented on several occasions, every time with more conviction and power, but at each utterance gets rebuked and quickly silenced by darker and heavy-handed forces. The main thrust of this work was influenced by the 9/11 terrorist attack and it shows. There are sinister and troubled emotions at play within the score, all cleverly writ large on the staff paper. Definitely one of this composer's most post-modern, neo-romantic and deeply expressive works. With flashbacks to Rachmaninov, Saint-SaŽns, Ravel and Prokofiev, and at the same time a clear representation of this day and age, it is a piece of music that spans a century.

This ongoing Naxos series of recordings covering most of Penderecki's output has been one pleasure after another, with this one topping the list as a prime example of a superlative achievement. Pianist Barry Douglas (who released a very successful string of recordings for RCA in the 80s) is back and in obviously top form, easily surmounting every technical and expressive hurdle this concerto throws at him, and as always, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Antoni Wit simply can't be outclassed in this kind of music. Good to know that "meaningful, substantial and moving" music is still being written and performed, and presented this well.

Jean-Yves Duperron - April 2013