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Paderewski's melodic early work is beautifully executed by American pianist Kevin Kenner.
Repertoire: Piano Concerto in A minor; Polish Fantasy
Artists: Kevin Kenner (pf), The Orchestra of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic, Bialystok/ Marcin Nałęcz-Niesiołowski
The Music: Paderewski’s two piano and orchestra works, written relatively early in his career (the three-movement Concerto in 1882-84, the one-movement Fantasy in 1893), hold their own against other well-crafted virtuoso vehicles of the period modelled on those of Chopin, Liszt, Saint-Saëns and Rubinstein.
The Performance: American Kevin Kenner, winner of the 1990 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, turns his attention to Chopin’s compatriot, by far the most famous Pole of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hailed as one of the greatest pianists of his day, Paderewski wrote these pieces to showcase his own high-wire skills, their scintillating solo parts designed to keep listeners on the edge of their seats, and send them away humming their catchy themes. Kenner succeeds triumphantly, though is forwardly placed in the sound picture with some loss of orchestral detail from his alert partners.
The Verdict: Were this the only available recording of these two works, it would earn five stars. However its rival is one of the most remarkable romantic concerto recordings on disc with soloist Earl Wild, the London Symphony Orchestra and Arthur Fielder recorded in 1970 (Ivory Classics 77003).
Want More? If you want to hear what Paderewski’s solo piano works are like, try Jonathan Plowright (on Hyperion CDA67562).