Thursday, December 18, 2014

Boris Papandopulo - Croatian Masterworks

Boris Papandopulo: Concerto for Piano and string Orchestra No.2; Sinfonietta for String Orchestra, Op. 79; Pintarichiana for String Orchestra
Oliver Triendl, piano; Zagreb Soloists; Sreten Krstic, conductor

Boris Papandopulo was one of most prolific composers in Croatia, with over 440 works in his catalog. And thanks to a new release from CPO, his music might gain the wider audience they deserve.

Papandopulo (1906-1999) eschewed the atonal revolution of the 20th century, and instead developed his own form of tonal composition. To my ears, his music resembles that of Hindemith and Martinu -- two other composers who took a similar path and were also quite prolific. And like Hindemith and Martinu, Papandopulo composed highly expressive music of quality. And just as Martinu's music betrays its Czech origins, Papandopulo's also contains some Croatian folk elements, particularly in its syncopated rhythms.

This can best be heard in the Piano Concerto No. 2 for piano and string orchestra. This is a straight-forward, no-nonsense work. It seems a collaborative effort between soloist and ensemble. Sure, there's plenty for the the pianist to do (and Oliver Triendl makes it sound easy), but the orchestra keeps things moving along. Motives are swapped back and forth, the ensemble sometimes comments on the piano's melodic embellishments. All in all a joyous work that very much reminded me of Martinu's piano concertos.

The Sinfonietta for String Orchestra Op. 79 is a little bit heavier emotionally, and contains some fine writing for strings. I think it would make an excellent companion piece to Benjamin Britten's "Simple Symphony."

The short Pintarichiana for strings is an homage to 19th century Croation composer Fortunat Pintaric. Papandopulo quotes Pintaric melodies, making this a neo-classical work along the lines of Stravinsky's "Pulcinella" (without the angularity), or Resphighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances" (without the full orchestra).

By most accounts Boris Papandopulo was a cheerful soul, and all three works on this album seem permeated with a good-natured spirit. This release left me wanting to further explore Papandopulo's catalog.

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