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Jacques LOUSSIER (b. 1934)
Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Percussion (1987-88)* [23:38]
Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Tabla (2006)* [14:19]
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Sonata in A minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 13† (1882) [27:17]
Adam Kostecki (violin)
Piotr Iwicki (percussion)*; Gunther Hauer (piano)†
Polish Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra/Adam Kostecki
rec. Star of the Sea Church, Sopot, Poland, 24-27 July 2011 (Loussier); Music University, Hanover, Germany, 22-23 September 2004 (Paderewski)
Loussier: world premiere recordings
NAXOS 8.573200
[65:14]

This is a disparate collection and we would do well to just accept that rather than struggle to make connections that are not there. It’s not just a matter of two concertos and one chamber piece. The Loussier language has pretty much nothing in common with Paderewski but so what.
 
Loussier's two concertos are from a musician who found fame for his Bach-meets-Jazz improvisations of the 1950s and 1960s. Few westerners who came into contact with music in those decades will not associate Loussier with that 'cool' world of black turtle necks and flowing grace.
 
His Violin Concerto No. 1 is in four short movements as is the Second. The music is very likeable in a neo-Bachian way. It’s kinetically attention-grabbing and once grabbed holds on tight. The rushing toe-tapping dynamism of the first movement (Prague) also finds time for some Grappelli-like swoops. The other movements are equally inventive with a second movement (L’homme Nu) that is almost Finzian in its mixture of grace and repose. After this comes a Buenos Aires Tango of delicacy and machined power. The finale (Tokyo) has a prominent role for the percussion in a co-solo element. This taps, ticks and chugs and generally links back very pleasingly to the first movement. This is a very accessible and amiable work. There's nothing of the avant-garde in it. Its jazzy panache and attack stands between the masterful William Schuman Violin Concerto and Bernstein's Symposium alongside the concertante works by Piazzolla.
 
The Concerto No 2 partners the violin with the Indian tabla. The score was commissioned by the Menuhin Festival. It’s more jazzily louche than the First Concerto and the style sometimes recalls Grappelli who made several albums with Menuhin. The frozen-breath static qualities of the second movement make way for more of the grace and clear-eyed beguilement of its counterpart in the First Concerto. The third movement is a swoopingly confiding Cadenza that also finds room for display. The finale is a helter-skelter flight with an explosive sign-off. You can forget any obviously Indian ethnic element. The tabla is used as a standard percussion presence; no reason why not.
 
The Paderewski Violin Sonata dates from more than century earlier than the Loussier First Concerto. The only natural link is that the admirable soloist Adam Kostecki must have wanted to record all three works. Naxos are right to have accommodated him ... and us. The Sonata is high-tide romantic stuff with some succulent Tchaikovskian melodic material as at 3:08 in the first movement. The Russian composer must have made quite an impact in Poland. Karlowicz's treasurable Violin Concerto is in a similar idiom to that of the famous Tchaikovsky concerto. The Intermezzo central movement - of three - is lovingly played and is just a touch sentimental. Later it becomes quite forward-looking and at times reminded me uncannily of the early violin sonatas of Herbert Howells. It’s a lovely piece. The chirpy and flighty finale also flies on mellifluous wings and is only briefly flecked with salon atmosphere.
 
Rob Barnett