The repertoire here is a reminder of Felicja Blumental’s protean abilities. Here, she resurrects a piano concerto/patriotic fantasy by Paderewski before assuming the central role on harpsichord for Penderecki’s Partita, dedicated to her by the composer.
The majority of links here are Polish. Paderewski, Penderecki and Blumental were born in Poland. For a concertante work of the period, Paderewski’s Piano Concerto in A minor Op.17 leans toward a bucolic simplicity, harking back to the piano concertos of Chopin and Grieg in terms of influence. Polish rhythms abound, most notably the mazurka while much of the melodic material is imbued with the Polish folk song tradition. The Fantaisie Polonaise Op.19, is a lively, folksy and, above all, avowedly virtuoso showpiece packed full of Polish dances from the krakowiak to the kujawiak.
The Partita was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and was premiered there in 1971 by its dedicatee, Felicja Blumental. The instrumentation of the Partita alone gives us fair warning that we’re in for an eclectic surprise. The scoring (which came as a surprise to Ms Blumental) is for harpsichord, electric guitar, bass guitar, double bass and orchestra, all of which reads like a cross between the concertino grouping of a Baroque concerto grosso and the line-up for a jazz outfit.