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Published on Mar 13, 2009
IGNACY JAN PADEREWSKI — Sonata in E-flat minor, op. 21, played by Jonathan Plowright
1.Allegro con fuoco (part 1)
This is taken from the recital given by Jonathan Plowright at the National Gallery of Ireland to celebrate Polish Independence Day, 11th November 2007. Jonathan Plowright has recorded this sonata for Hyperion.
As Joseph Herter wrote in his programme notes for the occasion: Before this afternoon, most people in todays audience would probably never have heard of or listened to Paderewskis Sonata for Piano. Rarely performed, the composer predicted it would never be popular because of its difficulty, and he was right. Most likely for the same reason, Paderewski himself seldom played the Sonata. He gave only 14 performances, all given between June 1907 and April 1908 and then between October 1916 and January 1917. The work is a musical blockbuster for the pianist who not only proves his mettle technically and musically, but proves it mentally as well. How any pianist can get through the third movement unscathed, without a memory slip during the extensive fugal writing that dominates it, is a wonder. Simply speaking, Its harder than hell.
This composition helps dispel the myth that Paderewski was no more than your stereotypical pianist-composer, i.e., one having written a piano concerto and a multitude of piano miniatures. Completed in 1903 when he was 43, it is one of his last works. Together with his opera Manru (1900), the Variations and Fugue in E-flat minor for Piano (1903) and his Symphony in B minor entitled Polonia (1907), we have the works of a mature composer exhibiting superb mastery of his craft.
After the completion of his symphony, though, Paderewski abandoned composing all together. Living another 34 years, he only once returned to the composers table during World War I to write a battle hymn for the Polish Army in America. Yes, President Woodrow Wilson allowed Paderewski to recruit an army in the United States to fight for the independence of Poland under the condition that they did not train in America; instead, they trained in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario in Canada. The stirring battle hymn that he wrote is for mens chorus and piano, his only published choral work, entitled Hej, Orle Biały! [Hey, White Eagle!].
The Sonata is dedicated to Archduke Charles Stephen of Austria, who spoke Polish, who lived in Żywiec, Poland until 1933, and whose two daughters married into the Polish aristocratic Radziwiłł and Czartoryski families".