Michal Bergson’s piano concerto receives its world recording premiere — thanks to a chance discovery. Polish composer and pianist Michal Bergson (1820-1898) spent most of his life abroad, retiring to England.
The manuscript for this 1868 concerto was recently discovered in a London antiquarian bookstore. Little is known of the circumstances surrounding the composition, save that Bergson was the soloist for the premiere in Paris.
Pianist Jonathan Plowright specializes in the Polish Romantics. He makes this concerto his own. Bergson’s concerto isn’t quite as big as Grieg’s (premiered a year later), but it points in that direction.
The orchestration sounds Mendelssohnian, but the themes are Brahmsian. This is not just a historical curiosity, but a fine Romantic piano concerto that rewards the listener time and again.
Also included are selections from Bergson’s 1847 opera “Luisa di Montfort.” Bergson arranged one of the arias for clarinet, and that has become a standard pedagogic work for the instrument. And the only part of the opera still performed.
This release includes that selection (which is rather nice), as well as the overture — which is also quite nice. Nice enough to make me wish more of the opera had been included.
The album concludes with a concert aria, sung by Polish soprano Aleksandra Kubas-Kruk. “il Ritorno” reminded me of Donizetti. It provides a perfect opportunity for this coloratura soprano to show off her skills, and she does with elan.
Michal Bergson: Piano Concerto
Music from the Opera “Luisa di Montfort”
Jonathan Plowright, piano
Jakub Drygas, clarinet; Aleksandra Kubas-Kruk, soprano
Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra; Lukasz Borowicz, conductor