Time for another unopened/uncharted listening experience from one of "the piles". This time it's a disc I got last year, knew I was being financially irresponsible by making a completely impulsive purchase...but all the same couldn't help myself. Oh how I long for the days when impulse buying was a guilt-free experience, devoid of stress, more exhilarating than any drug and most importantly actually feasible! So I stumbled upon this disc, had never heard of Boris Papandopulo (apparently considered the greatest Croatian composer of the 20th century...I cannot argue one way or another...I believe I have maybe 5 discs of music by Croatian composers, one of which is based on old folk songs) and thus my interest was as always, through the roof. Apparently Papandopulo wrote over 450 works, which is definitely a very good thing considering the fun I'm currently having listening to the disc for the first time (listening to the Piano Concerto No. 2, an energetic, somewhat Hindemithian affair with recollections of Martinu and an air of Stravinsky as well..). Clearly this is very good music written by a very good composer, who hopefully will become known (CPO is a sister label of Naxos..fingers crossed that they might also add a Papandopulo disc in the future to a Naxos series, "Croatian Composers of the 20th century" or some such thing!).
The cd booklet is quite informative, as is to be expected with CPO, and I will type out the notes for everyone soon (too tired now).
Here is a biography I just found on Boris Papandopulo:
Boris Papandopulo (Honnef am Rhein,Germany, 25 February 1906 - Zagreb, 16 October 1991) is one of the most remarkable and most fruitful Croatian composers of the 20th century, and a versatile musician who, during his creative practice, attempted to master most diverse musical forms, from vocal miniature and chamber and instrumental works, to symphony, opera, oratorio, ballet and film music.
An artist with a broad knowledge, utterly professional, serious, imaginative and noble, Papandopulo has in his opus more than 450 musical works in which he passes, like more famous Igor Stravinsky, through different stylistic orientations - from neo-national and neo-classical to expressionistic.
Born, grown up and raised in a family that had always been closely connected to music and theatre, especially his mother, Maja pl. Strozzi, renowned concert and opera singer of European reputation, Papandopulo dedicated himself to music very early in his life. First he took private piano lessons, then he studied composition at the Music Academy in Zagreb (where he listened to the lectures of F. Dugan, F. Lhotka, A. Dobronić, and was taught composition by and graduated in class of B. Bersa in 1929), and later in Vienna, at the New Vienna Conservatory, he was taught conducting by Dirk Fock (1928-1930).
In the early years of his career he worked as a conductor with the Croatian singing group Kolo in Zagreb (1928-1934 and 1938-1946) and in the period 1931-1934 as a conductor with the Amateur Orchestra of the Croatian Music Institute and as a chorus master of the Singing Society of Teachers Ivan Filipović (which he founded in 1933). In the period 1935-1938 he worked as a professor at the State Music School in Split and performed as a conductor of the Music Society Zvonimir, from 1940 to 1945 as a conductor of the Zagreb Opera (1943-1945 also as a headmaster), and at the same time he is an art director (of the orchestra) of Zagreb Radio Station (1942-1945).
After the Second World War, he was head of the Rijeka Opera (1946-1948 and 1953-1959), and 1948-1953 he worked as an opera conductor and professor in Sarajevo. He continued his career in Zagreb, once again as a conductor with the Zagreb Opera (1959-1968), and then with the Split Opera (1968-1974). He was a permanent guest conductor with the Komedija Theatre in Zagreb, as well as with the Symphony Orchestra in Cairo. He also affirmed his music activity in the field of music criticism and journalism, and as a pianist and rehearsal pianist.
He was a regular member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and his impressive opus of compositions earned him a place of special uniqueness in the Croatian music of the 20th century. He earned it, as Županović once said, "with magic that is able to turn musical nothing in Something at any moment", with such a level of composition awareness at which neither the musical material, nor the choice of basic system of its structuring is not crucial, but the motivation and "logic" of actions for building a consistent, yet emotionalized musical order - the structure we perceive as musical sense.
As an artist, whose creative process occurs spontaneously, easily and naturally, as a master of compositional technique, especially instrumentation, at an early period of his creative activity Papandopulo "was enchanted by the virtuoso treatment of musical means of expression, polyphonic play of tones, vivid combinations of sounds, exterior decoration and optimistic vivacity."
In this creative period, an affinity for the elements of neoclassic musical style can be observed, as well as for baroque drive and energy and vivid rhythmic movement with features of impressionist and expressionist musical idiom. It is as if the archaic sounds of some of the contemporary, anthological works are searching the mere roots of music, at the same time coming across unavoidable sources of ritual, movement and dance (Svatovske, Dodolice, Utva zlatokrila, Muka Gospodina našeg Isukrsta, Hrvatska misa, Laudamus/Slavoslovije, Sinfonietta za gudače, Zlato).
In his "mature" creative period, Papandopulo is not afraid to use folk music patterns, but he also turns to the achievements of European musical modernity, not detaching from "traditional formats of musical cells, from established development of motives and facts or entrenched laws of melodic movement". This period, which saw the end of the Second World War and lasted approximately until 1956, was characterized by a series of very successful compositions marked by recent history - the creation of a new country and events from the National Liberation Movement (Simfonija br. 2, Poema o Neretvi, Stojanka majka Knežopoljka, Obnova, Credo, Libertas, Pohvala Dubrovniku).
Over time, Papandopulo's music became more dissonant, with harsher harmony and melody, so the master sometimes used the bases of twelve-tone technique, elements of jazz (more intensely toward the end of the 50's and at the beginning of 60's); Koncert za klavir i orkestar br. 3, Mozaik za klasični gudački kvartet i jazz kvartet, Capriccio za violinu-solo i jazz-kvartet), later the elements of pop music, as well as other compositional and technical procedures of avant-garde music of the 20th century, even though he retained critical distance toward some of them, and sometimes he was even ironical or made parodies.
Even though for him almost every one of the ideological and aesthetic directions of the last century was a foundation, "a basis for setting off to an unknown and dangerous journey of finding its echo inside himself, in the end the composer did not opt for any of creative schools". Papandopulo speaks of himself indirectly: from a somewhat ironic distance, from objectified situations, and therefore he "can do anything" - as Bruno Bjelinski once said about him. With the dodecaphonic scale and its forms he can semi-seriously play in the field of mode and in the genre of lyrical and meditative nocturne. He can make parodies of the situations from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, suddenly turn the chromatized piano figure as main material into diatone folk dance pattern, pervade virtuos automatism of a toccata with humorous accents, and enliven a dry print with lyricism.
However, none of the doctrines triumphed over Papandopulo. Likewise, he never dominated any creative credo; musical ideology and aesthetics on one hand and practical musician Papandopulo on the other, played a creative match of his life that finished in a tie. Nevertheless, on his path towards artistic maturity, with more and more intense content enrichment of his own music, Papandopulo never left the basic principle of his creative approach to work: its building and final shaping based on pure musical substance.
If one were to express a concise and comprehensive evaluation of Papandopulo's opus, one would have to look for the summary in Detoni's words that describe the extensive musical inheritance of Boris Papandopulo as a type of "synthesis of all the important new musical influences in the world with the rhythm, melody and harmony features of Croatian national melodic elements".
*When I imported the disc, iTunes only recognized the track names with a long string of Chinese characters following the marked tempi. I have no idea why, this is a North American pressing. So I have 'tried' a prog to tag them correctly, so hopefully you will ONLY see the English!