Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Henryk Wars: Discovering a Masterpiece
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Henryk Wars has been long known for many film soundtracks and countless hit songs composed in Poland during the inter-war period and in the United States in the 1950s and the 1960s. But he was also a classically trained composer who left a substantial legacy of finely crafted, large-scale orchestral works. They were written soon after he settled in California in 1947, and quite a few years before he had a chance to redefine himself as a film composer in Hollywood. During his early years in America Wars devoted most of his passion and energy to completing among others such large scale works as Symphony No. 1 (1948–1949), Piano Concerto (1950), City Sketches – Orchestral Suite (1951/1969–1974), and Sonatina for Orchestra. Aim of this study is to present Wars’s Piano Concerto – a skillfully designed one-movement work completed in 1950, with a strongly neo-romantic character, sparkling virtuoso solo part, and richly-scored orchestral accompaniment. The author of the study analyzes in detail the formal layout of the work, indicates the composer’s inspirations (mostly Schumann and Addinsell, also Chopin, Gershwin and Rachmaninov) and shows that using the traditional sonata allegro layout, Wars effectively introduces several very attractive melodic ideas and skillfully shapes them in into a successful one-movement formal design. Wars’s one-movement Piano Concerto is an excellent addition to the repertoire of shorter works for piano and orchestra. Whilst it offers some technical challenges for the performers, it is also a very effective work that easily finds favor with the audiences.
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