Every work I’ve heard by Boris Papandopulo is an absolute gem. And, apparently, just as rare. The liner notes have this rather cryptic sentence: “Owing to the still limited access to his musical estate, a comprehensive, meaningful, and synoptic assessment of Papandopulo’s oeuvre remains impossible.”

Boris Papandopulo, a legend in his native Croatia, wrote prolifically and with apparent ease in many genres. This release features three works wrested from the “limited access” to his catalog. Papandopulo readily blended the language of 20th Century classical music (both tonal and non) with Croatian folk elements into a unique style.

The Concertino for Piccolo and String Ensemble is utterly charming. This 1977 work treats the piccolo as a shepherd’s pipe. Melodic folk elements abound in the solo part. The violins and violas play frequently on open strings, simulating the sound of fiddles. Soloist Michael Martin Kofler plays with a clear, well-rounded tone. There’s virtually no shrillness in the upper register, making the work all that more appealing (and rustic-sounding).

Papandopulo’s Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra was premiered in 1962 and adopts some modernist traits.  It’s full of interesting twists and turns and some chord progressions borrowed from jazz. The harpsichord has a thin sound that reminded me of its use in 60’s movie and TV shows, such as the “Addams Family” or “The Avengers.”

“Five Orchestral Songs” for baritone and string orchestra and harp was written just a year before the harpsichord concerto. And it’s a very different work. Papandopulo’s score leans toward a highly chromatic Post-Romantic and Impressionist style. It’s a highly atmospheric work that effectively conveys its somber anti-war message.

Boris Papandopulo had a unique style that incorporated many threads of 20th Century composition. It’s a voice I’d like to hear more from.

Boris Papandopulo: Concertino for Piccolo; Harpsichord Concerto; Five Orchestral Songs
Michael Martin Kofler, piccolo; Jörg Halubek, harpsichord; Miljenko Turk, baritone
Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim; Timo Handschuh, conductor
CPO 777-941