is the second recording of Polish violin music on the DUX
label to come my way within a month.
Szymanowski sonata receives a commanding and involving performance.
Both players are fully up to the significant technical demands
made upon them, and together they show an impressive grasp
of the magisterial sweep of the music. Around three minutes
into the opening movement a more reflective episode appears
and both players allow the change of mood fully to register.
For the most part though the first movement radiates emotions
and thoughts that have lofty ambitions. Even if the work
was not well appreciated at its premiere in 1909 - the performers
were Kochański and Artur Rubinstein - Szymanowski’s
youthful work continues to pack a fair punch. The performance
here certainly pulls out all the stops.
second movement, cast in A major, seems almost song-like
as the violinist contours around above the piano accompaniment.
A middle section calling for pizzicato playing on the violin
varies the atmosphere, before the sinuous songline is resumed.
Piekutowska and Bilińska cope well in grading their
various passages, ensuring that much variety of expression
finds its way into their playing. The third movement returns
to more ambitious territory in terms of musical structure,
being cast as a grand sonata. Frequent shifts in modulation
account for much of the movement’s restless character, and
this comes across freely in the playing.
Szymanowski forever remained heavily indebted to the violinist
Paweł Kochański for advice about the instrument,
Grażyna Bacewicz had the advantage of being a formidable
violinist herself. The sonata proclaims confidence in the
instrument, posing several significant challenges for the
soloist. The piano part is scarcely less daunting. Constructed
from four brief movements, they serve to contrast with one
another. The first is initially a subdued Moderato,
before a more declamatory and upbeat mood takes hold, only
to find the earlier reflective mood returning at periodic
intervals. The second movement derives its entire material
from the four notes of a repeated arpeggio: E - A- G- E.
An unearthly mood pervades the writing, as the music seems
to lack direction before cutting off without warning. The
third movement Scherzo is subtler, spikier, more light-hearted
and altogether requiring quick-fire coordination between
the parts. The finale, Con Passione, sobers the rhetoric
significantly and a grand conclusion is secured. On my first
hearing of the work, there seems no reason not to find Piekutowska
and Bilińska highly recommendable advocates of this
intricate compositional voice.
Partita for violin and piano was later re-scored by the composer
for violin, orchestra and piano obbligato, and the work is
better known in that form. In the original scoring, the
work exhibits rough edges and sparse textures that the performers
should not try to disguise or detract from. Happily, Piekutowska
and Bilińska do not attempt to take away from the fundamental
fabric of the piece. From nervous openings they take the
five movements through passages of relative freedom, though
perhaps constrained a little by formalities, and quiet intensity,
before returning once again to freedom before concluding
with elements of disquiet to the fore. The performance might
not carry the impact of the later scoring, but it does allow
the tight sinews of Lutosławski’s writing to be clearly
feel compelled to add that the recording level on this disc
is rather higher than one often encounters. The Szymanowski
sonata begins with an imposing flourish for both players.
Should one listen to the disc first through headphones or
even through loudspeakers with the volume up slightly, as
I did, the sheer force of the opening movement is likely
to startle. One soon adjusts to the level, but I found it
more comfortable overall to stop the disc, reduce the volume
and start again from the beginning.
an interesting trio of works in recommendable performances,
supported by lucid and informative documentation.