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Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Works for violin and piano
Violin Sonata in D minor Op. 9 (1904) [20:33]
Romance Op.23 (1910) [6:43]
Nocturne and Tarantella Op. 28 [11:33]
Mythes Op. 30 (1915) (Arethusa´s Fountain [5:41]; Narcissus [7:15]; Pan and the Dryads [8:06])

Lullaby (La Berceuse d´Aitacho Enia) Op.52 (1925) [4:10]
Three Caprices by Paganini Op.40 (1918); No.20 [3:40]; No.21 [2:45]; No.24 [8:06]
Joanna Mądroszkiewicz (violin)
Paul Gulda (piano)
rec. May 2008, Ehem
Experience Classicsonline

There are a number of discs devoted to the violin works of Szymanowski, though there are subtle differences which sometimes makes a straight playoff difficult. It’s best to major on the majors in this kind of situation which means the Sonata, Mythes and Nocturne and Tarantella. This disc for example has no Nocturne from Op. 28, Roxana´s Song or Dance of the Harnasie – but it does include, quite unusually, the Paganini Caprice realisations.

Let’s head for the Sonata. In a resonant and rather echoey studio Joanna Mądroszkiewicz and Paul Gulda give a linear, direct, straightforward reading. I liked Gulda’s limpid playing in the central movement, as well as his control of the vexatious and difficult piano part generally. Mądroszkiewicz fines down her tone adeptly even at a brisk basic tempo. For those who require an assured and no-nonsense performance, even in a slightly too boomy acoustic, you won’t be disappointed. However there are more idiomatic ways of approaching things and the Dux pairing of Piotr Plawner and Waldemar Malicki (DUX0287) show that tempo relaxation for contrasting sections can bring greater rewards, and that ‘timing’ paragraph points in the finale makes the sonata come more to life. 

Clearly Mądroszkiewicz is not one to hang around in this repertoire. I quite admire her determination not to linger, not to bathe or indeed wallow. Still there can be casualties of such a basically inflexible approach and the Romance is, I think, one such. There’s greater warmth at a more relaxed tempo. Her Nocturne and Tarantella is forcefully evocative. For Mythes, that fulcrum of evocative eroticism, we find she fuses startling incursions with a fast basic tempo. Her body of tone remains broadly robust, unlike more ethereal approach such as Plawner’s. It’s a straight reading somewhat missing the colouristic and imaginative qualities of the music – and a little leaden rhythmically. 

The La Berceuse d´Aitacho Enia is a heavily laden piece and the Paganini Caprices, completed in 1918, unusual repertoire. They’re heroically and harmonically re-sited for violin and piano even if they’re hardly more than footnotes compositionally speaking. 

Having stated above that there are similar recitals to this I can note an exact parallel - by Alina Abragimov and Cedric Tiberghien on Hyperion CDA67703. Their programmes are identical. I prefer the Hyperion pairing for their wider array of tone colours, their tempo relation decision-making – this is not related to absolute speed – and their more subtle and evocative playing, as well as a warmer recording. 

Jonathan Woolf 




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