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Violin Music from Poland
Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)

Partita (1984)
Grazyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)

Sonata No 2 for solo violin (1958)
Witold SZALONEK (b 1927)

Chaconne-Fantasie (1997)
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1936)

Sonata in D minor
Veronica Kadlubkiewicz (violin)
Elizabeth Wright (piano)
Recorded Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst College, MA (1999?)
GASPARO GSCD 338 [66.20]


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This is a fine disc that draws together some threads in Polish violin composition. Each is a significant work in its own right – only the Szalonek is less than well known – and occupies its own stylistic place in the scheme of twentieth century compositional life. The Szymanowski doesn’t lack for partisan support on disc – Oistrakh prominently among those who have left us versions (currently on Testament) and there is a convincing recording as well from Mordkovitch on Chandos as well as a number of other competitors. This recording will not efface memories of Oistrakh’s patrician tonal glory necessarily but there is considerable poetry and subtlety in Kadlubkiewicz and Wright’s performance.

Bacewicz’s Second Sonata for solo violin dates from 1958 and was premiered by the composer herself – an excellent player by all accounts – in Cracow the following year. It’s a formidably constructed work in sonata form constructed essentially in two parts with variational form embedded into the syntax. Idiomatic – of course – and consistently colourful, forward moving and exciting this is a work that compels admiration. The doublestop section is especially persuasive and there is some driving spiccato action that sounds breathtaking. The technical demands are considerable, the sudden ff passages abrupt and stentorian – but the rewards considerable. Incidentally Bacewicz recorded quite a lot of her own music, including this sonata, for Muza – I believe the Third Concerto was recorded on 78s and she also recorded her one-time sponsor Szymanowski’s Prelude Op. 1 No. 1 in her own arrangement. Will some enterprising company consider releasing this long buried treasure?

Lutosławski’s Partita was completed in 1984 and premiered by Zuckerman and Neikrug the following year. It’s also known in its guise for orchestra and piano obbligato, which was written for Anne-Sophie Mutter four years later. Concise, formally laid out and full of dance and colour, the dense though harmonically lucid opening movement draws one in, amazed at its balance of the technical and the expressive. By contrast the almost otherworldly ad Libitum second and fourth movements – really small interludes – evoke the sound almost of birdsong (listen to the violin’s scurry over the piano’s deliberation in the second of these interludes). Kadlubkiewicz and Wright respond splendidly to the drama and the fissure of the work’s finale, as indeed they do to the concentrated poetry elsewhere.

Finally we have the most recent, and least well known, the Chaconne-Fantasie by Witold Szalonek, born in Czechowice in 1927. Polyphonic, paying oblique homage to Bach and to Chopin, Szalonek has the power and the confidence in his technical resources to strip his drama down to deeply concentrated single notes before building up the material once again in driving rhetoric. He ends the work in powerful reflection – a work worth getting to know.

Notes are in English and Polish in separate booklets and this enterprise reflects highly on company and artists.

Jonathan Woolf

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