On the evidence
of this disc Kaler is one of the most distinguished of Szymanowski
players. His technique is cast iron, his tonal purity remains
intact even in the most vertiginous demands made upon it, and
he has a sure and cogent view of the manifold architectural
difficulties facing the intrepid interpreter. The concertos
make very different – but equally complex – demands on the player
as they do indeed of the conductor. Fortunately Kaler has Antoni
Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic alongside. Together a compelling
case is made for the concertos, one that easily surmounts questions
of price bracket. This is first and foremost a formidably well-played
and interpreted brace of performances. The fact that it comes
at Naxos’s price makes it only that much more desirable.
In the First Concerto
we can note straight away his well focused but yet still silken
tone. He avoids tonal exaggeration and disparities between the
G and the upper strings in those treacherous high wire acts
that Szymanowski calls for. His view is very slightly slower
than some – Danczowska/Kord most obviously – but never sounds
remotely drawn out. In fact articulation is one of the best
features of the recording. So too is the recorded balance, where
flute and clarinet are prominent without being unnaturally spotlit.
The powerful orchestral argument – the wind chatter, the brass
fanfares, the horn calls, the percussive drama – are all assuredly
potent in the mixing brew.
attends to the Second Concerto. Tension is powerfully screwed
up through sheerly musical means. The blistering bowing demands
are met with accomplishment whilst orchestrally the defiant
blasts are corralled by Wit with surety. The horns, once again,
perform heroically but there’s also lissom and elegant playing
to balance the more boisterous passages. In a performance as
good as this one the natural heroism and drama of the writing
emerges in waves.
There’s an interesting
novelty in the shape of the Fitelberg orchestration of the familiar
Nocturne and Tarantella. Fitelberg was of course a great champion
of the composer but his work borders at points on the generic
and even at one or two points worryingly close to a kind of
That’s a small matter.
This release now jumps to the head of the front-runner stakes
alongside the Danczowska performances. Older traversals will
obviously include Uminska and Oistrakh in No.1, and Wilkomirska
in both concertos. But for those who want excellent sound, intelligently
argued performances and instrumental finesse then this is a
handsome bargain – at whatever price bracket.