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Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)
Recitativo e arioso (1951) [3:16]
Subito (1992) [4:44]
Partita (1984) [15:22]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Myths, Op.30 (1915) [18:36]
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854–1928)
Violin Sonata (1914-15) [15:01]
Ariadne Daskalakis (violin)
Miri Yampolsky (piano)
rec. Studio 10, Deutschlandradio, Berlin, 12-15 May 2003
NAXOS 8.570987 [57:36]
Experience Classicsonline

With Lutosławski’s complete works for violin and piano amounting to less than half the music on this disc this amounts to more of a recital CD than any kind of composer-representative release. It might have made more sense to add the Lutosławski recordings to a collection of his other chamber works, but as it is we can add this to the other Naxos discs in their comprehensive Lutosławski edition and keep the library nice and tidy. There is of course a severe lack of chamber pieces in Lutosławski’s catalogue of works, though I don’t see the String Quartet or much in the way of his piano solo pieces on the Naxos website. If you can view Szymanowski’s Myths and the Janacek Violin Sonata as tasty fillers then this is an easy choice to add to your bargain shopping basket. An almost identical programme appeared on the Harmonia Mundi label in 2003 with Isabelle Faust and Ewa Kupiec, this time with the Janacek as star billing and with only the Partita adding weight to the Szymanowski. I don’t have this for reference and suspect it might have been deleted from the general catalogue, but it only goes to show how marketing decisions can affect the appearance of a similar programme, and no doubt where it appears on the shelves in your local shop.    
A co-production of Deutschlandradio Kultur and Görne Akustik, these recordings are of a very high standard. The piano is a fraction too low in the mix when compared to the violin in my view, but both instruments have plenty of depth and resonance and this is little more than an observation, and only really creeps in as an issue during the impressionistic mystique of the three Myths. Lutosławski’s Partita is the better known of his works out of this programme, although is now more commonly found in the later version with orchestra commissioned by Anne-Sophie Mutter. It is given a strong performance here, with the dialogue between the instruments conjoining and drifting apart in emphatic style. It would have been nice to have had cue points between the different sections for study purposes but this is another minor quibble. Ariadne Daskalakis packs plenty of emotion into the playing, both latent and more overtly exposed, and Miri Yampolsky’s strong contribution ensures that this is more like a double solo than violin with accompaniment, which is the way it should be.
Lutosławski’s other two works here start with the earlier Recitativo e arioso, which precedes the composer’s move into the ‘controlled aleatoric’ techniques of his more famous scores, and is described in Ariadne Daskalakis’ booklet notes as ‘a melancholic, masterful miniature.’ This again is expressed with full character by both players, and the result is a work greater than the sum of its relatively brief duration. Subito was one of Lutosławski’s last compositions, and is another compressed and intense musical experience. The explosive material really allows both players to display their admirable technique, and bearing in mind the late date of this work I was reminded of that Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
Szymanowski’s Myths is something of a staple of the violin/piano repertoire, and there is some stiff competition around if this is the work which attracts you to this disc. I suspect there are few who will be disappointed in this performance, which to my ears treads that fine line between hauling maximum expression from the music and mauling it with excessive rhythmic pushing and pulling. As previously mentioned, the equality between violin and piano favours the former by a small margin, but great enough here for me to miss the sense of integration I feel is sometimes needed here, where for instance a melodic lead or answer in the piano has lesser stature to the same statement from the violin. There is plenty of colour and contrast here, and I warm to the polish in the playing and dynamic drama and tensions between passion and restraint, songful lyricism, playfulness and fervour.
The Violin Sonata by Leos Janáček is one of my favourites in this medium, and not without its star proponents out on CD. Ariadne Daskalakis clearly understands and has thought carefully about Janacek’s style. It comes out not only in her playing, but is also referred to at some length in her booklet notes. “Speech melody”, reflecting the expressive potential, the rhythms and intonation of the Czech language as he heard it spoken around him, became an important element in his approach to instrumental writing as well as in the operas. This is not to say that the Violin Sonata is not without its lyrical melodies, and the second movement has the name Ballada, inviting a song-like interpretation which both players bring off very well here, once again not over-egging a pudding which can become stodgy if allowed to fester in sentimental wallowing. From pub scene to ardent aria, this is a fine performance throughout, and one which exemplifies Janáček’s quirky but compelling idiom to the full.     
At bargain price this is not a recital to be missed, and Naxos Lutosławski completists should certainly not go without. If you already have your Szymanowski/Janáček favourites then you might not feel this to be an essential purchase. While seasoned collectors may expect merely to be pleasantly surprised, newcomers need fear no lack in quality, either in performance or production, and can count on having struck chamber-music gold.                         
Dominy Clements                                       


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