The programme here nearly duplicates one on Naxos by violinist Ariadne
Daskalakis and pianist Miri Yampolsky that Dominy Clements reviewed
for this website. I have not heard that recording, but the reissue of this
one, originally from 2003, on Harmonia Mundi’s budget Musique
series is most welcome.
The Janáček Sonata has received a large number of recordings
and is now an established part of the violin/piano repertoire. Isabelle
Faust and Ewa Kupiec play the work with real passion and commitment.
Yet they display well the tenderness of the second movement, Ballada
and the introspective parts of the final Adagio
. I compared their
interpretation with several others in my collection and they come up
very well in the comparison. Among those are the ones by Saschko Gawriloff/Gilead
Mishory (Tudor) and Pierre Amoyal/Mikhaïl Rudy (EMI). I have always
thought the live recording by the Janáček authorities, Josef
Suk and Rudolf Firkušný (Supraphon) was the best of the
lot. However, in comparing it to the others I no longer find it so.
Their recording itself leaves something to be desired, taken as it is
from a concert, with the important piano part often submerged and unclear.
Furthermore, while their generally faster tempos add to the excitement
of the performance, they miss out on the poetry that is in the work.
More damaging, they either fail to take the first movement repeat or
make cuts in the movement. Their timing for that Con moto
is 3:21 vs. Faust/Kupiec (5:11), Gawriloff/Mishory (5:08), and Amoyal/Rudy
(5:45). The sonata is short enough without leaving out anything. I have
no trouble now placing Faust/Kupiec at or near the top of my favorites.
The only slight cavil is that the piano theme at the beginning of the
third movement Allegretto
is not detached enough; other recordings
make it sound almost staccato.
I have no reservations, whatsoever, about the Szymanowski
. How wonderfully evocative they are! Szymanowski composed them
around the same time as his piano works, Masques
, but I find them much more approachable than the solo
piano pieces. The influences of Scriabin and especially Ravel are apparent
in all three Mythes
and the writing for violin and piano is masterly,
the former at the same level as that of the concertos. The first Myth, La
is rhythmic and quite virtuosic, The
duo give a stunning performance of real clarity, without short-changing the
impressionism. The second Myth, Narcisse
, is reminiscent of a
Ravelian habanera and is haunting in its beauty before building to quite a
climax and then becoming wistful. The third Myth, Dryades et Pan
the other hand, shows the more humorous side of the composer. It also puts
the violinist through her paces with its insect-like buzzing, trills, and
bowing. Faust and Kupiec give the full measure of this
music and theirs is a performance to treasure.
The Lutosławski selections are particularly appropriate, this
being the composer’s centenary. I knew the Partita
in its version with orchestra that Lutosławski made for Anne-Sophie
Mutter. The original version for violin and piano presented here is in no
way inferior to the later scoring. It sounds merely like a different work.
One can appreciate the intricacy of the piano part and jewel-like character
of the piece when only two instruments are playing. At any rate it is most
enjoyable, with its allusions to baroque models (hence its title), but it is
typical of the composer’s late period including the great Third
Symphony. The Partita consists of three main movements, Allegro
, and Presto
, interspersed with two short
” sections employing the composer’s
famous aleatoric method. A greater surprise for me still was the short
that Lutosławski composed near the end of his life. A
real gem, it has much packed into its barely five minutes. Subito
lively and rhythmic sections contrasting with more lyrical ones. It includes
a “false ending” and then stops with a bang. Lutosławski
had a sense of humor to the end of his productive life! It is to be hoped
that this short work takes its place regularly in the concert hall.
Lutosławski deserves as much attention as the other centenary
celebrants this year, and the recording industry with its Chandos series and
Salonen’s efforts on Sony appears to be doing him justice. Faust and
Kupiec in this reissue are doing their part, too. The recorded balance here,
as throughout the programme, leaves nothing to be desired.
Harmonia Mundi has enclosed the disc in a cardboard foldout, and the
CD itself is made to look like an LP with a black surface and visible
lines for the tracks on the top side. There are brief notes on the works
and a direction to the company’s website for more detailed information
on the programme. I checked the website but did not find any such information.
This is a shame, because the notes with the CD do not even mention the
Never mind. The disc itself is worth every penny.