Dancer on a Tightrope
Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)
Sonata No. 2 for Violin Solo (1958) [12:34]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Sonata for solo violin, Op.31 No.2 (1924) [12:18]
Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b.1931)
Dancer on a Tightrope (1993-94) [15:31]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for solo violin in D major, Op.115 (1947) [14:28]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Fuga for solo violin (1953) [5:25]
John CAGE (1912-1992)
Six Melodies (1950) [13:11]
Bartosz Woroch (violin)
Mei Yi Foo (piano: Cage, Gubaidulina)
rec. July-August 2015, Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK

This is my third review of Bacewicz’s colourful and abrasive solo sonata No.2. Joanna Kurkowicz’s. excellent all-Bacewicz recording on Chandos easily outclasses Renate Eggebrecht’s frantic take on Troubadisc, but here comes Polish violinist Bartosz Woroch to complicate things.

Champs Hill has developed a knack of programming challenging solo violin discs. Fenella Humphreys’ recent disc called ‘Bach to the Future’ – corny title, good repertoire – is a case in point [CHRCD102] and now here is Woroch is a largely all-solo fiddle disc that covers repertoire from Bacewicz to cage via Hindemith, Prokofiev et al.

Bacewicz’s Sonata No.2 explores intervallic writing with considerable conviction and intensity and the intensities of its slow movement – quite reserved and measured with sustained notes and a degree of stasis – are powerfully conveyed in this reading. The fizzing bowing in the brisk finale leads to the inevitable closure of the three pizzicati with which the sonata ends. Hindemith’s Sonata is a far better-known proposition and Woroch is especially successful at catching its wandering, drifting self. Its dedicatee, Walter Caspar, the second violinist of the Amar Quartet - in which group Hindemith played – must have been a good pizzicatist as the second movement is bedecked with the device. The simplicity with which the Mozart theme in the finale is presented – it leads on to five variations – is both charming and touching.

The piece that lends its name to the album title is Sofia Gubaidulina’s. This quarter-hour piece invites a pianist to strike the piano strings with a glass, thereby producing a placid base for the self-consciously cavorting violin. In time the violin turns more introspective whilst the piano is more baleful and austere, the fiddle still inclined to embark on ever more frivolous fancies of flight. The Prokofiev and the Hindemith are essentially repertoire pieces by now. Bartosz once again reveals qualities of grace in the central movement of the Prokofiev and so these delicate and reserved elements make the finale’s resinous brio that much more marked, that much more conjunctive.

Schnittke’s Fuga for solo violin is an early work, written when he was 19. The influence is clearly Shostakovich but there is an agency of urgency that forecasts the developing composer. To follow this rather crabbed individualism with John Cage’s Six Melodies is to go from one kind of extreme to another. Woroch plays with requisite lightness of bowing and vibrato suppression and pianist Mei Yi Foo joins him to explore the positive simplicities of the music.

Fine notes and sound quality ensure the added success of this project. An idiosyncratic selection for sure – indeed something of a concert recital programme for the adventurous listener - but the performances are stylistically apt and technically imposing.

Jonathan Woolf

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