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Philipp SCHARWENKA (1847-1917)
Aria, Op.51 [6:10]
Violin Sonata, Op. 110 (1900-02) [25:30]
Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 99 (pub 1896) [28:36]
Oriana Masternak (violin)
Sławomir Cierpik (piano)
rec. 2016, Concert Hall of State Secondary Music School, Krakow
ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0395 [60:18]

It’s not a bad idea to start this recital with Scharwenka’s Arie, Op.51. Its malleable salon effusiveness shows a composer with an ear for ingratiating melody and a sure absorption of Schumannesque models. The result is full of charm. Though he remains overshadowed by his better-known brother Xaver – who lived to make recordings and held prestigious positions – Philipp Scharwenka’s late-Romantic compositions are certainly not unknown.

Of the chamber music that which has achieved most investigation is for violin, which isn’t surprising as Scharwenka’s wife Marianna Stresow was a pupil of Sarasate, and she seems conjecturally to have performed Scharwenka’s music in the final decade of the nineteenth century. There are two large-scale works for violin and piano here, the Suite Op.66 and the Sonata, Op.110.

The Suite’s four movements may suggest a stylistic homage of sorts – Toccata, Ballade, Intermezzo and finally a Recitative and Tarantella - but in fact these four miniatures have been collated within the protective shell of nomenclature. They’re rather disparate affairs. The opening perpetuum mobile is cut from established cloth, whilst the composer’s songful lyricism is concentrated in the Ballade, with quietly impassioned soulfulness there too. The Intermezzo is perky and vivacious whilst Mendelssohnian deftness infuses the Tarantella, though the more soloistic paragraphs also suggest Schumann, and possibly Grieg.

The agitated high-Romanticism of the Op.110 Sonata also seems to reflect something of Scharwenka’s admiration for Grieg, as well as his appreciation of Brahms. Themes are well developed and idiomatic in themselves, the music’s turbulence and drama is strongly delineated, the first movement sustaining its material without digression or superfluous gesture. The second of the two movements divides into a classic slow movement cum Andante cum moto cum Allegretto finale. The first of these is, in effect, a quasi-recitative, then there’s a brisk central passage and a lyrical, relaxed comfortable section to end. This is music that has the confidence to end wistfully: any similarity here to a theme from Strauss’ Don Juan is presumably coincidental.

According to the booklet this is the premiere recording of the Arie, Op.51 and even though it’s only six minutes in length, it does succeed a little in rounding out Scharwenka’s stylistic affinities. I’m not sure that the fact that the other two works are heard in first-ever recordings by Polish artists matters quite so much but it’s considered significant enough to be duly noted in the booklet. Certainly, the performances are creditably sensitive. For an altogether terser and more driving approach to both large-scale works try Natalia Prishepenko and the incredibly hard-working, ever-ubiquitous Oliver Triendl on Tyxart TXA16075.

Jonathan Woolf


 

 



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