Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
(1925, 1932) [18:09]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Légende, Op.17 (1860) [7:10]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Rhapsody No.1, Sz.86 (1928) [10:33]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
– Three Poems for violin and piano, Op.30 (1921) [20:48]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Jiyoon Lee (violin), Henry Kramer (piano)
rec. 25-27 July 2017, Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex. DDD.
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD141
This very enjoyable album represents my first encounter with Jiyoon Lee,
winner of multiple awards, but I trust that it won’t be my last. She has
recently recorded the Korngold and Nielsen Violin Concertos for Orchid
Classics (ORC100079) and I intend to listen to that as soon as possible. If
the solo playing is as good as here, it should be worth a clear
Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a ‘ballet with song’ signalled a change of
style, often dubbed neo-classical. The music is based on the eighteenth
century – all by Pergolesi, as Stravinsky thought, though later research
has removed that composer’s name from most of the works attributed to him.
Two offshoots came from the complete ballet: an orchestral suite, more
often performed than the original, and Suite Italienne for violin
and piano. The original complete work has recently been reissued as part of
a 2-CD budget-price set from Decca Eloquence entitled Ernest Ansermet and the Ballets Russes (4824989 – review pending).
That’s not quite my ideal recording, but the set is very welcome for
Ansermet’s recordings of Ravel (Daphnis et Chloé and La Valse) and Debussy (L’après-midi d’un faune and Jeux).
If you can find a copy of Yakov Kreizberg’s recording of Firebird, Petrushka, Rite of Spring and Pulcinella, my Recording
of the Month in August 2011, sadly deleted in all formats, go for it (OPMC001,
3 CDs, originally at super-budget price). Amazon UK are showing two used
copies as I write. For the Suite, Bernstein’s classic recording comes in
various couplings, all download only: probably the best recommendation is
for the version with the 1947 Petrushka (Sony 82876787492, available
in mp3 and lossless). 7digital.com offer the original coupling with the Concerto for piano and wind instruments for as little as £6.32 (mp3)
or £7.12 (lossless).
With so many available orchestral recordings, can a work mainly designed
for domestic performance in an age when recorded music was much less
readily available still appeal now? When well performed, the answer is yes.
Such a performance is available on Chandos with Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)
and Julian Milford (piano), an all-Stravinsky affair including the Divertimento and Duo Concertant (CHAN9756 [70:44]). Though it
might be more competitive now at mid-price, as several other Mordkovitch
recordings are1, it still merits Lewis Foreman’s 5-star
from 2000. Chandos’s only concession to its age is to charge £11.99, £2 less than
usual, for the 24-bit download with pdf booklet from
to which I listened.
A more recent release on (very good) SACD and 24-bit download comes from
BIS: the Violin Concerto, from Ilya Gringolts (violin), Orquesta Sinfónica
de Galicia and Dima Slobodeniouk, and with Peter Laul (piano) in the Suite italienne and Divertimento, etc. (BIS-SACD-2275 [76:24]
– reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from
eclassical.com). If I prefer these to the new Champs Hill, it’s mainly for the inclusion,
on both, of the Divertimento, another ballet spin-off, this time
from The Fairy’s Kiss.
There is marginally more variety in the BIS recording than the Champs Hill
and a little more energy in the Chandos than both, but that’s a very
subjective view and I could be very happy with any of these recordings.
Wieniawski’s Légende (1860) is the odd one out in a programme of
twentieth-century music but, in this performance, it fully justifies its
presence. The Bartók also receives a fine performance, but fans of the
composer’s violin works may well be tempted by the budget-price
Harmonia Mundi Gold twofer on which Isabelle Faust performs both rhapsodies
and his Violin Sonatas (HMG598334/5, effectively two-for-one).
Considerations of coupling again incline me to prefer a rival recording of Mythes: on mid-price DG Originals 4775903 it’s coupled with a very
fine account of the Franck Violin Sonata in award-winning performances by
Kaja Danczowska (violin, later to become something of a Szymanowski
review) and Kristian Zimerman (piano)2. On Champs Hill, pianist Henry Kramer
provides a sparkling account of the flow of water in the first of the Mythes, the Fountain of Arethusa, over which Lee’s violin soars
In the other two Mythes, too, both of which are allowed a little
more time to develop than on DG, Szymanowski’s sensuous mood-painting is
well captured. Just one mark deducted from whoever was responsible for the
typo on the CD insert and the slip-case: Trois poèmes turned into Trios poèmes!
I missed the recent Alpha recording Deux on which Patricia
and Polina Leschenko (piano) include Ravel’s Tzigane (Alpha387 –
review). Faute de mieux, I had to catch up via a press preview in the
usual unsatisfactory low-bit-rate which Outhere seem to think adequate for
reviewers. Though used to the more immediately appealing orchestral version
of this work, I enjoyed both these recordings, each rounding off a very
At least I didn’t have to tolerate mp3 at 192kbs for the Champs Hill
the quality of which has contributed to my overall enjoyment. If the
couplings appeal, this is well worth your attention. Now I must listen to
Jiyoon Lee in those two concertos.
The CD is on sale for £2.50 direct from Chandos as I write, suggesting an
imminent deletion – and reissue?
2 Rivalling my favourites in the Franck, including Kyung-Wha Chung and Radu
Lupu on mid-price Decca (4211542).