The Danish violinist Wandy Tworek (1913-1990) was christened Wladysław, the son of a Polish father and Ukrainian mother. Musically precocious he moved into the world of leading restaurant and so-called Gypsy orchestras and was soon an emerging ‘Stehgeiger’ – standing, whilst his fellow musicians sat. This was lucrative work and along the way he met Břrge Rosenbaum, later known as Victor Borge, with whom he performed in a musical show, and this experience seems to have engendered a spirit of fun and witty repartee in Tworek.
His musical direction turned toward the Classical repertoire in 1944 though he was to keep up the light-and-laughter serio-comic element too; he was popular in Britain but predominantly, so far as I can see, in this latter form of music well into the late 1950s. Erik Tuxen asked him to record the Wieniawski Concerto No.2 in 1946 for Polyphon. It was a bit of bad luck that Tworek should record it at almost the same time that Isaac Stern made his celebrated first recording of it in New York with Efrem Kurz. Tworek is sweetly lyrical and whilst there are perhaps vestiges of his slightly sentimental café band phrasing here and there, there’s real warmth in the central Romance. Also there’s some chuffing in the recording. The Kujawiak recording followed in the matrix sequence so he may have recorded it at the same session; at any rate it inaugurated the series of discs he was to make with the fine pianist Esther Vagning.
His most technically adventurous undertaking was Bartók’s Sonata for solo violin in 1951. It seems unlikely that he knew Menuhin’s pioneering 1947 set but he characterises with commitment and brings a vein of melancholia to the Melodia and restive unease to the Presto finale. Intonation is suspect from time to time - in the Fuga particularly - but this was a considerable achievement for the time. As for his own contemporary Danish repertoire he was probably most closely associated with the music of Riisager and one can hear the Sonata for two violins and the Sonata for violin, cello and piano, both recorded in 1953. He and Charles Senderovitz make a fine showing in the work for two violins where the interplay is avuncular and consonant, and the slow central movement is rather beautifully projected, all the better to contrast with the fancy-free finale. The ‘triple sonata’ sees Tworek joined by Vagning – her piano as recorded sounds a touch plummy – and cellist Johan Hye-Knudsen. Once again Riisager has the knack of laying out everything perfectly and the vibrancy of the opening is matched by the gorgeous lied of a slow movement. Riisager wrote a Concerto for Tworek which the violinist performed under the batons of, firstly, Nicolai Malko and then Mogens Wöldike. No commercial recording was made but it would be good to think that Danish Radio holds one of these – or other – archive performances in its vaults.
The second disc kicks off with a 1947 Franck Sonata revealing a medium speed vibrato and plenty of slides. I sense a variance between the two players, Tworek pushing ahead impulsively, Vagning holding back when she plays solo. There seems also to be a Heifetz influence in the direction of the music-making. There’s a very obvious side join at 4:27 in the first movement and the performance is rather unrelieved and not always very imaginative. Much better, if more conventional, is the Devil’s Trill recording which seems to have been recorded at the same session. It’s a straightforward, winning reading though lacking Campoli’s singing lyricism in his 1954 LP. The remainder of the twofer is a mixed affair – showpieces, potpourris, light material. He has the temperament for Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, takes in the popular repertoire in Gade’s evergreen Jalousie tango but isn’t metrically elastic enough in Hubay’s Hejre Kati. The same composer’s Hullámzó Balaton also reveals a few limitations; compared with Ibolyka Zilzer’s 1928 Polydor, which is much more glamorously voiced and intense, Tworek can sound undernourished. It’s good to hear him in Ole Bull’s Herdgirl's Sunday, which is full of sentiment, and in the sequence by Fini Henriques, who had been dead for seven years by the time Tworek recorded this trio of character pieces. The Devil’s Dance is a compound of Sarasate and Hubay with harmonics and plenty of left-hand pizzicati, whilst the Lullaby shows the more romantic side of Henriques – who made numerous recordings of his own music. Indeed, he was accompanied on disc on a few occasions by none other than Tworek’s old pal, Břrge Rosenbaum. It’s nice to hear Tworek’s own charming Capricietto and his arrangement of that bizarre Variety Stage staple, Poliakin’s outrageous Le Canari. The twofer ends with another example of avian tomfoolery, Kai Mortensen’s Cock-a-doodle dandy or, as the track listing has it, Cock’s Doodle-Dandy, which sounds altogether less congenial.
Claus Byrith has written the affectionate and interesting biographical notes and has provided his own copies for transfer. Some are in better estate than others and, as noted, there are one or two side-change imprecisions, but in the main the transfers hit a good standard. Tworek’s Polyphons have always been on the periphery of interest but I’m not aware of many, or any, previous restorations. This alone makes this twofer so valuable and refreshing.
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