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Jonathan Woolf
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Jonathan Woolf
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Irène Regina WIENIAWSKA (POLDOWSKI) (1879- 1932)
Violin Sonata in D minor (1912) [20:55]
Mathilde WANTENAAR (b.1993)
Sprookjes: Musical Tales for violin and piano (2014) [7:51]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A major (1886) [28.09]
Merel Vercammen (violin)
Dina Ivanova (piano)
rec. 2019, Azazello Classical Music Recording

After so many years of neglect here’s another recording of the Violin Sonata by ‘Poldowski’, or Irene Regina Wieniawska, daughter of the great virtuoso Wieniawski, whose death caused the child and her English mother to move to London. You may have come across the recording of Clare Howick and Sophia Rahman on Naxos 8.572291 in a disc called ‘British Women Composers’. There’s little difference in tempi or approach between the two pairings. Merel Vercammen and Dina Ivanova are especially perceptive rhythmically, drawing out the overtly Franco-Belgian languido elements of the first movement most persuasively. The way they allow the flux and pull of the music to work is a winning element of their performance, and so too is the firm footed central Scherzo with crisp pianism and the clear-cut Romanticism embedded in the B section. The Franck-derived drama of the finale’s opening is followed by some vehemence, astutely calibrated by this pairing.

Mathilde Wantenaar was born in Amsterdam in 1993 and her three brief ‘Musical Tales for Violin and Piano’ are called Sprookjes or ‘Fairytales’. They are of increasing length – albeit all three are brief – and very approachable and appealing little narratives. The opening tale might almost be a cousin of the opening of Poldowski’s Sonata so laid-back is it, whilst the second is again purely tonal and slow. Whereas there’s almost a sense of Straussian burgeoning (as in the opening of the Violin Sonata) to start the final panel with subsequent breezy and atmospheric writing to follow – there is an implied castle-lake-forest narrative.

Adding the Franck Sonata may well indicate where Poldowski took an element of her inspiration but I’m not sure how well it will sit looking at the commercial viability of this disc. Perhaps adding Vierne’s Sonata, say, or even the Lekeu might have been better – or even one of the many Dutch sonatas that other labels have so expertly excavated. In fact, they give the Franck a sensitive, thoughtful reading; there are a few inelegant passages along the way and toward the end but there is a sense of passion running throughout, which is compensation enough.

This is not in direct competition with the Naxos disc as only the Poldowski is common to both and the Naxos has a more specific agenda. This disc is more reflective of a concert recital. It’s been well recorded and annotated.

Jonathan Woolf

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