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Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)
Violin Sonata No. 3 (1947) [15:35]
Violin Sonata No. 4 (1949) [17:36]
Violin Sonata No. 5 (1951) [11:51]
Song for violin and piano (1927) [1:36]
Legend for violin and piano (1945) [4:07]
Piano Sonata No. 1 (1949) [15:51]
Jaga Klimaszewska (violin)
Mateusz Rettner (piano)
rec. 2019, Concert Hall of the Oskar Kolberg Świętokrzyska Philharmonic, Kielce, Poland
DUX 1561 [66:46]

The increasing number of recordings of Bacewicz’s violin sonatas points to one conclusion; there is a healthy interpretative divergence amongst musicians. The divergence is not simply related to tempo or to expressive depth or breadth but rather to all these issues. No consensus has yet emerged, and certainly no formulaic way to play them, and this means that the sonatas harbour an individuality and a latitude. And nor should there be a consensus; these are rugged, powerful pieces that draw from players – violinists and pianists alike – welcome slants.

And here is a perfect example of such novelty. The young duo of Jaga Klimaszewska and Mateusz Rettner offer scorching hot readings predicated on linear directness, playing that cuts to the bone. Though they don’t offer the complete sonatas, they do play Nos 3, 4 and 5 and give première recordings to two small pieces as yet unpublished and still in manuscript. To make things more complicated for the prospective purchaser Rettner performs the First Piano Sonata.

These three violin sonatas were written between 1947 and 1951. This duo’s finale of No.3 is especially striking, and their ultra-brisk view of its Andante instruction is at variance with pretty much all other recordings. Yet elsewhere the music’s energy, notably the zany Scherzo March, offers a harlequinade of pleasures. The Fourth Sonata is also in four movements and accomplished con passione. I liked Rettner’s rolled chords in the slow movement and even though Klimaszewska is fast she isn’t, remarkably, as fast as Joanna Kurkowicz, with Gloria Chein, on Chandos who give a dazzling, firefly reading. Elsewhere the Chandos team’s tempos are much more sedate.

The greater overall vitesse of the Dux performances, a scherzo apart, does rather change the character of the music. That’s the case in the Fifth where there’s a brittle, agitated quality to this reading far removed from the Chandos, though the Nocturne is well conveyed, and I like the way this duo eases into the B section of the finale.

It’s very unusual to find the First Piano Sonata, as the Second is the one that has garnered most recordings and recitals. It’s an unusually voluble piece from 1949, sharing something of the extroversion of her competition-oriented Piano Competition. Fresh, whimsical, toccata-like with a clear Oberek, it’s worth anyone’s time listening to this lithe reading.

Back to the violin, and the Legend – any Polish work called Legend is referencing Wieniawski – is a sweet morceau and the Song, written when she was a teenager, is lullaby-like and likeable.

Time for a summing-up. This is a cleverly selected programme with the sonata sitting well, in terms of chronology. It does however make direct comparison tricky. The Chandos disc [CHAN10250] houses sonatas 4 and 5 with the second solo violin sonata and other violin pieces. Other couplings are available, but I’ve not yet mentioned the ace in the pack, which is the complete violin works played by the team of Piotr Pławner and Ewa Kupiec for SWR back in 2002-03. Pławner’s tonal variegation, his superior technique and his tempi seem to me to be ideal for this repertoire – which can be edgy but not of the awkward school – and Kupiec is a perfect sonata partner. If you want the repertoire in one fell swoop head for SWR 93117 and you won’t regret it. For a youthful, invigorating look at part of the corpus of violin works, this Dux release offers pleasures of its own.

Jonathan Woolf

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