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The Polish Violin - Volume 2
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Violin Sonata in D minor Op. 9 (1904) [23:47]
La Berceuse d´Aitacho Enia: Lullaby Op.52 (1925) [45:34]
Three Caprices by Paganini Op.40 (1918); No.20 [3:40]; No.21 [3:08]; No.24 [9:38]
POLDOWSKI (1879-1932)
Violin Sonata (c.1912) [23:45]
Tango (1923) [3:07]
Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)
Polish Caprice (1949) [2:47]
Jennifer Pike (violin)
Petr Limonov (piano)
rec. March 2021, Potton Hall, Dunwich, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20189 [75:29]

The first volume in this series (review) included music by Szymanowski, Karłowicz, Moszkowski and Wieniawski and was largely focused on mid-sized elements from the Polish violin repertory. The main work there was Szymanowski’s Mythes, so if you want to get to grips with the Pike-Limonov take on the composer you’ll find it is split between these volumes.

This is certainly one way to deal with the dilemma of avoiding an all-Szymanowski disc. Mythes and the Nocturne and Tarantella are certainly his greatest works for the medium, but this latest disc includes the Sonata and adds works by Poldowski and a small piece by Bacewicz to widen the national scope. Pike and Limonov take a relatively expansive view of Szymanowski’s Sonata, savouring its opportunities to contrast its agitato and patetico elements, and employing relatively elastic phraseology, not least in the dolcissimo part of the first movement. Their expression in the slow movement is precisely calibrated, their ensemble now well established, and they are resolute and rhythmically vital in the finale. The subtly bowed La Berceuse d´Aitacho Enia is spun out to its limit. The three Paganini Caprice transcriptions are dextrously dispatched. Pike has a tremendously fluent technique but also has an ability to characterise that’s most attractive, something that’s obviously necessary in No.24.

If you want all-Szymanowski recordings there’s a fair choice. Joanna Mądroszkiewicz and Paul Gulda are on MDG (review) but a preferable disc is on Hyperion, played by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (review). Both are significantly faster in the Sonata than Pike and Limonov. Canny programming means that you may not need to decide in this way given the approach taken by Chandos.

Poldowski was the name taken by Irène Régine Wieniawska, daughter of the virtuoso violinist and composer Henryk Wieniawski. On marriage she was also known as Lady Irène Dean Paul. Her sonata has been revived on disc in recent years, notably by Clare Howick and Sophia Rahman on Naxos (review) and Merel Vercammen and Dina Ivanova on the Gutman label (review). Needless to say, both pairings are faster than the more leisurely Pike-Limonov team, if tempi are the thing for you. One thing I would say is that a rather faster tempo does tend to mitigate some of Poldowski’s more prosaic passagework. Nevertheless, the Chandos duo highlights the languorous late Romanticism of the writing and Pike is a particularly lyrical player of the sonata, sliding into its more Maestoso passages with vigour. It’s quite hard to negotiate the mood and tempo changes of the slow movement and her solution is not to press too hard, allowing transitions to glide rather than force the issue. The finale is quite nakedly Franckian thematically and here the Pike-Limonov approach – which I’d call engaged but watchful – bears fruit. Poldowski’s little Tango is a nice find and was dedicated to one of the heroes of the Polish violin school, Pavel Kochański. The final piece to consider is Bacewicz’s equally small-scale Polish Caprice, composed in 1949 for solo violin. With its slow introduction and sprightly but technically demanding second section it conforms to well-known practice.

There are fine notes to the disc and an excellent Potton Hall recording, expertly judged as to balance and acoustic. There’s plenty more Polish material available of course, should this series continue, and if so, it will be interesting to see how it’s programmed and if she challenges the recordings of that outstanding exponent of the current Polish school, Piotr Pławner.

Jonathan Woolf

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