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CÚsar FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A major (1886) [28:44]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Mythes, Op. 30 (1915) [19:46]
King Roger: Roxanna's Song, Op.46 (1926) arr. Pawel Kochański [5:01]
12 Kurpian Songs, Op.58, No.9 Zarzje, kuniu (c.1930-32) arr. Pawel Kochański [4:13]
Kaja Danczowski (violin)
Krystian Zimerman (piano)
rec. July 1980, Herkules-Saal, Munich
Presto CD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 431469-2 [58:15]

This 40-year-old recording has retained a prominent place in the critical hierarchy and Presto’s digital remastering might bring it even greater prominence for a new generation. It’s a recording I’ve often read about but have never heard until opportunity presented itself.

Both Kaja Danczowska and Krystian Zimerman were in their 20s when they made this Franck-Szymanowski coupling and their youthful warmth and technical ease are prominent features throughout. At first, I was worried about her slightly fluty vibrato in the upper register but I soon acclimatised to her tone production as well as to Zimerman’s sensitive but robust pianism. It’s the pianist who bears as much of the burden in the Franck, if not more than the violinist, and he is a redoubtable presence. She resists the lure of smearing her tone at the start of the second movement Allegro, a fault of even the best players, and trusts to her lyric instincts in this well-balanced and assured reading. This is especially the case in the exceptional introspection of the Recitativo-Fantasia where there is some remarkably deft and soft playing and I think the performance is at its very best here. In the finale the ease with which both players negotiate the musical conduit between lyricism and passionate drama is pronounced too. So, I can readily hear why this has long been a recommended version of the Franck though Chung-Lupu, Perlman-Ashkenazy, and Dumay-Pires loom large in the (fairly) recent discography

What could tip the balance is Szymanowski. Danczowska was a pupil of Eugenia Umińska, one of the heroes of the composer’s discography, whose 78rpm recording of the First Concerto with Fitelberg and the Philharmonia has seen CD reissues – she also recorded both concertos with him in Warsaw on Muza. Danczowska has also recorded both concertos on Polygram with Kazimierz Kord. Mythes is the major work, and it receives a beautiful, shimmering reading, though I’m still puzzling whether there’s an audible edit at 2:10 in La Fontaine d’Arethuse. Both players sound wholly inside the sinuously evocative landscape, with a high quotient of atmosphere and virtuosity to be heard throughout. The languorous eroticism of Narcisse is no less admirable and so too the capricious wit and almost aqueous limpidity of this reading of Dryades et Pan. The two pieces arranged by Pawel Kochański – if only he had lived beyond 47 to record some of this music himself – are Roxanna's Song, again highly accomplished, and the charming Kurpish song from the set of twelve, which is less often encountered and offers simpler pleasures and a pure-toned envoi.

So, yes, this is a disc that lives up to its reputation and I’m more than glad to have caught up with it at long last.

Jonathan Woolf

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