Ignacy PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Violin sonata in A minor, Op.13 (1882) [20:49]
Zygmunt STOJOWSKI (1870-1946)
Violin Sonata in G major, Op.13 (pub 1893) [21:43]
Violin Sonata in E major, Op.37 (1911) [27:23]
Piotr Pławner (violin)
Piotr Sałajczyk (piano)
rec. February 2020, Andreaskirche Berlin-Wannsee
CPO 555 324-2 [70:02]
Paderewski’s big, bold Violin Sonata might surprise those familiar with his more ingratiating piano morceaux. It’s cast on a large romantic scale, not necessarily in size but certainly in conception, with an approximate axis of Grieg and Brahms acting as influences. It was composed after exacting studies with Leschetitzky and the tragic early death of his first wife but shortly before he was to begin his career as a touring international virtuoso pianist.
The grandeur and nobility of its opening Allegro is excellently handled thematically and maybe it was this accumulation of detail, both here and in the remaining two movements, that led Brahms to suggest that it was more a ‘Concert Sonata’ than a Violin Sonata per se. There are inevitable folkloric allusions and idiomatic handling of material. As one would expect, the piano writing is complex, taxing and an equal partner in the sonata. The tenderness of the Intermezzo-Andantino central movement is amongst the most Brahmsian elements in the sonata in a movement full of intimacy and lyric warmth. Lithe and fast, the finale succeeds in formally releasing any pent-up feelings and leads triumphantly, via zigeuner brio, to its quasi-presto conclusion. I think the last time I heard the sonata was when I reviewed the Dux pairing of Konstanty Kulka and Waldemar Malicki and in neither recording was I able to overlook some rather formulaic passagework and moments of less than stellar inspiration. Still, that’s not the fault of the performers and the Pławner-Sałajczyk duo does the work proud. Pławner is one of the most consistently effective exponents of Polish violin music before the public today and Sałajczyk is fully up to the music’s keyboard demands.
The Violin Sonata has been recorded several times now and a fairly recent review on this site will give you a sense of the variety of couplings on offer (review) though no one has until now paired it with the sonatas of Paderewski’s slightly younger compatriot, Zygmunt Stojowski. The best-known of his works for violin is the 1899 Concerto (review) and as he proved there he was a late-Romantic par excellence. The earlier sonata was published in 1893 and is an example of compact charm and warmth. There’s something capriciously Schumannesque about the central Allegretto, which whilst cast in the form of a genial Mazurka exudes no real Nationalist fervour. Rather, the national elements are lightly burnished but for the B section when folklore is at its most clear, and appealing. The sturdy finale is grandly declaimed, and this leads booklet note writer Jan Brachmann to suggest it echoes Handel and prefigures Elgar. I will say that Pławner really digs into this piece, with succulent finger position changes and a strong sense of engagement.
The Second Sonata dates from 1911 and is rather different, its stylistic affinities having gravitated to Fauréan lyricism, though one still laced with Stojowski’s trademark romanticism. With dance elements in the Intermezzo and a calmly melancholic Arietta, this four-movement work ends with an Allegro finale that picks up the earlier dance themes and fully expands them whilst reprising the development theme of the first movement. This gives a sense of formal cohesion to the sonata and despite recourse to a fugato – unnecessary and formally academic – I think it’s the more successful of the sonatas.
As throughout this disc, the Polish duo believe in every note and make a fine case for all three sonatas, aided by a well-judged recording.