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CD Review

Karol Szymanowski

Complete Works for Violin & Piano

  • Sonata in D minor, Op. 9
  • Romance in D Major, Op. 23
  • Nocturne & Tarantella, Op. 28
  • Mythes, Op. 30
  • Berceuse, Op. 52
  • Three Paganini Caprices, Op. 40
Joanna Madroszkiewicz, violin
Paul Gulda, piano
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6031555-2 80m DDD
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Although Karol Szymanowski's operas, ballet and orchestral pieces enjoy a steady popularity, his compositions for small ensemble are considered to be more of a curate's egg so this generously filled CD is quite welcome. Karol owed his first musical education to his father who gave him piano lessons when he was just seven years old.

He was also lucky enough to have his first professional training at the Warsaw Academy of Music where he wrote his Sonata, Op. 9, a work documenting his artistic development and progressive technique modeled on Brahms and Franck. Mythes, Op. 30 was inspired by a trip to Sicily, and it soon became his most important piece for violin and piano. This creation revealed Szymanowski's penchant for experimentation, and the work contains a language transcending the limits of the major-minor system, while displaying great virtuosity and a wide variety of tone colours.

The transcriptions of the 3 Paganini caprices have nothing to do with the music of another composer but document Szymanowski's vigorous interest in the subject of modern violin playing. The Nocturne and Tarantella were written in the same period as Myths (1915), but are lighter in style as are the Romance and Berceuse.

Both soloists impress with their great virtuosic abilities and their wonderful sense of ensemble unveils the many sensitive nuances hidden in these works. Fine sound and an excellent essay complete a valuable addition to the Szymanowski discography.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech