The Polish Violin (CD)

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Jennifer Pike, Petr Limonov

The acclaimed violinist Jennifer Pike returns to Chandos to explore her heritage through the repertoire of a group of composers fundamental to the history of Polish music for the violin.

From Janiewicz in the late eighteenth century right through to Bacewicz in the middle of the twentieth, Poland produced a number of composer-violinists well known across Europe. All of them were talented musicians as well as composers, their compositions technically demanding. Jennifer Pike here plays music by Karłowicz, Szymanowski, Wieniawski, and Moszkowski with complete control and deep feeling, sympathetically accompanied by Petr Limonov, winner of the Nikolai Rubinstein International Piano Competition.

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Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937):

  • Mythes, Op. 30
  • Romance, Op. 23
  • Nocturne and Tarantella, Op. 28
  • Chant de Roxane from Król Roger, Op. 46 (arr. Paweł Kochański)

 Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925):

  • Guitarre, Op. 45 No. 2 (arr. Pablo de Sarasate)

 Mieczysław Karłowicz (1876-1909):

  • Impromptu

 Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880):

  • Polonaise de concert, Op. 4
  • Légende, Op. 17

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Polish fiddle music in passionate performances.



The English violinist Jennifer Pike, a regular Chandos artist, and the Russian/British pianist Petr Limonov have assembled a recital of mid-19th to early 20th century works by Polish composers. Two were written by a great virtuoso violinist, Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) - the Légend Op. 17 and the Polonaise de Concert, Op. 4. The works by Moritz Moszkowski and Mieczysław Karłowicz were written for other performers, most of whom were also Polish. They are high quality concert pieces, designed to show off the violin's heart-tugging qualities as much as the performer's technical prowess. Wieniawski's Légend feels like a guilty indulgence, while the delightful genre piece Guitarre, Op. 45 No. 2 (1887) was adapted for violin and piano from Moszkowski's solo piano original by another virtuoso of the day, Pablo de Sarasate. These works require the performers to throw caution to the winds, and dispatch the music with flair. Pike does this with taste (and particularly well in Wieniawski's Polonaise), but there's no denying it's an approach that came more naturally to fiddlers of the past such as Fritz Kreisler.

The bulk of Pike's recital is given to the music of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937), a composer who is well known these days for his two Violin Concertos. His violin works were composed for his friend Pawel Kochański. The most substantial is Mythes, Op. 30, in three movements that depict scenes from Ancient Greek mythology. (The second movement, for instance, is titled Narcissus.) Though technically challenging, this is a serious composition with no suggestion of the salon showcase about it. Szymanowski's mesmerising exotic harmonies and sinuous lines are close to those of his First Violin Concerto, written around the same time. The work casts a Scheherazade-like spell.

I first got to know Mythes in a DG recording by Kaja Danczowska and the great Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman. Their performance, four minutes faster than Pike's, is ethereal and otherworldly. Pike and Limonov take a different view: they play these pieces more passionately, emphasising the music's Polish folk roots. Both approaches are effective. Pike's program also includes Szymanowski's lovely Romance Op. 23, and the captivating arrangement of Roxana's aria from his opera King Roger. 4.5 STARS