Szymanowski – Complete Violin and Piano Works/Sławomir Tomasik & Robert Morawski

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Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op.9
Myths, Op.30
Lullaby ‘La Berceuse d’Aïtacho Enia’, Op.52
Prelude in B minor, Op.1/1 [arr. Grazyna Bacewicz]
King Roger – Roxana’s Song [arr. Paweł Kochański]
Harnasie – Dance [arr. Kochański]
Romance in D, Op.23
Three Paganini Caprices, Op.40
The Dawn
Wild Dance
Kurpi Song ‘Zarzyjze, kuniu’ [arr. Kochański]
Kurpi Song ‘U jezioreczka’ [arr. Sławomir Tomasik & Robert Morawski]
Nocturne and Tarantella, Op.28

Sławomir Tomasik (violin) & Robert Morawski (piano)

Recorded 2008 & 2009 at the UMFC Concert Hall, Warsaw

Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

Reviewed: August 2010
CD No: FFV Records
FFV 01 (2 CDs)
Duration: 1 hour 59 minutes

This two-CD set sheds light on the working relationship between composer Karol Szymanowski and his close friend, violinist Paul Kochanski. Kochanski (referred to in this set by his birth name, Paweł Kochański) closely assisted in the creation of Szymanowski’s greatest works for the violin, as well as a number of miniatures and rarities which appear here.

FFV’s first release is a much more exhaustive examination of the Polish composer’s music for the violin than previous sets but in the more established works it faces stiff competition from Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghien on Hyperion, among others.

Sławomir Tomasik is at his best in the more famous and substantial works, such as the Opus 9 Sonata and the later Myths. The first of the Myths, ‘Arethusa’s Fountain’, demonstrates this duo’s understanding of the music’s theatricality, but the broad tempos adopted in the later movements don’t help their case. Here, as in most of the items, it is Robert Morawski who demonstrates the greatest sensitivity to Szymanowski’s way with atmosphere and chromatic harmony. Tomasik’s tone is frequently too thin to support the soaring cantabile lines which make up so much of Szymanowski’s violin writing. That said, Tomasik and Morawski are engagingly energetic in the Sonata and make a good case for this enjoyable, if hardly masterful, early work.

Many of the smaller items have appeared less often on recordings. The meandering Romance in D rewards patience with a tranquil coda, but La Berceuse d’Aïtacho Enia makes for a rather mournful lullaby. The three Paganini transcriptions (of the 20th, 21st and 24th Caprices) are remarkable for Szymanowski’s ingenious accompaniments, but these find Tomasik at his most technically strained. Kochanski’s transcription of Roxana’s Song from Szymanowski’s opera “King Roger” makes a brilliant case for the argument that the violin is the instrument closest to the human voice, but again Tomasik’s tone can’t manage the ‘tranquillo’ marked in the score and this soaring piece remains disappointingly earthbound. Grazyna Bacewicz’s arrangement of one of Szymanowski’s earliest works, the first of nine preludes for piano, is far less concerned with the chromaticism of his later works but feels a little thin divided between piano and violin.

The tail-end of the second disc is filled by some of the most unusual pieces in the set. The Dawn and Wild Dance are true collaborative works, with piano parts by Szymanowski and violin parts by Kochanski and were composed during an Atlantic crossing in 1921 and published in American under Kochanski’s name because of Szymanowski’s binding contract to Vienna’s Universal Edition. The first is far less exultant than many other musical depictions of the break of day, while Wild Dance most closely recalls Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances. These are followed by arrangements of two Kurpie songs from a set of twelve, with Tomasik sounding most at ease in the second, which is an arrangement made by himself and Morawski.

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