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Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Violin Sonata Op. 13 (1885)
Allegro de Concert
Melodia Op. 16/2 (1886)
Konstanty Andrzej Kulka (piano)
Waldemar Malicki (piano)
Recorded Studio S2 Polish Radio, Warsaw
DUX 0363 [41.11]

Dux has brought out, not inappropriately for a Polish label, a slew of Paderewski’s compositions. The centrepiece of this one is the big A minor Violin Sonata and it is a wake up call to those who only know his piano miniatures – not least the once ubiquitous and oft-transcribed Minuet in G major – or have yet to catch up with his large-scale works. It was written in 1880 when he was twenty-five – that’s to say after some strenuous studies in Vienna with Leschetizky and just before the vortex of his first early successes as a pianist which began in Paris and Prague in 1883 and soon swept across Europe and America. It was Brahms who said of the work that it was less a Violin Sonata and more a Concert Sonata and one sees what he means. It’s an impressive though not entirely distinctive concertante work, bold, flourishing, Romantic, employing folk material and plenty of idiomatic drama. The piano part, as one would expect of Paderewski, is highly virtuosic and busy – ideally he should have pared away a deal of the piano’s quasi-independence because it can be thematically counter productive and in this performance the ear is often drawn to the accompanying harmonic melodrama rather than the lyrical violin part (no fault of the performers). Which I suppose was Brahms’ point. Nevertheless there is nobility in the long opening movement and great breadth and strong Romantic Brahmsian rhetoric – and a lyric elasticity of phrasing that Paderewski drew upon in vocal, sonata and solo works all his compositional life. The tempestuous zigeuner element is not stinted and nor is expressive affection in the Andantino whereas in the finale there’s vigour and excitement (if to be honest some rather prosaic passagework from time to time).

The Allegro de Concert is a partial reconstruction. It is undated and was left incomplete at his death and so Arnold Rezler has stitched the extant passages together. It makes for a fine, big boned sonata form study. There’s some attractive lyricism amidst the Vieuxtemps type bombast. The Melody Op. 16 No. 2 was transposed for violin and piano by the distinguished Polish fiddle player Stanisław Barcewicz. It’s a melodic delight and a real charmer and the transposition from the piano original works well.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard Kulka and he impresses me again. He has the sensitivity to shape and mould the Sonata’s second movement with discreet expressive shadings and he drives powerfully in the final movement. He can relax in salon style as well, as he shows with the Melody (though there are a couple of intonational slips I think in the Allegro de Concert). Malicki clearly enjoys the big challenges of the Sonata and demonstrates real command – their ensemble is fine.

The acoustic is sympathetic and the notes in Polish and English. The Sonata has been issued on Pavane in recent time but there’s it’s coupled with non-Paderewski items. Granted this disc is short measure but inquisitive minds may still want to get to grips with this little-known corner of the Brahmsian sphere of influence in pan-European sonata writing.

Jonathan Woolf


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