Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Complete music for violin and piano
Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 9 [22:09]
Roxana's Song from the opera 'King Roger', for violin and piano [6:09]
Dance from 'Harnasie' [6:14]
Romance in D major, Op. 23 [6:26]
Paganini Caprices (3), Op. 40 [16:06]
Mythes, Op. 30 [22:17]
La Berceuse d’Aļtacho Enia, Op. 52 (1925) [3:58]
L’Aube [5:06]
Danse Sauvage [4:55]
“Zarzyjze, kuniu” from Kurpie Songs Op. 58/9 (arr. for violin and piano) [4:42]
Nocturne and Tarantella, Op. 28 [12:07]
Bruno Monteiro (violin); Joćo Paulo Santos (piano)
rec. 2014, Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94979 [57:18 + 53:23]

Szymanowski’s style extends over his career from the conventional late-romantic to the much more individual, exotic and impressionistic. His music for violin and piano covers the full range of these styles, and was created for the famous Polish violinist Paul Kochanski. The most substantial works are the fairly early — and lushly romantic — three-movement Violin Sonata from 1904, and the much more individual cycle Mythes from 1915. Both are found on this pair of discs, as indeed is presumably everything else Szymanowski wrote for the combination. This might seem an obvious observation on a “Complete music for violin and piano”, except that an important rival issue, from Hyperion with Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien, also calls itself the “Complete Solo Violin Music” but is squeezed onto one disc - by dint of omitting anything without an opus number. So this Brilliant issue has one immediate claim on the collector insofar as it includes several attractive late arrangements — from the opera King Roger and the ballet Harnasie — and a couple of works which Szymanowski composed in collaboration with violinist Kochanski: L’Aube and Danse Sauvage.

All these pieces are given very good performances by the excellent duo of Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro, and pianist Joćo Paulo Santos. They enjoy the exotic colours and indulge the luscious harmonies in both the three Mythes and the Sonata. They might even be a bit too indulgent for some tastes, since they are often slower than those Hyperion rivals. This is not a problem in the slow music, where such languor has seductive charm, but they are also a bit steadier in swifter music, where Ibragimova and Tiberghien have more urgency at times. Thus in the third of the transcribed Paganini Caprices, (Paganini’s number 24, or the Brahms, Liszt, Rachmaninov and Lutosławski one), the Hyperion pair take 8:29 to the Portuguese duo’s 9:27.

Timings are not everything, and the skills of Monteiro are well attuned to the needs of the idiom. He always sounds engaged and passionately committed, with plenty of colour and spirit in his playing. This is true of the pianist Santos as well, but here there is a problem not with the playing but with the instrument, or perhaps the hall or the way it has been recorded. The venue sounds a touch too reverberant, and in such moments as the vigorous opening of the Sonata’s finale this results in an unlovely clangorous quality in the piano’s treble. This is not a problem for much of the time, and not enough to detract from these discs’ good qualities. They have cost and comprehensiveness on their side, and some fine musicianship as well. Those four extra pieces without opus numbers, over twenty minutes of music, are by no means negligible when played as well as they are here but in the main works there is nowadays some strong competition for this once-neglected repertoire.

Roy Westbrook
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