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Balys DVARIONAS (1904-1972)
Complete Works For Violin And Piano
Pezzo elegiaco (1946) [6:07]
Sonata-Ballade (1965) [13:00]
Elegia canzonetta (1960) [4:12]
Scherzino (1960) [3:35]
Meditation (1961) [2:32]
Pastorale and Presto (1965) [4:51]
Ballade (1960) [6:27]
Impromptu (1969) [3:59]
Adagio (1969) [3:15]
Allegro giocoso (1970) [5:28]
Recollection (1969) [3:59]
Three Pieces: Prelude - Andante Cantabile (1950) [1:24]; Waltz (1951) [1:07]; March (1951) [2:05]
Romance (1962) [2:23]
Justina Auškelyté (violin)
Cesare Pezzi (piano)
rec. National Philharmonic Hall of Lithuania, Vilnius, 25-26 Feb 2016
NAXOS 8.573673 [64:24]

Lithuanian composer Balys Dvarionas was born in the city of Liepāja. A student of Alfrēds Kalniņš, he was encouraged to expand his horizons and moved to the Leipzig Conservatory. He graduated in 1924 and returned to his home country at first to Kaunas and later Vilnius. His work-list includes a symphony (1947), a violin concerto, two piano concertos, a French horn concerto and an opera. Some of these are documented on a two CD set from Lietuvos Radijas (LRCD0037-2). Dvarionas held firm to the late 19th century romantic ideal but allowed room for 20th century nationalist accents.

Note-writer Jurgs Dvarionas writes that almost all of the pieces for violin and piano were written for Balys's children. That said, this music is not to be dismissed as didactic or simplistic. The Pezzo elegiaco is murmurously poetic and lyrically aspiring. The Sonata-Ballade is the longest piece here. It charts a complex and elliptically romantic course - passionate and with the curvaceous sense of narrative. The feel of the piece is very much Szymanowski and Bax. The idyllic here meets high-singing fairytale wonder in the manner of early Prokofiev. Subtle yet moving, it is well worth exploring if you are also preparing a recital to include the Szymanowski Mythes or the later Delius violin sonatas. Dvarionas' gift for warmly ecstatic and forward-moving tunes can be heard in the Elegia canzonetta. By contrast the Scherzo rattles along with a cheery grin. A summery Meditation precedes a Pastorale and Presto which typically contrasts dreamy heat and a hiking stride. The Ballade is again warm-hearted. Written five years before the Sonata it inhabits a world not quite as subtle as that of the Sonata.

The Impromptu is sturdy yet joyous. The Adagio suggests a seemingly sun-warmed landscape. The Allegro Giocoso from 1970 has an determined and awkward angularity while Recollection is like the Allegro Giocoso. It's lyrical enough but feels more circumspect and hemmed in - something you would not say of many of the pieces here. Next comes a group of three pieces from 1950-51. These are uncomplicated and gentle sound-picture miniatures, perhaps inspired by village life. Finally the 1962 Romance is pretty much a lilting lullaby.

The two artists here are adept and feel completely in sympathy with the idiom. The vivid recording is no obstacle to their playing.

These are winning miniatures - some emotionally complex, some less so. I hope that this delightful disc serves as a positive pathfinder for recordings of Dvarionas's major works. Meantime it can be enjoyed in its own right.

Rob Barnett



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