SZYMANOWSKI: Concert Overture in E, Op. 23. Violin Concerto No.
l, Op. 35. Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 61
Szymanowski's first violin concerto, composed in 1916, resulted from the composer's friendship with Polish violinist Paul Kochanski who wrote the cadenza and gave the premier. Dedicated to Kochanski, it is a fascinating work, creating a shimmering, exotic mysterious world often rather akin to Bartok's Third Concerto's second movement "Night Music." Chattering woodwinds abound in an openly sensuous scenario with the solo violin making its silky initial entrance in its upper register. There is only one movement to the concerto, but there are three sections -- Vivace, Andantino and Vivace assai -- reaching an orgasmic climax before it disappears quixotically into silence. I first became acquainted with this concerto many years ago via an American Decca LP with Eugenia Uminska as soloist, Grzegorz Fitelberg conducting. Shortly after that the superb 1959 David Oistrakh/Leningrad Philharmonic/Kurt Sanderling monophonic recording was issued, first on an Artia LP, later on a now-deleted Urania CD (5157), now reissued on the Forlane label (16589). It's amazing that other major violinists didn't champion the work -- it would have been perfect for Heifetz or Grumiaux (who recorded the second concerto).
Violin Concerto No. 2 appeared more than a decade later. It is in one movement with a big center cadenza and shows strong influence of Polish folk music occasionally suggesting mountaineer fiddling. Again Kochanski was involved in writing this work, which had its premiere in Warsaw October 6, 1933, a year before the violinist's death. Totally unlike its predecessor, this concerto has far less audience appeal and is heard in concert even less often than its predecessor.
A gem on this CD is the Concert Overture, Op. 12 composed in 1905 when Szymanowski was but twenty-three, premiered the following year with Fitelberg on the podium. Although well received at the time, the composer revised the work seven years later. Strongly influenced by Richard Strauss, the 11-minute overture has a youthful drive and spirit strongly reminiscent of Erich Wolfgang Korngold -- although Korngold had yet to write his first symphonic work. t's a brilliant overture that deserves to be heard.
Kaja Danczowska, Polish violinist who studied with Eugenia Uminska, David Oistrakh and Ruggiero Ricci, is a superb soloist in the concertos, with conductor Kazimierz Kord totally attuned to Szymanowski's mystic world. All works were recorded at the National Philharmonic Concert Hall in 1996 in sound that is brightly digital but with sufficient resonance to soothe the ears.
R.E.B. (Sept. 2000)