SHOSTAKOVICH; WIENIAWSKI Violin Concertos
A Polish concerto performed by a Polish soloist and a Polish orchestra … though not quite on the same disc. Henryk Wieniawski was one of several violin virtuosos, alongside Joseph Joachim and Pablo de Sarasate, who composed for their own instrument. His Violin Concerto No 2 in D minor is probably his most popular work on disc, a grand Romantic concerto which gives the soloist ample opportunity to display his or her dazzling technique including double-stops and chromatic glissandos. The concerto appears on two new discs, both jostling for company on the very same label. Warner Classics pairs the Polish violinist Janusz Wawrowski with the Stuttgart Philharmonic under Daniel Raiskin, while the young prize-winning Korean Bomsori Kim presents her debut album in the company of the Warsaw Philharmonic under the watchful eye of experienced conductor Jacek Kaspszyk.
Wieniawski spent some seven years working on the concerto and even then he tinkered on it a good deal more after its 1862 premiere before submitting it for publication. It has a great romantic sweep but also draws on Polish folk melodies, noticeably in the dashing gypsy rondo finale. Indeed, Wawrowski’s disc, entitled ‘Brillante’, is released as part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of Poland regaining its independence in 1918.
Both performances are extremely enjoyable, with barely a cigarette paper between them in terms of tempo. Wawrowski has a dark, luscious sweetness of sound, with warm vibrato in the gorgeous second-movement Romance. Bomsori Kim is recorded a little closer, which highlights the odd tonal imperfection but allows her to scale down to a softer pianissimo. There is a nice bit of sinew to Kim’s playing. Her double-stopping isn’t quite as emphatic as Wawrowski’s but she has a more lyrical tone. I enjoyed Wawrowski’s energetic approach to the finale, where he exhibits a pristine trill, but Kim’s more rhapsodic feel is also highly attractive.
If plumping for just one of these discs, your choice may be dictated by the choice of concerto partner. There’s a good deal of sense in Wawrowski pairing Wienawski with Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy as both were dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate. Wawrowski offers a glowing account, Raiskin shaping the orchestral introduction affectionately. There is plenty of verve in the livelier movements, especially the strutting Allegro guerriero finale.
Kim, winner of the 62nd ARD International Music Competition, has a more unlikely coupling, choosing Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, where she is stronger on the introspection of the first movement than the demonic intensity of the Scherzo or the bitterness of the Burlesque finale. She has a wonderfully clean tone, though, and this is a fine reading. The Warsaw Philharmonic offers beefy support, in fuller sound than Wawrowski’s Stuttgart recording.