SZYMANOWSKI Works for Violin and Piano
The litmus test here is the start of ‘La fontaine d’Aréthuse’, the most famous of the three Mythes, where, compared with Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (Hyperion), Marie Radauer-Plank and Henrike Brüggen fall short of realising the music’s full sense of rapture and unfathomable mystery, Ibragimova entering on the softest pianissimo, Tiberghien investing the piano part with a wealth of tone poetry. In the third Myth, ‘Dryads and Pan’ – which suggests ‘a murmuring forest on a hot summer night, [with] thousands of mysterious voices’ – again Ibragimova and Tiberghien score highest for fine-spun textures suggestive of moonlit spiders’ webs dripping with dew, so delicate, even tactile. Radauer-Plank and Brüggen are also excellent, more like Baiba and Lauma Skride (Orfeo) perhaps, and while not quite on Ibragimova’s level for sweetness and imagination, their relative restraint pays dividends in music that harbours limitless potential for subtle shading. In a sense ‘playing straight’ works just as well.
Maybe the most successful performance on the current disc is the D minor Sonata of 1904, where even within the first minute there are vivid premonitions of those later Dryads. But the sonata’s language is for the most part redolent of the great German Romantics, especially of Brahms and Schumann, and Radauer-Plank’s playing – a combination of tonal chasteness and Romantic ardour, with an expressive though never overbearing use of vibrato – suits the piece to perfection. The much later La berceuse d’Aïtacho Enia is sustained at a broader tempo than on Ibragimova’s recording. Both versions work well, and much the same can be said of the more familiar, and equally bewitching, Nocturne and Tarantella.
The Hyperion collection of the ‘complete music for violin and piano’ also includes Three Paganini Caprices, Op 40, and the Romance in D, Op 23, but not Roxana’s Song from the opera King Roger or the Peasant Dance from the ballet Harnasie, both of them arrangements by the noted violinist Paul Kochanski which are warmly performed in the context of the present programme. In summing up I’d say that Radauer-Plank and Brüggen play beautifully if without those special reserves of magic that distinguish Ibragimova and Tiberghien while, regarding the Mythes, Krystian Zimerman and Kaja Danczowska (DG) are also well worth revisiting. They too enter Szymanowski’s mystical world with ease and a sense of wonder.