Mythes: Works by Bartók, Ravel, Stravinsky et al

Jiyoon Lee, Henry Kramer (Champs Hill)

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Mythes Bartók: Rhapsody No. 1, Sz. 86; Ravel: Tzigane; Stravinsky: Suite italienne; Szymanowski: Mythes, Op. 30; Wieniawski: Légende in G minor, Op. 17
Jiyoon Lee (violin), Henry Kramer (piano)
Champs Hill CHRCD 141 67:27 mins

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A new disc from Champs Hill is almost always something to look forward to, and this latest recording, from violinist Jiyoon Lee and pianist Henry Kramer, is no exception. It’s a colourful and intelligent programme of early 20th-century music inspired by legends, or the notion of them; one pleasing side-effect is that Ravel’s Tzigane is placed in context with its East European cousins, pointing up its mesmerising atmospheres and snap-Hungarian rhythms. Stravinsky’s Suite italienne is Pulcinella in all but name, the composer’s arrangement of six of the best pieces from his commedia dell’arte ballet, while Szymanowski’s exoticism in his Mythes was inspired by Greek mythology; Wieniawski’s Legende is expressively gorgeous, Bartók’s Rhapsody No. 1 likewise not mythical, but strongly rooted in Hungarian folk music.

Lee and Kramer offer fresh, lively performances in sympathetic partnership, responding to the pieces’ vivid contours and varied rhythmic drives without ever succumbing to the temptations of self-indulgence or excess. The challenging Szymanowski, some of which could otherwise risk overheating, is well managed in terms of pace and intensity, while the stylised Stravinsky is sprightly and joyous. Lee’s playing, mercurial, precise and soaringly lyrical by turns, is always a delight to listen to, and Kramer matches her high-stepping virtuosity, dispatching the rapid-fire Ravel piano part as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. Sound quality is very good – warm and clear, everything well in balance – and the whole adds up to a satisfying and enjoyable recital.

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Jessica Duchen