Szymanowski, Enescu, Bart—k

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COMPOSERS: Bartok,Enescu,Szymanowski
WORKS: Mythes
PERFORMER: Ida Haendel (violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 455 488-2 (includes bonus disc of Ida HaendelÕs Decca recordings, 1940-47)
It’s good to be able to welcome one of Ida Haendel’s rare visits to the recording studio in these works, steeped in the folk idioms of Central Europe, which ideally suit her big, incisive style. Her own background in that part of the world makes moments like the climax in the second movement of the Enescu particularly impressive, with singing yet penetrating tone, and a bow of seemingly endless length. This Sonata is almost entirely rhapsodic in nature, and Haendel follows its twists and turns with maximum flexibility, but never lets it wander aimlessly. Through all this, she is impeccably partnered by Ashkenazy, whose up-front playing matches hers, and who also inhabits the idiom like a second skin. That’s not to say that neither of them is capable of sophistication: in Szymanowski’s Mythes they find subtle gradations of intensity and tone colour to reflect the rarefied, ecstatic world of the music. And hearing the Romanian Folkdances, followed by the version from 1947 on the free bonus disc, shows clearly that Haendel’s sense of style was there right from the beginning, as it was in the Beethoven and Schubert Sonatas and the shorter pieces also included. Why have the recording companies so neglected her over the years?