Stravinsky, Szymanowski: Mythes; Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 9; Caprice No. 24 from Three Paganini Caprices, Op. 40

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky,Szymanowski
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Mythes; Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 9; Caprice No. 24 from Three Paganini Caprices, Op. 40
PERFORMER: Graf Mourja (violin), Natalia Gous (piano)
There are worlds of difference between Szymanowski’s Violin Sonata of 1904 and his three Mythes composed 11 years later. A wealth of influences abound in the Sonata, from Chopin to Rachmaninov and Richard Strauss. Szymanowski’s handling of late-Romantic rhetoric is certainly impressive, but owing to the sheer scale and grandiosity of the musical gestures, a strong sense of thread often seems to elude him.


Travel not only broadened Szymanowski’s mind, but focused his creative genius. The three Mythes benefit from a well-developed enthusiasm for Debussy and Ravel, confirmed in a visit to Paris. The result is music of exquisite fragility which anticipates new worlds quite remarkably: at times in the second, ‘Narcisse’, we could almost be listening to some spare pages from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.


The remaining music on this disc is by another of Szymanowski’s idols, Stravinsky, whose Petrushka had such a profound effect on him. For all his admiration, the music of these two composers presented here inhabits very different spheres. Graf Mourja and Natalia Gous’s performances of this wide-ranging repertoire show a clear grasp of the divergent aesthetics of the two figures. Ensemble is also good. Unfortunately, other aspects fall short: there are occasional insecurities of intonation and neither piano nor violin are well served by the recording; both instruments are too closely recorded, leading to a constricted violin timbre and a boxy piano sound. Both the Sonata and Mythes are relatively well served on disc, with Mordkovitch and Gusak-Grin’s performances on Chandos heading the field. Jan Smaczny