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)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901769
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.

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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.

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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