Szymanowski: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Nocturne and Tarantella, Op. 28 (arr. Fitelberg)

COMPOSERS: Szymanowski
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Szymanowski
WORKS: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Nocturne and Tarantella, Op. 28 (arr. Fitelberg)
PERFORMER: Ilya Kaler (violin); Warsaw PO/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557981
Szymanowski’s two violin concertos are very different in character. A connecting thread, however, is that they were both written for the composer’s close friend, Pawel Kochanski, who also supplied the cadenzas that lie at the heart of each. His creative input in the design of the solo lines contributes a passion and intensity to these remarkably compelling works.

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In the First Concerto, there are perceptible debts to Ravel, notably at the start of the work with its evocation of natural sounds, and the Stravinsky of Petrushka, but there is also much that is characteristic of Szymanowski’s mature style and there are numerous anticipations of the sound world of his great opera, King Roger.

Completed some 17 years later, and also cast in a single movement, the Second Concerto inhabits a more brittle sound world, with Szymanowski’s enthusiasm for the native music of the Polish highlands much in evidence.

Ilya Kaler is a near ideal interpreter of these works and the delightful Nocturne and Tarantella which serve as makeweight. His playing certainly has the requisite passion, but he also has a strong sense of line which, with the sensitive support of the conductor Antoni Wit, imparts enormous structural integrity to both works, which in the wrong hands can be inclined to ramble. At times the orchestral ensemble is not quite as tight as it might be, but these well recorded performances are certainly highly recommendable if not quite on the same level those of Thomas Zehetmair and Simon Rattle.

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Jan Smaczny,