Lutosławski | Penderecki Complete music for violin and piano. © 2019 Delphian Records Ltd

CD Spotlight

Approachable Music

The complete violin and piano music of Lutosławski and Penderecki, strongly recommended by GEOFF PEARCE

'The performances by violinist Michael Foyle and pianist Maksim Štšura are responsive, intelligent and very polished and I, for one, found this disc a delight.'


This is an absolute cracker of a disc and right from the first note, one feels that one is hearing something extraordinary. I was unaware of the violin and piano music of these two modern masters and was pleasantly surprised at how listenable the works of both composers are for this genre. In many ways, both composers demonstrate a strong claim to previous composers, such as Szymanowski, and there is nothing at all avant-garde in this music, even though these are unmistakably twentieth century works. The performances by violinist Michael Foyle and pianist Maksim Štšura are responsive, intelligent and very polished and I, for one, found this disc a delight.

The first work, by Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994), entitled Subito, was written in 1992 and is a tour de force. It launches immediately with a violin flourish, flowed by a piano chord. It then slows down briefly before picking up momentum again. The programme notes are comprehensive so I do not intend to give a blow by blow account, needless to say that in this work, there are passages that remind me very much of Szymanowski, and that there are bird-call-like passages and great virtuosity. The performers are well up to the task and create a performance that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat.

Listen — Lutosławski: Subito
(track 1, 3:53-4:40) © 2019 Delphian Records Ltd :

The title Recitativo e arioso, by the same composer, pretty much sums up its character. This work, written in 1951, looks back, particularly to Debussy. It unwinds in a pensive fashion, and is unhurried and expressive.

The early Violin Sonata No 1 from 1953 by Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) is in three movements and is somewhat reminiscent of Grazyna Bacewicz - a composer I am very fond of. The first movement is positive and energetic, with some quieter lyrical passages, but the overall mood is defiant and energetic.

Listen — Penderecki: Allegro
(track 3, 2:26-3:09) © 2019 Delphian Records Ltd :

The second movement is an exercise in restraint, yet contains some feeling of disquiet, but it does not dwell on such moments long.

The last movement starts with a light dance-like figure and gradually becomes more impassioned and syncopated. There are ample opportunities for this partnership to reveal their skill.

The next work, also by Penderecki, entitled Three Miniatures, is just under four minutes long in total and was composed in 1959. These pieces, particularly the first two, are reflective of Penderecki's absorption in the avant-garde composers of the period, but are still very listenable and illustrate the wide ranges of style that have encompassed Penderecki's output.

Lutosławski's five movement Partita, written in 1984, is an intense work and the performance has all the energy and virtuosity that the music requires. Both performers are also very sensitive to the rapid change of mood. This fifteen-minute work is varied in nature, but it is the third movement, 'Largo', which really creates a strong impact. It is soulful and lament like, with strange bird-chirp-like passages, and a passage that has a long sustained crescendo, relaxes at a climax and then builds again before concluding quietly.

Listen — Lutosławski: Largo (Partita)
(track 11, 2:14-3:00) © 2019 Delphian Records Ltd :

The last movement is charged, requires a lot of virtuosity from both performers and will have you sitting on the edge of your seat.

The most substantial work on the disc is Penderecki's five-movement Violin Sonata No 2 (1999), lasting over thirty-five minutes.

The first movement begins somewhat fragmentedly and then gradually expands. It is quite chromatic in nature at one moment and then tonal the next. At times it reminds one very much of Shostakovich and at others it is somewhat Mahlerian, especially in the harmony.

The Allegretto Scherzando second movement starts with a rather sardonic waltz. At times it sounds like some of the music from Prokofiev's ballet scores, and at other times like Shostakovich.

The third movement, Notturno, opens with one of the thematic ideas present in the first movement, which reminded me of Shostakovich. At times the music is very poignant and reflective, and at others more passionate. The movement is quite fragmented in many ways and also restless, making the listener somewhat unsure where this is all leading. Actually, though, the growth of this movement makes sensed as it unfolds. I think this is the core of the sonata, looking back with a kind of wistfulness, knowing that one cannot and should not return to an earlier time.

Listen — Penderecki: Notturno: Adagio (Violin Sonata No 2)
(track 16, 5:40-6:25) © 2019 Delphian Records Ltd :

The fourth movement Allegro starts off with a romp. It is impassioned and certainly a test for both performers. The fast and furious passages give way, from time to time, to more expressive and rhapsodic passages, reminiscent of Szymanowski, but these moments are relatively brief before the ferocity returns.

Listen — Penderecki: Allegro (Violin Sonata No 2)
(track 17, 3:45-4:43) © 2019 Delphian Records Ltd :

The final Andante is at times nostalgic and poignant and at others tense, reflecting perhaps the composer's uneasiness - he completed this work on the last day of 1999 and one certainly senses the his uneasiness and uncertainty of what the next millennium will bring. I do not feel a sense of finality with this music - more an unanswered question.

This disc left me gasping as I did not expect such approachable music from these two composers. The partnership between the two artist on this disc is very satisfying, reinforcing just how fine many emerging artists are. This is another disc I would urge you to consider purchasing.

Copyright © 25 August 2020 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia







 << Home              Next review >>