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Klassik  SoloInstrument mit Orchester
Benjamin Schmid & Daniel Raiskin & Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra Wieniawski · Szymanowski · Lutoslawski OC 597 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 597
Barcode4260034865976
labelOehmsClassics
Release date01.10.2007
salesrank7029
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Lutosławski, Witold
  • Szymanowski, Karol
  • Wieniawski, Henryk

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      Concertos for Violin and Orchestra:
      Henryk Wieniawski: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor
      Karol Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 2 op. 61

      Witold Lutosławski: Chain 2 – Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra
      Benjamin Schmid, violin · Daniel Raiskin, conductor
      Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra

      Three violin concertos of Polish composers from three different generations: Henryk Wieniawski’s Concerto No. 2 in D Minor is one of the classics of the virtuosic violin literature. Benjamin Schmid shows here that he can even give repertoire standards such as this a personal touch: just like his celebrated Korngold recording (OC 537), he succeeds here in transporting the glow of the romantic violin tradition into our times without merely offering up a pale reflection. With Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Lutoslawski’s Chain 2 from 1985, Schmid brings listeners up to the musical present via two stations. The exceptionally successful concerto Chain 2 is a fitting example of contemporary violin music which is highly accessible, even for listeners with little knowledge of modern music. Karol Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 documents the successful attempt to meld the original sound of folkloristic Eastern European music with Western art music forms during the period between the two world wars.

      Three Polish Violin Concertos
      Wieniawski’s works, like Paganini’s compositions, accompany the violinist along the entire artistic journey.
      David Oistrakh


      Henryk Wieniawski (1835–1880) was one of the most outstanding virtuoso violinists in history, a brilliant emissary of the Polish school of Romantic composition. His life was not a long one, and his musical talents emerged at an early age. Having started to study the violin at age six, after one and a half years he was seen appearing in family musical quartets and playing technically complicated concerti. In the autumn of 1843 the eight-year-old Henryk and his mother arrived in Paris.

      The regulations of the Paris Conservatoire forbade the admission of foreigners. The brilliant tutor Professor Lambert Joseph Massart procured a special decree from France’s Ministry of Internal Affairs to admit Wieniawski to the Conservatoire. With the appeal from the Russian Ambassador in Paris, Wieniawski was given a grant from the Russian government allowing him to live and study in Paris. Here the regulations of the Conservatoire were violated twice: it was forbidden to admit students under the age of twelve. But in three years Henryk Wieniawski had achieved such unbelievable success on the instrument that at age 11 (eleven!!!) he passed the graduation exam with honours: the jury unanimously awarded him first prize – the grand gold medal.

      Wieniawski continued his studies for a further two years under Massart, at the same time taking classes in harmony and counterpoint. At the age of fifteen he graduated from the Paris Conservatoire as a composer (class of Hippolyte Collet).

      Wieniawski – as a virtuoso violinist as well as a composer – was a true Romantic, just like Paganini and Liszt. His play was governed by passion, triumphant lyricism and inspiration. This is also true concerning Wieniawski’s compositions – from small pieces (including the famous Légende) to large-scale works.

      Violin Concerto No 2 in D minor, Op. 22 (1862–1870) was premiered by Wieniawski on 27 November 1862 in St. Petersburg together with the orchestra of the Russian Musical Society under the baton of Anton Rubinstein. By then, Wieniawski had been leader of that orchestra for some years already as well as soloist of His Majesty at the imperial court in St Petersburg. After the first performance, the composer continued working on the Second Concerto another eight years, meticulously editing the score and performance traits. It was only in 1870 that the Concerto was published. The Concerto in D minor most fully reflects Wieniawski’s individual style, a combination of deep poetry and inspiration of music with a bright virtuoso structure of the solo part. Wieniawski continues the line of the lyrical Romantic concerto flowing from Beethoven and Mendelssohn. But unlike his predecessors, Wieniawski preferred a free Romantic form, at times digressing far from classical schemes, an improvised style structure, the whimsical, capricious phrasing of tempo (Chopin’s tempo rubato). Not without reason was Wieniawski increasingly frequently called “the Chopin of the violin” during these years.

      The first movement (Allegro moderato) is governed by elegiac moods – both in the orchestra and in the solo violin. The romantically perturbed initial theme leads to passionate violin passages as it develops. The second theme develops from the intonation of the main theme, denoted by the light colouring. It is this secondary theme of the sonata allegro that runs through all parts of the Concerto, giving it the form of organic integrity. The solo violin does not aim to compete, now it merges with the orchestra, taking second stage, then it signs in full voice once again, advancing forwards. The “equality” of the violin and the orchestra is underscored by renouncing the special solo cadenza; although in the first movement, the violin, as if bursting into wide open space, gives way to joyous virtuoso improvisations. The powerful concluding tutti of the orchestra throws a bridge to the second movement – the dreamy Romance (Andante non troppo). In the middle of this section dramatised intonations of the secondary theme of the first movement come to life. But once again the lyrically intimate theme of Romance returns; gradually diminishing, the music comes to full reconciliation. The Allegro con fuoco finale has the characteristic subtitle à la Zingara. The composer himself referred to the programme concept of the finale: “I really wanted to paint a small village scene: an evening summer and the villagers have gathered on the village square and want to dance; general merriment, joking and laughter.” In the impetuous, glittering kaleidoscope of poetic, lyrical and dance episodes there is a wonderful, kind of gypsy (or rather Hungarian!) theme – double notes of the violin – resounding with familiar motifs from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies. The secondary theme of the first movement sounds with a bright confirmation of life in major key, cementing the entire three-movement cycle in a single, uninterrupted whole and imbuing it with the features of large-scale symphonic form.

      “I maintain that our national music is not the ossified ghosts of the polonaise or the mazurka… Rather it is the lonely, joyous, unbound song of the nightingale on a fragrant Polish night…”
      Karol Szymanowski


      Karol Szymanowski was born on 8 October 1882 in the small Ukrainian village of Tymoszówka in the Kiev Province in the family of a noble Polish landowner. The family produced so many musicians (composers, prominent conductors, pianists, singers and enlightened music-lovers) that biographers point to direct analogies with the most musical families of Europe – the Bachs in Germany and the Couperins in France.

      The seven-year-old Karol took his first piano lessons from his father, who was also a brilliant cellist. The atmosphere at home was governed by a highly intellectual artistic aura: poems were written, amateur dramatic performances with music and even operas were staged. Having received a brilliant and varied home education, in 1901 the nineteen-year-old Szymanowski left for Warsaw, where he took private lessons, studying under renowned composer Zygmunt Noskowski. He became friends with brilliant performers of the day such as violinist Paweł Kochanski and pianist Artur Rubinstein. Together with other young composers Mieczysław Karłowicz, Ludomir Róz·ycki, Grzegorz Fitelberg and Apolinary Szeluto, Karol Szymanowski comprised the Young Poland composers’ group, its aim being to “support new Polish music”.

      Living in independent Poland from 1919, Szymanowski became interested in the culture and music of the Gurals – Polish mountain people living in Podhale. Here, separated from the outside world by the towering Polish Tatry mountains, life, customs and folk art remained pure and intact. Studying the deepest archaic strata of Gural folklore resulted in the finest pages of Szymanowski’s music. Among them are the piano cycle Twenty Mazurkas, Stabat Mater, the pantomime ballet Harnasie, the Fourth Symphony and the Second Violin Concerto. “I want the young generation of Polish musicians,” wrote Szymanowski, “to understand the richness reviving our anaemic music which lies hidden in this Polish ‘barbarity’ that I have at last discovered and accepted – for myself.”

      Violin Concerto No 2, Op. 61 (1932–1933) opens with the composer’s dedication: “In memory of the great musician, my dear and eternal friend Paweł Kochan´ski”. In a letter Szymanowski admitted that “Paweł simply provoked me and … wrung this Concerto out of me. I wrote it in four weeks.” He was referring to the sketches – the composer completed the score in autumn 1933. As in the First Concerto, the cadence and editing of the entire violin part is the work of Kochan´ski. It was he who performed the premiere of the Concerto on 6 October 1933 (Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under Grzegorz Fitelberg). Sadly this was Paweł Kochan´ski’s last performance in Poland; he died soon after in New York.

      The refined and delicate imagery of the First Concerto with its fantastic, ghostly sonority was superseded by the “Polish barbarity” of the Second – musical tableaux inspired by Gural folklore, precisely defined in terms of genre, sharply outlined in melody. In the one-movement composition of the Concerto, four sections of different character gracefully come together. They are united by unity of theme, a planned “arch” construction (the main theme at the start of the Concerto, like a lullaby against a background of “empty” fifths (bass pipes), responds in the final section with a powerful apotheosis). The first section (Moderato, molto tranquillo), which comprises the major part of the entire Concerto, is restrained in distinct sonata form and concludes with a tense solo cadence – a unique brief summing up of the melodic material. The central sections of the Concerto are a lively scherzo (Allegramente, molto energico), somewhat coarse peasant dance and a tender Andantino, molto tranquillo – a chain of duet interchanges of the solo violin and other instruments. In the fourth and final section (Tempo I. Allegramente animato) the sound attains brilliancy and festive rejoicing. Just as with Szymanowski’s Fourth Symphony (initially called a piano concerto by the composer), which led to the genre definition of “Symphonie concertante pour piano et orchestre”, in the Second Violin Concerto the borders of the instrumental concerto are pushed back, the genre being “symphonised”. Szymanowski seized the baton which Wieniawski had barely marked.

      “The most important thing for every artist is to speak the truth through his art.” Witold Lutosławski


      Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994) was one of the most outstanding composers of the second half of the 20th century. He was born in Warsaw in 1913. In 1936 he graduated from the Warsaw Conservatoire in piano studies and, one year later, in composition (class of Witold Malishevsky, a former pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov). Along with his music studies, Lutosławski learned mathematics at the Warsaw University. The composer made his debut in 1938 with his Symphonic Variations. In 1939, WW II saw Lutosławski join the army. And then – a prisoner of war, escape and music-making in occupied Warsaw (he worked as a café ballroom pianist and took part in clandestine concerts). Lutosławski’s works from the war years have not survived – the manuscripts were burned during the Warsaw Uprising.

      Artistic development in the post-war years in socialist Poland was by no means easy in the harsh conditions of total ideological suppression under the auspices of the “struggle against formalism”, against any manifestations of the “western avant-garde”. Lutosławski was able to retain his creative individuality: he wrote music for cinema, theatre and radio, songs and music for children, imbuing these applied genres not just with the freshness and charm of great talent but with immense skill too. Such works as the First Symphony, Petite suite, Silesian Triptych, Concerto for Orchestra, Piano Sonatas, Bucolics or the even earlier Paganini Variations reveal early on the exceptional nature of the composer’s music.

      In the early 60s Lutosławski turned to the most contemporary composition techniques – sonorism and aleatorics, as before using any avant-garde methods as he saw fit. The impetus for the use of random structure in Lutosławski’s music, as he himself admitted, came with a radio performance of John Cage’s Piano Concerto. Lutosławski does not value novelty for novelty’s sake: speaking of the use of new expressive means and composing techniques he always underlines his own “flirting with tradition”, as he would say.

      “The main thing,” he continued “is to create genuine timeless values. When I think of any musical idea I always think about how I will react to it at the fiftieth or hundredth performance. And if I come to the conclusion that nothing remains of the idea then I reject it…” (hereinafter Lutosławski’s statements are taken from Witold Lutosławski. Articles, Talks, Memoirs. Moscow, 1995).

      Three works written by Lutosławski between 1983 and 1986 contain the word “Chain” in the title – Chain 1 for chamber orchestra (1983), Chain 2, dialogues for violin and orchestra (1984–85) and Chain 3 for symphony orchestra (1986). These works do not comprise a series and are independent from one another. The name denotes the technique of unifying sections of form: the next section of the work begins when the previous has not yet finished and is still continuing (i.e. the sections are united “overlapping”, like the links in a chain). Let us once again turn to Lutosławski: “Basically the ‘chain’ type form is very important for me. Essentially musical form has always been composed of a series of sections, each of which would end with a cadence of all parts (i.e. with a concluding harmonic or melodic locution that concludes the musical construction, I. R.). I wanted to break this centuries-old European tradition, and I offered another concept of transition from one musical thought to another – through imposition…”

      “Chain 2,” Lutosławski says, “is a miniature violin concerto, naturally split into sections. After the first, introductory section follows a typical concert cycle: allegro, slow section and presto finale.” The technique of controlled aleatorics that Lutosławski employs here is in an alternating combination of stable and mobile forms – i.e. measured and conducted (battuta) music and music performed with free improvisation (ad libitum). The transition from one type of music to the next is fluid, lithe and almost imperceptible to the listener.

      The composer entrusted Zurich’s Collegium Musicum under Paul Sacher and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter with the work’s premiere coming on January 1986. And Lutosławski, a great admirer of Mutter’s art claimed: “I would write many more violin works if I had two lives and not one. And definitely a Violin Concerto!”

      Iosif Raiskin
      English translation by Michael Smith

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • HENRYK WIENIAWSKI (1835–1880) Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor
        • 1.I. Allegro moderato11:55
        • 2.II. Romance. Andante non troppo04:54
        • 3.III. Allegro con fuoco – Allegro moderato06:05
      • KAROL SZYMANOWSKI (1882–1937)
        • 4.Violin Concerto No. 2 op. 6119:34
      • WITOLD LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913–1994) Chain 2 – Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra
        • 5.I. Ad libitum03:52
        • 6.II. A batutta04:41
        • 7.III. Ad libitum04:47
        • 8.IV. A batutta – Ad libitum – A batutta04:17
      • Total:01:00:05