Jennifer Pike explores her Polish heritage

The Polish Violin

Jennifer Pike (violin) & Petr Limonov (piano)

Former BBC Young Musician of the Year, Jennifer Pike is joined by her regular duo partner, the Russian-British pianist Petr Limonov to explore an interesting selection of works for violin and piano written by Polish composers.

The major part of the album is given over to works by Szymanowski, who most would consider to be the greatest of the composers represented here. The recital immediately takes us into an exotic and mystical world, beginning as it does with with Szymanowski’s most popular work, Mythes (1915); a cycle of three miniatures whose titles come from Greek mythology. The mood of the fantastic vision of the nymph Arethusa, turned into a stream, fleeing from Alpheus; of Narcissus, in love with his reflection in the pool, turned into a flower; of the dancing dryads and Pan playing his pipes – is superbly realised by this pairing.  This team manage not only the sophisticated, and at times extraordinarily complicated harmony, but also Jennifer Pike tackles the varied articulation in the violin part, with its plethora of trills and glissandos combined with tremolos, and flageolets with great aplomb. In this work Szymanowski, unshackled from classical patterns of composition, created a new world of free, poetic fantasy of sound in which Pike and Limonov immerse themselves to great effect.

From Szymanowski we also get his short Nocturne & Tarantella, Op. 28 with Jennifer Pike’s elegant lines soaring high above the piano accompaniment. Both in the veiled contours of the Nocturne and the explosion of rhythmic energy that follows it in the Tarantella Pike captures the mood of the work to perfection. The rhapsodic and exotic Romance in D major, Op. 23 makes me think of Chopin’s Nocturnes and there is also an attractive arrangement of Chant de Roxane from Król Roger by Paul Kochanski .

Other less frequently heard gems include Karlowicz’ Impromptu, the romantic style of which reflects a strong influence of Tchaikovsky. Moszkowski’s Piano Pieces, Op. 45 No. 2, Guitarre in G Major, performed in an arrangement for violin and piano by Sarasate, introduces variety to the album; being of quite a different character to the accompanying works. From Wieniawski we get his showpiece Légende in G minor, Op. 17 which is more usually heard in its version for violin and orchestra; though I do recall David Oistrakh playing it as an encore. We also get the same composer’s Polonaise brilliante No. 1 in D major, Op. 4 in the version for violin and piano. The lyrical middle section of this piece is varied in character, taking on virtuoso airs in the form of flageolet notes, double notes, leaps, broken triads in regular rhythm and ornaments that Jennifer appears to play with consummate ease. This justifiably popular work brings this fine CD to an enjoyable close.

All of the composers on this disc (Karlowicz, Szymanowski, Wieniawski, and Moszkowski) were talented musicians as well as composers, who wrote technically demanding compositions for the violin. Jennifer Pike plays all of the works with complete control and moreover a deep feeling for the music. Combine this with the sympathetic accompaniment of Petr Limonov and the appropriate acoustic of Potton Hall captured in high quality sound by the Chandos engineers and you have a sure fire winner. Strongly recommended to all collectors who are willing to stray from the popular classics – this has to be one of my favourite discs of the year so far.

iClassical rating: