Karol Szymanowski: Violin Concertos; Myths

Baiba Skride / Vasily Petrenko / Lauma Skride

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Karol Szymanowski: Violin Concertos; Myths Review

by Blair Sanderson

As stylistically different as Karol Szymanowski's two violin concertos are, they share a brilliance of orchestration that clearly identifies them with their composer. The Violin Concerto No. 1 is the most complex of the two in its evocative scene painting, exotic harmonies, and extremely virtuosic cadenza, while the Violin Concerto No. 2 stands in striking contrast with its long-breathed rhapsodic melodies and comparative directness and simplicity. But both concertos dazzle because of Szymanowski's expert handling of the orchestra, and his writing for the solo violin is as much about its special sonorities as it is about showing off the violinist's technique. Latvian violinist Baiba Skride delivers these demanding parts with apparent ease and fluency, but she is to be commended especially for her control of the violin's upper range, which is used to great effect in both concertos. Her tone naturally pentrates the thickest textures, and she soars to great heights with gleaming harmonics and unbroken phrasing. Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra provide exceptional support, and collaborate with Skride as an equal partner, never overstepping the accompanist's role and always keeping the soloist front and center. The closing piece, the Scriabin-flavored Myths for violin and piano, brings Skride's playing to a more intimate place, and Lauma Skride, her sister, balances the fanciful piano part against the violin with appropriate dynamics and expressive restraint.

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