The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: A recital of new-meets-old music that needs more gutsiness
Musicians: Szymon Krzeszowiec (violin) Niklas Sivelöv (piano)
Composer: Stravinsky, Dallapiccola, Reger, Pärt, Schnittke

It might have been a mistake for Polish violinist Szymon Krzeszowiec, leader of the Silesian Quartet and professor at Katowice’s Szymanowski Academy, to begin his CD with music from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. For on this enterprising disc exploring 20th-century music inspired by earlier styles, it’s by far the most familiar and engaging work – afterwards, the others pall slightly. And the Stravinsky likewise brings the disc’s most assured performance from Krzeszowiec, full of vim and vigour, and with witty interplay with pianist Niklas Sivelöv.

There are some touching moments in Krzeszowiec’s reading of Pärt’s fragile Fratres, though, and the piece’s combination of vulnerability and steely strength is the ideal match for the violinist’s understated yet determined playing. But even with its beautiful lightness and transparency of tone, Krzeszowiec’s performance feels a little rushed in places.

Elsewhere, he’s sometimes frustratingly self-effacing. Dallapiccola’s Tartiana seconda from 1956 is a homage to the composer’s 18th-century compatriot Tartini, but it needs a bolder musical personality to inject vivid life into its rather serious-minded ruminations, despite the freshness Krzeszowiec brings to the piece’s unwinding melodies. He develops an appropriately rich, rounded, vibrato-heavy sound by the sonorous ending of the Reger Suite in the Old Style, but earlier in the work, his playing seems too sensitive for its strange mix of Baroque gesture and high Romanticism. His Schnittke Suite in the Old Style is spirited yet elegant, with a plangent final ‘Pantomime’ movement. Recorded sound is warm and clear, but at times favours the piano at the expense of the violin.


David Kettle