Stirring readings of violin sonatas by two Polish nationalist composers

Laurence Kayaleh: Noskowski, Želeński

The Strad Issue: February 2024

Description: Stirring readings of violin sonatas by two Polish nationalist composers

Musicians: Laurence Kayaleh (violin) Bernadene Blaha (piano)

Works: Noskowski: Violin Sonata in A minor. Želeński: Violin Sonata in F major op.30

Catalogue number: NAXOS 8.574220

These two Polish sonatas from the latter part of the 19th century are attractive, conservative in style, and well worth hearing. Zygmunt Noskowski’s A minor Sonata of the mid-1870s is brimming with melody and hints of Brahms. It opens with a somewhat severe dialogue before opening out into free-flowing lyricism, opulent and alluring, played by Laurence Kayaleh with full-toned warmth and fluency, with the pianist Bernadene Blaha often in busy attendance.

The melodies continue to flow as the development becomes increasingly impassioned. Along the way Kayaleh produces some nicely turned moments of quiet questioning. The second movement is a set of variations on a genial, occasionally pensive, theme; as the variations progress Kayaleh is by turns light and sinuous, or tender and shapely, with a gentle, autumnal beauty to round them off. The final Prestissimo is a staccato dash in the nature of a tarantella, with both players exhibiting plenty of rhythmic energy.

In the first movement of Władysław Želeński’s slightly later F major Sonata, Kayaleh deals elegantly with some nifty runs and double-stops, with Blaha always excellent in the demanding piano writing. The central Allegretto has graceful playing of deceptive simplicity. The nearest the sonata gets to a slow movement is the Molto sostenuto opening of the finale, with Kayaleh sensitively outlining its twisting contours, before his ebullient playing of the Allegro. The recorded sound is resonant, with the piano sometimes sounding a little boxy.