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Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1, Myths, Chant de Roxane - Philippens, Quentin, Zhang

Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1, Myths, Chant de Roxane - Philippens, Quentin, Zhang

Channel Classics  CCS SA 36715

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1; Myths; Chant de Roxane; Nocturne and Tarantella
Stravinsky: Chanson Russe; Berceuse & Scherzo from Firebird

Rosanne Philippens, violin
Julien Quentin, piano
NJO (Nationaal Jeugdorkest)
Xian Zhang


What a surprise it was when my friend the pianist Julien Quentin introduced me to the music of Szymanowski several years ago. A world full of myths opened up, a landscape with fast streaming rivers where frightened nymphs timidly glanced back at lascivious satyrs with goat hooves. And full of colourful stories about the shepherd’s boy seduced by a princess, and the firebird hiding in the bushes.

In the three myths I recognised Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I managed to track down the poems of Szymanowski’s countryman Tadeusz Micinski, which inspired him. In pursuit of the composer’s roots, I visited his villa Atma, where I heard the wonderful music of the mountains of Zakopane, which had moved him as well. And so ‘Myth’ came into being, an issue imbued with the Polish soul, and including, from further afield, some Russian myths as well.

Rosanne Philippens

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Review by Graham Williams - April 17, 2015

Nowadays Szymanowski's luscious 1st Violin Concerto is appearing ever more frequently on disc thanks both to the public's greater appreciation of this composer's music and to the advocacy of many star violinists of the younger generation. This latest recording from the prodigiously talented Dutch violinist Rosanne Philippens is certainly amongst the finest that I have heard.

In the Concerto she is accompanied by the NJO (National Jeugd Orkest) which is the Netherlands Youth Orchestra for players under 30 years of age. They are directed by the charismatic and dynamic conductor Xian Zhang who elicits passionate and supremely confident playing from her committed orchestra. Unlike some recordings of this work the violin is not spotlit so the many fine solos from members of the NJO can be fully appreciated. The huge tuttis have a sumptuousness appropriate to the composer's ecstatic writing and here the orchestra's horn section deserve special mention for their burnished tonal glow.

Szymanowski wrote a number of works for violin and piano that span his entire career, and two of these – 'Myths' Op 30 and 'Nocturne and Tarantella' Op 28 – are given dazzling performances that perhaps even more than the concerto show the quality of Rosanne Philippens superb musicianship. In these works she is accompanied by the pianist Julien Quentin whose alert and sensitive playing is in perfect accord with that of his partner. The three movements of 'Myths' – 'The Fountain of Arethusa', 'Narcissus' and 'Dryads and Pan' – reflect Szymanowski's interest in Classical mythology and each place formidable technical challenges for the players that are met in full by Philippens and Quentin. The 'Nocturne and Tarantella' that, like Myths was written in 1915, is delivered with tremendous attack and rhythmic verve; both performers driving the music with a controlled virtuosity that leaves one breathless.

The disc also includes a transcription of the 'Song of Roxanne' from the second Act of Szymanowski's opera King Roger made by the composer and his friend the violinist Pawel Kochanski. Rosanne Philippens and her partner brings a wonderful stillness and mysterious sensuality to her performance of this haunting piece.

The three Stravinsky pieces included in this generously filled SACD can best be considered as delightful encores to the main Szymanowski programme. The 'Chanson Russe', Stravinsky's own arrangement of an aria from his comic opera 'Mavra' is played with affectionate warmth and delicacy while the transcriptions of the Berceuse and Scherzo from 'The Firebird' confirm both the poise and exuberance that these consummate musicians bring to their performances. I do, however, think that the sleeve note writer Clemens Romijn is clutching at straws trying to make links between these two composers, and I would certainly question his view of the main work as 'the Violin Concerto Mahler never wrote'.

The Concerto was recorded (August 2014) in the spacious acoustic of the Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam and the rest (September 2014) in the more intimate Muziekcentrum, Eindhoven.
In both venues Jared Sacks's engineering of the 5.0 DSD recording is exemplary.

Enthusiastically recommended.

Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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