Henryk Szeryng = SCHUMANN: Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 121; MOZART: Violin Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 454; DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata in G Minor; BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 12, No. 3 – Henryk Szeryng, violin/ Wolfgang Rudolf, piano (Schumann)/ Heinz Schroeter, p. (Mozart, Debussy)/ Guenther Ludwig, p. (Beethoven) – MeloClassic MC 2002, 78:02 mono [www.meloclassic.com] *****:
Polish violin virtuoso Henryk Szeryng (1918-1988), whom conductor Yoel Levi once described as “the most prepared musician with whom I have ever collaborated,” gave the present studio recitals in Frankfurt, Germany on various dates, 1955-1959. Studies with Carl Flesch and Gabriel Bouillon imbued in Szeryng a thorough knowledge of the Polish, German, and French repertoire, to which he would Iberian and Spanish pieces, especially after his emigration to Mexico in 1943. The intervention by Artur Rubinstein in Szeryng’s career – in Mexico City, 1948 – completely internationalized his reputation.
The four works presented by MeloClassic showcase the spectacular energy and accuracy Szeryng could apply to his chosen repertory. The dark 1851 Schumann Sonata in D Minor receives (17 May 1955) fierce intensity for its opening Ziemlich langsam – Lebhaft first movement, in triple meter, with Szerying’s playing detached chords over turbulent piano figures. The keyboard only proceeds in a “lively” manner under a slow, deliberate pace in the violin. The Scherzo designates the piano for the lead materials in 6/8, while the reverse occurs in the trio. The bravura comes in the third movement, with Szeryng’s effortless triple stops, pizzicato. The Bewegt finale “moves along” as a theme and variations, to which Szeryng applies any number of colors as the music explores distant modes of the D Minor triad.
The 1781 Violin Sonata in B-flat Major by Mozart (15 April 1957) certainly finds equality between the two principals, here realized by Heinz Schroeter. After a stately Largo, Szeryng launches into a happy, flowing Allegro in serene colloquy with the keyboard. Szeryng gives full voice to his – and his Stradivarius’ – capacity for cantabile in the soaring Andante. The tone darkens in the minor without loss of fluent lyricism. The contest between harmony and invention could hardly find beter expression than in Mozart’s witty curlicues of theme for the Allegretto finale, in which various episodes resound with little nudges of gleeful wit until the last, virtuosic chords.
The Debussy 1916 Sonata in G Minor derives from the same session, 15 April 1957. Szeryng can “pinch” his sound to accommodate Debussy’s sec aesthetic, but the sheer power of the interpretation absorbs the work in one consistent gulp, typical of Szeryng’s penchant for setting a tempo and abiding to it to the last. The alternating affects of humor, nostalgia, poetic fire, and angular melancholy all pass by in reflective serenity of style and tone. Often, the musical texture appears to contest the two instruments; or rather, they urge or resist the other’s advances. After his demonstrating the deft lightness of hand demanded in the second movement, Szeryng illustrates his stretch and intonation by advancing from the open G to his high C-sharp in the Finale. The keyboard tremolos and haunted atmosphere realized by Schroeter contribute to the chilling and mesmerizing effect of the performance.
The Beethoven 1798 E-flat Major Sonata (19 May 1959) proffers the happiest collaboration on the disc. A natural exuberance permeates the entire sonata, dedicated by the way, to Salieri. While several high points capture our fancy, the C Major Adagio compels repeated hearings. The Rondo: Allegro molto may owe its spirit to Haydn, but the infectious charm of the two instruments; trading leads has us toe-tapping with boundless delight for a performance of informed charm, grace, wit, and panache.