I reviewed prior Volume 2 of this adventurous survey of Henryk Wieniawski’s violin oeuvre, so here I am in the throes of the earlier edition, recorded 1997-1999. Besides the large, more popularly played pieces, like the Op. 21 Polonaise, we have salon dances like the Sielanka, which employs a virtuosic technique with a mazurka gait not far from an Irish reel. The heavy-stamping mazurkas abound, many of which evoke Chopin, certainly, although these prove more rustic in temperament. Janowski brings considerable bravura to his fellow countryman’s opera, his own technique buttressed by studies with Heifetz, Szeryng, and Francescatti. The Piesn Polska exemplifies the demands of Wieniawski’s style, rough-edged, rife with slides and double-stops, and rhythmically free, wanting the musician to apply rubato ad libitum. Works like the Obertas, with its devilish entries, have been plied by the likes of Elman and Ricci with equal success, and Janowski competes with their renditions with flawless facility. The infrequent Dudziarz is a village dance whose opening drone evolves into a melodically fascinating song.
A combination of etudes in Polish style and joyous celebrations of his nationality, the Wieniawski legacy makes for many striking colors. Reverie, for instance, hints back to Chopin’s Trois Nouvelles Etudes and forward to Szymanowski. In F-sharp Minor, the music has a dark, chromatic edginess. Its quick shifts in registration and plaintive melody would have appealed to Nathan Mjlstein. I detect a certain sameness in the metric affect of these charming pieces after awhile, so it is perhaps best to mix the two volumes on your player. The light-hearted Canaval Russe is a series of variations that occasionally sizzle with superficial excitement – Wieniawski’s playful answer to Sarasate. Wild scales in harmonics, pizzicati alternating with spiccati passages, glissandi, all sorts of aural delights conclude a rare collation of nationalistic plums. Well recorded by engineer/CEO of this Norwegian label, Morten Lindberg.
— Gary Lemco