Volume two of Pike’s Polish odyssey hits the mark with magical playing. Szymanowski’s early music is semantically elusive – despite moments of explosive 19th-century rhetoric, one can already sense an underlying tendency towards the chromatically intensified exotic. His opulent sound world leads the ear to expect outbursts of melodic prolificity, yet although his writing is predominantly lyrical in essence, Szymanowski shows no inclination to fall back on indelible melody. The challenge is to make sense of the music – most notably the op.9 Sonata (1904), included here – which appears stylistically to look backwards and forwards at the same time.
This is where Jennifer Pike and Petr Limonov really come into their own, discovering a magical interpretive path that indulges the music’s luxuriant tendency with exquisite subtlety and musical focus. This becomes still more revelatory in the three Paganini caprice realisations, in which Pike refocuses her glistening virtuosity to create a dream world of haunting reminiscences. So musically entwined are Pike’s and Limonov’s fine-tuned responses to La Berceuse d’Aïtacho Enia, that one wishes this trance-like miniature would go on unfurling indefinitely.
The real discovery, however, is the D minor Sonata by Wieniawski’s daughter Poldowski (pseudonym of Irène Régine Wieniawska, later Lady Irène Dean Paul), whose delicious Tango (also included here) was famously recorded by Jascha Heifetz and Emanuel Bay. Composed only a few years after Szymanowski’s Sonata, ‘Poldowski’ demonstrates at this stage an even surer absorption of late Romantic creative tendencies. In between comes a dazzlingly playful performance of Bacewicz’s solo violin Kaprys polski from Pike, who nonchalantly negotiates its pyrotechnical hurdles. Exemplary annotations from Nigel Simeone and alluringly radiant sound provide further inducements to purchase.