Richard Whitehouse / Gramophone U.K.
These works, from either end of their composers’ output, make for an unlikely yet effective pairing. Szymanowski’s Violin Sonata (1909) is often seen as a product of the period when he was still in thrall to German late-Romanticism, yet echoes of Fauré, Franck and Enescu make its ‘French’ provenance the more tangible. Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka bring flexibility to the rhetoric of its initial Allegro, then underline the plaintiveness of the Andantino as well as the resolve of the finale when it builds to its decisive close: the piece emerging as formally more cohesive and expressively less wayward than is often the case.
Where Szymanowski luxuriates, Shostakovich ruminates: the latter’s Violin Sonata (1968) has often seemed among the most forbidding of his later works and it is to these performers’ credit that the speculative dialogue of the opening Moderato feels not in the least arid or the confrontational exchanges of the central Allegretto not lacking in textural clarity. Nor does the final Largo lose focus as it heads to its eloquent climax before returning to those fugitive gestures with which the work had begun.
Those who prefer to invest in these works as part of single-composer discs could well turn to Alina Ibragimova for the Szymanowski and Isabelle Faust for the Shostakovich. If the present coupling appeals, however, it should be acquired with confidence.