"VINCENT P. SKOWRONSKI is clearly one of the BEST VIOLINISTS
in America today. We strongly recommend this disc!"
American Record Guide (J. Magil) - July/August, 2007
TOP TEN BEST CLASSICAL CDS for 2007! --Chicago DAILY HERALD
Here is a sequel to AVEC et SANS - Volume I, which begins with Ernest Bloch's gripping Hebraic improvisation, NIGUN. What follows is Carl Engel's diaphanous, ala-Debussy presentation, SEA-SHELL,......then UNACCOMPANIED works by two of 'Les Six,' the SONATINE for Two Solo Violins by Arthur Honegger and a DUO for Two Solo Violins by Darius Milhaud. Concluding the program are two stylistically representative works by Karol Szymanowski, his ever elusive DANCE OF THE MOUNTAINEERS and the seething SONATA IN D MINOR. We think you will agree,......what we have here is a wonderfully eclectic "mix that clix!"
ERNEST BLOCH (1880-1959), an American composer of Swiss origin, visited and worked in the United States beginning in 1916 before finally becoming an American citizen in 1924. He served as the first Director of the Cleveland Institue of Music (1920-1925) but became disenchanted with his position there and ultimately resigned. He then encountered virtually the same situation at the San Francisco Conservatory (1925-1930) and that appointment, as well, quickly atrophied.
Apparently disgruntled by his experiences with American academia, Bloch decided to leave the States. But after a stay during most of the 1930s in his native Switzerland, he opted to return state-side in 1941. Thereafter, Bloch enjoyed his permanent residency in Oregon where he quietly settled until his death in 1959.
By reputation a "Jewish" composer, Ernest Bloch's works are freely structured upon a musically traditional Hebraic foundation. The NIGUN, -Improvisation- is the second section from a three movement suite, Baal Shem. Frequently heard on recital programs, NIGUN is assuredly Ernest Bloch's most famous composition for violin and piano. The music itself is deeply religious in nature and places the violinist in a pseudo-cantorial posture. Given to long, cadenza-like passage work of high voltage intensity, the violinist is surely the 'star' of this musical offering. As a vehicle for virtuosic yet meaningful display, NIGUN has always remained a solid fixture in the violin repertoire. Mr. Skowronski is pleased to use it here for the opening to his rather eclectic program.
CARL ENGEL (1883-1944) is remembered for his long association with G. Schirmer, Inc. as President of Schirmer's music publishing division. The greater majority of classical music aficionados, however, are probably not aware of Engel's considerable talents as a composer. Over and above his Presidential duties at Schirmer Music, Engel spent copious amounts of his non-corporate time writing small-scale compositions in the Impressionistic style. Here we get to sample a scintilating mini-masterpiece by Engel, the SEA-SHELL, which was originally amongst a group of songs he wrote to poems by Ms. Amy Lowell.
Eventually, this priceless jewel was mined and delivered to Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. who adroitly transcribed it for violin and piano. Zimbalists's efforts serve up plenty
of filigreed passagework as well as strategically placed harmonics and trills from which the violin creates a palpable illusion of lapping waves and undulating sea swells. The fragile SEA-SHELL is a wonder,......and
one might wonder why it is not presented more often on today's concert stage.
"Sea-Shell, Sea-Shell, Sing me a song. O Please!" Skowronski and Chiba willingly oblige, in sublime fashion.
ARTHUR HONEGGER (1892-1955) was of Swiss parentage but born in France at Le Havre. Considered by many a Swiss composer, Arthur did, nonetheless, live most of life in France.
While still in his early to mid-teens, Arthur was sent away to the Zurich Conservatory by his father where he could more seriously persue his violin studies as well as learn conducting and harmony. When attending university predictably became an issue, Arthur, at 21, managed entrance to the highly esteemed Paris Conservatoire and, hence, reluctantly left his beloved Switzerland for what eventually would become his permanent residence, the City of Light......Paris. A visceral bond to his native Switzerland now ever so slowly began to manifest itself
as a powerful force in Honegger's life. Though for years adhering to a stalwart and lusty Parisian life-style, Arthur also maintained a rather stoic self-identity as a Swiss Alpiner by means of his frequent visits to his Mother country for business...as well as for pleasure.
The SONATINE POUR DEUX VIOLONS was composed in 1920 when Honegger turned 28 years of age. The work is in three movements with the second designated to be played 'with mute' --con sordino. The Sonatine for two SOLO violins
is an adventuresome undertaking by Honegger as most composers rarely wrote for this combination of instruments. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that Honegger was an excellent violinist in his own right and certainly knew how to handle the machinations of writing for 'HIS' instrument. Thus, the Sonatine is an individual work of solid craftmanship which hints at 'things to come' in the not too distant future.
These 'things to come' --the NOW MUSIC of its time-- was set into motion thanks in part to the prevailing work of Arthur Honegger and his dear friend and colleague, DARIUS MILHAUD (1892-1974). These two men helped usher in and identify a new, provocative musical style best described as Neo-Classicism which served as a replacement for the heart-on-your-sleeve Age of Romanticism. For better or worse, mid-20th century 'avant garde' music had arrived.
Milhaud's DUO POUR DEUX VIOLINS was written in the year 1945 and is in three movements, Gai-Romance-Gigue. Contrary to Honegger's duo-work, Milhaud's effort is definitely lighter in texture and much less intense in character.
MORE TO COME