Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 2 Op. 61 – Karol Szymanowski
Szymanowski composed his second Concerto for violin and orchestra Op. 61 at the request of Paweł Kochański, the brilliant violinist who had advised him previously on the famous Myths and the Violin Concerto No. 1, and who did so now, devising no less than a cadence for the new concerto.
Written in 1932-3, Concerto No. 2 is very different from the first one - primarily in the sparing use of technical means. Complicated harmony and chromatisms have given way to diatonics and modal lucidity. The dominant role is played by the changes of colour - the evolutions of chord sounds, virtuoso figurations and melodic motifs. The simple, lapidary themes underlie, however, a rich musical narrative. Architecturally, Szymanowski revisits the single-movement form whose two sections are separated by a violin cadence - a design known from his Violin Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 3 and Piano Sonata No. 3. While the first building block has the form of a sonata allegro culminating with two episodes in the slow part and a scherzo, the other one is constructed like a rondo whose main theme, rhythmic, merry and bouncy, is evocative of the Kurpie melodies and of the mood of the Podhale music, and ends with the initial theme of the first building block.
Violin Concerto No. 2 was first performed by Paweł Kochański and orchestra under Grzegorz Fitelberg at the Warsaw Philharmonic on 6th October 1933. It was the last appearance of the famous violinist, who would die on 12th January 1934. When submitting the score for publication, Szymanowski, deeply moved by his friend's death, added the following dedication: A la memoire du Grand Musicien, mon cher et inoubliable Ami, Paul Kochański [To the memory of the Great Musician, my dear and unforgettable Friend, Paweł Kochański].
The Concerto soon found worthy successors of the acclaimed violinist in other interpreters. It was still in 1934 that Albert Spalding and Sergey Koussevitzky as the director presented it to the Boston audience, and two years later it was performed by Stefan Frenkiel and orchestra under Ernest Ansermet at the Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Barcelona. After World War II the Concerto No. 2 featured in the repertoires of such virtuoso violinists as Eugenia Umińska (whose interpretation was recorded on several LPs, including the one released by Polskie Nagrania, Muza in 1955), Henryk Szeryng, Vadim Brodsky, and, more recently, Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Wanda Wiłkomirska, Roman Lasocki, Kaja Danczowska, and others.
Author: Anna Iwanicka-Nijakowska, September 2007.