Karolina Jaroszewska in Review
Karolina Jaroszewska – Cello
Julia Samojło – Piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 11, 2015
A warm-hearted spirit of generosity pervaded the atmosphere of a very accomplished performance given by cellist Karolina Jaroszewska and pianist Julia Samojło recently at Weil Recital Hall. Ms. Jaroszewska is an intuitive musician, with a big boned, extroverted and plush sound at her disposal. The Chopin Polonaise brillante in C Major, Op. 3, has these same qualities in spades, so it was a savvy vehicle for the talents of both cellist and pianist. The duo chose to perform the Leonard Rose edition, based on Emanuel Feuermann’s arrangement, which alters the subsidiary nature of the cello part, to say the least. Ms. Samojło tossed off the difficult opening passagework with playful ease and lightness of execution. Indeed, her playing throughout the polonaise was indicative of an understanding of the composer which is rarely seen these days. Ms. Jaroszewsk, for her part, used a wide vibrato to achieve a deeply expressive singing tone. Her security in technical matters was abundantly evident, especially when called upon to play in the more alpine regions of the instrument, which were impressively accurate in this rendition. I don’t think I would be incorrect in saying that both these artists, through their training in Poland, have absorbed a connection, handed down through generations, to the particular spirit and style of Frédéric Chopin.
In an unannounced reversal of program order, Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 28, was placed immediately after the Chopin. This proved to be a wise decision, as it allowed Ms. Jaroszewska to expand into the full scope of her interpretive range. Her phrasing and melodic shaping of this sonata were beautifully judged, most especially in the first and third movements. In the concluding Finale Con Brio, she displayed a subtle calibration of dynamics and several different qualities of pizzicato to great musical effect.
A selection of Rachmaninoff songs, arranged by the cellist, were balanced nicely in terms of mood and tessitura (soprano, mezzo, tenor, bass). Ms. Jaroszewska, when operating in soprano territory, played rhapsodically, passionately, in a manner reminiscent of a bygone era. It was Ms. Samojło, however, who made an even greater impression in many moments of austere beauty, her tone exquisite at the close “Like Blossom Dew-Freshen’d To Gladness” and the floating, Debussian quality she brought to “The Little Island”.
Krzysztof Penderecki’s second composition for solo cello, entitled Per Slava, is dedicated to the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. It is basically a series of manipulations based on the half tone intervals used to form the name BACH (B-flat, A, C, B) . This would seem to be an artificial construct, yet it is a rich and intensely affecting work. Ms. Jaroszewska gave a terrific performance, committed and musically cogent.
An important recital should end with an important piece, and the Cesar Franck A Major Sonata unquestionably falls into this category. I can’t say that I am completely without reservations concerning the transcription for cello. Much of it works quite well, but in the places where it is awkward, it’s awkward in a disappointing way. Having said that, this duo brought a great deal of energy and panache to their interpretation and they managed some smooth transitions within movements remarkably well. This was a reading with more ardor than color, painted in big, bold strokes. The final movement got off to a shaky start, but they recovered beautifully and triumphantly.
With a snappy, witty encore by Piazzola, the evening came to a close and the grateful audience thanked these gracious performers. I’m partial to musicians like Ms. Jaroszewska and Ms. Samojło. They have done their homework, but in the concert, they plunge in and take risks, and we are better for it.