Sonata for violin and piano
for violin and piano is the earliest Penderecki
piece known to us today. It comes from the period of his work with his first
composition teacher, Stanisław Skołyszewski.
Unlike his other compositions from the 1950s, which have never been printed, though they circulated in copies and were sometimes performed or even released on records (as in the case of Misterioso), the Sonata had a proper premiere and its score was published – 37 and 39 years after its composition, respectively. Recordings appeared soon afterward and today we can choose from among several.
What was the music of 20-year-old Krzysztof Penderecki like? The Sonata has been performed by Christine Edinger and Christian Eschenbach, Konstanty Andrzej Kulka and Waldemar Malicki, Grigori Zhislin and Vladimir Viardo, Ida Bieler and Kalle Randalu. The composer’s name alone would not have sufficed to attract such celebrities. A distinct advantage in the Sonata is the young composer’s excellent sense of the violin, an instrument he played. The piano part also receives an interesting treatment.
The first movement, following the sonata form of exposition, development, reprise with coda, has two themes. The first – resolutely motoric – bringsassociations with Prokofiev’s style, while the second is romantic and lyrical. Even more melodious and song-like is the theme of the slow, elegiac second movement, the Andante. The piano at first remains in the shadows, discreetly supporting the violin part, but toward the end takes up the theme in the high register, leading us into the third movement, Allegro vivace. This movement bursts out in a dance-like fashion, puzzling with its wealth of impenetrable links to folk art. The musicologist Mieczysław Tomaszewski noted the similarity of those dance motifs to folkloric finales of early pieces by Grażyna Bacewicz. Most commentators point to the influence of Bartók, well known for the incorporation of folk motifs into European classical music. In his early sonata, Penderecki successfully took up the same challenge.