Acclaimed violinist Jennifer Pike explores her Polish heritage in her latest album on Chandos to be released on 4 January. The album, featuring Pike alongside pianist Petr Limonov, presents music by Polish composers Mieczyslaw Karłowicz, Karol Szymanowski, Henryk Wieniawski and Moritz Moszkowski.
Jennifer’s aim with the album is to build bridges through music following the political upheaval in June 2014, which she has brought into her recent concert programmes too including her Polish Music Day at Wigmore Hall in 2017. With frequent visits to Poland to see family from a very young age, Jennifer was brought up listening to this music and is passionate about sharing it with a wider audience. This has initiated her strong views about the way culture unites people in a common emotional experience that surmounts linguistic or national boundaries, a sentiment particularly prevalent amid the UK’s current political climate.
Jennifer explains “This recording is the culmination of a very special and personal journey for me exploring famous and lesser-known gems of Polish violin music. It has been wonderful to record music that I grew up with especially at a time when Poland is celebrating 100 years of independence.”
After Britain’s connections with Europe were invariably changed after the referendum, Jennifer was keen to delve deeper into her Polish heritage. Pike’s mother was born in Poland and became separated from her British husband for six months due to the imposition of martial law in the early 1980’s. Communication between them was only possible through letters carried in diplomatic pouches and when a MP took up their case it made the front pages of the UK national press. Eventually she was able to leave Poland on the first flight out of the country once flights were resumed with the West.
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is widely considered as one of the greatest Polish composers. Making up half the disc, Pike explores his challenging repertoire for violin and piano including Mythes and Chant de Roxane, taken from his famous opera King Roger. The Mythes are especially prominent on the album as one of the most revolutionary pieces, considered very much ahead of its time. Pike pairs these works with Guitarre by Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925), a lesser-known composer of the era, but one that very much sits comfortably within the distinctive Polish soundscape of the album. Mieczyslaw Karłowicz (1876-1909) was another eminent composer of his time, but died at the young age of 32 in an avalanche whilst skiing in the Tatra mountains, an area in which Jennifer spent time as a child. Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) wrote Legende following his engagement to Isabella Hampton in an attempt win over her parents, who disapproved of the engagement. Upon hearing the piece, Isabella’s parents gave their blessing, and it has since become one of his most frequently performed works.