Steven Staryk—A Retrospective: Volume 3
Steven Staryk (vn, cond);
Bernard Haitink (cond);
Royal Concertgebouw O;
Vancouver Baroque O;
Kenneth Gilbert (hpd)
CENTAUR 3211 (72:34)
Violin Concertos: No. 1 in a;
No 2 in E.
BWV 1023 and 1020
. Violin Partita No. 2
I have two confessions to make. First, Steven Staryk’s name did not immediately ring my bell. Second, I haven’t really kept up with the current activity on the Bach violin concerto front. To dispose of the second, I’ll have to say that I’ve lived comfortably with the relatively ancient versions by Alice Harnoncourt (Teldec) and Janós Rolla (Hungaroton) for, lo, these many years. As for Staryk, this release is the first I’ve encountered of him as a soloist, though it turns out that I must have heard him many times in his roles as concertmaster of the Concertgebouw and Chicago Symphony Orchestras. A quick search of Wikipedia reveals that he was named “King of Concertmasters” by
Magazine upon being appointed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to that post at the tender age of 24. He’s also served as concertmaster with the Amsterdam Chamber Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Incidentally, Wikipedia also mentioned that Staryk was denied entry into the United States during the McCarthy era, presumably because of his Ukrainian heritage. He is in fact a native-born Canadian and more relevantly a supremely accomplished musician. I liked especially the sonatas, made in 1967 with his fellow Canadian, Kenneth Gilbert, despite an occasional rhetorical bit that he might not have made in later years. The Partita was seamlessly stitched together from two performances made 16 years and two continents apart. I could have done without extended applause after the famous Chaconne, though I’ll admit he earned it, probably more. The A-Minor Concerto, recorded in 1961, apparently when Staryk was concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, is a solid performance, but not one that I’m likely to come back to. The E-Major Concerto, made in 1975 with a smaller ensemble and conducted by Staryk himself, was more satisfying and more cleanly recorded. The constant throughout the disc, though, is Staryk’s beautifully focused, technically impeccable playing.
The cover features a blurb from the
New York Times,
“…irreproachable…technically, tonally and musically,” which has it about right. Another source,
, Germany, is quoted inside the booklet: “It is strange that Staryk’s fame didn’t spread throughout the world…a curious phenomenon within the music scene.” I can relate to that. This is the third volume of Centaur’s six-disc retrospective of Staryk’s recordings. A 30-disc anthology is available as well. Violin lovers of the world, take notice!