Notes and Editorial Reviews
"One of my most distinguished predecessors at Fanfare, George Jellinek, said of Steven Staryk, “I have such a high opinion of your playing that it would pain me to no end if artistry of such caliber would not have the recognition it deserves.” On the occasion of Centaur releasing this six CD retrospective of Staryk’s career, I wish I could summon George Jellinek’s ghost to do justice in describing it. The very best of the items on these CDs rank among the greatest violin recordings in existence. What makes Steven Staryk so special? First of all there is his technique, which at its best may be compared to Perlman, Ricci, and Milstein’s. I hesitate to compare Staryk to Heifetz; however one feels about Heifetz’s sound, I have no doubt
that his technique was something perfect unto itself. Staryk’s tone is simply remarkable. It is radiant, with a feeling of sinew subsumed in its glorious texture. Staryk has no weaknesses. You simply are amazed that a man can draw such a tone from an inanimate object; the sound seems to possess a life of its own. All this would amount to nothing were it not matched by Staryk’s musicianship. He exhibits a musicality marked by a laser like precision of meaning. At any point in a phrase, you know exactly what Staryk’s intent is. Somehow, had the composer played the violin, you feel he would want to sound like Steven Staryk, so close is the identification between creator and soloist. The present retrospective is the nearest thing I know to discovering music all over again. In a nutshell, Steven Staryk is a phenomenon.
No better Prokofiev performances can be heard than those in Volume 4. In the First Concerto, Staryk equals Ricci with de Froment and Stern with Mehta; it is even more remarkable for being recorded live. Indeed, I’ve heard Kyung-Wha Chung and Joshua Bell play this concerto in concert, and neither came close to Staryk. The opening movement feels like a May breeze through the trees, to which Bernard Haitink contributes a lightness of touch. The Scherzo is a madcap dance, while the final movement in Staryk’s hands exudes bourgeois contentment. Staryk’s excellent partner for the sonatas is Mario Bernardi, better known as a conductor. The del Gesù violin Staryk uses for the sonatas has a grittier sound than the Strad he performs the concerto on. I listened to Joshua Bell and Olli Mustonen’s recording of the sonatas, and Bell sounds amateurish by comparison with Staryk. The opening movement of the First Sonata here feels like Prokofiev’s version of Don Giovanni and the Commendatore in the cemetery. The next movement, Allegro Brusco, sounds like a shoving match. Staryk offers a third movement like a flickering candle by a window at night. The last movement is a danse macabre. Staryk revels in the beautiful cornucopia of Prokofievian melody that is the Second Sonata. His approach to it makes it sound like a 20th-Century equivalent to Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata. I never have heard an artist identify with a composer more completely than Staryk does with Prokofiev.
After spending about 40 hours listening to Steven Staryk—A Retrospective, I am loathe to put aside these CDs and file my review. Staryk is revealed here not just as a great musician but also as a trusted friend of the listener. Few artists give of themselves so wholeheartedly to their audience. Even though many of these recordings are monaural and less than state of the art, I guarantee that they will entrance you infinitely longer than the latest PR confections on CD of our pretty young violinists. Perhaps it is not too late to provide Steven Staryk with the major international reputation he so richly deserves. Compared to him, nearly all other violinists indeed sound like children."
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin no 1 in D major, Op. 19 by Sergei Prokofiev
Steven Staryk (Violin)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1916-1917; Russia
Date of Recording: 10/08/1961
Length: 19 Minutes 48 Secs.
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