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.
The last volume documents Staryk’s longtime duo with pianist John Perry. Perry is a virtuosic and expressive player who blends well with Staryk. Their performance of the “Kreutzer” Sonata is vigorous and athletic. They don’t take the first or final movement’s exposition repeat—there’s no dawdling about this interpretation. The slow movement’s variations proceed straightforwardly, with little rubato. Good as this performance is, I believe that period instruments reveal more of the character of this piece than any modern-instrument rendition I’ve heard does. There are excellent period performances by Benjamin Hudson with Mary Verney and by Evan Johnson with Anthony Newman. As for Bartók’s First Sonata, it unquestionably receives a great performance. The artists calibrate the first movement delicately, which is in the manner of a fantasy. Unfortunately, there’s a notable amount of tape flutter in it. The second movement, an Adagio, is the high point of the duo’s interpretation. Here there is a precursor of the spacious expressiveness of Arvo Pärt, and the duo plays with imagination and authority. The last movement, Allegro, sounds rather like a Brahms Hungarian Dance gone mad. It offers great scope for virtuoso and passionate playing, and Staryk and Perry project it brilliantly. Their ensemble here is almost uncanny. As their audience’s response testifies, the duo ends this Steven Staryk retrospective on a note of triumph.
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
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1, Sz 75 by Béla Bartók
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1921; Budapest, Hungary
Date of Recording: 1960s
Venue: Live Hybrid Studio, Oberlin College Conservat
Length: 31 Minutes 30 Secs.
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