KONSTANTY ANDRZEJ KULKA
An avid proponent of Polish violin repertoire, Konstanty Kulka was born and trained in Gdańsk and gained international repute whilst still a student. Since launching his solo career in earnest in 1967 he has collaborated with major orchestras worldwide and made numerous recordings spanning the whole canon of Western violin music. His most noteworthy performances are undoubtedly those of works by Polish composers and the accolades and honours he has received in light of this (including a Grand Prix du Disque) are fitting recognition of his commitment to promoting one particular strand of repertoire.
In many ways Kulka’s style of playing is typical of his generation and training in Eastern Europe. His tone is large and articulated with considerable strength from a powerful bow-arm. This can result in a characteristically brash sound on the E-string, and his very wide vibrato in high tessitura (perhaps, according to Erick Friedman’s theory, attempting to soften the ‘big’ tone required by modern concert halls) is rather dominant on record. This said, there is also a great sense of personal commitment here, giving his performances a heartfelt quality.
Of earlier repertoire, a powerful Wieniawski Scherzo-tarantelle demonstrates Kulka’s left-hand agility, and he plays a well-shaped Légende despite some over-blown vibrato which raises the emotional temperature rather too early in this celebrated mini-drama (both works recorded in 2001).
Szymanovski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (1988) exhibits similar strengths and idiosyncracies, but is distinguished by the singularly impressive performance of Pavel Kochanski’s cadenza which is mastered with astounding assuredness. In Penderecki’s music, here represented by the Violin Sonata No. 1 and Violin Concerto No. 1 (2000), Kulka seems fully at ease; Penderecki’s complex and sometimes abstruse music (especially the single-movement concerto which is, nonetheless, of extended length) is delivered in a successful declamatory style, with well-placed accents and clearly-conveyed phrase-structure, enabling a clear route through the maze. Here Kulka’s rather tremulous tone is less obvious, attention being more upon the range of accentuation and articulation of which he is capable. The short Violin Sonata No. 1 (1993) is especially well played with formal structures in the first movement giving way to an impassioned middle movement (testifying to the depth of Kulka’s tone on the G-string) and the lively, dance-like textures of the finale.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)