Alexander Kostritsa plays Szymanowska's complete dances for solo piano
The cover photo, showing dancers in Toulouse’s Place du Capitôle, is a little misleading: Maria Szymanowska (1789-1831) was something of an international celebrity, but not especially cosmopolitan in her music. Polonaises and mazurkas – she was the first composer to formalise the mazurka as a pianistic genre – dominate here in a programme of her complete dances for solo piano, and in spite of her travels to Western Europe’s musical centres she was Slavonic in her outlook. Born in Warsaw, where she lived for much of her short life, she spent her final years in St Petersburg as court pianist to the tsarina. Her salons attracted composers and artistic figures, and Goethe fell deeply in love with her.
As a composer, Szymanowska was a miniaturist: several of this CD’s 50-plus tracks last no more than a quarter of a minute, and offer little scope for emotional depth. Perhaps this accounts for the impression the young Russian pianist Alexander Kostritsa gives here of sometimes rattling through these pieces, though his pleasing lightness of touch suits the music well. An attractive collection, but one maybe better suited to listening in small doses than to total immersion.