Szymanowski: Mazurkas, Op. 50/13-16; Études, Op. 33; Four Polish Dances; Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor; Sonata No. 1 in C minor

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COMPOSERS: Szymanowski
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Mazurkas, Op. 50/13-16; Études, Op. 33; Four Polish Dances; Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor; Sonata No. 1 in C minor
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553867
This gathering of Szymanowski’s piano music demonstrates perfectly the perils of pigeonholing this elusive composer: Romantic; post-Romantic; impressionist – all of these slightly questionable portmanteau terms could apply to the music, and yet they limit rather than aid appreciation of his remarkable originality. The Mazurkas from the mid-Twenties are perhaps the best example of this elusiveness: as exemplar, Szymanowski’s Polish predecessor Chopin inevitably springs to mind, but apart from a nod in the direction of folkish elements, common to both composers, there is little resemblance; these exquisite miniatures explore, along with even more experimental Études, a highly individual harmonic and textural world. For greater approachability, try the Four Polish Dances of 1926 from Szymanowski’s last phase. The early Prelude and Fugue and Piano Sonata, Op. 8, lean more obviously on Chopin, though coloured by Liszt, Reger and Scriabin. Even so, such lyrically rewarding works could hardly be termed immature – just try the middle movements of the Sonata.

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In this third volume of the complete piano music, Martin Roscoe continues to show himself perfectly attuned to Szymanowski’s wide-ranging muse. He takes the early works seriously and provides one of the most convincingly ‘symphonic’ readings of the Études I have ever heard. Jan Smaczny