Szymanowski: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1:Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8; Piano Sonata No. 2 in A, Op. 21; Nine Preludes, Op. 1; Variations on a Polish Folk-Theme in B minor, Op. 10; Four Studies, Op. 4

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COMPOSERS: Szymanowski
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1:Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8; Piano Sonata No. 2 in A, Op. 21; Nine Preludes, Op. 1; Variations on a Polish Folk-Theme in B minor, Op. 10; Four Studies, Op. 4
PERFORMER: Martin Jones (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5405/6 DDD
Karol Szymanowski was a nephew and pupil of the great piano teacher Gustav Neuhaus, whose son Heinrich taught Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. So he was brought up in the very highest tradition of virtuoso pianism, and his music reflects this.

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This set covers the early works up to the Second Sonata, written in 1910-11 for Artur Rubinstein. Hearing any of it blind, you probably wouldn’t be able to identify the composer, and straining the ears for pre-echoes of his more familiar style, or styles, is quite tantalising. The second part of Martin Jones’s complete recording will have the real treasures – it’s promised for later in the year – but meanwhile anyone who enjoys piano music that is extravagantly Romantic, yet has a firm intellectual backbone, should hear this issue. As far as Szymanowski’s complete piano works go, Jones has the field to himself. He’s not quite in the thoroughbred class of Krystian Zimerman, who already plays some of Szymanowski’s music in public and will surely record it one day, but Jones is a perceptive and sensitive artist with enormous capacity, energy and a big technique.

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It’s a pity that the recording makes the brilliant Steinway grand sound hard and almost tinny. Although it’s largely a matter of taste, those qualities don’t encourage me to listen for very long periods. Adrian Jack