Szymanowski: Piano Sonata No. 3; Masques, Op. 34; Métopes, Op. 29

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COMPOSERS: Szymanowski
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Szymanowski Piano works
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 3; Masques, Op. 34; Métopes, Op. 29
PERFORMER: Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 545 7302
Like the First Violin Concerto and the Third Symphony, the three piano works on this well-engineered release present Szymanowski in his most highly-charged and harmonically complex mode. For the sequence of tone pictures that make up Métopes and Masques he drew inspiration from episodes in Greek mythology and from his extensive travels in North Africa. The resultant exotic musical language, although clearly inspired by Debussy, Ravel and Scriabin, creates a distinctive and fantastical sound world which makes huge demands on the intellectual and imaginative prowess of any prospective interpreter. The Third Sonata is even more challenging in this respect, not least because the unbroken four movement structure is bereft of the pictorial or psychological imagery that carries forward the musical argument in Métopes and Masques.

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From the opening bars of a particularly languid account of ‘Shéhérazade’ (the first of the Masques), Piotr Anderszewski enthrals the listener by the sheer beauty of the sounds that he conjures from the piano. Although each phrase seems to be carefully nuanced, Anderszewski captures to perfection the music’s almost schizophrenic changes of mood, from the dreamy and hypnotic to the ironic and capricious. The Third Sonata is no less impressive, particularly the dynamic ecstatic account of the fugal finale. Although alternative versions of these works from Martin Roscoe (Naxos) and Martin Jones (Nimbus) have many undeniable virtues, Anderszewski outclasses his rivals in the extra degree of imagination he brings to the music. Erik Levi.