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Szymanowski: Piano Works, Vol. 4

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 15, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B000BK53CY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,830 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 7, 2006
Format: Audio CD
It has been five long years since the previous release in the series devoted to Szymanowski's piano music played by British pianist Martin Roscoe. One had given up hope that there would be more but, mirabile dictu!, here is Volume 4 and it contains the work I'd been hoping for, the Third Piano Sonata. There is, to be sure, stiff competition for the sonata in the recently released performance by Piotr Anderszewski on Virgin Classics, but this performance is arguably the equal of that one and at budget price to boot. There has been a release of the complete Mazurkas by Marc-André Hamelin that has come out in the meantime as well, and as there are six of the mazurkas played here, there is some comparison to be made. In that case I would give the nod to Hamelin. Still the mazurkas included here, those from Opp. 50 and 62, are finely done, if not in quite as scintillating fashion as those by Hamelin. The somewhat quirky mazurkas require a finely tuned rhythmic sense that Hamelin seems to have under somewhat better control than Roscoe.

The CD contains music from Szymanowski's earliest years when he was still under the influence of Chopin (Preludes, Op. 1) or Brahms (Variations, Op. 3) to the middle period when he had discovered the French impressionists (the Sonata, Op. 36) and on to the latter Mazurkas (Op. 62).

The Sonata is a marvel of construction. It is played without pause but has the usual four movements. There is the usual whole-tone impressionism one has come to expect in middle and late period Szymanowski, but in addition, throughout but particularly in the final fugal movement, there are several planes of sound that Roscoe manages to keep distinct. He seems to know when to shine a light on each of the different planes appropriately.
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Format: Audio CD
The fourth volume of Martin Roscoe's traversal of Szymanowski's piano works for Naxos came almost as an afterthought several years after volume three, and it does perhaps contain less striking and less familiar music overall than the two previous volumes in this invaluable series. Other pianists have possibly taken a slightly more impressionistic approach and focused more on the shimmering atmospheres of Szymanowski's music, but Roscoe - while in no way eschewing the fantasy or magic of the music - more than makes up for it by boldness and sweep. He also manages to create a more variegated sound world for this music than many of his competitors.

The series (sensibly, I admit) spread his Mazurkas op. 50 over the four discs in the series - fabulous, stirring music, firmly based on folk music yet quite experimental in idiom (and sounding very little like Chopin, to which they by virtue of their format might be suspected to be indebted) - the obvious comparison is Bartok, and Szymanowski doesn't suffer from it. Roscoe's imaginative playing brings out all the quirks and kaleidoscopic range of textures in these pieces - brittle, capricious but still evocative - and is generally as convincing here as in the very different, early, somewhat Scriabinesque and to be honest forgettable op. 1 preludes and op. 3 variations (and the slight Valse romantique). Roscoe seems to do all he can for the latter works, and the variations are at least full of character and color.

The third sonata might sound a little anonymous compared to Anderszewski but Roscoe still has something interesting to say about it - generally, Roscoe is faster and more fervent and I admit that he misses some of the haunted magic of his competitors. Still, I found the reading rewarding enough to be highly recommendable.
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