Plus ça change… .In Fanfare 38:1, Michael Ullman noted of a program of mazurkas, “Following what seems a trend, if not a fad, this disc has a subtitle: Researching Chopin.'” The program at hand is titled Three Generations of Mazurkas, though there’s a bit of overlap between Szymanowska (1789-1831) and Chopin (1810-1849), and a generation’s gap from the death of Chopin to the birth of Szymanowski (1882-1937). Considering that Szymanowski’s 20 mazurkas were composed over 1924 —25, Kostritsa’s leaped several generations. That apart, the conceit is revealing.
Szymanowska—no relation to Szymanowski—was a brilliant concert pianist who toured Europe, infatuated the aged Goethe (inspiring “Aussohnung,” the final poem of his Trilogie der Leidenschaft), and in 1822 became First Pianist to the Russian court. If her mazurkas are an indication, her noble patrons had short attention spans, as not one of them plays for a full minute. Within that span one admires their spark and variety, spark and … until ennui overtakes the enterprise and the dawning of Chopin’s handful relieves monotony with personality. For more, see Scott Noriega’s review of an entire album of Szymanowska’s pieces in Fanfare 37:2.
Kostritsa plays with accentuated verve, though his grasp of the Szymanowski stresses their continuity as mazurkas, rather than their strangeness. For that, tune in to Anna Kijanowska’s compelling accounts (Dux 0417, Fanfare 29:6). Sound is close, detailed, and gutsy.