The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski lived a complex, uncertain life, characterised by poor health and a spirit that today could be described as rebellious for his time; to some extent he is still relegated to a sort of limbo in music history, one of the composers who have not reached the peak of international notoriety, but is so present in recordings and concert programs that many people are now considering how great was his impact in the early years of the 20th century. He is best known for his piano works, to which he devoted most of his compositional effort, though among his other well known works are ‘King Roger’, four symphonies and concertos for violin and piano. Like Scriabin, he is a figure rather difficult to settle historically, with a language that constantly evolved over his 55 years of life between 1882 and 1937.
Szymanowski was much fascinated by his compatriot Chopin and his first style was very much that of Chopin, as is evident in the Nine Preludes Op. 1 and the four Op. 4 Etudes, which are marked by a strong melodic sense and with an omnipresent melancholy background that is often quite moving. Szymanowski was also fascinated by the wonders of Wagnerian harmonies, as well as by the simplicity of the popular songs, and was able to sublimate the apparent contradiction that resulted from a river like flow in the composition, to invest the listener with melodies of Oriental flavor and reminiscences of the musical experiences of the early twentieth century (in particular it is possible to listen to recognise echoes of Scriabin in the Three Masques Op. 34 and again in the two late Mazurkas, Op. 62 which recall in their turn the last sublime Mazurka of Chopin.
After her very interesting publication on Divine Art’s label of another lesser known composer Roman Statkowski, Polish pianist Barbara Karaskiewicz shows that she can master all of the heterogeneous aspects of Szymanowski’s styles through to the mature end of his career, not only out of deep love for the composer’s music, but also of a reflection and research lasting more than twenty-six years and which has resulted in a perfect technical and stylistic maturity, careful to calibrate every aspect of the complex musical style of Szymanowski which, with its continuous harmonic surprises and its inexhaustible melodic invention, needs a highly skilled guide.
The recording is characterized by a full and wide sound that perfectly represents the great instrument used, a perfectly tuned D model of Steinway, technician Piotr Czerny’s technician sound from the Sosnowiek Concert Hall has a natural glow without application of additional effects.