Twoja Muza

After her four previous albums, three with music by Roman Statkowski and one with Michael Garrett’s piano works, Barbara Karaśkiewicz has reached for the works of Karol Szymanowski. Like the last album dedicated to Statkowski, it was released by the British label Divine Art Records, whose products are starting to appear on the Polish market.

The program included Preludes Op. 1, Etudes Op. 4, Masks op. 34 and Mazurkas Op. 62,

i.e. works created from the beginning to the end of the creative path of the great composer, in which one can observe the development of his artistic personality and the evolution of his style, from the post-romantic, through impressionistic and expressionistic to the national one. This is a repertoire from the top of the pianistic canon, requiring not only the mastery of the workshop, but also the exceptional knowledge and sensitivity – these qualities Barbara Karaśkiewicz owns.

In Opuses 1 and 4 the artist leads us into the world of Szymanowski’s fascination with the music of Chopin and Scriabin. In preludes she can build an intimate mood of poetic expression, enclosed in miniature forms, filled with charm of delicate melodies and of refined harmony. In Etudes she complements this with a rich resource of virtuosity, which is always subordinated to musical expression and do not distract the recipient from the depth of the sounds. The pianist treats each miniature from both collections with equal reverence and affection, not only the most famous Prelude in B minor or Etude in B flat minor No. 3, and – as a result – they show their beauty in a full and varied form.

The Masks cycle is the most demanding position of the given repertoire, both technically and intellectually and also emotionally. It obliges the performer to be particularly attentive
to coloristic values, to show the nuances of sound hue (tint??)and saturation. If in the whole production I would have to point out a more obvious drawback, then on the issue of sound. It is somewhat dimmed, although in the high register in dynamics of forte it may irritate the ear with a sudden sharpness. It is difficult to be absolutely sure whether this is due to the quality of the instrument used in the recording or to the sound direction, or the way the pianist shapes the tone. In Masks, which refer to the extreme shades of emotionality, this is particularly noticeable. This does not mean that this fascinating triptych is a weaker position than the rest. I like the way the works has been read, not so much by the prism of the impressionist style, to which it was used to classify Szymanowski’s works created during World War I, but rather to the expressionism, highlighting the complexity of the characters (Sheherazade, Tantris-Tristan, Don Juan) and the dramatic narration associated with them.

For the finale Barbara Karaśkiewicz has chosen two sound gems, a summary of Szymanowski’s pianistic style – Mazurkas Op. 62, as written by the composer: “more and more cheerful music in old age”. This serenity and lightness, which the artist managed to expose and to create a delicate, idyllic atmosphere out of them, are a summary of this very successful album.

—Witold Paprocki