Roscoe continues his Naxos
traversal of the solo piano works of Szymanowski in this their
fourth volume. The choice of works here is particularly interesting
and appropriate as they run a wide chronological span, and reflect
the sharp turns in the composer’s harmonic development.
Op. 1 Preludes, thought to be the earliest surviving works by
the composer, definitely show the influence of his famous countryman
Frederic Chopin. Immensely tuneful, these little gems make for
pleasant listening, but are, on the other hand, certainly not
lightweight bon-bons either. They show a great deal of maturity
in both harmony and form, and contain ample virtuosic show.
Variations in B flat minor are a study in contrasts, with some
movements as simple and straightforward as a Lutheran Chorale,
and others as complicated as Chopin’s most difficult and intricate
two sets of Mazurkas are totally different animals, straying
far from what we would expect from a countryman of Chopin. Neither
predictable nor particularly melodic, these works are serious
and require some effort on the part of the listener. It is an
effort that pays off in the end, but I would suggest that no-one
makes up his or her mind on first hearing. Give this music a
delightful little Valse Romantique is a piece that should
be heard more often. It is the kind of recital filler with which
more pianists could make hay.
program closes with the rather stormy and mighty Sonata No.
3. This is a serious work, full of dense harmony and intricate
counterpoint. Dark in mood, there are moments of great thunder.
The contrasting and only very occasional repose is suffused
with foreboding and threat rather than being relaxing and comforting.
For its entire eighteen-plus minute run, the listener is kept
on the edge of the seat.
Roscoe is a pianist of considerable ability. He plays with a
bright clear tone that can dazzle when necessary, and yet he
never fails to capture the more tender moments in the music
- although in most of this repertoire, those moments are few
and far between. He has obviously dedicated a great deal of
time to this composer, and the hard work pays off in spades.
His readings are authoritative and convincing, never leaving
the listener in doubt of his interpretive or artistic intentions.
sound production from Naxos
and excellent program notes by Peter Quinn round off this very
fine release. This is a welcome addition to the catalogue, and
a volume that piano lovers will certainly want to acquire.
see also Review
by Patrick Waller