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Wladyslaw Szpilman: Legendary Recordings
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61 [11:38]
Ballade in F minor Op. 52 10:30]
Nocturne cis Moll Op. Posth. [3:37]
Alfred GRÜNFELD (1852-1924)
Soirée de Vienne. Konzertparaphrase über Johann Strauß’sche Walzermotive nach Fledermaus u.a. Op. 56 [5:53]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La fille aux cheveux de lin (Prelude No. 8) [2:06]
Grazyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)
Sonata No. 2 [14:07]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata No. 7 in B-flat major Op 83 [17:29]
Peter and the Wolf paraphrase [3:30]
Ignaz FRIEDMAN (1882-1948)
Wiener Tänze nach Eduard Gärtner, No. 1 [3:21]
Wladyslaw SZPILMAN (1911-2000)
Mazurka [2:08]
Ludvig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 5 in F, Op. 24 “Spring” [22:18]
Edvard GRIEG (1943-1907)
Violin Sonata in C minor Op. 45 [23:42]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Rondo (based on Sonata Op. 53) [5:30]
Antonin DVOŘAK (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dance Op. 46/2 [3:15]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Obertas [1:59]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Nigun No. 2 [5:58]
Karol RATHAUS (1895-1954)
Pastorale and Dance for violin and piano Op. 39 [12:42]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Quintet in E-flat major Op. 44 [29:05]
Juliusz ZAREBSKI (1854-1885)
Quintet in G minor [36:41]
Wladyslaw Szpilman (Piano)
Bronislaw Gimpel (violin)
Tadeusz Wronski (violin)
Srefan Kamasa (viola)
Aleksander Ciechanski (cello)
Recordings from Polish Radio Broadcasts, 1946-1965
SONY CLASSICAL 82876728552 [3 CDs: 79:31 + 79:18 + 66:02]

 

 

Those who have seen The Pianist or read the book upon which the film was based will surely be interested in this well thought-out three-disc set, with extensive notes written by the artist’s son. Seen by the Polish regime as merely a composer of “light” music - and, being such, a composer that didn’t need to be credited - Szpilman toured widely and also composed some serious music, one example of which is included here, a movement of his until-recently lost toccatina. Some of his other works are on another Sony Classical disc: SK 93516.

Gleaned from the Polish radio archives, each disc focuses on a facet of Szpilman’s career as a musician: as soloist, as performer with his friend Bronislaw Gimpel, and as founding member of the Warsaw Quintet. Being archive recordings, the quality does vary widely, with the Warsaw Quintet disc faring the best. The Schumann quintet is sensitively played, and paired with the unfamiliar G-minor quintet of Zarebski; this is the world premiere recording. The Zarebski, a Romantic composition by a little-known master pupil of Liszt, has a driving scherzo movement that calls forth his teacher and Beethoven both. It is a work that was a pleasant surprise, especially the gorgeous slow movement; an undulating barcarolle of a piece that is an underplayed gem.

Faring less well in sound quality are the violin and piano pieces with Gimpel. Beethoven’s Spring sonata Op. 24 has the violin far too prominently placed, and the tone is nasal throughout. The playing is done well, and there are some surprises here as well — the Pastorale and Dance Op. 39 of Karol Rathaus is a showpiece, as is Obertas by Wieniawski. The Rathaus, an enjoyable piece that brings to mind much of the best music of the 1930s for violin, suffers from balance issues. Again, the violin is too prominently placed. In order for the piano to be heard well enough, the volume level of the violin, especially in sforzando and forte passages in the upper register, becomes uncomfortable.

Disc one focuses on solo piano broadcasts from 1946 to 1950, the earlier recordings among the first post-war Polish broadcasts. Chopin is, of course, presented, but here, as on the other discs, a wide range of the known and unusual is to be found. His Prokofiev 7th sonata is assured and fluent, the playing angular; the last precipitato movement played slightly slower than the hallmark performances of the piece by Horowitz. Here the focus is more on the structure of the piece rather than as a program-closing barnburner. I feel the Horowitz interpretation is more enjoyable, but Szpilman’s viewpoint is an interesting one.

Another great surprise is the second sonata of Grazyna Bacewicz, a piece informed at the same time by Chopin and Hindemith — the first movement flirts repeatedly with a waltz but is taken over by agitato passages before quieting down into a piece of uneasy beauty.

There are many great moments here, not simply a survey of vintage recordings of works firmly ensconced in the usual canon of “pieces to play”. Szpilman took risks in his playing as he did in life, and we are fortunate to have this collection, with some of these works available nowhere else.

David Blomenberg

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

 

 

 

 



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