Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Minuet in G major Op.14 No.1 (1886) [4:04]
Legend in A flat major Op.16 No.1 (1886-88) [5:07]
Danses Polonaises; Mazurka in A major Op.9 No.3 [2:29]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in D flat major Op.27 No.2 (1835) [6:03]
Ballade in F major Op.38 (1839) [7:45]
Mazurkas Op.6 (1830-31) F sharp minor [3:17]: C sharp minor [2:20]: E major [1:53]: E flat minor [1:17]; C major [1:04]
Fantasia in F minor Op.49 (1841) [13:12]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Etude in B flat minor Op.4 No.3 (1900-02) [4:54]
Variations in B flat minor Op.3 (1901-03) [12:29]
Michal Szymanowski (piano)
rec. May 2011, Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall
CD ACCORD ACD 170-2 [66:50]
 
Not a bad name for a pianist: Michal Szymanowski. He was third prize winner at a recent Paderewski Piano Competition in Bydgoszcz and this CD, his first, seems to reflect some of the works he performed during that competition and also during the 16th International Chopin Competition in Warsaw.
 
He starts with Paderewskiís evergreen Minuet in G major, which he plays with panache but without quite the composerís own sense of caprice and drive as evinced on his 1926 Victor recording. Bold though he is, Szymanowski lacks the wit that is part and parcel of this pastiche. He is firmer in the Legend, an appreciable work to which he responds with ardent directness. Whether itís because of his own instincts, or the recording quality, or a combination of both (as I suspect), his tone can be rather hard. Itís best to tame the volume, as his left hand can be rather over-percussive. Paderewskiís Mazurka is most enjoyable. These three works preface two by Chopin. He plays the D flat major Nocturne with fine tone and sensitivity and the Ballade in F major with a measured pliancy not unlike that of Evgeny Kissin.
 
The Mazurkas Op.6 spring a surprise; he plays five of them whereas there are only four in most editions. The C major is the interloper, sometimes published in the Op.7 set and something of a Ďmusical jokeí. Hardly anyone records it. He is an attractive though occasionally stolid performer at least in comparison with, say, Ashkenazy whose sense of narrative is the superior. Certainly a rather more piquant sense of rhythm could be brought to bear on the F sharp minor and whilst the C sharp minor shows aristocracy of utterance itís more alive when engineered by Ashkenazy and Rubinstein.
 
Perhaps the best playing is reserved for his namesake. These are early pieces so not wholly characteristic but they fit into the Polish tradition well. The Etude is excellently realised. As for the Variations heís certainly not as dare devil as Sinae Lee in her Divine Art [2140] 4 CD survey of the composerís solo piano music. She drove through it valiantly but there are certainly other approaches and this is certainly one such. The ninth variation is a highlight, as itís phrased with care and tonal nuance. But itís a recommendable performance all round, on a par with that of Rafal Blechacz on this same label [136-2].
 
This is an attractive first disc from Michal Szymanowski. It has however been too brightly recorded Ė the microphone placement sounds too close Ė and that may detract from elements of his tonal gradation.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
An attractive first disc.