Krzysztof Meyer, born in Krakow in 1943, has been represented on an increasing number of discs of late, and his quartets, symphonies and operas have been acclaimed. Where his discography is patchier is, somewhat ironically, in respect of his own instrument, the piano. Though not a composer-executant as such, he has performed in public and, indeed most of the works on this disc were written for himself to play. Yet it remains true that the sonatas are relatively youthful works and he has preferred subsequently to integrate the piano within the context of chamber music.
Presented chronologically, the recital begins with Aphorisms
(1961), nine miniatures written as an eighteen year old student. They exude his enthusiasm both for prevailing atonality and for elements of neo-baroque procedure. Add to this an admiration for Bartók and you have a potent youthful brew, succinctly expressed and strongly contrapuntal. Even as a young man apposite weight was a concern, and his fluent and allusive voicings are audible in this assured Op.3. The following year came his first Piano Sonata. Dodecaphony is the guiding spirit. This was to be his only such work constructed wholly on such principles, but it’s not a forbidding sonata. In fact, there is a fruitful tension between his concentration on the twelve-tone row and his naturally expressive gestures. The result is a kind of fracture or fault line in which one can seemingly hear him rejecting the systematic even as he employs it. By the following year the Second Sonata embodies a very different aesthetic. For part of its time this sounds like a study in trills, but it’s also quieter, with dynamic ranges more compressed, and colour more glinting and spare. All colours and sonorities are shaped very naturally without the need for any modish gestures. Serious but also playfully refined, this makes a strong impression.
The Third Sonata of 1966 is a single-movement one though cast in six defined parts. Twelve-tone elements are present, in a work that is crafted from the sonorous-minded Polish School. Dynamism and stasis are the order of the sonata, effectively so. Finally there is a much later work, Quasi una fantasia
, Op.104, composed in 2005 as a competition piece. The fact that the competition was the 2006 Beethoven Piano Competition explains the several aural references to several of Beethoven’s piano works – including The Moonlight sonata, Op.109 and the Fourth Piano Concerto.
Marek Szlezer proves a sensitive and intellectually astute guide throughout and this disc very successfully draws attention to Meyer’s early concentration on music for the piano.