MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Alexei STANCHINSKY (1888-1914)
A Journey into the Abyss
Witold Wilczek (piano)
rec. March 2020, Penderecki European Music Centre, Lusławice, Poland
DUX 1559 [56:27]

One of Taneyev’s favourite students, Alexei Stanchinsky died terribly young, in apparently tragic circumstances and left behind only a tiny oeuvre, exclusively composed for solo piano with the exception of a single piano trio and a song cycle after Burns. Much of this output was published in the late 1920s and it has taken the best part of a century for his strange, not quite singular vision to acquire a foothold in the repertory. I first became aware of him a couple of decades back when Thomas Adès included Stanchinsky’s Canon-Prelude in A major (track 15 here) and Sonata No 2 in G in his memorable debut piano recital for the label formerly known as EMI (review). During the intervening period others have belatedly picked up on Stanchinsky; Olga Solovieva has recorded at least one disc for Grand Piano (review) whilst Ekaterina Derzhavina laid down a selection of his piano pieces back in the mid-2000s which only saw the light of day when Profil released it in 2017 (review). I had not made the acquaintance of those discs prior to receiving the present disc for review, but I did acquire Peter Jablonski’s exceptional Stanchinsky recital released only last month on Ondine (review); there is certainly sufficient overlap to be able to offer some tentative comparisons with Witold Wilczek’s approach to the composer on this new Dux issue. I have also been able to belatedly stream a selection of Solovieva’s readings.

An undated, rather manic Humoresque opens proceedings. Wilczek is recorded in an acoustic which is a tad drier than that provided by Grand Piano for Solovieva. Whilst this gives the listener the advantage of perceiving every detail of Stanchinsky’s spiralling runs, fierce octaves and mercurial mood swings, I can’t help feeling Wilczek is exaggerating the contrasts; Solovieva is impassioned but reveals the piece to have unexpected coherence and smoothness. The sound of this Humoresque suggests it is among Stanchinsky’s earliest pieces, although ‘earliest’ in Stanchinskian terms needs to be weighed against the fact that his entire published output spans less than a decade. The fifteen pieces on Wilczek’s disc are presented broadly chronologically, and certainly allow the listener to perceive the composer’s somewhat unpredictable stylistic development.

Next up are a pair of elegantly crafted Mazurkas which seem to inhabit a middle ground somewhere between Chopin and Szymanowski. If Solovieva’s rather straight reading of the first in D flat is lissom and graceful, Jablonski finds yet more breadth and poetry in his splendid account. His rubato seems to me to be just right – the piece seems to benefit from this level of interpretative amplitude and is made more complete by Jablonski’s application of dynamic contrast. The second Mazurka in G sharp minor is more harmonically advanced, rhythmically elusive and Scriabinesque. Wilczek’s instrument seems more homely and less arid in these pieces; he is characterful in the first but finds more steel than mystery in the second. These initial three-way comparisons between the varying approaches to this elusive music provide much food for thought but my early impressions strongly suggested Jablonski to be the most intuitive and compelling – whilst Ondine’s sound is superbly realised; it’s both more detailed and more alluring than the Dux.

A lush E major Nocturne is common to all three discs. Whilst Wilczek adopts a more virile stand than either of his competitors, not least in its turbulent central section, there may well be something to be said for the drive and momentum he projects. Solovieva sounds a little leaden in the piece’s slower sections; indeed it sounds most ‘nocturnal’ of all in Jablonski’s tactful, thoughtfully weighted reading. The longest piece to feature in Wilczek’s recital is Stanchinsky’s Sonata in E flat minor from 1906; compared to his later music its structure seems rather cumbersome, but Scriabin is the obvious template. If I’d encountered Wilczek’s reading in isolation I feel sure I would have concluded that he is absolutely at one with this idiom, but it’s unfortunate for him that Dux have released this issue more or less simultaneously with Ondine’s rival disc. Jablonski finds infinitely more poetry and colour and imbues the Sonata with unfolding spontaneity that somehow eludes both his compatriot and Olga Solavieva. Wilczek’s account does come alive in the closing bars, but one senses tentativeness and inhibition elsewhere. New listeners will surely pick up on Stanchinsky’s idiosyncrasies in the Prelude in the Lydian Mode which follows– it’s austere and strange but Wilczek seems rather monochrome and static alongside Solavieva’s limpid, nuanced reading. And it’s a similar story with his excessively literal account of the skittering, minute-long B minor Canon.

To my ear the most interesting pieces on this disc are the four so-called Canon-Preludes with which it concludes. The third of these is in A major, although it’s described as E mixolydian on the Dux sleeve. It is this piece which first alerted me to Stanchinsky in the Adès recital mentioned above (even more confusingly it is described as Canon a 4 voci (Andante sostenuto) on the EMI sleeve). Whatever the correct nomenclature, Wilczek seems turgid and laboured in comparison; with Adès one feels the music is almost playing itself. The notes may be the same, but the Englishman’s refinement and delicate conveyance of the music’s sense of suspended animation inhabits an altogether different interpretative plane.

As his scholarly and well-constructed note makes clear Wilczek is undoubtedly a knowledgeable and enthusiastic devotee of Stanchinsky, but in terms of nuance and execution I feel he falls well short of the competition where clear comparisons can be made. Stanchinsky’s elusive magic emerges from time to time but both Jablonski and Solavieva are both to be preferred in this repertoire; they are each more sympathetically recorded to boot.

Richard Hanlon

1. Humoresque [5:31]
Two Mazurkas:
2. No. 1 in D-Flat Major (1905) [3:47]
3. No. 2 in G-Sharp Minor (1907) [2:00]
4. Nocturne in E Major (1907) [4:40]
Three Preludes (1907):
5. No. 1 in C-Sharp Minor [1:47]
6. No. 2 in D Major [1:01]
7. No. 3 in E-Flat Minor [2:03]
8. Piano Sonata in E flat Minor (1906) [10:31]
9. Prelude in the Lydian Mode (1908) [4:45]
10. Canon in B Minor (1908) [1:08]
Prelude & Fugue in G Minor (1909):
11. I. Prelude [2:54]
12. II. Fugue [2:46]
Four Canon-Preludes (1913-14):
13. No. 1 in C Major [1:50]
14. No. 2 in G Major [3:03]
15. No. 3 in A Major [5:06]
16. No. 4 in E-Flat Minor [3:28]

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing