SZYMANOWSKI: Complete Solo Piano Works

By Harrison, Max | Musical Opinion, November/December 2007 | Go to article overview

SZYMANOWSKI: Complete Solo Piano Works


Harrison, Max, Musical Opinion


SZYMANOWSKI: Complete Solo Piano Works

Sinae Lee: Piano

Divine Art 21400 4 CDs

273' 36"

This is welcome for its completeness although that completeness exacts a price even if these recordings were made over several years. Besides the expected masterpieces we hear the bits and pieces which almost every composer produces in the course of an active careen such as the stray C sharp minor Prelude of 1901, the Prelude and Fugue of 1905 and 1909, the Romantic Waltz of 1925 and the rather scrappy Polish Dances of 1926. The sheer quantity of music takes its toll even with so dedicated a pianist as the Korean Sinae Lee, yet the main question is how does she fare in the second and Third Sonatas, in Métopes and Masques, in the Etudes Opus 33 and the Mazurkas Opus 50?

Ahead of these highly original pages came the Preludes Opus I, Variations Opus 3 and Etudes Opus 4, here presented in sensitively judged performances and leading to the First Sonata, Opus 8, Szymanowski's first compositionally ambitious piece. Lee comes to terms with the straightforward structures of its four movements more coherently than she does with the later works. In the concluding Fugue of the second Sonata, Opus 21, the argument is remote from the academic use of contrapuntal devices in the finale of Opus 8 and Opus 21, along with the second Symphony Opus I 9, was the summation of Szymanowski's period of Austro-German influence. It is an often demandingly thick-textured score, reflecting the composers by now rich style, and Lee copes bravely with the notes, yet on Andrzej Stefanski's old Muza LP the Variations of the second movement were more clearly characterised, the mighty concluding Double Fugue more lucidly shaped.

After Szymanowski's crucial journey through Sicily and North Africa in 19 14 his music changed drastically, becoming impressionistic, this reflected in a different kind of piano writing, hyper-virtuosic and informed by extreme harmonic sensitivity This is the world of Métopes Opus 29 and Masques Opus 34, whose vividness is comparable to Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit Sinae Lee again has an impressive command of the teeming notes yet lacks the requisite transcendental control of textures shown in Métopes by Denis Lee, presumably no relation, on Hyperion CDH5508I. …

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