Notes and Editorial Reviews
Karol Szymanowski's Mazurkas take their cue from Chopin's fusion of folkloric elements and the utmost in harmonic sophistication, albeit from an early 20th century vantagepoint. The intricate yet idiomatic keyboard writing conveys a wealth of moods, and the composer's sensual nature nearly always hovers over the proceedings. Marc-André Hamelin is the ideal pianist to take up Szymanowski's cause, given his reputation for championing works of substance that lie off the central piano repertoire's hackneyed trail. The more I hear Marc play, the more I'm convinced that his infallible fingers aren't connected to his hands but directly to his central nervous system. He tackles the composer's
polytextural demands with split-second precision and the most focused tone imaginable. Listen to his ravishingly controlled soft playing in the impressionistic Op. 62 No. 2 Mazurka, or how even the sharpest staccato octaves and chords (Op. 50 Nos. 18 and 20 for example) are uniformly centered and full-bodied at all dynamic levels.
To be sure, there are other ways to play these works. Pianist Pawel Kamasa, on Koch Schwann, is a more intimate, yielding pianist than Hamelin, and even more of a colorist (his disc includes the Op. 50 and Op. 62 only). Martin Jones, who recorded Szymanowski's complete piano works for Nimbus, doesn't match Hamelin's singular sheen, yet his more emphatic, heavily accented approach to the Mazurka rhythm cogently evokes the music's earthy underside and origins in dance. Op. 50 No.6 is a case in point. Here Jones treats the left-hand repeated notes as a rhythm section upon which the right hand melodies can soar. Hamelin, by contrast, lets the melody take a more flippant lead. While I'll keep Jones in my collection for dancing, I'll place Hamelin's recording squarely on the reference throne for pianistic sophistication and prowess--and for Hyperion's excellent engineering.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Valse Romantique by Karol Szymanowski
Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1925; Poland
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