The Straits Times
DEBUSSY & SZYMANOWSKI Piano Works
RAFAL BLECHACZ, PianoDeutsche Grammophon 477 9548 / ****1/2
It was a matter of time that someone coupled on disc the piano works of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) and Claude Debussy (1862-1918), composers described to be impressionist in inspiration and aesthete. Young Polish award-winning pianist Rafal Blechacz however does not include Szymanowski’s Masques or Metopes, with their obvious aural connections with Debussy.
Instead he opts for the early and rarely heard First Sonata Op.8, composed in 1903-4 with the conventional four movement form closer in spirit to Beethoven and Brahms. However the scintillating finger-work it demands is Lisztian, with a sumptuous aroma that is Straussian (Richard, not the Johanns). The ambitious fugue that closes the finale with outrageous glissandi is a tour de force in contrapuntal writing, as is the more sedate Prelude & Fugue in C sharp minor from the same period. The young Szymanowski was an eclectic voice in search of his definitive self.
From the first five years of the 20th century also come Debussy’s famous piano suites Pour Le Piano and Estampes, which already bear the imprimatur of greatness. Blechacz ravishes these with an exquisite mastery of colour and textures, with the ecstatic pages of L’Isle Joyeuse (The Happy Island) completing this very successful survey of the familiar and arcane.
written by Paola Parri