There are those who swear that the Polish Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is the next big thing. They've been swearing it for a long time now: ever since the '60s, Szymanowski has been poised to reach the Top 40 classical composers, and he's never quite made it. With four style periods covering everything from late Romantic sensuality to high Impressionist luminosity to early Modernist severity to a final, personal synthesis that sounds like nobody else but still sounds distinctly Polish, they swear Szymanowski should appeal to a wider audience. But, possibly because his country was attacked and almost annihilated first by the Nazis and then by the Commies, Szymanowski has never hit the big time like Mahler, but remains an also-ran like Pfitzner.
The 20 Mazurki, Op. 50, and the Two Mazurki, Op. 62, are works from Szymanowski's final style period, and the richness of their melodies, the brightness of their colors, the edginess of their harmonies, and above all the poignancy and pungency of these mazurki should be enough to finally put Szymanowski in the classical Top 40. That is, especially as they are played here by pianist Anna Kijanowska. The mazurki sound in the same league as any other piano music being composed in the '20s and '30s. Kijanowska's performances are amazingly virtuosic, astonishingly charismatic, astoundingly empathic, and completely compelling. If Szymanowski ever hits the big time, it'll be players like Kijanowska who'll make it happen. Dux's 2005 recording is reverberant but detailed.