Offering a balanced program of piano works by Karol Szymanowski and Maurice Ravel, Matthias Roth explores some similarities between these composers, notwithstanding the differences in their backgrounds and overall development. Like many of his Polish colleagues, Szymanowski fell under the influence of Wagner and Richard Strauss, and eventually came to absorb the quasi-atonal techniques of Scriabin, only to become more conservative in his later nationalistic works. Ravel, in contrast, was schooled in French Romanticism under his teacher Fauré, and later found inspiration in Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy, the French Baroque composers, and neoclassicism. Yet the seductiveness of chromatic harmony and the tendency toward exotic colors and lush textures appears in both men's music at the fin de siècle, where the trend toward evocative sonorities and elusive tonality produced works of a rather opulent and ambiguous character. Szymanowski's Variations in B flat minor, Op. 3 (ca. 1903) is rather close to the passionate style of Rachmaninov, with touches of Scriabinesque waywardness occasionally appearing, and the Etude in B flat minor, Op. 4, No. 3 (1903-04) fits in the same manner of expression. However, the Nine Preludes, Op. 1 (1899-1900) hint at a more impressionistic and mysterious soundworld, with evasive chord progressions and harmonies that seem unmoored to a key. Ravel's Miroirs (1904-05), written as tributes to his friends in the group Les Apaches, is harmonically more advanced than the Szymanowski selections, and much more transparent in textures and effects, yet the same perfumed exoticism suggested in Szymanowski's music is a point held in common. Genuin's recording provides Roth with enough ambient resonance to heighten the piano's sound, though the music is quite clear and detailed.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Variations in B-flat minor, Op. 3|
|Etudes, Op. 4|
|Nine Preludes, Op. 1|