Why is Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) relatively famous while Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is relatively unknown? Simple -- Scriabin wrote outrageously erotic music, died a horrible death and became an unlikely hero of the Soviet state while Szymanowski wrote elegantly erotic music, died a lingering death, and was a musical hero of the soon to be brutally extinguished Polish Republic. So while Scriabin's exuberantly excessive piano music is still regularly performed and recorded, Szymanowski's gracefully expressive piano music is still regularly ignored and neglected. If matters were otherwise, Martin Roscoe's superlative series of recordings of the piano works of Szymanowski would be greeted as an event of great artistic significance. After all, as this fourth volume convincingly demonstrates, it is in fact an event of great artistic significance. Roscoe is one of the great living English pianists whose virtuosity and dedication here is exemplary and wholly persuasive. From the evocative mystery of the Preludes, Op. 1; to the aesthetically ambitious Variations, Op. 3; to the evanescent sensuality of the Mazurkas, Op. 62; to the monumental mastery of the Sonata No. 3, Op. 36, Roscoe turns in performances as good or better than the best of the handful of already recorded performances. Anyone who loves great piano music from the first third of the twentieth century will love Roscoe's Szymanowski and anyone who prefers elegance to excess will prefer Szymanowski to Scriabin. Naxos' sound is loud and clear, but just a bit distant.
Szymanowski: Nine Preludes; Sonata No. 3; Variations Review
by James Leonard