Naxos for the occasional hearer, Nimbus for the collector! I
leisure-larry | 08/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are interested in the complete piano music by Szymanowski, you can choose between four single Naxos CD's with Martin Roscoe, or a 4 CD Set by Nimbus Records with Martin Jones. The Nimbus box costs a bit more than 4 x Naxos but with a free coupon code (virtual voucher) the prices end up equal, so price cannot matter. What does matter is the artist's performance, and the manner of the disc compilations. Roscoe needed 12 years (1994-2006) to complete the Naxos project and has won numerous awards and praise for it during that period, whereas Jones needed 1 year (1992-1993) only with no significant award; so objectively speaking, Roscoe's performance is 'better'..although there is nothing to criticize regarding Jones's perfect playing. In my crusty ears both performances sound very much alike, to be honest; so who plays should not matter either. Finally the most distinctive feature of the two releases is the compilation on each disc: Jones's is 100% chronological (op.1,3,4,8,10,14,etc.), so that you can find all(!) of the middle-Szymanowski on disc three; CD1&2 represent the early, and CD4 the late (CD4 has 100% the exact compilation as Marc-Andre Hamelin's recording on hyperion records!) composer. This makes listening to the CD's very very easy and comforting. In opposition, Roscoe seems to have mixed all operas arbitrarily on the discs and he even splitted the Mazurkas Op.50 and spread them on all four CD's. Strange thing to do! Sorry, i cannot detect any kind of logical order within the Roscoe release. You might like the element of surprise when listening to a Roscoe disc..but I find these illogical couplings with its arbitrary doses of early-middle-late Szymanowski rather irritating than enjoyable. It somewhat spoils the collector's edition *IMHO*. And that's maybe exactly the point of Naxos: Roscoe's CD's aim at the occasional listener who only wants *one* disc, representative for Szymanowski's oeuvre, and no matter which disc he chooses, it will always contain a similar dose of early, middle, and late. In our case, such devised marketing did not work for me! :P The booklet for Jones@Nimbus has 12 pages of true reading, excellent and detailed; the total times for his four CD's are 69.06, 66.06, 66.06, 67.34 (sum=4h29min); produced and copyright 1999.
A last word on the music itself, if Bortikievich (Bortkiewicz) was the 'Russian Chopin', then Szymanowski must be called the 'Polish Scriabin^2': early-Szymanowski sounds like early-Scriabin, just with squared virtuosity and complexity; middle-Szymanowski sounds like late-Scriabin with double frenzy and intensity. So, if you enjoy Scriabin, you will like most of Szymanowski, bet?!"
Philip Spires | La Nucia, Spain | 02/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The piano music of Karol Szymanowski deserves to be as well known as that of Chopin, Liszt and Bartok. I choose these names with care, since, to my ear, I can hear the influence of all three. We could add Debussy and Scriabin for good measure, but what I do not want to do is imply that the composer's style is some pot pourri, a pick and mix of other's inspiration. Far from it. Karol Szymanowski was very much his own master and the piano music charts his development form post-Chopin to true revolutionary and experimentalist.
But what is also worthy of comment is the playing of Martin Jones on these four discs. To maintain such quality of performance alongside such wonderful interpretation of this highly complex music is artistry indeed.
So don't be afraid of the name. If your ear can cope with Debussy and Ravel you can cope with this. If you would like to imagine where a mature Chopin might have taken his music then listen with care to the early works. And then in the later works, Karol Szymanowski melds harmonic complexity with the simplicity of the folk idiom. The results are remarkable.