Despite enjoying the advocacy of several major pianists down the years, Karol Szymanowski’s piano pieces have remained an often overlooked treasure-trove of the repertory. But along with the rest of the composer’s output, this music is at last gaining wider currency, thanks to such interpreters today as Piotr Anderszewski, Rafał Blechacz and—triumphantly in this new release—Cédric Tiberghien. Few players of this music combine quite such clarity and articulation with shimmering sparkle and virtuosic flair: this is sophisticated pianism.
Most of this programme is devoted to middle-period works of 1915-16, but the composer’s Four Etudes Op 4 (composed between 1900 and 1902) provide attractive stylistic contrast. The most famous of these Scriabinesque pieces, the sorrowful and haunting No 3 in B flat minor, was made popular by Paderewski, and Tiberghien’s performance explains its enduring appeal. Occupying around the same total duration as these four pieces, the 12 Etudes Op 33 (dedicated to Alfred Cortot) are mercurial miniatures, yet Tiberghien makes something cumulatively big of them as a set.
As both the Masques and Métopes remind us, triptychs dominated Szymanowski’s middle-period thinking. Tiberghien is fully attuned to their style, finding an appropriately frigid character in the Doric-frieze-inspired Métopes, which close this recital. You will be left either wanting to listen again, or craving to hear another instalment from Tiberghien: perhaps the Mazurkas and Sonatas?