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Peter Burwasser
Fanfare, July 2012

This is, simply, one of the most impressive solo piano debut albums I have heard in a long time. Michal Szymanowski…plays this all-Polish recital with a sense of repose and patience that is remarkable. A hallmark for his manner can be found in the performance of the Chopin Nocturne op. 27/1, one of the most familiar and beloved works by the great master. Szymanowski plays it with an uncanny mastery of pacing, voicing, and dramatic emphasis. There is true daring in his feathery pianissimos , which manage to retain a sense of dynamic heft…

Szymanowksi plays this material as naturally as one walks and breaths; there is not a trace of artifice. He finds more in common between Paderewski and Chopin in this form than separates them. Similarly, the pianist seems to have a knack for finding a dramatically convincing tempo and weight…Szymanowski delivers just the right theatrical strut to bring the music to life.

There are so many technical wizards out there freshly minted from conservatories that it seems scarcely worthwhile to make a point of virtuosity, but here, too, Szymanowski brings something special to bear on the music, and not in any showy way. His tonality is highly alluring…very colorful. His sense of harmonic voicing is also really keen and smart, most rewarding in the large chords in the Chopin. Finally, but not least, there is Szymanowski’s wonderfully shaped phrasing, featuring extraordinarily fine gradations of dynamics, again, most appreciated in the big Chopin works, including his powerful account of the ballade, but also in the exquisite shadings of the nocturne.

The program, too, is not from the usual cookie-cutter. The three Polish composers are connected by a dramatic and stylistic arc, with the mighty Chopin at the center of the mix…the…Paderewski Minuet sounds right at home here, and as charming and graceful as can be imagined. This kid is a comer. Keep listening. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2012

Paderewski’s Mazurka is most enjoyable. These three works preface two by Chopin. He plays the D flat major Nocturne with fine tone and sensitivity and the Ballade in F major with a measured pliancy not unlike that of Evgeny Kissin.

The Mazurkas Op. 6 spring a surprise; he plays five of them whereas there are only four in most editions. The C major is the interloper, sometimes published in the Op.7 set and something of a ‘musical joke’. Hardly anyone records it. He is an attractive though occasionally stolid performer at least in comparison with, say, Ashkenazy whose sense of narrative is the superior.

Perhaps the best playing is reserved for his namesake. These are early pieces so not wholly characteristic but they fit into the Polish tradition well. The ninth variation is a highlight, as it’s phrased with care and tonal nuance. But it’s a recommendable performance all round, on a par with that of Rafal Blechacz on this same label [136-2].

This is an attractive first disc from Michal Szymanowski. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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