Karol Szymanowski [1882-1937], son of Poland and modernist kindred of Chopin, is well-served by Mr. Roscoe in this first volume (of three, so far) issued by Naxos of the composer's complete piano music, and is, as well, an exemplary introduction. Although I decry the scattering of integral sets of pieces (e.g. the twenty Mazurkas, Op. 50), and I'm sure Producer Gary Cole could have coordinated the works to CD intact, still (and just the same, as a good friend once ruminated), since Szymanowski's piano music doesn't appear to be overrunning the classical catalogue, we should be grateful for anything available.
The opening four Op. 50 Mazurkas (all dedicated to Artur Rubinstein) are fetching and nicely nuanced in Roscoe's hands, especially No.'s 1 and 3, whose combined elements make a fascinating Chopin/Scriabin mix.
The Metopes, Op. 29 bring tantalizing aural pictures from the world of Homer's Odyssey, and with it the wanderings of legendary hero, Odysseus. Szymanowski's exotic use of impressionism and mood recalls the obvious influence of Debussy and Ravel. The assimilation, however, is engrossing.
Most attractive are the Op. 4 Etudes, especially the very Scriabinesque, and beautiful, No.'s 1 and 3. Chopin's muse hovers nearby as Mr. Roscoe sensitively coaxes every note.
Sonata No. 2, Op. 21, running nearly twenty-nine minutes, is an entirely different affair. Often powerfully virtuosic, often tender, the work is quite like Rachmaninov in its scope, and quite superb, as well, on its own terms.
The Naxos engineers have given Mr. Roscoe's performances faithful reproduction; likewise, the pianist has given the composer his due.
[Running time: 66:44]