Naturally enough, since Chopiniana´s inception many years ago it has had close contacts with the Polish Embassy, and in each season we have had the pleasure of hearing authentic interpretations of Chopin. One of those artists was Stanislaw Dobrzanski, who visited us in 2010. And now he was back giving us Chopin and Mozart, but particularly letting us make the acquaintance of two composers of similar surnames: Szymanowski and Szymanowska. As usual, the venue was the splendid oval room of the Palacio Paz.
Of course, Karol Szymanowski isn´t an unknown here, for BA has witnessed the premières of several important scores from him, recognised as the most interesting Polish composer of the Twentieth Century prior to World War II, but he is hardly a household name and merits to be much better known, for he had a rich musical language. To mention some essential works: the opera "King Roger" (Colón, 1981), the Stabat Mater (Rowicki, 1965); the Third Symphony ("Song of the Night"); and the First Violin Concerto. He wrote many very personal songs, and no less than 16 works for piano, especially the Nine Preludes, "Métopes" (three poems), "Masques", the 20 Mazurkas Op.50, and the music we heard played by Dobrzanski, the Twelve etudes Op. 33 (1917).
Born in a Polish estate in the Ukraine in 1882, from 1901 he studied in Warsaw and was especially interested in "the structure of the pianistic passages of Chopin and Skriabin. In their music he saw and was able to discover the secret of pianoforte style" (Ludomir Rózicki). Warsaw was very conservative then, but stays at Vienna and Berlin opened new paths and led to a style of his own. His Etudes should be much better known, for in their concise way (just 17 minutes) they witness a vivid and innovative imagination and a complete knowledge of the piano´s resources.
Dobrzanski is a graduate of Warsaw´s Chopin Music Academy and Doctor of Musical Arts at the Connecticut University (2001). He is currently Music Professor at the Kansas State University, and alternates teaching with concert giving and recordings. On the evidence of this concert, he is a solid musician of considerable means, and a specialist in Szymanowski, for the Etudes were expressed with very firm technical attainment and understanding.
And now the curiosity: the Nocturne in B flat minor, and as an encore a short Mazurka, by Maria Szymanowska (1790-1831), about which the pianist wrote a book (2006). A disciple of the Irish composer John Field, inventor of the Nocturne for piano, she was a distinguished pianist and a blonde beauty who was briefly Goethe´s lover. None of the information found in this review comes from the printed programme, for unfortunately the Chopiniana series never has programme notes. So her Nocturne sounds Chopinian "avant la lettre", for in fact the model was Field (who inspired Chopin to produce his own famous series).
Before Szymanowski, Mozart´s penultimate Sonata, Nº 16, K. 570, in a clean performance, slightly fast in the first and last movements, and an Adagio with some pre-Romantic touches. And after Szymanowska, four Chopin masterpieces: the Third and First Ballades, along with the Scherzi and the Etudes the composer´s most virtuosic writing but never having a superficial moment; the lovely Berceuse; and the very difficult First Impromptu. All this was played with admirable style but not without some smudges, a couple of them rather glaring. A veteran pianist who has been in Poland during one of the competitions said, and I agree: all the best Polish pianists have a peculiar sound that distinguishes them. Dobrzanski is one of them.
A detail which bothers some but not me: the artist has as a memory aid a tablet with the scores in front of him; he hardly looks at it, however.
For Buenos Aires Herald