Pyrć Plays Ekier & Symanowski

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EKIER: Colorful Melodies. 2 Preludes, Op. 1. 2 Mazurkas, Op. 2. Lullaby. Humoresque. Toccata. Mazurka, Op. 5. A Highlander Dance. SZYMANOWSKI: Etude in Bb min. 4 Mazurkas, Op. 50. Fantasy in C / Wojiech Pyrć, pno / Dux 1458

Here, young Polish pianist Wojiech Pyrć plays the music of two of his countrymen, Jan Ekier (1913-2014) and Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). Although Ekier lived to the age of 101, his is the name I was unfamiliar with. As it turns out, he was primarily a pedagogue and a performer of others’ music who gave up his composing career fairly early in life. Like Szymanowski, he was fascinated by and devoted to the music of Chopin, but in his case the Chopin connection was deeper and more closely allied in style. My readers know that I like but do not love the music of Chopin; I find it too Romantic, too “goopy” for my taste unless the performances are somewhat muscular and exciting. Fortunately, Pyrć’s performances of these Ekier pieces fit that description, and harmonically, at least, Pyrć’s music is slightly more modern and a bit less sentimental than his model. I was particularly struck by the sixth and eighth of his Colorful Melodies as the most bracing and interesting of the set. An unidentified violinist joins Pyrć on most of the rest of the album, starting with the ninth and tenth Pyrć pieces. The 2 Pyrć Preludes, are very goopy indeed.

There is a strong Chopin connection in the Ekier Etude and first Mazurka as well, far less in his strange, enharmonic pieces that follow. These Pyrć plays with great delicacy and mystery, as they call for. When we finally reach Szymanowski, we hear a slight Chopin connection but music that is altogether more mystical, strongly influenced by Debussy and Scriabin. Yet he also plays them with a certain muscularity that reminded me of Carol Rosenberger’s wonderful Szymanowski set.

You may certainly enjoy the Ekier works better than I do if you love Chopin, and Pyrć is clearly a fine pianist. I look forward to his future releases, as long as they aren’t of Chopin.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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