Maria Szymanowska Piano Duo is formed by two pianist associated with the Academy of Music in Łódź. The guiding thought of the joint activity adopted by the artists is to promote Polish music and works of less known composers, whose pieces are gradually being forgotten. Polish music, to which the present CD including four hands piano music is dedicated, occupies a special place in their output.
Italian sisters Natascia and Raffaella Gazzana deliver a sensitively performed survey of French music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, alongside a nod to modern Hungarian composer György Ligeti. They place Franck’s monumental Sonata in A Major at the heart of their program, its second movement Allegro blazing with passion, the final Allegretto beautifully restrained yet unleashed in the closing bars. Ravel’s Sonate Posthume is a fascinating document of a 22-year-old composer’s development, in thrall to early Impressionism, while Messiaen’s equally youthful “Thème et Variations,” played with sparkling clarity and poise, shows a composer ahead of his time. Ligeti’s direct musical language functions almost as a refreshing sorbet among the French riches.
The talented, if underrated bebop pianist Kenny Drew spent his last few decades living in Scandinavia after emigrating from the U.S. in 1961. This 1996 CD has previously unreleased material recorded by the Danish Broadcast Corporation featuring Drew at three different periods in time. There are four tunes apiece of Drew in duets with bassist Niels Pedersen in 1966, playing unaccompanied solos in 1978, and duets with bassist Bo Stief in 1983. All dozen numbers (seven jazz standards, a Scandinavian folk song, an obscurity and two Drew originals, including two versions of "Blues for Nils") are quite rewarding. The music is straight-ahead, often harmonically sophisticated, swinging and occasionally unpredictable. An excellent sampling of Kenny Drew's talents.