Paderewski was a Romantic artist in the full sense of the word. Was he `merely´ a pianist who composed (similarly to other great pianists, such as Hofmann, Cortot, Kempf or Koczalski), incidentally, as it were, to his main profession? What place did composing hold in his artistic life? Today, the lofty assessments of Paderewski´s works contained in the monograph by Henryk Opieński (first edition: 1929) seem rather exaggerated, although Opieński was writing from a much nearer perspective, fascinated with the living person of this great artist. And how do we assess Paderewski´s compositions today? In particular his piano works, recorded on this CD, which are representative of the composer´s style? How do they compare to his pianistic art? Are they pervaded by a similar musical force to that which pulsated in his playing? Rather not. Although this does not mean that it is music of only marginal significance. It also has its weight. Whilst it is doubtless eclectic in its style, eclecticism can be positively conceived of as a natural environment of music from at least the eighteenth century onwards, albeit marked by the work of only a handful of geniuses to rise high above the average level. With this in mind, let us emphasise the virtues of Paderewski´s piano compositions - above all the spontaneity of the young composer´s inventiveness, in the Variations, Op. 16 No. 3, the Melody, Op.16 No. 2 (both works from the years 1886-91), and the Caprice, Op. 14 (1889), the engagingly fresh melodiousness, the fluency of the narrative and the energy of the variational development of form. The Variations charm us with their multitude of variants, excite us with the brilliance of their pianistic texture and their shimmering colours, give the impression of having arisen from the pure joy of composing, which is transmitted to us, the listeners. In the Melody, meanwhile, one can hear a subtle reminiscence of the poetry of Chopin´s nocturnes... The Sonata in E flat minor (from 1903), meanwhile, the grandest of Paderewski´s instrumental works (alongside the B minor Symphony), is the impressive result of the composer´s `wrestling´ with the problems of largescale form in the sonic medium of the piano. We have here a dense, polyphonised texture, rich, highly elaborate harmonies marked with frequent modulations, a late Romantic, agitated movement of melodic motifs, and a highly developed and varied dramaturgy of form: extremely lively in the outer movements and cantilenally calm in the middle movement. Contrasts, tensions, change and surprise-all of this is characteristic of the late Romantic sonata, derived from the sonatas of Chopin, transformed by Liszt, taken up and developed by Brahms. And it is to the style of the Brahms piano sonatas that the Paderewski sonata would appear to be closest. In general terms, we may point to two places of stylistic anchoring, two main sources for the stylistic traditions of the Paderewski works presented on this disc:
- the first, in the music of Chopin, as well as Liszt (although the latter´s piano music is itself derived from Chopin);
- the second, in German Romantic piano music, from Schumann to Brahms.