Completed in August 1917, Szymanowski's Piano Sonata Op. 36 marks his return to a concept known from his earlier works (Sonata No. 2 Op. 21, Symphony No. 2 Op. 19, Violin Concerto No. 1 Op. 35 and Symphony No. 3 'Song of the Night' Op. 27), whereby the traditional movements of a cyclic work are contained in a single movement. Thus a sonata allegro - its two themes contrasting in expression - is processed (without a reprise, though) and followed by two central building blocks, the slow Adagio and the Scherzando, to culminate with a masterful fugue whose "toccata" theme follows up on the preceding music ideas. The music which fills this architectural design represents Szymanowski's individual style - hence the co-existence of powerful expressiveness, drive and vitality (particularly in the finale) with lyrical and romantic moments (the second theme of the first building block and the main theme of Adagio), complicated harmony that borders on atonality (e.g. in the slow part) as well as ornate, fanciful colour effects (end of the Allegro).
Szymanowski dedicated his Piano Sonata No. 3 to Alexander Siloti, pianist and conductor, great admirer of his music. It was Siloti who was to conduct the first performance of the Sonata and Violin Concerto No. 1 in St Petersburg in 1916, an event that never happened.
The score of the Sonata was first published by Universal Edition of Vienna in 1919. Extremely difficult in the technical and interpretational aspects, the work has featured in the repertoires of a few top-class pianists, including Andrzej Stefański, Karol Radziwonowicz, Światosław Richter, Jerzy Godziszewski, Zygmunt Krauze, Martin Roscoe and, most recently, Piotr Anderszewski, whose interpretation can be heard on the Anderszewski. Szymanowski CD released by Virgin Classics / CD Accord in 2005.
Author: Anna Iwanicka-Nijakowska, September 2007.