Dr. Nancy Fierro, a Los Angeles area pianist long associated with the Polish Music Center and a devoted champion of women composers, recently uploaded some of her recorded performances to YouTube. Her first batch of links features works by Maria Szymanowska (1789-1831), a brilliant pianist and composer who was one of the first professional virtuosos touring Europe in the early 1800s. 

Szymanowska’s numerous appearances in England, Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland were attended by royalty and high society and she was praised for her beautiful tone, lyrical interpretations and for performing her concerts from memory, years before other romantic-era pianists (like Franz Liszt or Clara Schumann) did so. 

After retiring from touring, Szymanowska settled in St. Petersburg, where she was a court pianist to Alexandra Feodorovna, the Empress of Russia. Szymanowska’s catalogue of compositions includes about 100 works and, as it turns out, she pioneered such genres as Mazurkas, Polonaises, Etudes and Nocturnes well before Chopin. After listening to her music, one clearly becomes aware of how Szymanowska’s sense of melody and harmony coupled with her unique pianistic style must have influenced the young Chopin who attended at least one of her Warsaw concerts in the late 1820s and was certainly familiar with her works. 

Nancy Fierro’s interpretations of Szymanowska’s piano works are deeply musical with just the right mixture of virtuosity and poetic charm that is so appropriate for these early romantic compositions. The links below include the great Nocturne in B-flat, the “Le murmure” Nocturne in A-flat, and the C major Etude No. 15. The last link features a clutch of Mazurkas (No. 19 in C major, No. 8 in D major, No. 1 in C major, No. 2 in F major, No. 3 in C major, No. 13 in B-flat major, No. 4 in F major, No. 17 in C major, and No. 20 in F major). All of them are played with authentic spirit and salon-era elegance.