“… it has to be said at once that Raymond Clarke is a staggering pianist of exceptional gifts … Raymond Clarke’s performances are almost breathtaking and this is an important and welcome disc. There will be many who find it quite irresistible.
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE:
Raymond Clarke illumines even the most dense Szymanowskian textures … Clarke is a splendidly articulate advocate, lending especial clarity to the massive opening allegro and fraughter variations of No.2; and the concert hall acoustic is strikingly true to life.
Raymond Clarke has an instinctive feel for Szymanowski’s world and this well recorded issue is useful in bringing all three sonatas together on one CD. To be frank, his is the first account of the C minor Sonata, Op.8 (1903-04) that I have found really convincing … Mr Clarke takes them all in his stride … In short, these are dedicated performances by an artist of impressive musicianship and refined sensibility.
GRAMOPHONE: (“Critics’ Choice” recording 1999)
Raymond Clarke chose it [Sonata No.3] for his graduation recital 12 years ago and for his broadcasting début, so it obviously means a lot to him, and in this remarkable performance he demonstrates it to be an extraordinary piece … the concluding fugue … should sound like the obvious and inevitable destination of all that preceded it, and in Clarke’s gripping reading it triumphantly does … Clarke has already won admiration for his recordings of such well-nigh unplayable things as Ronald Stevenson’s Passacaglia on DSCH (Marco Polo, 9/95) and Havergal Brian’s Double Fugue (Athene, 4/98), so there is no fear that Szymanowski will find his technique wanting. But his love for these sonatas’ rich and delicate sonorities and his absolute conviction that the Third Sonata is a masterpiece are as evident as his technical fluency … a release of major importance.
Szymanowski strives for a Wagnerian amplitude of texture, surging relentlessly across the keyboard … The levitation of such a rich – superrich – art requires nothing less than a pianistic superman. While Raymond Clarke’s debut recording of Ronald Stevenson’s epic Passacaglia on DSCH (a virtual compendium of the pianist’s art…) and subsequent triumphant tilts at the exotic demands of Messiaen, Boulez, and Tippett, were ample demonstration of the requisite Übermenschlichkeit, it is still amazing to hear – and even more to follow in score – the impetuous fluent poetry with which he spirits up, shapes, and points with piquantly phrased melodiousness these great billowing waves … Clarke also writes very well, and his richly informed notes add a signal amenity to this highly desirable disc. Sound is transparently immediate in a spacial aural frame. Enthusiastically recommended
PENGUIN GUIDE TO COMPACT DISCS:
Readers who want to explore just the three piano sonatas and in so doing follow Szymanowski’s output from 1904 through to the late sonata of 1917, should consider this excellently played offering … Raymond Clarke has an intuitive grasp of – and affinity with – Szymanowski’s sound world. He is second to none in terms of sensibility and keyboard command. His version of the First Sonata is particularly convincing. Good recording. *** ("outstanding")