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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Songs of a Fairytale Princess Op. 31 (1915 orch. 1934) [9:51]
Love Songs of Hafiz Op. 26 (1914) [22:54]
Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin Op. 42 (1918 orch. 1934) [12:55]
Three Songs to Poems by Jan Kasprowicz Op. 5 (1902, orch Grzegorz Fitelberg, 1930s) [18:30]
Izabella Klosínska (sop)
Krystyna Rorbach (sop)
Barbara Zagórzanka (sop)
Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa (sop)
Polish National Opera Orchestra/Robert Satanowski
rec. Oct 1986, Polskie Nagrania studio, Warsaw.
VMS MUSICAL TREASURES 133 [64.28]


These songs are exemplary in their concentratedly poetic and fragrant communication. While most date from the early years of the last century the orchestrations are from the 1930s and many carry the imprint of Szymanowski's finest works including Król Roger, Harnasie, The Song of the Night and the Stabat Mater.

In the Princess Songs Klosínska's voice lacks the haloed, curvaceous effortlessness of Stryja's Gadulanka on Marco Polo/Naxos. On the other hand, the complementary orchestral tissue is laid bare more vivaciously on VMS. These are extreme tests for the voice and Gadulanka passes with glorious impressionistic colours and with a trill that Klosínska commands only with seeming effort and apparently closer to her breath tolerance. The music moves from misty pastels to sharply defined detail.

The Hafiz Songs have been praised by no less a figure than Sorabji who refers to their "radiant purity of spirit, of an elevated ecstasy of expression .... gorgeous colour, rich, yet never garish nor crude ..." If he thought so highly of the Hafiz songs I wonder what he made of the Princess set. The latter songs are more pregnant with the mystical and otherworldly atmosphere of Roger. Only in the last two songs Your Voice and Drinking Song does Szymanowski completely cast off the late-romantic song and move into something more personal but even then it is much indebted to Stravinsky's Firebird. An orchestral piano has been added to the complement and this is used prominently in tr. 9. The music is, I think, less unusual than the Princess songs. Minkiewicz's strained tenor in the Hafiz songs lacks the presence and definition of Rorbach's soprano. Here preference must go to Rorbach and the VMS CD.

Minkiewicz's negotiation of the testing trills in the Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin is less convincing and agreeable than Zagorzanka. Of course it makes sense that a man sings these songs - they are, after all, the voice of an Infatuated muezzin. Minkiewicz is extremely good in the faster sections but much here is at moderato or lento and here he cannot hope to match Zagorzanka's sleekly slow and ululating style.

The Kasprowicz Songs are pretty early, 1902; they are more conventional. Even with the benefit of Fitelberg's sensitive orchestrations they link more easily with Rachmaninov's songs than they do with the hyper-heated romanticism of Szymanowski's exuberantly Straussian Concert Overture. Their subject matter is devotional and in the last case narrative/moral. Evening Song is a brooding, then blazing, operatic scena in search of an opera. It is well taken by the mezzo-toned Szostek-Radkowa. The Polish National Opera and Satanowski relish the growling romantic belligerence of the writing. As is typical of all the Marco Polo tracks, the Kasprowicz songs are recorded closely. The listener occupies a seat directly under the looming voice of Malewicz-Madej (alto). Szostek-Radkowa is no slouch at stage-drama and if you prefer to be right there in the line of fire you will love her way with the blasting Turandot/Kullervo melodramatics of the piece.

Backgrounds are perfectly silent.

There is no direct competition for this disc. The closest is the collection recorded by Marco Polo/Naxos in Katowice in April and June 1989. Karol Stryja conducted the Polish State PO (Katowice). Stryja has Ryszard Minkiewicz, tenor as the singer in the Hafiz and Muezzin sets. Zagorzanka sings the Muezzin set for Satanowski and appears as the singer in Roxana's Song on Marco Polo. The Marco Polo lacks any texts at all and also each set of songs (apart from the Kasprowicz Songs) is in a single track so you cannot go straight to individual songs.

This VMS disc was previously issued as Koch Schwann Musica Mundi CD 314 001 H1 in 1988. I have spot-compared the two discs. They are indistinguishable in sound. The Koch booklet had the notes in Polish, English and French but the words of the songs are only in German. VMS helpfully has the words in German and English.

Notes are given in both German and French. Full texts in German and English but not in the sung Polish!

If you have to choose then go for the VMS.

Rob Barnett



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