The two previous volumes involved orchestral music, in one case with a solo
instrument. Here the human voice is centre-stage.
Marek may be unknown to you. If you enjoy Szymanowskis shimmering
impressionism you will warm instantly to Marek (a fellow Pole) and his music.
Sandwiched between four choral pieces are two song cycles with orchestra.
The first Rural Scenes opens playfully à la Canteloube - in
fact the Frenchmans Chansons come to mind quite often. The second
evokes the dreamy high pastures and features a dreamy flute. The third returns
to playfulness with something of the innocent joy of Rachmaninovs Wedding
Bells (The Bells). A floating cloud settles trance-like over the fourth
song. The fifth song is a pizzicato celebration and the final song has great
dash and rustic charm.
The Village Songs are more complex than the Rural Scenes. An
occasional unknowing parallel is struck with Samuel Barbers Knoxville
(and what a gem of a scena that is!). The final song brings the cycle
to an explosive close.
The a cappella choral pieces are a varied bunch. The simple and affecting
Polish Hymn has the warm and rounded contours of singing emerging
from the Welsh valleys. Similar qualities appear in the Death Melody but
this has a passionate climactic episode. Last piece, The Alps-A Look
Backwards, is a six-minute work from 1911 - amongst the earliest of the
compositions to be approved by Marek. The style is similar to the other choral
pieces. The lines and the singing are smoothly undulating and there is a
similar spirit to the choral music of Delius (Mass of Life), Richard
Strauss (Deutsche Motette) and Othmar Schoeck (Postillon).
Texts of the songs and choral pieces are presented in German. Marek set these
in the original Polish (and they are sung in that language) but, inexplicably,
the Polish is not printed at all. The translations of the German
are, in most cases summaries. Perhaps there were copyright problems. In any
event this is a regrettable blemish.
The complementary notes by Malcolm Macdonald are good and are in English,
French and German.
I wonder how many more Marek volumes there are. Anyway this one is very highly
commended and the strongest and most enjoyable of the trio. A must-buy for
anyone who is in the thrall of the Canteloube Songs of the Auvergne or the
orchestral songs or Harnasie of Szymanowski.