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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Mieczysław KARŁOWICZ (1876-1909)
Pieśni - Songs (1892-1898)

To a sorrowful Girl
Whence the first stars
In the snow
I remember quiet, clear golden days
My soul is sad
Speak to me still
From the erotics - Instead of suns and stars
It goes over fields
On the calm dark sea
Asleep in the splendours of the night
Before eternal night
Weep not over me
In the clam of the evening
Over the wide, wide sea
When the spring arrives
Do not believe what the people say
Sometimes when long I dream
Rust-coloured leaves fall from the trees
The most beautiful songs
Under sycamore

Jadwiga Rappé (alto)
Ewa Pobłocka (piano)
rec. Witold Lutosławski Polish Radio Studio, 12-14 Nov 1996. DDD
CD ACCORD ACD 043-2 [36.18]

Karłowicz is best known as a composer of a handful of late-romantic nationalist orchestral works with psychological depth replacing folk simplicity. These twenty-two songs are his complete production in the genre. They show another facet of his Polish soul. These are still late-romantic but here the order of the day is brevity; the composer must compress his message at quintessential level. No doubt being the son of a leading linguist helped his feeling for words.


The songs lie between the tropics of Rachmaninov and Sibelius with subsidiary voices from Tchaikovsky (as in Karłowicz’s striking violin concerto), Chopin and Grieg. Although the piano parts are not as complex the similarities with the Rachmaninov songs are often quite noticeable. Among the twenty-two songs I would single out the ringing piano line superbly handled by Pobłocka in I remember quiet clear golden days. Asleep in the splendours of the night commands attention with its evocative portrayal of haunted sunken realms. In the calm of the evening the rustlingly troubled piano part of speaks of the depths - de profundis indeed. However it is not all atmosphere. Listen to My soul is sad which at 1.25 rises to convincing climax. It goes over the fields is like a troubadour serenade - positive yet not without irresistible Tchaikovskian melancholy as in Tatiana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin.

Rappé has a Ferrier-like ebony in her voice. You will certainly want to catch her recital if she appears in your area. Ewa Pobłocka has also set down for Accord a collection of piano concertos by Panufnik, Lutosławski and Szymański (ACD046-2). In the songs she provides unselfish support. The tape originates from Polish Radio in 1996.

The bilingual booklet is well detailed with a notably thoughtful essay by Bohdan Pociej. The texts sung in Polish are printed in the booklet in their original language and English translation. The fluent-sounding translation (not to be taken for granted) is by Michał Kubicki.

This disc has been around since 1999 but sadly no-one has paid it much heed. The playing time is undeniably short. Its appeal is likely to be strongest to collectors of East European art-song - especially to those already well disposed to the songs of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Rachmaninov. Essential listening in that case also if you have the Chandos collection of tone poems and want to know how the composer fared in the recital room.

Rob Barnett

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