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.
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.
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
of the piece.
Backgrounds are perfectly
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
If you have to choose
then go for the VMS.