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Kuba STANKIEWICZ
Chopin Songbook Op.74
CD1
Smutna Rzeka Op.74 No.3 [5.38]
Melodia Op.74 No.9 [6.52]
Wiosna Op.74 No.2 [6.34]
Piosenka Litewska Op.74 No.16 [5.38]
Precz z moich oczu Op.74 No.6 [6.38]
Zyczenie Op.74 No.1 [5.19]
Nie ma czego trzeba Op.74 No.13 [4.55]
Dwojaki koniec Op.74 No.11 [7.32]
CD2
Sad river Op.74 No.3 [5.36]
Out of my sight Op.74 No.6 [6.36]
A young girl’s wish Op.74 No.1 [5.20]
Elegy Op.74 No.9 [6.51]
A Lithuanian song Op.74 No.16 [5.37]
Spring song Op.74 No.2 [6.33]
Faded and vanished Op.74 No.13 [4.51]
The handsome lad Op.74 No.8 [4.33]
Death’s divisions Op.74 No.11 [7.31]
Inga Lewandowska – voice
Kuba Stankiewicz – piano, keyboards, arrangements
Grzegorz Nagorski – trombone
Henryk Miskiewicz – soprano saxophone
Johannes Strasser – bass
Lukasz Zyta – drums
Recorded at Polish Radio Studios S2 and S4, Warsaw in June and July 2003
CD ACCORD ACD 129-2 [49.08 + 53.30]

 

To find out what this pair of discs is all about, it’s best to quote the words of the arranger and keyboard player Kuba Stankiewicz, who was approached to make these arrangements for celebrations held in Vienna to mark the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s death. ‘I was not particularly enthusiastic. … Having listened to various interpretations of the original songs, I came to the conclusion that everything in them was subordinated to the vocal part and that the piano part was somewhat neglected. I started to analyse the instrumental parts and discovered beautiful harmonies which set me looking for "improvements". I was in for a surprise. It happened many times that, complacent about a reharmonisation, I returned to the original simply because it sounded better. This soon turned into "teasing" Frederic, yet all the time I tried to remember about the thin line between creative interpretation and kitsch.’

There are two CDs, the second is the English version of the first, though there it includes one additional track Op.74 No.8 ‘The handsome lad’ (voice and bass), one of the more successful performances with some nice touches, particularly its very brief scat-sung ending. Strange that its Polish version (Sliczny chlopiec) is not included on the first CD. Inga Lewandowska’s voice is too breathy and monochrome in its tonal colour, but then she is trapped into her dreamy sounds by the mood of the songs. Simply put, there’s not enough variety to sustain interest. I’d stick to the Polish CD; initially her English may be quaint and charming, but after a while you find yourself reaching for the booklet with its translation, so it would have been better to settle for just the one Polish version. For this reviewer, and despite the arranger’s awareness of the potential trap, there is indeed too much kitsch. Chopin must bear some of the blame, his solo piano music is far superior to anything here, the songs were often socially inspired, mainly for close female friends. The music was usually simple in its formal structure, their wistful mood generated by homesickness for Poland because they were all written in exile either in Paris or Vienna. This set is obviously for lovers of jazz, while for those who prefer original Chopin the answer is to buy Hyperion’s disc (CDA 67125) with Charles Spencer accompanying the mezzo soprano Urszula Kryger in the Op.74 set. While, according to a booklet essay, Chopin’s music and jazz may have common roots in folk music, its writer’s conclusion that ‘the combination here has resulted in a new aesthetic and intellectual quality’ is questionable.

Christopher Fifield

 



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