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Frederic CHOPIN (1810 - 1849)
19 Polish Songs Op. 74 (1830?)
Zyczenie (The wish) [1:29]
Wiosna (Spring) [2:20]
Smutna rzeka (The sad river) [2:58]
Hulanka (Merrymaking) [2:21]
Gdzielubi... (What she likes) [1:13]
Preczz moich oczu... (Out of my sight) [2:50]
Posel (The messenger) [2:38]
Sliczny chiopiec (Handsome Lad) [2:03]
Melodia (Melody) [2:05]
Wojak (The warrior) [2:00]
Dwojakikoniec (The double end) [1:55]
Moja pieszczotka (My darling) [1:50]
Nie ma czego trzeba (I want what I have not) 4:18]
Pierscien (The ring) [1:13]
Narzeczony (The bridegroom) [1: 48]
Piosnka Litewska (Lithuanian song) [2:14]
Leci liscie z drewa (Leaves are falling - Hymn from the Tomb) 4:33]
Czary (Enchantment) [2:58]
Dumka (Reverie) [1:11]
Elisabeth Söderström, (soprano)
Vladimir Ashkenazy, (piano)
rec. St. Barnabas, North Finchley, London, May 1984. DDD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 7469 [44:56]

Decca recorded a number of song collections utilising the services of Elisabeth Söderström and Vladimir Ashkenazy. We have already had the more popular songs by Tchaikovsky and the complete Rachmaninov, but this cycle by Chopin, for a long while unavailable, certainly merits the company of the other two.

Most of these songs are early works, and given their provenance - uncomplicated folk tales - the style is also fairly simple. These songs are not only simple in character, the repeated verses in some are straight repetitions of earlier verses. In these cases, the interest in the song needs to be maintained by the singer, varying tone and interpretation. Söderström does this to perfection, ably accompanied by Ashkenazy, a well known expert in the music of Chopin. There are certainly no passages here that would stretch our pianist, but what he brings to the party is a feeling of rightness.

There is sufficient variety to allow uninterrupted listening straight through; quite feasible without boredom setting in. This is usually a good sign that all is well with both artists and repertoire.

Occasionally there is some drama in one or two of the songs to relieve the prevailing folksy atmosphere. One thinks of Narzeczony (The Bridegroom) where our hero rides desperately home only to find his beloved dead. Also, Leaves are falling, where the composer, inspired by the Russian suppression of 1830, uses thematic material from the slow movement of B flat minor Piano Sonata.

From the current catalogue, it looks as though Decca have deleted the Tchaikovsky songs, leaving only the Rachmaninov works available. It is good therefore to welcome these lovely works back into circulation.

The recording is everything one would expect from Decca, combining clarity with warmth and superb piano tone. The vibrato that sometimes disfigures this soloistís recordings is thankfully absent.

John Phillips




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