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Walewska i przyjaciele - The Best Polish Singers Sing Arias and Songs
rec. dates and venues unknown
DUX 0500-0501 [70:03 + 75:24]

CD 1
Joaquin RODRIGO (1901–1999)

1. Czekalam wiecznosc (I waited for eternity - 2nd mvmt from Concierto de Aranjuez) [6:05]
Mitch LEIGH (b. 1928)

2. Snic sen …from The Man of La Mancha [2:49]
Vincenzo Di CHIARA (1864 – 1937)

3. La Spagnola [3:04]
José Maria CANO (b. 1959)

4. Bogini ksiezyca [5:37]
J GALL (?-?)

5. Dziewcze z buzia jak malina [2:42]

6. Nad deszczem [4:06]

7. Santa Lucia [2:16]

8. Diamentowy sen [5:14]
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846–1916)

9. Tristezza [3:46]
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879–1957)

10. Bailero [6:17]
Riccardo DRIGO (1847–1930)

11. I millioni d-Arlecchino [3:42]
Salvatore GAMBARDELLA (19th/20th Century)

12. O Marinariello [3:38]
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)

13. Je crois entendre encore from Les Pecheurs de perles [3:46]

14. Jestem chwilka [4:17]
Ernesto De CURTIS (1860–1926)

15. Cabta pe’ me [2:34]

16. Morze szumiace from Panna Wodna [3:33]
Bronislaw KAPER (1902–1983)

17. Signorina [3:29]

18. Przy Tobie trwac [2:21]
CD 2
J HARALD (1916–1965)

1. Serenada [3:27]
L RÓZYCKI (1884–1953)

2. Caton’s waltz from Casanova [4:35]

3. Oczy mego snu [3:05]

4. Z toba bez Ciebie [5:32]
Robert STOLZ (1880–1975)

5. Brunetki, blondynki … (The brunettes and the blondes) [2:22]

6. Deszczowy sen [4:55]
Cesare BIXIO (20th Century)

7. Parlami d’amore [4:32]

8. Znikam jak zycie [5:02]

9. Barkarola [2:00]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)

10. O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi [3:18]

11. Arrividerci Roma [4:35]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)

12. Ave Maria from Otello [5:27]
Karl ZELLER (1842–1898)

13. Wie mein Ahn’l zwanzig Jahr from Der Vogelhändler [4:11]
Richard RODGERS (1902–1979)

14. Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific [3:21]
Bronislaw KAPER

15. Ninon [3:52]
Nicholas BRODZKY (1905–1958)

16. Be My Love [3:40]
Rudolf SIECZYNSKI (1879–1952)

17. Wien, Wien, nur du allein [2:15]

18. Czekalem wiecznosck [6:02]
Bonus track:
Jerzy DOBRZANSKI (?-?)

19. Laura I Filon [2:14]
Anna Bajor (soprano) (CD1 tr. 10); Zbigniew Macias (baritone) (CD1 tr. 2, 16, CD2 tr. 14); Boguslaw Morka (tenor) (CD1 tr. 17, CD2 tr. 5, 7, 15); Wieslaw Ochman (tenor) (CD1 tr. 5, 11, 13, 15, CD2 tr. 1, 9, 13, 16); Dariusz Stachura (tenor) (CD1 tr. 3, 7, 17, CD2 tr. 5, 11, 15); Artur Rucinski (baritone) (CD1 tr. 9, 12, CD2 tr. 3, 18); Malgorzata Walewska (mezzo) (CD1 tr. 1, 4, 6, 8, 14, 18, CD2 tr. 4, 6, 8); Adam Zdunikowski (tenor) (CD1 tr. 17, CD2 tr. 5, 15); Ewa Gawronska (CD2 tr. 2); Stanislaw Jopek (vocal) (CD2 tr. 17); Marcin Nalecz-Niesiolowski (baritone) (CD2 tr. 19); Jolanta Radek (soprano) (CD2 tr. 10, 12);
Orkiestra Symfoniczna KHW S.A. KWK "Staszik"/Grzegorz Mierzwinski (CD1 tr. 1, 3, 4, 6-9, 12, 14, 18, CD2 tr. 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 18); Orkiestra Teatru Muzycznego w Lodzi/Andrzej Knap/CD1 tr. 2, 16, CD2 tr. 14); Sinfonietta Cracovia/Jerzy Maksymiuk (CD1 tr. 10); Orkiestra Polskiego Radia/Stefan Rachon (CD1 tr. 11, 15, CD2 tr. 16); Orkiestra Teatru Wielkiego w Warszawie/Zdzislaw Gorzynski (CD1 tr. 13); Orkiestra Symfoniczna Filharmonii Zabrzanskiej/Slawomir Chrzanowski (CD1 tr. 17, CD2 tr. 5, 7, 15); Orkiestra Taneczna Rozglosni Slaskiej Polskiego Radia/Jerzy Harald (CD2 tr. 1); Orkiestra Polskiego Radia i Telewizji w Warszawie/Ryszard Dudek (CD2 tr. 2), Zdzislaw Gorzynski (CD2 tr. 13); Orkiestra Polskiego Radia/Mieczyslaw Nowakowski (CD2 tr. 10, 12); Panstwowy Zespol Piesni i Tanca "Mazowse"/Stanislaw Wysocki (CD2 tr. 17); Jerzy Gaczek (piano) (CD1 tr. 5, CD2 tr. 9); Waldemar Malicki (piano) (CD2 tr. 19)

Walewska i przyjaciele (Walewska and Friends) obviously refers to the fact that the singer occurring most frequently on this compilation is mezzo-soprano Malgorzata Walewska. She is one of today’s most popular and renowned Polish singers and the only one among these that I have heard in the flesh. That was at the Finnish National Opera a few years ago (2006) where she was a dramatic and expressive Eboli in Don Carlo, albeit rather wobbly at times. That also characterises her singing here to some extent but hers is a fruity and rather flexible voice. She opens the first CD with an arrangement of the slow movement from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, which sounds more Hollywood than Spain, but there is a guitar near the end of the song; Ms Walewska has something of the earthiness of a good flamenco singer. She shows her dramatic vein in José Maria Cano’s Bogini ksiezyca (CD1 tr. 4) but for the rest of the first disc she champions the composer A Ornelas, about whom I have not been able to find any information; he might be an able film music writer. Track 8 shows Ms Walewska at her best with deep, soft legato singing – and it is an impressive voice. The best of Ornelas’s songs is to my mind the one that concludes CD1. There is more Ornelas on CD2 and something by the also anonymous A Marco, sung with feeling but also with throaty tone and that annoying vibrato.

The other frequently recurring singer on the discs is tenor Wieslaw Ochman, the internationally best known Polish opera singer from the post-war years. His career has taken him to all the important opera houses. His contributions are much more varied and show his prowess in many different kinds of repertoire. We also hear him at different stages of his career – how wide apart is impossible to pin-point but varying sound quality and changes in his voice distribution hint at a time span of, say, 20-25 years. I would guess that the two songs with piano (CD1 tr. 5 and CD2 tr. 9) are the most recent, but apart from some strain this is intelligent, noble singing, tasteful and expressive in a restrained manner. Harlequin’s Millions (CD1 tr. 11) shows a quite different singer: romantic, glowing with brilliant top, but still tasteful. The string tone especially reveals that this might be a recording from the 1960s. Even older is Jerzy Harald’s Serenada (CD2 tr. 1) with even glassier strings and a very lyrical Ochman, not yet fully matured. He was born in 1937 and I scribbled down on my pad "early 60s" before I started searching information on the composer, who is also the conductor on this number, and found that he died 1965. Better sound and more mature singing is to be heard in the Pearl fishers romance (CD1 tr. 13), where he exhibits impeccable legato and a beautiful half-voice. De Curtis’s Canta pe’me (CD1 tr. 15) offers glorious singing of the kind that paved the road for his international career, while Adam’s aria from Der Vogelhändler (CD2 tr. 13) is sung with enthusiasm and a certain elegance but this is probably also a recording from his early years, even though the sound seems quite OK. He also sings the Mario Lanza hit Be My Love (CD2 tr. 16) and does it well but the arrangement is of the dance band type and he doesn’t seem too inspired. By and large he is still one of the best reasons to buy this set.

As can be seen from the heading there are a number of compositions by Polish composers and two of these are worth a thumbnail portrait: Ludomyr Rozycki wrote what is probably the most popular Polish opera, Casanova (1921-22). He studied with among others Humperdinck and was later a member of the group "Young Poland" which also included Szymanowski and Fitelberg. His list of compositions is long and includes chamber music, orchestral works as well as several operas. The waltz from Casanova (CD2 tr. 2) is a fine song, more operetta than opera perhaps. Ewa Gawronska sings it excellently with her bright lyric soprano, so excellently that it is a pity this is her only contribution to the set. Bronislaw Kaper had an international career, primarily in the US, where he wrote music for nearly 150 Hollywood movies. A Night at the Opera with the Marx Brothers in 1935 was one of his first and in 1954 he was awarded an Oscar for Lili. He is represented on these discs by two numbers, both performed by the Polish "Three Tenors" Boguslaw Morka, Dariusz Stachura and Adam Sdunikowski, who may not be in the same league as the original three, but they are enthusiastic. Signorina (CD1 tr. 17) is a spirited number, while Ninon (CD2 tr. 15) is more anonymous.

The rest of the music is mainly international standard fare. There is some light music from Vienna: Robert Stolz’s Brunetki, blondynki (CD2 tr. 5) again with the Three Tenors, spirited but not very subtle; and Wien, Wien, nur du allein /CD2 tr. 17) charmingly sung by the legendary Stanislaw Jopek, member of the "Mazowsze" Company for almost half a century and known in every Polish home. There are Italian songs in performances of varying quality. The pick is no doubt Artur Rucinski who sings Tosti and Gambardella (CD1 tr. 9 and 12) with his high lyric baritone, combining beautiful timbre and unforced healthy delivery. Soprano Anna Bajor gives us a good Bailero by Canteloube (CD1 tr. 10) and on CD2 the internationally active soprano Jolanta Radek sings two arias everybody knows: O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi with fine nuance, long phrases and good legato but too slow – this is however a piece one remembers – and an equally good Ave Maria from Verdi’s Otello. CD2 finishes as CD1 started: with the slow movement from Rodrigo’s guitar concerto, this time sung by Artur Rucinski, who once again distinguishes himself. According to the biographical notes he is still at the beginning of his operatic career and judging from his singing here great things can be expected. The disc doesn’t quite end there, since there is a bonus track, Laura i Filon¸ sung by Marcin Nalecz-Niesiolowski, who is one of the foremost young Polish conductors (b. 1972) but who also studies singing and here displays a well-schooled sonorous baritone in the old Polish folk-song.

Playing time is generous, the booklets contain biographies in Polish and English and I have done what I could to complete the missing information of birth and death years, first names of composers and similar minutiae.

As always with a compilation it’s a mixed bag. Some of the songs left me indifferent, some of the performances – mainly those I haven’t commented on – were not up to the standard of the best but there was really nothing awful and there are several things that are very good indeed.

Göran Forsling


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