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Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860–1941)
Four Songs, Op. 7 (1882-85) [9.32]
Lily of the Valley (1882) [2.01]
Six Songs, Op. 18 (1893) [15.00]
Dans la forêt (1896) [1.54]
Douze Mélodies sur de poesies de Catulle Mendes, Op. 22 (1903) [30.00]
Anna Radziejewska (mezzo)
Mariusz Rutkowski (piano)
rec. S-1 Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw, March 2007
DUX DUX0585 [58.37]



Paderewski is best known in the West as a pianist and a composer. Ironically he was known in his native Poland mainly as a politician, his name very much linked to the cause of Polish nationalism. Initially all the strands of his career ran in parallel, but from the early part of the 20th century he abandoned composition to concentrate on politics and pianism.
 
Though, as a creative musician, he is very much associated with the piano he also composed a significant body of songs. These were written in the period 1882 to 1903. Initially his songs followed the conventions of the genre in Poland, very much in the salon tradition. The lyric, melodic form allows the text to come over strongly and composers often chose outstanding literary works. But by the end of his career, Paderewski was writing far more sophisticated songs and this recital from Polish mezzo-soprano Anna Radziejewska includes his entire song output.
 
She opens with the Four Songs, Op. 7. These were taken from his first song cycle, setting poems by Adam Asnyk, one of the writers associated with Polish Romanticism. Originally there were five in the set and Radziejewska adds the dropped one, Lily of the Valley.
 
These are lively, carefree and charming songs, very much in the lyric ballad style and Radziejewska captures their different atmospheres nicely. She has a lovely dark, rich contralto-esque mezzo. It is a focused voice with a nice line and she captures the essential melancholy underlying some of the songs.
 
Paderewski’s Six Songs Op. 18, set verse by Adam Mikiewicz, among the greatest of the Polish Romantic poets. Mikiewicz’s verse is rather more challenging than Asnyk’s and though Paderewski does not mine any deeps, he produces songs which are attractive and predominantly melancholy. Some, like The Piper’s Song include lively piano material, making one aware that the composer was also a pianist. The mazurka rhythms of My Own Sweet Maiden echo the folk music of Paderewski’s native Poland and in So much I’ve suffered Paderewski returns to the folk ballad form.
 
In his song, Dans la forêt Paderewski gives the French words of Théophile Gautier a lovely atmospheric setting. His final composition, the songs Op. 22, sets 12 poems by Catulle Mendes. These, like the Gautier setting, use French words.
 
Mendes was married to Gautier’s daughter and his poetry often imitates the style of other poets. Each of the poems used in these settings is given a motto from a well known poet, hinting at the inspiration behind the poem. These mottos are usefully printed along with the words.
 
These are darker and more complex; often dramatic, they utilise impressive piano parts and explore far more chromaticism than the earlier songs. Quite often, as in the first poem, Dans la forêt, the influence of Fauré can be detected. The style of the songs varies from the flurries of dramatic piano notes in Ton Coeur est d’or pur through the serenade-like Naguère, to the dark, complex L’amour fatal.
 
When it comes to words we do find a slight limitation in the CD booklet. The Polish poems are printed in Polish and English but the French poems are printed in French and Polish only, thus requiring a degree of expertise in French from the listener.
 
The French words of these Op. 22 songs make them far more approachable to artists than the earlier Polish songs and I would hope that this disc might encourage other singers to take them up. Whilst not being works of genius they are fine, soundly-crafted settings and would respond to inclusion in well planned programmes.
 
Radziejewska and her pianist, Mariusz Rutkowski do this programme ample justice and their musicality makes the recital highly rewarding. Radziejewska’s dark voice emphasizes the melancholy but she also brings a welcome lightness where necessary.
 
This is a lovely recital and should be of interest to everyone with a fondness for songs.
 
Robert Hugill
 



 


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