are not exactly common on disc. The
exotic cycle "Songs of the Fairy-Tale
Princess" crops up occasionally,
mainly in its orchestral guise. One
issue, is the Polish language, which
is not common in the concert hall or
On this new disc from
Dux, Polish soprano Anna Mikolajczyk
makes a communicative and convincing
case for two of the composer’s song-cycles.
Mikolajczyk is not well known in the
UK but has a distinguished career in
her native Poland, including a significant
amount of baroque music – often a good
pointer to a healthy technique with
a firm and even vocal production.
Mikolajczyk has a voice
which is more spinto than lyric with
an attractive Slavic edge. She has a
relatively tight vibrato with a good
firm line. "Children’s Rhymes"
are settings of poems by Kazimiera Illakowiczowna.
There are twenty songs in a cycle lasting
just short of half an hour, none of
the songs are long and the shortest
last under a minute.
The songs are not songs
for children but songs about childhood
and children. Mikolajczyk’s performance
is not faux-naif, but mature and communicative.
Her timbre and phrasing give the songs
their full value. But by the end of
the cycle I did feel that I had consumed
too many small morsels, which did not
quite add up to the sum of their parts.
Perhaps one of the
issues is my lack of Polish. Mikolajczyk
is a communicative singer and I almost
did not need to read the translations.
But that almost is significant;
to get the best out of this song-cycle
you do need to sit down and follow them
with their libretto.
The poems in "Songs
of the Fairy Tale Princess" were
written by the composer’s sister, Zofia
Szymanowska. The lyrics are not explicitly
oriental or exotic but Szymanowski has
overlain these with his own particular
style of oriental exoticism. The vocal
part includes much high cantilena and
Typically these songs
are the province of the coloratura soprano.
Mikolajczyk has all the notes and an
impressive trill. In the upper register
her voice displays some pressure and
lacks ease of production, but her upper
notes are well integrated into her voice
and the vocal line. Not everyone will
like Mikolajczyk’s sound in these songs,
but I found the results interesting
and expressive. She brings more to these
highly perfumed songs than someone with
a greater ease of vocal production.
Mikolajczyk is well supported by pianist
The disc includes an
English introductory essay and texts
in Polish and English. The booklet and
CD folder are attractively styled around
photographs of the soprano in an Art
Nouveau period-setting taken from the
Museum of Mazovia in Plock.
The CD is slightly
short at 46 minutes and I wished that
the performers had included more of
Szymanowski’s songs. But what they do
give displays the composer in the best
possible light. Highly recommended for
those interested in exploring some fascinating