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Kurpie Songs
Henryk Mikolaj GÓRECKI (b. 1933)
Pięć pieśni kurpiowskich na chór mieszany (Five Kurpian Songs), op.75 (1999) [19:21]
Stanisław MORYTO (b. 1947)
Pięć pieśni kurpiowskich na chór mieszany (Five Kurpian Songs) (1999) [17:22]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882–1937)
Sześć pieśni kurpiowskich na chór mieszany (Six Kurpian Songs) (1928/1929) [19:15]
Choir of the Podlaise Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok/Violetta Bielecka
rec. June 2007, Podlaise Opera and Philharmonic Concert Hall in Białystok. DDD
DUX 0653[55:59]
Experience Classicsonline

I well remember reviewing one of the first recordings, possibly the first in the West, of Górecki's hypnotising 3rd Symphony (Stefania Woytowicz with the Berlin Radio Symphony orchestra, conducted by Wlodzimierz Kamirski (Schwann CD 11615 (Koch-Schwann SCH 361-302)). I can remember my excitement at such a simple, yet moving, work. Over the intervening 25 years my enthusiasm for the music has waned somewhat and subsequent works of this composer have never grabbed me in quite the same way – although I still derive pleasure from performances of it. I’ve always supposed that this was because no other work of his contains the heady emotionalism of that score. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed other, later, music of Górecki for there’s some powerful and intense pieces, not to mention the marvellously intimate Dobra Noc (Good Night), op.63 (1989), written in memory of Michael Vyner.
These folksong arrangements are in the same mould as the Symphony – slow and quiet, simple and direct. They are very beautiful. They’re neither as complex, nor as demanding, as either Szeroka Woda (Broad Waters), op.39 (1979) or Wislo moja, Wislo szara (My Vistula, Grey Vistula), op.46 (1981), but in their own way they are affecting and quite charming. These songs would make a welcome addition to the repertoire of any good amateur choir looking for something a bit different which won’t demand hours of rehearsal time.
Stanisław Moryto’s five songs are from the same stable. They have more variety than Górecki’s songs – the harmony is more advanced and there’s even a folk-dance. They have the feel and sound of many of Kodály’s Hungarian folksong arrangements. These are delightful little pieces and as an interlude between two masters they are most welcome.
The prize of this disk is the set of arrangements by Karol Szymanowski. These are harmonically interesting and develop their material, or at least develop their material as much as is possible within the short time-scale. They are beautifully laid out for unaccompanied chorus with short, but telling, solo parts for soprano and tenor. There’s a great deal of variety within the set, making it an interesting listen, with fast and slow songs and a brilliant climax at the end of the fifth song which really crowns the set.
The performances by the Choir of the Podlaise Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok is very good, committed and full of spirit and dedication. We must thank its trainer and conductor Violetta Bielecka for this. The sound is rich and full with a nice perspective on the choir. The soloists are not too prominently placed and sound as if they are really in the choir and not singled out for special treatment. 
This is a most interesting and satisfying disk and it’s good to hear such fine choral singing.
Bob Briggs


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