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Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Swiety Boze [7:48]
Jestem i placze [5:41 ]
Daleko zostal calyswiat [2:57]
Labedz [4:01]
Samofny ksiezyc [2:34]
Sleep now [2:01]
Rain has fallen [1:21]
Winds of May [1:16]
Mein Herzop [2:26]
Derjunge Prinz (1) [3:15]
Derjunge Prinz (2) [3:08]
Das letzte Lied [2:09]
Richard WAGNER (1913-1883)
Wesendonk-Lieder: Der Enge [3:12] Stehe still [4:16] Im Treibhaus [5:59] Schmerzen [2:07] Traume [5:21]
Matgorzata Walewska (mezzo)
Oskar Jezior (piano)
rec. S-1 Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw, February 2007. DDD
DUX 0573 [59:34]
Experience Classicsonline

As a lover of the music of both Wagner and Szymanowski, I regret having to confess myself disappointed by this disc. To begin with, the sleeve-notes contain absolutely no notes on the songs themselves, only on the performers – and that in an extremely poor English translation. The look of the disc is one that seeks to promote the performer rather than the music. Furthermore, there is not a single biographical note on the composers – we are lucky, I suppose, that they include the lyrics at least!
The disc presents a selection of songs by Szymanowski, followed by Wagner’s Wesendonk-Lieder. The Szymanowski songs are quite unrelenting – both the music itself, and the performance thereof.
The Polish Malgorzata Walewska has a very powerful, mature voice, quite dark, which suits the black nature of the majority of the settings, many of which are about death, loss, grief, tortured souls and so on. It makes for a rather morbid selection, with lots of imagery of wounded birds. The effect of the words is compounded by the rather bleak and remorseless wailing of the voice line with the sparse rumbling or crashing of the piano accompaniment beneath.
The poets range from Jan Kasprowicz and Zofia, Szymanowski’s wife, through to James Joyce and Tagore. The first Zofia Szymanowska setting (Samofny ksiezyc) comes as a welcome break, being more lyrical and beautiful than the previous songs, albeit still deeply melancholic. The Joyce settings are rather ruined by Walewska’s poor pronunciation of the English, which is quite unsettling, almost distressing at times.
Even the songs setting more light-hearted texts (such as Winds of May) are heavy and laboured – no lightness or joy comes through. The Tagore songs, again, are also quite dark and weighty – both in terms of the music itself and heavy, heroic-style singing from Walewska.
Reaching the Wagner songs comes as something of a relief, and we look forward to something a little less depressing! Walewska’s heavy mezzo suits the Wagner as well, especially given her darker tone, which works well here. We are also able to ‘see’ a little bit more of her voice in these, although she still does not demonstrate much variety in expression. She would appear to be a little too concentrated on her prominent vibrato to give the songs much personality.
On the whole, I think this was a poor selection of works – although each song individually may be a well-crafted gem, the total effect is rather numbing. All the songs are too similar, and the disc does not allow for much variety of emotion other than depression and grief.
Em Marshall


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