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Seen & Heard
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Four Songs Op. 7 (1882–85)
Six Songs Op. 18 (1893)
Douze melodies sur de poesies de Catulle Mendès, Op.
see end of review for full listing
(mezzo), Mariusz Rutkowski (piano)
rec. S-1 Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw, March 2007.
Texts and translations included
DUX 0585 [58:37]
I would think that most music-lovers, at least outside Poland,
regard Paderewski as a one-work-composer. At least people from
generations are familiar with his Minuet, one of the
most popular piano pieces in its day. In addition he composed
a substantial amount of music, including a piano concerto in
A minor, a Polish fantasy and a symphony in B minor. Around
the turn of the last century he wrote his only opera, Manru,
which was premiered in Dresden in 1901. The following year
it was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the
only work by a Polish composer ever played there. He had great
success as a virtuoso pianist, touring the world with “his
wife, entourage, parrot and Erard piano” as one source puts
it, even reaching Australia and New Zeeland. Parallel with
his musical activities he had a career as diplomat. After WW1,
he was prime minister in the newly independent Poland, in the
summer of 1919 signing the Treaty of Versailles.
His 24 songs cover a period of around twenty years, the earliest of them
(tr. 1-5) composed in Berlin, where he went for deeper studies
after the sad death of his first wife in 1881. They are melodious
and often melancholy with quite simple accompaniments. Konwalijka in
particular is a creation of great beauty. It was intended for
inclusion in his Op. 7 but was withdrawn from publication and
dedicated to Adam Asnyk, the poet of all five songs.
The next group of songs, the Six Songs Op. 18, composed a decade later,
were all settings of poems by Adam Mickiewicz, regarded as
the greatest Polish poet. As compositions they are on a far
more advanced level with more elaborate piano parts and deeper
emotional impact. I was especially caught by the beautiful Piosnka
dudarza (tr. 7) and the many-faceted Nad woda wielka
I czysta (tr. 9) with the piano in the stormy opening suggesting
the jagged rocks. Tylem wytrwal (So much I’ve suffered)
(tr. 10) has a certain folk-song character and the limping
waltz seems to express the poet’s suffering.
In the remaining songs, all of them settings of French poems, he approaches
impressionism. However in general his compositional style is
more fullblooded, more powerful than that of his French contemporaries,
who can appear anaemic by comparison. Le jeune pâtre (tr.
17) with its flowing piano part has again a lilting rhythm
that makes it stand out, while Elle marche d’un pas distrait (tr.
18) has more than one nod towards Debussy. The penultimate
song, L’amour fatal (tr. 23), is dark and ominous and
made me regret that Paderewski wrote no more songs after 1903.
Composed at about the same time as his sole opera many of these ‘late’ songs
also seem to indicate that he had real dramatic talent.
The singer Anna Radziejewska has a vibrant voice with dramatic potential
but initially I was a bit worried about her total lack of legato.
She sings the first songs with audible gaps between almost
all the notes, creating a curious staccato style. Whether this
is intentional – perhaps Paderewski wanted it this way – or
a result of the many tricky consonants in the Polish language,
is hard to say. Very soon, however, I began to appreciate her
singing. She has intensity and vividness and she phrases with
fine musical sense. Her tone can be slightly squally when under
pressure but her pianissimo singing is often quite ravishing.
And it is good to have these songs with a native speaker. But
she is just as impressive in the French songs and here she
is notably dramatic – try tracks 19, 20 and 23. Her pianist
is excellent and the recording first class.
The booklet has a quite extensive essay on Paderewski and full song texts.
The Polish songs have line by line translations into English
while the French songs have translations into Polish.
All in all this was a pleasant surprise and made me want to hear more
of Paderewski’s output. This disc is part of a Paderewski series,
including a recording of his opera Manru.
Lovers of art songs should definitely give this one a try.
see also review by Robert Hugill
1. Gdy ostatnia róża zwiedla (The Days of Roses)
2. Siwy koniu (To My Faithful Steed) [1:32]
w gaju brzezina (The Birch Tree and the Maiden) [2:17]
mego mi zabrali (My Love is Sent Away) [3:47])
5. Konwalijka (Lily of the Valley) (1882) [2:01]
6. Polaly sie łzy (My Tears) [3:21]
dudarza (The Piper’s Song) [3:11]
8. Moja pieszcotka (My Own Sweet
9. Nad woda wielka I czysta (Above the Vast Clear Waterspace)
10. Tylem wytrwal (So Much I’ve Suffered) [1:47]
sie zmienil (Could I Be Changed) [2:23])
12. Dans la forêt (1896) [1:54]
13. Dans la forêt [3:23]
14. Ton coeur est d’or pur [1:07]
15. Le ciel est très bas [2:33]
16. Naguère [1:55]
17. Le jeune pâtre [1:18]
18. Elle marche d’un pas distrait [2:00]
19. La jeune none [4:22]
20. Viduité [3:37]
21. Lune froide [2:32]
22. Querelleuse [1:14]
23. L’amour fatal [3:16]
24. L’ennemie [2:52]
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