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Henryk OPIEŃSKI (1870-1942)
Complete Songs; Chamber Works
Berceuse Op.1 for violin and piano (1893) [4:03] ¹ ²
Krakowiak Op.7 for violin and piano [3:42] ¹ ²
The May Song (1895) [1:48]
Apreil Op.3 [1:58]
Die Tränen Op.5 [2:44]
Immer wieder Op.8 No.1 [2:04]
Chanson d’automne Op.8 No.2 [2:09]
La lune blanche Op.8 No.3 [2:40]
Tęsknota Op.8 No.5 [3:51]
Bielą się pola Op.8 No.6 [3:20]
Ici bas Op.9 No.1 [2:29]
Triolet Op.9 No.3 (1912) [2:33]
Czasem [2:34]
Preludes; song cycle Op.13 (1899-1912) [15:13]
Thème varié Op.11 for piano (1910) [11:09] ¹
Maria Pawlaczyk (soprano)
Weronika Firlej-Kubasik (piano)
Anna Organiszczak (piano) ¹
Mariusz Derewecki (violin) ²
rec. 2001 and 2003, Radio Merkury and the Academy of Music, Poznań

Experience Classicsonline

Opieński was a well-known all-rounder of the time in Polish musical life. He studied music in Cracow, graduating in 1894, left for Paris where he studied with Stojowski and Paderewski and then went to Berlin. Here he studied composition before moving on again, this time to study with d’Indy between 1899 and 1901. He returned to Poland, this time to Warsaw, where he established an ensemble called Motet et Madrigal which made recordings for Columbia in the mid-1930s. In the meantime this inveterate traveller had moved again, this time from Warsaw to Poznań, and thence to Switzerland where he died in 1942.

Here we have a set of world premiere recordings. Some clearly can’t be dated with certainty but what is sure is that we have a disc of songs (and in one case piano music) that actually begins with a couple of genre outings for the violin and piano. The 1893 Berceuse is a salon charmer and there’s a characteristic Krakowiak to keep it company, all rather stylised. The music that follows makes for pleasant though hardly earth shattering listening. The May Song is a salonised folklore effusion whilst April is duly reflective. Die Tränen Op.5 is wan rather than expressive and the little songs that follow have the same kind of rather vacant trajectory. Rather better is Tęsknota Op.8 No.5 - note that not the entire Op.8 set is here. This has hints of impressionism, and is melancholy, with good nature imitation (scudding clouds, rain). There are some engaging stalking, folk-laced figures in the left hand in Bielą się pola.

By the time we reach Triolet we find a none-too-submerged influence from Strauss, whilst Czasem is an optimistic setting, about which the notes are silent: I rather like its ‘moods’. Preludes is a song-cycle written over a number of years between 1899 and 1912. There are seven songs, one or two more declamatory ones again echoing the Strauss influence. But there are also reflective, nostalgic moments too and also some charm. The only piece for solo piano is the Thème varié Op.11 of 1910. The simple folk melody, simply stated, is subject to variations that are alternately warm, noble, lyric and tinged with baroque cadences. It’s an attractive enough piece.

There are multilingual notes but the songs are presented only in Polish. The performances are certainly fair enough, and seem to do justice to Opieński. Forget all about, for example, Szymanowski; this is altogether a different brand of Polish composition.

Jonathan Woolf


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