Polish Songs
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810 – 1849)
1. Hulanka - A Drinking Song Op. 74 No. 4 [2:50]
2. Posel – The Messenger Op. 74 No. 7 [2:51]
3. Dumka [1:26]
4. Nie ma czego trzeba – Faded and Vanished Op. 74 No. 13 [5:14]
Stanislaw MONIUSZKO (1819 – 1872)
5. Kum I kuma – Chums [1:32]
6. Bartek I cietrzew – Bartek and the Grouse [1:16]
7. Matko, juz nie ma Cie! – Oh. Mother, You’re Gone [3:01]
8. Piosnka oblakanej Ofelii (Spiew Ofelii i Hamleta) –The Mad Ophelia’s Song (Duet of Ophelia and Hamlet) [3:13]
Mieczyslaw KARLOWICZ (1876 – 1909)
9. Smutna jest dusza moja – My soul is sad Op. 1 No. 6 [2:01]
10. Na spokojnem cichem morzu – On the calm, dark sea, Op. 3 No. 4 [2:24]
11. Spi w blaskach nocy – Asleep in the splendours of the night, Op. 3 No. 5 [1:50]
12. Nie placz nade mna – Weep not over me, Op. 3 No. 7 [1:32]
13. Po szeroklem, po szeroklem morzu – Over the wide, wide sea, Op. 3 No. 3 [1:50]
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860 – 1941)
4 Songs Op 7 [10:46]
14. Gdy ostatnia róza zwiedla – The days of roses are gone [2:16]
15. Siwy konlu – To my faithful steed [1:34]
16. Szumi w gaju brzezina – The birch tree and the maiden [3:00]
17. Mego chlopca mi zabrali – My love is sent away [3:56]
Olga Maroszek (alto); Elzbieta Tyszecka (piano)
rec. Sala Kameralna im Henryka Czyza at Filharmonia Lodzka, October 2009
Sung texts in Polish printed in the booklet with English translations of the songs by Chopin and Paderewski
The Polish song tradition has not spread very much to Western Europe, mainly, I believe due to the linguistic aspect. An exception is the songs by Chopin, which can be heard now and then in recital and also on record. For the bicentenary we can expect more of them and I have in the reviewing pipeline a CD with the complete Op. 74 songs, published posthumously.
On this mixed recital we are treated to four of them, and though they may not be masterpieces to challenge those of his great contemporaries they are nice little songs, well worth a hearing. The most popular of them, the drinking song Hulanka, is a riveting opening number and Nie ma czego trzeba (tr. 4) is possibly the noblest in his whole output.
Olga Maroszek has a large, vibrant contralto, employed with a great deal of expression but not much sophistication. The voice is healthy, however, and hopefully she will be able to find more nuance in due time.
Moniuszko, nine years younger than Chopin, is best known for his opera Halka, but is generally regarded as the foremost creator of vocal music in Poland during the 19th century. His was a very personal melodic gift, with some influence from folk music. Kum I kuma has a catchy melody while the deeply felt and tragic Mad Ophelia’s Song stands out from the rest, showing the opera composer’s dramatic potential.
For Karlowicz, who died, swept away by snow in the Tatra Mountains when he was only 33, orchestral music was his true forte. Most of his songs, numbering 22, were written 1895–1896. They are splendid creations and Na spokojnem, cichem morzu (tr. 10) and Spi w blaskach nocy (tr. 11) require to be heard. They could stand beside, say, Tchaikovsky’s and Rachmaninov’s best works in the genre.
On Paderewski’s calling-card one could probably read ‘pianist’, ‘teacher’, ‘composer’ and ‘politician’. Among other things he was Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the newly-founded Republic of Poland after World War I and signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Among his compositions, mostly for the piano – he was one of the great virtuosos of his time – there is also an opera, Manru, premiered in 1901 and performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York the following year, still the only Polish opera ever performed there (review), and a Symphony (review review). To most present day music-lovers he is probably only known as the composer of the “Minuet in G”, which most amateurs could play a century ago. But his songs are well crafted, deeply serious and artful. The four songs Op. 7 to texts by Adam Asnyk are a fine conclusion to the present programme and it’s a pity the producers didn’t search out some more. Forty-two minutes’ playing time on a CD isn’t very generous. It is also a pity that there are translations to only some of the songs.
Olga Maroszek is an enthusiastic advocate for the songs here and while I would have appreciated some more subtlety her straightforward readings are still welcome. The experienced Elzbieta Tyszecka plays well and the recording is fully worthy of the occasion.
Göran Forsling
Songs that are well crafted, deeply serious and artful