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Polish Songs
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810 – 1849)
Stanislaw MONIUSZKO (1819 – 1872)
Mieczyslaw KARLOWICZ (1876 – 1909)
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860 – 1941)
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
ACTE PR…ALABLE AP0201 [41:54]

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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 růza 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]

Nothing, I think, could be further from what we expect from Chopin than the opening song on this disc. Chopin, composing a drinking song, indeed! The melody is appropriately robust and straightforward and the accompaniment features solid, repeated chords. We are all thoroughly enjoying ourselves, promising well for the rest of the recital. The second song is just as simple in conception, though more restrained, as befits a story of disappointed love. With the third song I began to notice a startling fact, that these songs, by Chopin, of all composers, featured piano parts which would not challenge my own modest keyboard skills. Indeed, the accompaniments might be described as rudimentary, and closely following the vocal line. “Chopin was the creator of Polish Romantic song” the notes tell us, but I think a listener coming unprepared to these four songs might well be led to believe, by their simple strophic form and unsophisticated piano writing, that they were attractive but workmanlike arrangements of Polish folk songs.

Stanislaw Moniuszko, as can be seen above, was roughly contemporary with Chopin. The booklet contains a long and detailed biography of this composer of whom I had never heard. He seems to have been quite prolific, having composed several operas, for example, as well as a large number of songs. The first two of those recorded here are, like those of his more celebrated compatriot, strophic in form, and once again feature a piano part which follows closely, often doubling, the vocal line. The notes refer to the composer’s song writing style as “an amalgamation of folk, popular, and town singing”, which seems a good description of the first two songs of the group. The third is already more elaborate, and Mad Ophelia’s Song is rather more, an affecting, sombre setting of Shakespeare in Polish translation.

With the first song by Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, the pattern of this collection – simple vocal lines supported by chords and melodic doubling – is well established. This does not necessarily make the songs uninteresting, but few of them are fully realised works in the way that most German Lieder are, for example. The disc is one to dip into, therefore, rather than to listen to in one sitting. The Karlowicz group gathers together five songs that share a similarity of pace and mood – the last two in the same key – and after a while one craves something with rather more life to it. The vocal lines are often lovely, On the calm, dark sea, in particular, but an English listener is further hampered by the fact that English translations are given only for the Chopin and Paderewski songs.

The first song of the Paderewski group hardly brings a change of mood, though the second, To my faithful steed, is more lively, if not quite to the point that the title leads us to expect. The song does rise to a climax, though, which grants its performers the opportunity to expand and express themselves at last. The piano writing in these Paderewski songs is a little more elaborate than elsewhere in the collection, making one remember that the composer was also a virtuoso pianist. The birch tree and the maiden is a touching love song which nonetheless remains an essentially simple piece of musical expression. Alas, the final song, a lament for a lover sent away to battle, returns to sombre chords and a regular metre.

Olga Maroszek and Elzbieta Tyszecka acquit themselves well enough. The singer has a darkish timbre well suited to the repertoire, and only a very few notes, usually in the higher reaches of the voice, are not quite in tune at the moment of attack. The words, in spite of the Polish language, are remarkably clear. But in all honesty the repertoire does not really allow her to shine in the way she surely can. Hers is a distinctive voice, and I’d be very interested to hear her in something which allowed her to expand and to express herself vocally. At the piano, Elzbieta Tyszecka is fine, though her role is even more limited.

The recording is excellent and the Polish and English booklet note, written by the accompanist, gives plenty of biographical information about the composers without much discussing the songs themselves. As previously noted, not all the sung texts are translated, which is a real pity.

The disc plays for only forty-two minutes. There are some lovely things here, but one could easily envisage a more varied recital of Polish song than this one.

William Hedley

See also review by Goran Forsling


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