Moniuszko’s natural heartland was Polish nationalist opera although there are plenty of songs
and some masses (here
). His seemingly frictionless and flighty melodic skills lie somewhere north of bel canto
and somewhere south of Tchaikovsky. This collection of operatic overtures stretches across twenty years and is quite charming. It will probably have you looking for the complete operas - good hunting, though Dux have done some valuable work here (Paria
). The success of this most generously timed disc can be equated with one of my Recordings of the Year
: Somm’s British operatic overtures
. If you liked the Somm collection you will love this.
is the longest overture on this 80-minute CD and bristles with strutting pride, evergreen and bird song. It is a freestanding concert overture and can be bracketed very approximately with the Liszt and Tchaikovsky tone poems. You may have heard it already if you know the CD-Accord
disc of Polish orchestral music. If Tchaikovsky can be glimpsed in Bajka
then it’s a case of Schumann meets stormy Tchaikovsky in Paria
which itself sports a lovely whispered melody (2:50) - clearly a Moniuszko speciality. Halka
alongside The Haunted Manor
have lent Moniuszko’s name a modest fame. I am not familiar with the whole opera but while jolly enough it does not strike me as superior to Paria
. Indeed some of it rattles and crashes like one of the Vienna Strausses’ operatic overtures, yet with some imaginative strokes redolent of Weber and Mendelssohn (6:10). Verbum Nobile
is a later work from a one-act opera poking fun at the ways of the aristocracy. It is a light overture which has something of the tang and crash of a Suppé overture. Flis
has less of the crash-bang-wallop of Verbum Nobile
. Oddly enough its quiet musings reminded me at first of the dreamy aspects of Arensky’s Dream on the Volga
and Lyapunov’s Zelazowa Vola
. These static aspects are cast aside for an energetic national dance; the whole running to ten minutes. Hrabina
has a Dvořákian accent recalling the Czech Dances. A formula is in evidence here but that is shaken free for the overture to The Haunted Manor
which is pregnant with tension in a way not experienced with the other overtures here. Jawnuta
, as befits the subject matter of this “idyll in two acts”, has a Hungarian flavour and a most striking part for solo trumpet. The New Don Quixote, or 100 Follies
is a three-act operetta “after Cervantes”. It is quite early and after the initial musings this overture bubbles with Beethovenian energy. The last overture is The Hetman’s Mistress
. It was scored for piano (four hands) and comes down to us here in an orchestration by Zygmunt Noskowski. More recently Witold Rowicki has made another performing version. This one by Noskowski - a composer whose symphonies I hope Naxos will pick up - presents the Moniuszko we know from the other overtures here.
The playing and engineering is exemplary; my only real criticism is that there is an edge to the violin sound. Otherwise everything is comme il faut
from Poland’s capital orchestra and leading conductor. Paul Conway’s notes tell us what we want to know without any opaque and unnecessary musical technicalities.
This collection certainly takes us well beyond the usual Halka
and Haunted Manor
overtures and does so without any suggestion of choking dust.