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Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Six Kurpian Songs for mixed choir acappella (1928-1929) [16:09]
Roman MACIEJEWSKI (1910-1998)
Kurpian Songs for mixed choir acappella (1933) [10:22]
Chopin University Chamber Choir/Krzysztof Kusiel-Moroz
Recording details not provided
Texts and translations not included
Notes in Polish only
DUX 1548 [26:31]

The Kurpie region of Poland lies roughly 70 miles to the north-east of Warsaw, not far from the modern country’s borders with Lithuania and Belarus. Even within Poland it was perceived as an especially remote area for centuries. Szymanowski first became interested in the region in 1928 when he attended (and was transfixed by) a performance in the capital of Wesele na Kurpiach [A Kurpie Wedding], an extravaganza of music and dance conceived and curated by the priest (and expert in Kurpian culture) Władysław Skierkowski. He immediately set about editing and arranging half a dozen of the songs he had heard for acappella chorus, and they feature on this new Dux issue, along with a quartet of Kurpian songs arranged by his younger compatriot Roman Maciejewski.

Both sets feature piquant harmonies, colourful textures and enchanting solos. In total there are ten brief numbers on this disc, and the Chamber Choir of the Chopin University under Krzysztof Kusiel-Moroz perform them with palpable enthusiasm and something approaching authenticity. They are not pitch perfect however; there are signs of strain at times at both top and bottom, intonation is not always secure, and on this occasion the excellent Dux sound is perhaps too revealing.

Notwithstanding all of this however, I’m afraid I am completely at a loss as to why Dux have chosen to issue a disc of 26 minutes duration at full price. Quite apart from this miserly playing time (I can’t actually recall encountering a full price classical disc with so little content) there are superior performances of both these collections on another Dux CD. They were recorded by the Warsaw Chamber Choir under Ryszard Zimak on a more enticing and generous collection of Kurpian inspired choral music entitled Nie Moj Ogrodusek (DUX 0116). Apart from performances of many of the unadorned folksongs themselves, the disc also includes collections by Kazimierz Sikorski, Romuald Twardowski and Stanislaw Moryto. As it boasts a running time of 67 minutes, it makes much better artistic and economic sense to invest in that issue should any readers be attracted to this singular and interesting repertoire.

The new issue presents one further challenge; notes are exclusively in Polish, while the original texts are conspicuous by their absence, let alone the translations. One cannot help but feel some sympathy for the Chopin University Chamber Choir; in this instance it appears to have been sold somewhat short by the label

Richard Hanlon

1. Hej, wółki moje [2:17]
2. A cemu [4:05]
3. Niech Jezus Chrystus bandzie pochwaluny [2:31]
4. A chtóz tam puka [3:13]
5. Wyrzundzaj sie dziwce moje [2:47]
6. Nie mój ogródusek [2:25]
7. Bzicem kunia [2:43]
8. Panie muzykancie, prosim zagrac walca [2:38]
9. Powolniak [2:30]
10. Kozak kurpiowski [1:22]

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