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Emanuel KANIA (1827-1887)
Dawid Biwo (bass-baritone)
Dominika Peszko (piano)
rec. 2019, Concert Hall of Karol Syzmanowski Music School, Katowice, Poland
Sung in Polish
Booklet included with notes in Polish and English.
DUX 7603 [71:55]

This CD represents the world premiere recordings of songs by the little known Polish composer Emanuel Kania, a 19th century concert pianist, composer, and music critic. Born in the small village of Uszyce, he began his musical studies in Southern Poland and completed them in Berlin. He was primarily noted as a touring concert pianist who performed throughout central Europe from the 1850s to 1862. After getting married and settling down he devoted himself almost exclusively to teaching and musical criticism. His compositional output is mainly in the field of piano pieces but he also had forays into chamber music and some orchestral works. The songs presented on this CD are only some of the vocal works that were published during his lifetime. He seems to have been influenced a great deal by the works of Frederic Chopin as these songs display a wealth of Chopinesque touches in their piano accompaniments.

Despite a prominent label on the back cover which indicates “Polskie-English”, the Dux label and the producers of this CD have only provided an article with a brief account of Kania’s life. There are no texts for the songs in either language and therefore no English translations to aid one in understanding the poetry of these songs. This is severely limiting to anyone who isn’t conversant in 19th century Polish romantic language. This does not mean that there is nothing to enjoy here as the songs are quite lovely in themselves and they make for a pleasant musical interlude. The charmingly wistful sounding Marzenie and Śpiew Wiesława later give way to the rather catchy Moja pieszczotka. Mazurek is a piece which incorporates some folk dance rythms of central Europe. Chata w cieniu is an unusual piece in that it features a darkly romantic piano introduction but the vocal line veers into a folk song like simplicity for a remarkable contrast.

By far the longest song on the disc is Luli; running in at 10:15 for music which is strongly repetitive in nature; for me it rather outstayed its welcome. An oddity is Perche, a song which repeats the Italian word throughout but then everything else is sung in Polish. Why didn’t the composer use the Polish word Czemu? The notes make no mention of this and it is where I most missed the ability to read an English translation or a written analysis of each of the songs on the program.

Despite a rather fierce looking photo on the cover, Dawid Biwo delivers the songs with a warmly resonant voice. His sensitive singing is a consistent pleasure throughout. The piano accompaniments are vibrantly played by Dominika Peszko whose work is a complete success. The program proceeds with an abundance of grave sounding music that is concentrated in the second half, and this made it feel a bit bogged down to my ears. In addition, the final song on the disc ends rather abruptly; it might have been better to have placed it earlier on in the program. Because of this I would suggest the CD is best experienced a few tracks at a time rather than played through from beginning to end. The Dux engineers have captured a very clean and warm sound from the concert hall in which it was made. It is a thoroughly professional effort in the sound department.

Mike Parr

Dwie zorze
Oto płakałem we śnie
Moja pieszczotka
Chata w cieniu
Cóż komu do tego
Śpiew Wiesława
Różne łzy
Gdy ostatnia róża zwiędła
Ostatni wianek
Nowa wiosna
Śpiewak w obcej stronie
Pieśń mojego życia
Różyczka na łące
Czyjaż wina

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