Author Topic: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others  (Read 20058 times)

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Offline Maciek

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[Edit: After Rosie's post I've renamed the thread. From Chopin's Songs to its current title.]

Frankly, I used to ignore them. But I've been playing a couple of them on the piano lately and am absolutely amazed. My two favorites are now the two very sad songs: Smutna rzeka (Sad River) and Leci liście z drzewa (A leaf falls from a tree...). I was infected by the tune from the former for a couple of days, and the latter is so modern! :o

I understand these aren't performed awfully often. I suppose it's because a) there are only a few of them, b) they are in Polish (gosh! ::)). But still, there are quite a few recordings to choose from. Any favorites? I think I might go for Teresa Żylis-Gara (Zylis-Gara):

It's a complete set and it's her. I wonder if her voice was still at its best, though (she was 65 when this was recorded)? I know this isn't exactly coloratura repertoire but still...

Another one I'm considering is this:

It has Stefania Woytowicz in most of the songs, and she is one of my favorite Polish sopranos.

And I also feel drawn towards two small selections sung by Ewa Podleś (Podles), especially the first of these two (because it's with Ewa Poblocka):


But on Polish labels alone I've found two more complete sets and one CD with a selection, and I'm sure there'd be more, if I were brave enough to check amazon and the like... So suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have time anyway, this is not going to the very top of my wishlist (though very nearly).

And what are your thoughts on the songs themselves?

[BTW, a funny thing I noticed in the track listings is that the title Leci liście z drzewa is often changed into Lecą liście z drzewa (Leaves are falling from a tree...). This is absolutely preposterous and shows that the people involved are not only completely uneducated but that they didn't have the good will to seek out someone who could help. "Leci liście z drzewa" sounds wrong to a modern Polish ear because the grammatical forms are now archaic but they are perfectly correct (historically). The fact that someone decided to change the solitary, sad leaf into an avalanche is just sad in itself. Does stupidity have a boundary? I sense a problem coming: if any of the singers actually indulge in singing the text with that change (innocent/ignorant as they might be) I predict I will not be able to listen. :-\]

Maciek
« Last Edit: May 16, 2007, 01:43:48 AM by MrOsa »

karlhenning

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2007, 04:40:13 AM »
Chopin's songs have been completely off my radar, Maciek;  but I am sure they are lovely, and deserve more exposure!

Drasko

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2007, 06:25:16 AM »
Chopin's songs have been completely off my radar

Same here, this is the only recording I've heard of, though how idiomatic Soderstrom is in Polish I do not know.

http://www.buywell.com/cgi-bin/buywellic2/03617.html

Offline Maciek

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2007, 10:22:42 AM »
I'm surprised they are so unpopular! ;) I remember people recommending them on the old forum...?

How about the Liszt transcriptions? I'm sure someone must have heard those!

Offline DevRose

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2007, 07:34:15 AM »
Hello!

I wanted to thank you for mentioning and recommending the Podles A Treasury of Polish Songs. I've been enjoying it! I would love to explore more Polish song. Do you have an idea of where I should go next? I am trying to amass an international and ecletic collection of art song, so any suggestions would be most appreciated.

 :)


Rosie

Quick intro of myself: I lurk quite a bit, but am going to de-lurk. I live in New York, but am from California. I love the voice, and adore song in all shapes and colors. I am still relatively new to the art song game, so I have a lot of exploring to do!
"Do not be alarmed." --Stravinsky

Offline BachQ

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2007, 09:55:31 AM »
Rosie

Quick intro of myself: I lurk quite a bit, but am going to de-lurk. I live in New York, but am from California. I love the voice, and adore song in all shapes and colors. I am still relatively new to the art song game, so I have a lot of exploring to do!

WELCOME, ROSIE! 

Thank you for de-lurking!

Offline BachQ

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2007, 09:58:31 AM »
I am sure they are lovely, and deserve more exposure!

Was Chopin capable of composing other than that which is lovely?

Offline Maciek

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2007, 01:03:46 PM »
Hello!

Hi Rosie! Welcome to the forum and thanks for de-lurking! :D Now that you've done that - dive right in! We're all friendly folk here, ultimately. ;)

(And may I just add that I think Rose is an absolutely beautiful name! :D)

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I wanted to thank you for mentioning and recommending the Podles A Treasury of Polish Songs. I've been enjoying it!

You're very welcome! I myself still haven't got it but that plus the Woytowicz are the 2 discs my heart is set on. I'll probably finally get it within a month or two - your recommendation might even speed that up a little. ;D

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I would love to explore more Polish song. Do you have an idea of where I should go next? I am trying to amass an international and ecletic collection of art song, so any suggestions would be most appreciated.

If you want to be flooded with suggestions - you've come to the right place! ;D (Rubs his hands) Ha-ha, nothing will stop me now!

Before I move on to particular discs let me name three composers that should be the foundation: Stanislaw (Stanisław, actually) Moniuszko, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (or Mieczysław Karłowicz, as we spell him over here ;)), Karol Szymanowski. There are many others, of course (and also quite a few of the more modern ones) but these 3 (and Chopin!) are the absolute basics as far as Polish art song is concerned - and you've already had a taste of them because they are all featured on that Podles disc. Other names will come up as I go through all of the worthwhile discs that I have found.

Now, I know their songs pretty well if I may say so myself (I used to ignore Moniuszko for quite a while but now even that has changed), because they get played quite a lot on the radio here. But because they are such a frequent feature I don't really have many recordings. So most of the recommendations that will follow are based either on my memories from the radio or on my general knowledge of a performer. They are all on my wish list though. (As you can see, my wish list is very long - it might in fact be longer than the list of recordings I actually have, LOL)

First of all there's this 5 CD set of the Polish mezzo Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa, released by the Polish Radio:


I don't have this set but this is one of my favorite Polish singers, a really lovely voice. The set isn't exactly crammed with Polish repertoire but since you generally like art song I'm sure that won't be a problem ;). The first disc is Schubert-Schumann-Brahms. CD number 2 is Karlowicz (5 songs)-Szymanowski (3 songs in Russian!)-Mussorgsky-Rachmaninov-Tchaikovsky. Number 3 is Debussy-Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki (3 songs)-Lutoslawski (the Illakowiczowna settings that one of our members, Edward, has recommended on several occasions)-Szymanowski (the 3 Kasprowicz Hymns)-Mahler. Disc number 4 is baroque music with very few Polish tracks, CD 5 is filled with opera arias, including only one by Moniuszko. It looks like a really splendid set, and quite a bargain (over here it costs only a little more than that single Podles disc!).

My list is long, so I'll go by labels from here.

Also released by Polish radio is a very good selection of songs by a less known Polish composer - Wladyslaw Zelenski (Władysław Żeleński). He is often (if unfavorably) compared to Brahms and really deserves to be better known. This collection is sung by the wonderful Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé:


And another disc set from the same label, 3 CDs of music sung by Bernard Ladysz, a celebrated bass-baritone. He was quite famous for his interpretations of Moniuszko, and this set contains a few songs and opera arias by that composer. As well as an entire disc devoted to songs by Rachmaninov. And, strangely enough, an entire disc devoted to popular songs (??)...


I don't want to make an enormous post, so I'll end it here and list stuff from the other labels in a separate one.

Also, I think I'll rename the thread (seems Chopin's songs aren't as popular as I had hoped...).

Cheers,
Maciek
« Last Edit: May 01, 2007, 02:56:06 PM by MrOsa »

Offline BachQ

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2007, 01:17:22 PM »
Also, I think I'll rename the thread (seems Chopin's songs aren't as popular as I had hoped...).

Great new thread name . . . . . . just rolls off the tongue  ::): Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski (and others) - Polish Art Song

Offline Maciek

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Since the Podles disc was released by CD Accord and they seem to be available worldwide (through ArkivMusic?), I'll move on to them next. Two excellent discs (from what I've heard) from them.

The first is a great set of songs by Mieczyslaw Karlowicz. The pianist here is the same as on the Podles disc - Ewa Poblocka. I've mentioned (and advertised) her on GMG before but she's such a splendid pianist that I might as well do it one more time. Her mother was a singer so she herself is an excellent accompanist and plays wonderfully as a part of chamber ensembles. But she is much more than that - an accomplished concert pianist, a true virtuoso with a legacy of great recordings (a fantastic Beethoven 1st PC, some wonderful Mozart PCs, and mesmerizing contemporary music - the PCs by Lutoslawski, Panufnik and Pawel Szymanski; her main specialities are Chopin and Bach though). The singer is once more the fantastic Jadwiga Rappé:


The other disc is a recording of religious songs by Stanislaw Moniuszko (with organ accompaniment). Some truly excellent singers here as well, including Andrzej Hiolski (generally considered the best Polish baritone of the 20th century), Piotr Kusiewicz and Jadwiga Rappé again:


That's all from this label.

Cheers,
Maciek
« Last Edit: May 01, 2007, 02:57:42 PM by MrOsa »

Offline Maciek

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Re: Chopin's Songs
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2007, 01:20:28 PM »
Great new thread name . . . . . . just rolls off the tongue  ::): Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski (and others) - Polish Art Song

Heh, heh. You should be thankful I didn't include their first names. >:D 0:)

Offline Maciek

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Next is a great big pack of assorted goodies from Polskie Nagrania.

First, a 2 CD set of essentials - a generous selection from Moniuszko's "Spiewnik domowy" (his foremost, multi-volume collection of several hundred songs):

The performers on the first disc are a mixed bag but the second has an outstanding cast (Hiolski, Ladysz and Ochman!).

Then you could round that off with a selection of songs by Chopin and Karlowicz sung by a young Andrzej Hiolski:


And then comes a real treat. A 3-disc set by Wieslaw Ochman, an excellent Polish tenor who has recorded quite a bit (most of it abroad in fact). Only the last disc is dedicated to Polish songs but it gives a great overview of the less known composers, such as Gall, Niewiadomski, Gablenz.


The only one missing in this set is Komorowski, author of the "hit" Kalina. You'll find that (sung by Szostek-Radkowa!) on this collection of sundry tidbits:

(the title reads "The Most Beautiful Polish Songs"; as for the cover, I think I won't be commenting Polskie Nagrania covers anymore - I'm running out of deprecating vocabulary)

Well, that's all from this label. One last post left to go. I think. ;)

Maciek

Offline Maciek

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This one will be "assorted labels". First of all you have got to get a recording of Lutoslawski's 20 Christmas Carols. There's a great recording by Rappé released by Polish Radio but that's out of print. People here on GMG say that this one from Naxos (also with Rappé but the Carols are sung by Pasiecznik) is topnotch excellent too:


You should definitely get a set of traditional Polish carols just to be aware of what exactly Lutoslawski has done. I'd recommend the versions recorded by Camerata Silesia (Musicon or DUX) - they are arranged very creatively by the composer Krzysztof Baculewski but they do give you a decent idea of what these carols originally sound like:
   

You might also be interested in the full set of Szymanowski's songs. I don't have this but my supervisor does and he is raving about it. Actually, I don't trust his ear one bit but this might very well be the only time he is right:


You might also consider getting some songs by Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The Teresa Zylis-Gara disc I mentioned in my first post contains a nice selection but there's also a set of his complete songs (they all fit nicely on one disc). Unfortunately, this is from Acte Préalable, so I would be concerned about the performance - they are a very inconsistent label:


And if you want something really exotic there's a disc containing songs by the now completely forgotten composer Raul Koczalski:

This has been released by the very small independent label Selene. I have no idea how you (or even I, for that matter!) could get it... :-\

That's all from me now. I'd gladly welcome any comments or further suggestions!

Cheers,
Maciek

Offline DevRose

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Well, I certainly asked the right question in the right place!  :) This is going to be a fabulous introduction. I am ordering as we speak, and will definitely report on what I hear. I am giving the Podles disc another listen so I can report back on that too, although I am perhaps not the world's most articulate critic. Thank you for setting me on my way!

And I am very glad that I have de-lurked. I don't want to miss out because I didn't speak up!

Rosie

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Offline Maciek

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I am ordering as we speak, and will definitely report on what I hear.

Wonderful! Yes, please do report, I'm very curious about your impressions myself.

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I am giving the Podles disc another listen so I can report back on that too, although I am perhaps not the world's most articulate critic.

Don't worry about that. The world's most articulate critic, whoever he or she is, probably doesn't frequent this board anyway. ;D I'll be very interested to read your thoughts. I have bits and pieces from that disc recorded from the radio and am definitely going to buy it this year.

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Thank you for setting me on my way!

Thank you for asking. I'm planning to use that list I made myself. So you've done us both a favour! ;D

Waiting for your posts! :D 8)

Cheers,
Maciek

Offline orbital

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I don't enjoy songs much (well, to be honest not at all  >:D) but in the case of Chopin I made an exception and got my only copy featuring Ohlsson &Ewa Podles. I guess they are good. But they sound better on the solo piano (Cortot plays a few of them in his EMI box set)

Offline Maciek

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You must mean the Liszt transcriptions. Well, I know them but somehow they never got me interested in the songs themselves, I never enjoyed them very much. Perhaps I need a better performance (frankly, I don't remember who I have in them - not anyone famous, that's for sure).

Drasko

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This has been released by the very small independent label Selene. I have no idea how you (or even I, for that matter!) could get it... :-\

Sidoze had quite a bunch of those Michalowski, Koczalski, Turczynski discs on Selene so they have to be available somehow. I can ask him if anybody is really interested.

Offline Maciek

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Well, I actually have a couple of their CDs, so there must be a shop somewhere in Warsaw that sells them. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I bought them... :-\

Their site gives an e-mail address, so maybe you can order straight from them.

I myself am not very interested at the moment - there's still too much mainstream stuff that I'm missing... :(

Offline Maciek

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This weekend I compared an older recording I have of Szymanowski's Blogoslawiona niech bedzie ta chwila (third song from his Kasprowicz settings) done by Teresa Zylis-Gara (with Jerzy Marchwinski at the piano) to a more recent one by Ewa Podles (with Ewa Poblocka - this time only a radio recording but I think it comes from the CD I mentioned in the first post and Rosie bought). I think very highly of Zylis-Gara so I was really surprised to find that her performance sounds really, really weak in comparison to Podles's. Podles certainly knows how to make this song work while Zylis-Gara seems to be loitering without a clue on where the singing should go, and really doesn't invest the energy it deserves. Zylis-Gara is very good in the first two songs of this set (especially the first one) so I'm looking forward to the time when I finally get to hear them sung by Podles. I wonder who I'll like better there.

BTW, looking at the track listings of the Podles disc I realized that it also contains the Illakowiczowna settings that come on the Szostek-Radkowa set. FYI.

Maciek