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Author Topic: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others  (Read 9345 times)

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Offline Ciel_Rouge

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Bringing the thread back on track: I accidently stumbled upon Chopin's songs today on YouTube. I was completely swept away by Wiosna (Spring). There is a French version called "Fais dodo, mignonne":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHZCSbmzOF8&feature=related

Maciek, what do you think? Which one is more beautiful? As for the Liszt transcriptions (Six chants polonais) in my opinion he managed to put the voice part back into the piano world but he lost like 10 % of its beauty in the process :)

I also tend to think that a lot of people misinterpret Chopin, stripping away the delicate butterfly-like gentle beauty contained in his music and making it sound a bit boring. I suppose listening to his art songs would bring a lot of pianists back on track so that they would understand the use of rubato and what he had in mind exactly.

Offline zamyrabyrd

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OK, I listened to "fais dodo" with an open mind, and as songs go, it is very folk like, in other words limited in range and repetitive. It doesn't sound like a composed song as with Schubert and Brahms who transformed the folk element. The melody is nice but a good tune is only raw material. Even the accompaniment is boring here which is unusual for Chopin. At least with his other limited vocal writing, the piano part is interesting. I wonder if it weren't for the name Chopin attached to this song and others by him, whether so much attention would be paid outside Poland (where one would expect a certain amount of sympathy to native composers and the texts themselves).

Chopin knew his strengths and limitations so didn't write the great Polish opera that his comtemporaries were urging him to do so.

ZB
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Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #42 on: August 04, 2009, 02:53:08 PM »
What begs the question here is this: if Chopin was aware of this fundamental limitation, this inability of his to write good vocal music, then why did he so stubbornly persist to compose songs throughout his life? His earliest known attempts in the genre come from the late 1820s, his last known song was composed in 1847, only two years before his death. And there were probably about 5 more of them that unfortunately did not survive.

Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #43 on: August 04, 2009, 02:55:15 PM »
And if I may go off on a tangent (completely!), I'd also like to question (quite privately, since I'm no scholar) the story about Chopin's "contemporaries" urging him to write an opera. I've met with that story before yet somehow have never encountered any evidence that would confirm it. Who were these mysterious opera lovers exerting their pressures on the poor composer? I can think of only two such instances and both are rather specific. One is a relatively early letter from Elsner, who obviously had vested interests here, since he was an opera composer himself and maybe wanted his student to follow in his footsteps. (But for me the main interest in that letter lies not in the short "opera section" but in the general musings which show Elsner to be an exceptionally intelligent teacher, mostly intent on giving his student lots of space for individual growth. Which was at that point meaningless anyway, since Chopin had already finished studying with Elsner and had left Poland.) The other instance is one that Chopin reported himself in a letter to Delfina Potocka (which is probably a forgery anyway): Mickiewicz was purportedly trying to convince Chopin to write an opera. So I'm under the impression that the whole opera-pressures story is a tad overblown (at least some of the versions are)...

I may be misremembering things though, and I'm certainly not versed well enough in Chopin's life (or correspondence) to say anything authoritative... 0:) Just registering my doubts here.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2009, 06:02:04 AM by Maciek »

Offline Anne

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #44 on: August 04, 2009, 09:47:47 PM »
Cyprian and Rose are so cute that I can't keep my eyes off them. 

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #45 on: August 04, 2009, 11:00:36 PM »
What begs the question here is this: if Chopin was aware of this fundamental limitation, this inability of his to write good vocal music, then why did he so stubbornly persist to compose songs throughout his life? His earliest known attempts in the genre come from the late 1820s, his last known song was composed in 1847, only two years before his death. And there were probably about 5 more of them that unfortunately did not survive.

Well, maybe he was trying to develop his skills in that direction but didn't succeed or at least come up to the level of serious vocal composers. Those with an instinctive flair for writing vocal music are Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi and others I may have forgotten in haste. Anyone who sings probably has their own list but I imagine most of the forementioned will be on it and not Chopin. One needs an idiomatic understanding of how things work with the voice as in any other instrument: range, where the best areas are, instinctive feel for vocal phrasing, quite different from piano writing, the latter of which Chopin was an undisputed master.

You can have your opinion based on your experience, nationality, etc. And I'll have mine as a singer: his songs are simply boring. If penned by anyone else less famous, they probably would be not given anywhere near the attention they have attracted for whatever reason.
ZB
 


« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 11:17:55 PM by zamyrabyrd »
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Online The new erato

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #46 on: August 04, 2009, 11:35:17 PM »
Valuable thread, thank you all. Threads like these are the reason I waste  ;D time on this forum.

Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #47 on: August 05, 2009, 12:17:11 AM »
ZB, don't get me wrong here, I'm not arguing with your opinion, which you're entitled to, of course. Come to think of it, a body of less than 20 very short works, especially when compared to all the other stuff Chopin wrote, isn't probably worth a protracted discussion. In point of fact, I actually agree with most of the things that you write. If you read my earlier posts (the ones from page 2) you will notice that I acknowledged at the beginning that some of Chopin's songs are poor efforts indeed (I actually explicitly mentioned "fais dodo", so there! ;)). But I disagree with the contention that "Chopin could not write well for the voice, period" - I think that 4 or 5 of his songs (and that's actually quite a high percentage! ;D) are exceptionally good, and I would in fact call 1 or 2 of them masterpieces.

However, as I said before (in 2007! ;D), I never meant to imply that Chopin was a vocal composer on par with Schubert or Verdi or Rossini or Donizetti etc. who were primarily and almost exclusively vocal composers (well, not Schubert). That would have been absurd. A statement like that would make sense in regard to Moniuszko but certainly not Chopin. I simply stated that Chopin's songs are performed much less than they deserve and that a few of the late ones should really be heard more often. Because while Chopin can't generally be compared to vocal composers, he has written a handful of pieces which do stand the comparison (IMO).

And I like arguing with your arguments - rather than your opinions themselves. For the fun/sake of an interesting conversation rather than to really convince you, which I don't think I should be even trying to do. ;D

So, to come to the arguments: the "singer's point of view" argument doesn't really convince me. I don't think all singers unanimously agree on this matter (and anyway, with very few notable exceptions, artists tend to have differing tastes, don't they?). Ewa Podleś, for example, has recorded the complete Chopin songs at least twice and selections of his songs at least twice as well, and she sings them often at recitals. That seems like a lot for someone whose discography consists of thirty-odd discs...

Of course, you can say that she is a Polish singer, so she is biased. But then I can't think of many Western singers recording any Polish song repertoire so I assume this has got more to do with language constraints. OK, I'm opening an entirely new topic/line of thought here - but it is loosely linked to the subject of this thread, so here I go.

It is for instance the general opinion that Szymanowski's vocal writing is among the best in his output - not easy to perform (the notorious extremely high pianissimo notes etc.) but still very well written for the voice (Szymanowski's sister was in their times a famous opera singer). And yet, while Szymanowski's concertos, symphonies and piano works are sometimes recorded by Western artists, I can't think of a single recording of his songs done by a Western singer. Same goes for the Lutosławski Iłłakowicz settings, usually recognized as one of his finest works from the period when he wrote them (conversely, none of Lutosławski's songs to French texts have been recorded by Polish singers!). And I'm not going to even start on the subject of Moniuszko... ::) The situation is quite different in Slavic countries, such as Russia, or Ukraine, or Belarus, where Polish vocal repertoire, including Chopin (but especially Moniuszko), is performed much more often.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2009, 12:24:42 AM by Maciek »

Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #48 on: August 05, 2009, 12:19:24 AM »
Cyprian and Rose are so cute that I can't keep my eyes off them. 

Thanks, Anne. :-*

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #49 on: August 05, 2009, 01:13:34 AM »
Really darling kids... the best time when they are that age.

Two proverbs:
and I really like the first :)
In childraising, one plus one is more than two.
This is for later on:
"When they are small they don't let you sleep, when they are big, they don't let you live."

singing mom
Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.
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Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #50 on: August 17, 2009, 01:10:18 PM »
One of Szymanowski's Kurpie songs (for voice and piano) sung by Olga Pasiecznik (Jozsef Ormeny - piano). I am not particularly fond of their rendition of the whole cycle (OTOH, the choral recordings from the same disc are otherworldly) but I actually find this very beautiful (maybe it's time to reevaluate the whole disc):
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/yqSvLFQqpb0" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/yqSvLFQqpb0</a>
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqSvLFQqpb0)

What is really wonderful is that someone was thoughtful enough to post the original song in reply. It is as beautiful as Szymanowski's arrangement:
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/Un2DfoxIpWs" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/Un2DfoxIpWs</a>
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un2DfoxIpWs)

Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #51 on: August 17, 2009, 01:35:58 PM »
Oh, and this (Zarzyj se kuniu) is even better! There's also a version of this in the choral Kurpie songs cycle, IIRC.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/nbHLeC15Ch8" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/nbHLeC15Ch8</a>
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbHLeC15Ch8)

Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #52 on: February 22, 2010, 12:59:01 AM »
This from the Introductions thread:

Hi, i am new here : )
I have been wondering why the songs of Chopin (somebody here was writing about them... MACIEJ???) arent sung more often by male-singers? His song-output is after all a very heterogenous one, and many of them a more suitable for males (Hulanka, Narzeczony, Wojak etc.).

 Moreover, i think it is little inappropriate to perform them in the sequence organised by Fontana (as opus "74"). Even a chronological would be better a better one, i think.

Hi abidoful!

Very interesting what you say about the sequence, I've never thought about that - can you elaborate?

Re male vs. female recordings: not sure about the reason for this. As far as I can remember (though right now I can't take a look at the scores), they are (most of them?) written for female voice (ie. they have to be transposed for male voices). Considering the fact that the whole set fits onto one disc, and that the ones suitable for male voices are even fewer, it's not all that surprising that male singers record them rarely (or if they're do, the small selection is tucked between other pieces on recital discs and therefore difficult to spot). FWIW, I do have a couple of the songs recorded by Hiolski.

Also, and this should make you happy ;D, two of the most recent recordings that I'm aware of both feature male voices for some of the songs:

1. The most recent installment in the "The Real Chopin" series (HIP performances of Chopin) has Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano) and Mariusz Kwiecień (baritone) sing them to the accompaniment of Nelson Goerner (who presumably is playing on a historical instrument). Here's a link, but not all that many details there (not even the cover).

2. The most recent installment of the "National Edition" Chopin (based on the most up-to-date edition of the scores) also has both male and female singers doing the songs. It features Iwona Sobotka (soprano) and Artur Ruciński (baritone), accompanied by Ewa Pobłocka. Here's a link.

Nice to see that singers with undeniable "star" status in Poland (this goes for all four, but especially Kwiecień and Sobotka) are tackling this repertoire. (Though I wouldn't mind them doing a couple of Moniuszko discs as well. ::))

abidoful

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #53 on: February 22, 2010, 06:05:17 AM »
Thank you, Maciej for the information!

I really think it is a shame that the songs have almost exclusively been recorded by female-voices.
I remember when about ten years ago i started looking them and the only one i could find, was the recording of Elisabeth Söderström (not in her best  amymore then :-\) and Vladmir Ashkenazy, here in Finland it was very difficult to find them!! I guess in Poland it is different,  i  envy you guys ;D

As to the sequence, i really dont know how Fontana come to that, he probaply only collected them and never intented them to be sung as a "liederkreis"?
Consider a chronological sequence;
"Precz moich oczu!"
"Zyczenie"
"Gdzie lubi"
"Czary"
"Piosnka Litewska"
"Wojak"
"Posel"
"Hulanka"
"Narceczony"
"Smutna rzeka"
"The ring"
"Leaves are falling"
"Moja pieszcotka"
"Wiosna"
"Dumka"
"Slicny chlopiec"(not sure about the spelling)
"Dwojaki koniec"
"Nie ma czego trzeba"
and
"Melodya"

OR a male/female-sequence;
(female):
"Zyczenie"
"Gdzie lubi"
"Piosnka Litewska"(also possible for male?)
(male):
"Wojak"
"Posel"
"Hulanka"
"Narzeczony"
(female):
"Smutna rzeka"(also possible for male?)
(male):
"The ring"
"Leaves are falling"
(female):
"Moja pieszcotka"
"Wiosna"
"Sliczny chlopiec"
(male):
"Dumka"
"Dwojaki koniec"
(female):
"Nie ma czego trzeba"
  and
"Melodya"
or you could collect them to groups like,
-soldier songs and passionately patriotic songs
-love songs (both for male and female)and-sometimes witty- salon songs-
-simple folk-like songs and austere songs reminding of a religious chant

how does that sound?

abidoful

Offline Maciek

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #54 on: February 22, 2010, 06:43:13 AM »
I like the idea to group them by "theme" (love songs etc.)! 8)

FWIW, it looks like the "National Edition" recording (BeArTon) abandons opus numbers altogether. They have "WN numbers" instead. Perhaps these are strictly chronological? Their list differs from yours but maybe their sources are more up-to-date? (I'm not sure how certain the dates of composition are?)

Here is their sequence:

ŻYCZENIE Maiden`s Wish WN 21
GDZIE LUBI A Fickie Maid WN 22
POSEŁ The Messenger WN 30
CZARY Witchcraft WN 31
HULANKA Drinking Song WN 32
PRECZ Z MOICH OCZU Remembrance WN 33
WOJAK Before the Battle WN 34
PIOSNKA LITEWSKA Lithuaniam Song WN 38
SMUTNA RZEKA Traubled Waters WN 39
MAZUR WN 17 a NARZECZONY The Bridegroom`s Return WN 40
ŚPIEW Z MOGIŁY - LECI LIŚCIE Z DRZEWA Poland`s Dirge - Leaves are falling WN 49
PIERŚCIEŃ The Ring WN 50
MOJA PIESZCZOTKA My Enchantress WN 51
WIOSNA Spring WN 52
ŚLICZNY CHŁOPIEC My Beloved WN 54
DUMKA Earlier version of Faded and Vanished WN 57
NIE MA CZEGO TRZEBA Faded and Vanished WN 57
DWOJAKI KONIEC The Lovers WN 58
Z GÓR, GDZIE DŻWIGALI Bothed` neath their Crosses WN 61

I wish they listed who sings what on their site. If I see the disc in a brick and mortar store, I'll check.

Let's hope there'll be more info available about the HIP edition in due time. I'm curious if they did anything "new" with the order of songs.

abidoful

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Re: Polish Art Song - Chopin, Moniuszko, Karlowicz, Szymanowski and others
« Reply #55 on: February 23, 2010, 04:47:35 PM »
I like the idea to group them by "theme" (love songs etc.)! 8)

FWIW, it looks like the "National Edition" recording (BeArTon) abandons opus numbers altogether. They have "WN numbers" instead. Perhaps these are strictly chronological? Their list differs from yours but maybe their sources are more up-to-date? (I'm not sure how certain the dates of composition are?)

Here is their sequence:

ŻYCZENIE Maiden`s Wish WN 21
GDZIE LUBI A Fickie Maid WN 22
POSEŁ The Messenger WN 30
CZARY Witchcraft WN 31
HULANKA Drinking Song WN 32
PRECZ Z MOICH OCZU Remembrance WN 33
WOJAK Before the Battle WN 34
PIOSNKA LITEWSKA Lithuaniam Song WN 38
SMUTNA RZEKA Traubled Waters WN 39
MAZUR WN 17 a NARZECZONY The Bridegroom`s Return WN 40
ŚPIEW Z MOGIŁY - LECI LIŚCIE Z DRZEWA Poland`s Dirge - Leaves are falling WN 49
PIERŚCIEŃ The Ring WN 50
MOJA PIESZCZOTKA My Enchantress WN 51
WIOSNA Spring WN 52
ŚLICZNY CHŁOPIEC My Beloved WN 54
DUMKA Earlier version of Faded and Vanished WN 57
NIE MA CZEGO TRZEBA Faded and Vanished WN 57
DWOJAKI KONIEC The Lovers WN 58
Z GÓR, GDZIE DŻWIGALI Bothed` neath their Crosses WN 61

I wish they listed who sings what on their site. If I see the disc in a brick and mortar store, I'll check.

Let's hope there'll be more info available about the HIP edition in due time. I'm curious if they did anything "new" with the order of songs.
I cant wait  having "The Real Chopin" and "National editions" (as soon as i get my salary i will buy them ;D)!

There has been some discussion why Chopin did not publish any of his songs (Liszt gave a testimony that he in fact was thinking of it). I think it was for numerous reasons. And is quite understandable really;
First, he started composing quite a few songs BEFORE he left Poland (1830 was "The Year of Songs" for Chopin :D). And the new separation from his home-land, and from the cultural milieu of Warsaw possibly could have been one reason why he did not continue composing songs as before. He btw clearly had a difficult phase after he had settled Paris; he composed no more major works calling-for example- orchestral forces and no more extended chamber works. But NEW ideas-  for a new-kind of extended solo-works, for piano-scherzos and piano-ballades- were slowly evolving (and of course he was composing the etudes).
By mid/late thirties he had established a huge reputation as a COMPOSER-OF-SOLO-WORKS-FOR-PIANO- PAR EXCELLENCE.
Perhaps his publishers never even thought of comissioning songs from him.

And there is the fact that songs are closely connected through the poetry to ones nation. They are part of ones cultural heritage. We could remind ourselves of Liszt, who as a typical cosmopolitan, composed mainly French or German texts. And DID indeed publish his songs! The most natural choise for Chopin would have been to publish his songs in Poland. And that would have been btw for some of them- for their overtly patriotic texts- impossible (due to cencorship). Songs for Chopin clearly meant a way to connect with his homeland-he was, after all an exile...

And finally, apart from the early prolific years as a song-writer (excluding the ten or so, lost Pola-songs),  Chopin composed songs quite sporadically and it would have been difficult to choose which songs would form an opus (there would have to be probably at least three or four of them to form an one, just as with the mazurkas). And  since  they were so varied  in character- and even in style- and had been composed over so many years, that would have made things no less difficult. Though, if there would have been more songs like the "Melodya" (which can stand as an excellent representative of his late style, just as easily as the Polonaise-fantaisie, the Cello-Sonata or the Nocturnes op.62 ), publishing the Songs would have become much more prevailing!

One more interesting thing about the Songs ist the fact that since the "Jakiez kwiaty, jakie wanki" has no accompaniment, it would not be totally out of place to sing it as a cappella-unisono- choir! :) And some of them would also work fairly well with an orchestral accompaniment ("Wojak" for example starting  with 2  trumpets!!). That has been done, after all  to many songs- and by other than the actual composer. For instance to the Wagner Wesendonck-lieder. And also to some songs by Strauss and Sibelius (though Sibelius was not so pleased of that , preferring the original piano-versions over the orchestral ones).

Isnt that by the way interesting how we tend to categorize composers: it has become "natural" for example to perform the Wagner Wesendonck-lieder with an orchestral-accompaniment,  but with the songs of Chopin, nobody perhaps even  ever "thought" of  it! It reminds me how somebody  was "marvelling" Chopins piano-writing in his songs (which is really  NOT particularly highlighted in his songs apart few of them, the"Wojak" and the "Narzeczony"), or  when i read somewhere someone stating that the best movement of the Bruckner quintet was also the most- "symphonic"! ;D

And why it has to be always emphasised  that Chopin wrote "almost nothing but works  for piano"? Any composer who would have written such a work as the Cello-Sonata would had to be considered also as an important chamber-music composer! :o

« Last Edit: February 25, 2010, 03:58:23 PM by abidoful »

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