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Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i.  piosenki
06 Feb 2007

Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i. piosenki

The title Walewska i przjaciele, “Walewska and friends,” reflects the intention of the mezzo soprano Małgorzata Walewska, one of the foremost contemporary Polish singers to present herself and some of her colleagues in recording of various kinds of music.

Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i. piosenki (The Best Polish Singers Singer Arias & Songs)

Anna Bajor, Ewa Gawrońska, Stanisław Jopek, Zbigniew Macias, Bogusław Morka, Marcin Nałęcz-Niesiołowski, Wiesław Ochman, Dariusz Stachura, Jolanta Radek, Artur Ruciński, Małgorzata Walewska, Adam Zdunikowski

Dux 0500/0501 [2CDs]

39,99 zł  Click to buy

Intended, as indicated in the liner notes, to demonstrate the connections between popular song and art music, the recording also serves as a showcase for a number of notable voices from Eastern Europe. The juxtaposition of the arguably subjective distinctions of musical style is mitigated through the fine performances that unite the thirty-seven selections that comprise this recording.

Some of the folk songs included in this recording are probably less well-known in the West, and hearing them helps to dispel the stereotypical image of Polish culture that focuses too keenly on polkas, mazurkas, and other dance forms. The bonus track on the second CD of “Laura i Filon” (“Laura and Filon”) is a fine example of the kind the more conventional folk music found here.

Yet selections include a number of familiar pieces, including traditional opera arias like the “Ave Maria” from Verdi’s Otello and similar pieces. The Polish-language version of “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific reflects, perhaps, the more popular side of the recording, but most of the works are art songs that reside between the musical theater and opera. The pieces by Rodrigo, Canteloube, and others are certainly familiar. As such, they are fine choices to exhibit the skill of this generation of Polish singers, but when sung in Polish, the pieces can be somewhat jarring to those familiar with the original languages. The opening of the first CD, Rodrigo’s “Czekalam wieczność” is well sung by Walewska herself, yet it is difficult not to hear the Spanish lyrics. Unfortunately the recording does not include the texts, both in the original language and in Polish translation, to assist the listener. At times, language does not seem to matter, as in the fine performance of one of Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, the “Bailero,” as sung here by Anna Bajor.

As to the other performances, the recording has music to offer. In addition to Walewska, the performers include the classically trained singers Zbigniew Macias (baritone), Dariusz Stachura (tenor), Ewa Gawrońska (soprano), Wiesław Ochman (tenor), Artur Ruciński (baritone), Anna Bajor (soprano) Bogusław Morka (tenor), Adam Zdunikowski (tenor), Jolanta Radek (soprano), as well as Stanisław Jopek, a popular member of the internationally recognized Mazowsze group that brings Polish culture to various places around the world. In fact, this recording seems to serve a similar mission as that of Mazowsze in sharing Polish culture to an international audience.

For those unfamiliar with modern Polish singers, this recording is an excellent introduction. While the balance is tipped, perhaps, more toward male voices, the selections given to the women are quite effective, especially those sung by Walewska herself. Those familiar with some of the recent selections from the Naxos label may have heard some of his soloists, and the musicians represented on this Dux recording supplement the sonic image of modern Polish culture. The voices may be unfamiliar in the West, and they are certainly deserving of more attention.

James L. Zychowicz

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