Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Karol Szymanowski: Songs, Op. 31 and Op. 49.
17 Aug 2008

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs, Op. 31 and Op. 49.

The lyricism characteristic of the instrumental music of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is at the core of his songs, and the two collections found on this recording represent his vocal music well.

Karol Szymanowski: Songs, Op. 31 and Op. 49.

Anna Mikołajczyk, soprano, Edward Wolanin, piano.

Dux 0547 [CD]

$18.99  Click to buy

The twenty songs of Rymy dzieciȩce, Op. 49 (Children’s Rhymes) are settings of poems by Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna that Szymanowski composed between 1922 and 1923. The texts published in both the original Polish and in a translation by J. Abramczuk and S. A. Witkowski, concern various aspects of childhood, yet contain a level of meaning that suggests an adult audience. The first song, “Before falling asleep” reveals an almost stream-of-consciousness list of the very thoughts that represent the narrator’s mind before retiring. That song contains some of the lush, impressionistic harmony that Szymanowski used in other music he composed at this time. The harmonic idiom helps to depict the state of mind in this poignant song. Elsewhere Szymanowski is overtly simpler, with rhythms that call to mind the various chants that are part of the spontaneous games of children in various cultures and, in this sense, convey a sense of universality that makes these Polish songs approachable. Such is the case with “How best to get rid of a hornet,” which transposes the relationships of the human child onto the insect in a way that resembles some of the poetry in the children’s section of the German-language collection of folk poetry Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Yet not all the poetry demonstrates an innocent childhood. “Crafty Leiba,” with its use of childlike rhythms, reflects some Jewish stereotypes of the time. Details like these are the exception, though, and most of the songs are quite approachable. In most of them, the union of vocal line and accompaniment create a seamless ensemble in this set of miniatures.

The earlier collection of songs found here, Pieśni ksiȩźnicki z baśni, Op. 31 (Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess) may be more familiar in the version for voice an orchestra. As much as the latter setting contains nuances that put the work in the tradition of the nineteenth-century orchestral Lieder. Yet in the version with piano accompaniment the vocal line becomes the focus of attention, with its demanding vocal line that is redolent of modal inflections and improvistory-sounding passagi. Composed in 1915, almost a decade before his Children’s Rhymes, the Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess sounds, at times, like a later, more complex work. Certainly the longer texts of the six poems that comprise the cycle give the composer the opportunity to sustain the moods suggested by the verses and explore them. Thus, the intensity that Anna Mikołajczyk offers in her interpretations of the music provides a welcome dimension to this recording. As a native speaker, her knowledge of the texts and the idiomatic meanings supports the phrasing she brings to the music.

With the title of the work providing a frame for the cycle, the the Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess is an evocative work. Each poem suggests a mood or sentiment, but nowhere does the cycle have an explicit narrative. The first three settings convey the sense of sense of loss of or distance from the beloved of the princess. “The lonely moon,” “The nightingale,” and “Golden slippers” establish the situation at the outset of the cycle, where the lover is somehow absent, but nonetheless welcome. The sentiment emerges well in the “Golden slippers,” which Mikołajczyk renders gracefully, anticipating, as it were the optimistic conclusion of the cycle. “A dance” is another piece in which the sense of the text and the shape of the music work well together. In this recording, Mikołajczyk introduces the sense of physical movement to support the title, which resorting to any sort of exaggeration. It is a tasteful interpretation that demonstrates the subtleties that Mikołajczyk and Wolanin bring to Szymanowski’s music. They work well together in the last two songs of the cycle, with the conclusion, “A feast” resolving fittingly the emptiness that comes into each of the pieces that precede it. Likewise, the performance is appropriately celebratory, yet within the character of the cycle. Mikołajczyk and Wolanin establish the proper tone that brings some insights into the music, which deserves to be known better. Ultimately it may be performances like this one that will bring this work and the other cycle to audiences around the world.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):