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

The twenty songs of Rymy dzieci?ce, Op. 49 (Childrenís Rhymes) are settings of poems by Kazimiera I??akowiczÛwna 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, ìBefore falling asleepî reveals an almost stream-of-consciousness list of the very thoughts that represent the narratorís 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 ìHow best to get rid of a hornet,î which transposes the relationships of the human child onto the insect in a way that resembles some of the poetry in the childrenís section of the German-language collection of folk poetry Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Yet not all the poetry demonstrates an innocent childhood. ìCrafty Leiba,î 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, Pie?ni ksi??nicki z ba?ni, 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 Childrenís 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 Miko?ajczyk 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. ìThe lonely moon,î ìThe nightingale,î and ìGolden slippersî establish the situation at the outset of the cycle, where the lover is somehow absent, but nonetheless welcome. The sentiment emerges well in the ìGolden slippers,î which Miko?ajczyk renders gracefully, anticipating, as it were the optimistic conclusion of the cycle. ìA danceî is another piece in which the sense of the text and the shape of the music work well together. In this recording, Miko?ajczyk 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 Miko?ajczyk and Wolanin bring to Szymanowskiís music. They work well together in the last two songs of the cycle, with the conclusion, ìA feastî 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. Miko?ajczyk 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.

image_description=Karol Szymanowski: Songs, Op. 31 and Op. 49.
product_title=Karol Szymanowski: Songs, Op. 31 and Op. 49.
product_by=Anna Miko?ajczyk, soprano, Edward Wolanin, piano.
product_id=Dux 0547 [CD]