Stanis?aw Moniuszko: Pie?ni Songs

Moniuszko is best known as an opera composer, especially Halka (1846-1847) and Strazny dwor [The Haunted Manor] (1863), but his legacy includes approximately 360 songs. In fact, until the time Halka was premiered, Moniuszko considered himself primarily a song composer, and he published various collections of them from 1843 to 1859, with a collected edition issued posthumously between 1877 and 1910. Of his songs, Moniuszko is known for his settings of verse by the Polish author Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), whose drama Dziady has a connection with the program of Mahler’s Second Symphony.
Beyond such connections, the settings of poetry by Mickiewicz on this recording include Do Neman [To the river Neman] and Willja [The river Velja], two songs about rivers, which celebrate various aspects of the Polish homeland. In these pieces the music is particularly effective in its captivating vocal lines and discrete accompaniments. While some of the songs resemble conventional Lieder by earlier nineteenth-century composers, with echoes of Schubert in the first band of the recording, a setting of Co to za kwiatek, a poem by Jan Czeczot, the two Mickiewicz settings are more subtle. Even so, the Czeczot setting merits attention for the ways in which Moniuszko’s setting of the text bring out the lyric qualities of the Polish language itself. Here RappÈ’s heritage emerges well as she combines her abilities as a native Polish speaker with her excellent musicianship.
In this selection of Moniuszko’s songs, RappÈ voice sounds at home with the texts and also the vocal line. RappÈ clarity in the mid- and low registers is never absent in the passages that require her to use her fine upper range. Her expressiveness is richly present in Z?ota rybka [The goldfish] with its sinuous vocal line and effective accompaniment. Cyganie [Gypsies] is more straightforward in its depiction of the romantically free wanderers and the joys of their life in a setting which resembles some of the Lieder by German composers of the mid-nineteenth century. Other pieces, like Ja ciebie kocham [I love you] has the sense of an aria, as does Do dzieci?cia [To a child]. RappÈ brings out the character of each song well, with a sense of pitch a phrasing that makes the music come alive readily.
RappÈ accompanist is Maja Nosowska, whose abilities are well represented in this recording. Nosowska is particularly sensitive when it comes to flourishes which allow the instrument to resound, and she is good to control the result so that the keyboard is never prominent at the expense of the voice.
The recording includes full texts in Polish with English translations, a feature which is useful with such unfamiliar repertoire. As much as this recording is a welcome addition to the discography of the Polish artsong, the release includes just sixteen of Moniuszko’s over 360 songs, with the total duration just under forty minutes. The disc itself has room for more music, and it would be welcome to have a larger selection of the pieces. If Moniuszko’s affinity with Mickiewicz bears scrutiny, it would be useful to present more of them in a recording like this. Likewise, the songs of Kar?owicz are part of RappÈ repertoire, and selection of those pieces would fit well into a disc like this, as would some of her fine interpretations of Lieder by Schubert or Brahms or Mahler. Even so, the recording is a strong contribution because of RappÈ’s interpretation of the music and its focus on repertoire which bears exploration.
James Zychowicz

image_description=Stanislaw Moniuszko: Piesni Songs
product_title=Stanis?aw Moniuszko: Piesni Songs
product_by=Jadwiga RappÈ, alto, Maja Noskowska, piano.
product_id=Dux 0743 [CD]