Chopin & Piesni – Songs

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LABELS: National Institute Fryderyk Chopin
WORKS: Complete Songs
PERFORMER: Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano), Mariusz Kwiecie´n (baritone), Nelson Goerner (piano)

Polish song, which in the words of one of the country’s music historians, ‘flowed down from the Polish mountains and valleys’, is deeply rooted in the nation’s past and has left its imprint on all its music.
Yet art song in Poland began with Chopin, whose relatively modest contribution to the genre is overshadowed by his other achievements. Though his 19 songs have received more recordings than might be imagined, most have featured female singers, despite the fact that drinking songs, ballads of war and verses describing a jilted boyfriend (the story of Chopin’s life) make up a reasonable proportion.
This outstanding new release, the latest in Warsaw’s Real Chopin series using a piano of the composer’s day, gets the balance just right in dividing the songs between the soprano Aleksandra Kurzak and baritone Mariusz Kwiecie´n. 
Spanning most of Chopin’s creative life and written between 1829 (the year before he went into exile) and 1847 (his last year of significant composition), these settings tend, like many other great composers’ songs, to elevate salon-style poetry. But two great poets, Adam Mickiewicz and Zygmunt Krasi´nski, are represented.
The predominant tone is of simple lyricism, and Kurzak captures it beautifully with her glinting soprano, moving easily between melancholy and shy eroticism. For its freshness, her ‘Wiosna’ (Spring) is the most appealing I have heard on record.
Kwiecie´n sings with soft-grained warmth, and Nelson Goerner is a lively accompanist who draws wonderful colours from the 1848 Pleyel. This unpretentious disc comes highly recommended. It could be one of the most significant releases of the Chopin year. John Allison