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Farewells (Orliński/Biel)

Jakub Józef Orliński (countertenor), Michał Biel (piano) (Erato)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Farewells
Songs by T Baird, Czyz˙, Karlowicz, Łukaszewski, Moniuszko and Szymanowski
Jakub Józef Orliński (countertenor), Michał Biel (piano)
Erato 9029626971   57:14 mins

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Jakub Józef Orliński’s new album of Polish songs – his first recorded venture away from Baroque music – takes its title from a remarkable group of Pushkin settings by Henryk Czyż. Singing translations by Julian Tuwim, himself a great poet, Orliński sounds super-engaged with words and music, and any notion the listener may have about wanting to hear such repertoire sung by a mezzo with more amplitude soon evaporates. Instead, the rare beauty of Orliński’s countertenor makes the whole recital an unusually introspective experience – and by any standards of Polish song recitals, this is an extraordinarily wide programme, one equally shaped by the excellent pianist Michał Biel.

Originally composed for baritone, Tadeusz Baird’s Four Love Sonnets, settings of Shakespeare, are a special revelation (Baird was no stranger to English literature, his father being Scottish). Orliński’s ethereal vocalism is ideally suited to music in which Polish modernism meets Elizabethan lute song.

Another unusual highlight is Jesień (Autumn) by Paweł Łukaszewski, in which the piano does a lot of the autumnal evocation; it’s a setting by Poland’s great interwar lyrical poet Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, who spent the final years of her life in Manchester. Indeed, the whole album is a treasure trove of poetry, with several great writers included in the Mieczysław Karłowicz group. In more familiar territory are four of Szymanowski’s folk-influenced Kurpian Songs, and the sequence ends with Stanisław Moniuszko’s exhilarating Prząśniczka (The Spinner), now something of a party-piece for these artists.

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John Allison