ALBUM TITLE: Paderewski
PERFORMER: Taras Ivaniv, Ewa Czermak, Barbara Krahel, Agnieszka Rehlis, Radoslaw Zubowski, Marciej Krzysztyniak, Zbigniew Kryczka, Wroclaw Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Ewa Michnik
CATALOGUE NO: 0368-69
Pianist, composer and eventually politician, Paderewski (1860-1941) was one of Poland’s most colourful figures. With his hectic touring schedule as a virtuoso, it is a wonder that he ever managed to write an opera, let alone one so satisfying as Manru. A tale of love in which the gypsy of the title runs away with the peasant girl Ulana, it was given widely in Europe after its premiere and at the Met in New York. Even so, it has never had a secure place in the repertoire even in Poland. A pity since the score is winningly lyrical and dramatically convincing.
The musical language is very much that of the 1890s. Wagner is a potent presence, but others such as Massenet and, perhaps inevitably given the tragic subject matter, Mascagni are clearly exemplars. Nevertheless, the score is far from being a patchwork of influences and with Paderewski’s skilful use of native Polish elements has many ear-catching moments. This recording, made at a 2001 production by Wroc?aw Opera, presents a handsome performance with Taras Ivaniv, excellent in the title role, matched superbly by Ewa Czermak’s Ulana. The rest of the cast is uniformly strong, in particular Maciej Krzysztyniak as the sinister Urok. Recording and the orchestral playing under Ewa Michnik are excellent; only an occasionally raw-sounding chorus and a lack of a translated libretto detracts from a very attractive issue. Jan Smaczny