Szymanowski: Songs of the Fairy-tale Princess, Op. 31; Children’s Rhymes, Op. 49

COMPOSERS: Szymanowski
LABELS: Dux
ALBUM TITLE: Szymanowski
WORKS: Songs of the Fairy-tale Princess, Op. 31; Children’s Rhymes, Op. 49
PERFORMER: Anna Mikolajczyk (soprano), Edward Wolanin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 547
In many ways these two song cycles show Karol Szymanowski at his most beguiling. Composed between 1922 and 1923, the 20 Children’s Rhymes are a long way from the highly-scented world of the opera King Roger which he was completing at the same time. Szymanowski penetrates the heart of a child’s world with unerring skill. The gentler, more lullaby-like numbers have a ravishing simplicity while his occasional use of caricature – the fourth number, ‘Piglet’, is a wry Mazurka – never palls.

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The Songs of the Fairy-tale Princess, which are settings of symbolist poetry by his sister,

Zofia, inhabit the exotic, almost escapist world Szymanowski cultivated in the mid 1910s. Impressionist in character, the cycle explores a demandingly wide range

of vocal techniques, from fluid melisma to dazzling, often stratospheric trills, against an often dreamlike background.

Anna Mikolajczyk is particularly effective in the more mellifluous moments of the Fairy-tale Princess songs in this well recorded performance, indeed her first entrance is quite exquisite. Occasionally, pitching is not always entirely secure and there are parts of the voice that sound constricted.

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Her diction in the Children’s Rhymes is excellent and the characterisation is very well pitched in all cases. But as in the earlier cycle, there are moments when the vocal quality lets the interpretation down, a pity since these are real rarities and both cycles are admirably accompanied by Edward Wolanin. Jan Smaczny