WORKS: Harnasie (Ballet-Pantomime), Op. 55; Mandragora (Pantomime), Op. 43; Prince Potemkin, Op. 51
PERFORMER: Wieslaw Ochman, Alexander Pinderak (tenor), Ewa Marciniec (mezzo-soprano), Ewa Marczyk (violin), Kazimierz Ko´slacz (cello); Warsaw PO and Choir/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570723
Szymanowski’s ballet Harnasie, based on the story of an unhappy bride who is abducted by highland robbers on her wedding day, explores a rather different musical idiom to that of the composer’s more usual exotic style. Strongly inspired by the folk music of the Tatra region, its pulsating rhythmic energy and dynamic orchestration seem closer to Bartók or early Stravinsky.
Yet outside Poland this attractive work remains unfairly neglected, concert promoters presumably put off by its elaborate score requiring a tenor soloist and chorus as well as a large orchestra.
There are fine recordings of Harnasie in the current catalogue including an exciting performance from Rattle and the CBSO on EMI. This new version from Antoni Wit, who previously recorded the work in 1981 for EMI, enjoys the benefit of equally outstanding sound but boasts a more idiomatic interpretation with a particularly earthy performance from tenor Wies√aw Ochman and the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir.
The couplings are no less fascinating. Admirers of Strauss’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme will appreciate the similarly skittish musical style in the commedia dell’arte ballet Mandragora, whilst the evocative incidental music to Prince Potemkin, its atmosphere closely related the opera King Roger, is a wonderful discovery. Both works are delivered here in authoritative performances – a marvellous addition to this much-praised Szymanowski series. Erik Levi