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Chopin: Songs / Wegorzewska-Whiskerd, Szilasi

Chopin / Wegorzewska / Szilasi
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Hungaroton   Catalog #: 32474   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alicja Wegorzewska [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] WhiskerdAlex Szilasi
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CHOPIN Songs Alicja W?gorzewska-Whiskerd (mez); Alex Szilasi (pn) HUNGAROTON HCD 32474 (63:41 Text and Translation)


Here is another volume in Hungaroton’s ongoing bicentennial edition of the complete works of Chopin. Unlike the piano pieces, the songs, published posthumously as op. 74, are mostly terra incognita for all but the most dedicated Chopin cognoscenti . Generally Read more both the poems (the majority by Chopin’s expatriate friend Stefan Witwicki) and their musical settings have a very simple strophic structure, and the folk-song-like melodies and piano parts likewise show little of the innovative genius that imbues Chopin’s solo piano works. In short, these are pleasant but decidedly minor works.


That said, this release has several attractions. First, the set includes alternative early versions of four of the songs. For the Chopin completist, that alone will make this disc a necessary acquisition. Inexplicably, however, it omits No. 9, “Melodia,” from the official versions, so that this collection is not truly complete either. Second, the accompaniment is performed on a historic Pleyel piano, the make of instrument Chopin himself favored. Hungaroton has made the use of Pleyel instruments a major selling point of its entire Chopin series; obviously this is no guarantee either of fine pianism or of how Chopin himself actually sounded, but for the record (pun intended) pianist Alex Szilasi has a fine and sensitive command of the keyboard, and the recorded sound is bright, clear, and well balanced. Third, unlike virtually all previous recordings, this release includes the complete original texts with English translations.


That leaves only the last and most important issue, the singing itself. Alicja W?gorzewska-Whiskerd has a traditional Slavic mezzo-soprano voice, dark in timbre with a heavy vibrato, generally well produced, with just a touch of spread and stridency in the top notes, but far less so than is often the case. Her interpretations are straightforward, satisfying but not highly nuanced, and again equal or superior to those of several competitors. If one needs only the standard versions of the songs and can live without the texts, there are about a dozen rivals presently on the market. My top choices would be the Elisabeth Söderström/Vladimir Ashkenazy collaboration on Decca (reviewed by Michael Ullman and Raymond Beegle in Fanfare 29:4 and 29:5) and the Claudie Verhaeghe/Jean Micault team on the Discover label (reviewed by Peter J. Rabinowitz in 21:5), with Anna Haase and Ulrich Staerk on the Ars label as a good alternative. I find the Teresa Zylis-Gara performance on Dux, favored by Rabinowitz, vocally and interpretively too smooth and bland, but it may appeal to those who dislike characteristic Slavic vocal production. Devotees of Ewa Podles will want her Forlane CD, but I find her contralto oppressively heavy in this repertoire. The recordings with Irene Michna (Brilliant Classics) and Urszula Kryger (Hyperion) are acceptable; avoid those with Aleksandra Kurzak and Mariusz Kwiecken accompanied by a horribly tinny fortepiano (NIF), the vocally leaden Konrad Jarrot (Profil), and the disastrously wobbly and shrill versions by Elzieta Szmytka (DG) and Young-Hee Choi (Quantum). I was unable to audition the recordings by Ingrid Kremling (Melisma) and Eugenia Zareska (EMI).


FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

1.
Polish Songs (17), Op. 74 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alicja Wegorzewska [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] Whiskerd (), Alex Szilasi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1847 
Date of Recording: 01/31/2010 
Venue:  Museum of Applied Arts 
Length: 8 Minutes 20 Secs. 
2.
Polish Songs (17), Op. 74: no 9, Melodya, B 165 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alex Szilasi (Piano), Alicja Wegorzewska [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] Whiskerd ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1847 
Date of Recording: 01/2010 
Venue:  Phoenix Studio, Diósd, Hungary 
Length: 2 Minutes 39 Secs. 
3.
Polish Songs (17), Op. 74: no 17, Hymn from the tomb by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alicja Wegorzewska [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] Whiskerd (), Alex Szilasi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1847 
Date of Recording: 01/31/2010 
Venue:  Museum of Applied Arts 
Length: 5 Minutes 48 Secs. 
4.
Dumka, B 147 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alicja Wegorzewska [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] Whiskerd (), Alex Szilasi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 01/2010 
Venue:  Phoenix Studio, Diósd, Hungary 
Length: 1 Minutes 24 Secs. 

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