Thank You, Sir Simon Rattle!
Nicholas T. Follansbee | 02/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this one on faith, guided only by my knowing Rattle's recording of the Stabat Mater, Litania and 3rd Symphony (all Szymanowski) which I have loved for years. I was also curious about Harnasie which I knew by reputation only (his last major piece before the exquisite Second Violin Concerto). What a treasure! For the last week I've been totally addicted. I just ordered two more copies to give to friends.
I can't imagine finer performances of this music. Orchestra, female vocalist and Chorus are outstanding. The small tenor parts in Harnasie are a bit wobbly, "eccentric" - but in so colorful and exotic a piece I find this singing a curiosity that is not incompatible. The sound is hairraisingly good.
The music is so rich that I will listen to Harnasie skipping the songs, or at another time just the songs. Sometimes I'll listen to just a couple of the tracks over and over. Its music that requires close attention.
Karol Szymanowski should be much better known. If some of his earlier music shows its influences a bit obviously, what he wrote from the 3rd Symphony on is highly individual - a sound-world like no other."
An Exotic, Shimmering World
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 12/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have had a long-time interest in the music of Karol Szymanowski and this CD filled a gap in my knowledge of the composer's life and opened a door on his songs. I was familiar with two of the symphonies and the opera King Roger; these songs came as a surprise for their colorful and exotic music and the beauty of the orchestration.
The Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess was written by Szymanowski to poems written by his sister Zofia, originally for piano and voice and then orchestrated in 1933. The three movements (originally 6) are for a coloratura soprano and are very impressionistic in style, reminiscent of Debussy and Ravel. The orchestrated poems - The Lonely Moon, The Nightingale and Dance - have a eastern sound to them, and there were written shortly after Szymanowski composed music for a series of Persian poems titled Love Songs of Hafiz (from translations by Hans Bethge). The songs were completed in 1914 with three of the eight songs composed in 1911; all of them exhibit a lush oriental sound that is exotic and mysterious. The longest song is the last - Hafiz' Grave - and is a beautiful lament sensitively sung, as is the entire cycle, by Iwona Sobotka
The ballet-pantomime Harnasie was begun in 1923 and was completed in 1931. One of the musical influences in the work is music from the Tatra Mountains in the Ukraine where the composer's family had a home, and where Szymanowski enjoyed a happy working atmosphere. The plot concerns the abduction of a bride by one Harnas, leader of a group of bandits known as the Harnasie. The music owes a debt to Stravinsky for the battery of percussion but the music is also descriptive of the land of the Carpathians, has some exotic dances and is wonderfully orchestrated as only Szymanowski could. The ballet premiered in 1936 with Serge Lifar dancing Harnas and was a great success. The ballet makes use of a chorus and tenor soloist to great effect.
The recording is beautifully balanced and is a must for anyone interested in the music of Szymanowski and late-romanticism in general.