LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  May 2007

CLASSICAL May 2007

Subject:

Princesses and Bandits and Caliphs -- Oh, my!

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 21 May 2007 07:10:18 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

Karol Szymanowski
Orchestral Songs

*  Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess, op. 31
*  Harnasie, op. 55
*  Love Songs of Hafiz, op. 26

Iwona Sobotka, soprano
Katarina Karneus, mezzo
Timothy Robinson, tenor
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Simon Rattle
EMI 3 64435 2 Total time: 65:15

Summary for the Busy Executive: Beautiful.

Karol Szymanowski, the great Polish composer after Chopin and before
Bacewicz and Lutoslawski, worked long and hard to find his true voice.
He began as a follower of Richard Strauss and then fell under the influence
of Impressionism.  Around the end of World War I, Stravinsky -- particularly
the Stravinsky of Petrushka -- changed his music profoundly.  Szymanowski,
following the Russian's example, began to absorb his native folklore in
order to fashion his own brand of Modernism.  The three periods don't
stand discretely apart.  There's plenty of blurring, particularly between
the second and third phases of Szymanowski's creative career.  Furthermore,
Szymanowski writes so masterfully, that he produces great work in all
three periods.  I admit to having the most problems with the Impressionist
pieces.  Almost all of them spring from an Oriental, hot-house exoticism
(especially the Third Symphony) that simply makes me cringe, but I have
to admit the craft and imagination that goes into them.

Two of the three works -- Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess and Love
Songs of Hafiz -- typify Szymanowski's impressionist manner.  Up to
now, I couldn't stand them.  It turns out, however, that I've heard
less-than-stellar performances.  Rattle and his soloists turn these
works into things of searing beauty.  Both began life for piano and
voice.  Szymanowski orchestrated the complete Hafiz and three of the
original six Princess songs.  The Princess songs, to poems by the
composer's sister, typically speak of lonely, unrequited love.  The
narrator, usually alone at night, sings to the sky.  Each song begins
with a wordless roulade of notes, always expressing emotion so intense
that it bypasses speech.  I've heard the complete set in their original
piano incarnation, and the orchestrations lift them into a different
realm.  You can scarcely believe you hear the same music.  The Love Songs
of Hafiz, from a few years later, set Hans Bethge's translation of Persian
poetry.  Bethge had earlier caused a revolution in German poetry with
his translations from the Chinese, some of which formed the basis of
Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.  The drooping-lily languor of Hafiz (and
its counterpart, Love Songs of the Foolish Muezzin from, I believe, 1911)
drive me up the wall.  Again, however, the performers transform the work
into something more vigorous and emotionally direct.

The ballet Harnasie, from the final period, throws over the velvet traces
of the previous scores.  Even those who think of Polish music as Chopin
and his imitators might find the ballet a sudden slap in the face.  Based
on a kind of Lochinvar story, the ballet really provides an excuse to
dig deep into Polish folk music as an expression of both nationalism and
primitivism.  Stravinsky -- particularly the more raucous bits of Firebird
and Petrushka and to some extent Rite of Spring -- comes to mind more
than once, but overall the ballet makes a strongly individual impression.
Stamping rhythms alternate with long, yearning melodies intertwining
with one another, like folksingers who riff on one another's tunes.  In
the latter, one often gets the feeling of night, the elemental underpinning
of a Chopin nocturne.  Ironically (considering the conscious attempt to
express the Polish soul), the ballet never found a stage production in
Poland during the composer's lifetime.  Polish music may have been
dominated for too long by second-hand Chopins, aping the surface, rather
than the substance of that music.

The music fits Rattle down to the ground.  I've always considered
his strong suits drama and color.  I'm not so sure I'd like to hear his
Mozart or Brahms, but he certainly comes up a winner here.  The two song
cycles achieve ecstatic intensity, rather than drown a listener in the
usual heavy perfume.  Come to think of it, that may well be what Szymanowski
had in mind.  The Harnasie is all animal spirits, and "The Raid of the
Harnasie," the climax of the piece -- a glorious riot of brass, cymbal
crashes, and choir -- should lift you out of your socks.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager