Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poland: Chopin

POLAND
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Below, you will find three performances of Chopin's Songs from Op. 74-- I've included two different versions of Życzenie/ Wish, which is the first song in Op. 74 and one performance of Gdzie lubi/ There where she loves #5 OP. 74


Wish, F.CHOPIN song, Ewa Iżykowska soprano; Jerzy Maciejewski - piano

Elzbieta Szmytka, soprano; Malcolm Martineau,piano

You may want to explore the language links I've included in the Link Section of the blog for further study.

Życzenie/ Wish
Text: Stefan Witwicki (1801-1847)

Gdybym ja była słoneczkiem na niebie,
Nie świeciłabym jak tylko dla ciebie.
Ani na wody, ani na lasy, ale po wszystkie
Czasy pod twym okienkiem i tylko dla ciebie
Gdybym w słoneczko mogła zmienić siebie.

Gdybym ja była ptaszkiem z tego gaju,
Nie śpiewałabym w żadnym obcym kraju.
Ani na wody, ani na lasy, ale po wsystkie
Czasy pod twym okienkiem i tylko dla ciebie
Gdybym w słoneczko mogła zmienić siebie.
**********************************************
If I were the sun in the sky
I wouldn't shine just on you.
Neither on lakes nor forests but on everything;
Oh the times under your window and only for you
If I could only change into the sun.

If I were a bird from that forest
I wouldn't sing in any foreign country
Neither on lakes nor forests but on everything;
Oh the times under your window and only for you
If I could only change into the sun.

Elzbieta Szmytka, soprano; Malcolm Martineau,piano
Gdzie lubi/ There where she loves #5 OP. 74
Stefan Witwicki (1801-1847)

Strumyk lubi wdolinie,
Sarna lubi w gęstwinie,
Ptaszek lubi pod strzechą,
Lecz dziewczyna, dziewczyna!

Z uciechą lubi gdzie niebieskie oko,
Lubi gdzie i czarne oko,
Lubi gdzie wesołe pieśni,
Lubi gdzie i smutne pieśni.

Sama nie wie gdzie lubi,
Wszędzie, wszędzie serce zgubi,
Sama nie wie gdzie lubi,
Wszędzie, wszędzie serce zgubi

**************************************
There where she loves

Streams gurgle through the valley;
Birds are nesting under the eaves;
Deer hide in the forest,
But where can a girl's heart find its home?

Perhaps where there are bright blue eyes,
Or dark, deep, mysterious ones;
But to songs of love or pain
Her heart may or may not fly.

She herself is powerless
As to where her heart will alight.
She is powerless
As to where her heart will stray.



All translations are from the Lied Art Song Page.

29 comments:

  1. In Romantic music history we had a discussion about how the music of Chopin should be approached. The consensus we reached was that Chopin was writing in a lot of dance styles. Therefore, the music should be approached, especially as far as tempo is concerned, from a dance perspective. I think that Martineau has a much better feel for this than the other pianist. The faster tempo is the more likely for the spirited Czardas. The Polish sound then gains a lot of sprightly feel to it that really makes the text come alive as well.

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  2. Yes, the connection with music and dance is unmistakable and present very often. But I believe you must have meant Mazurka, which is the Polish dance form present in many of these Op. 74 pieces. The Czardas belongs to Hungary.

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  3. With the pieces presented by Chopin, you see the connection in compositional technique and text as being similar to that of Schubert. There is a strong piano part written giving a character or mood and the poetry remains in the strophic way it was originally written. It is apparent that Chopin and Schubert (and Schumann too) were all composing around the same few decades, though in different countries with different languages being used.

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  4. Chopin's melodic line in his vocal writing is just like that of his piano writing: difficult to create a smooth connected line. Unlike Schubert's singsong melodies, Chopin's lines are more angular but ever so luscious. The Op. 74 song sounds like he took one of his waltzes and replace the right hand with soprano. Lovely!

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  5. Another fascinating and unfortunately neglected Polish composer is Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). His music is influenced by Chopin, Wagner, French impressionism, Scriabin, Schoenberg, among others. Here are links to several songs I found:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H7bC_6c_S0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctlwAUR8DxI

    The following is from 7 songs to poems by James Joyce:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUOESA-vKKU

    This is a piece for violin and piano:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGF46YNUx8M

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  6. Man, Michael, I don't remember ever hearing these particular pieces of Szymanowski. So far, I've just listened to the first two. The influence of Debussy is very much apparent, especially the second one. I've always loved his harmonic language. Thanks for bringing these to our attention. YouTube is simply amazing.

    Did you see this one where he's playing one of his own Mazurkas?

    It's a great piece. Do you play these?

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  7. I agree with Jake about there is a difficulty making something like this piano part that is this sort of awkward "um chuck chuck" under lay to this almost cabaret style song with the delicate give and take, work together. I really enjoyed the differences in the first two recordings and i really don't think i prefer one over the other. I think the message might have been a bit clearer in my opinion in the lower key, but that might just be a mezzo bias

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  8. Amongst the differences in the two performances of the first song, the one that I noticed the most was the effect that vocal timbre had on the character of the song. The first singer, having a deeper tone to her voice, added an unsaid history to the text, perhaps a sorrowful one, while the second performer, with her shriller, younger sounding tone, gave a lighter feel to the song. I agree that Chopin's dance influence is very apparent in these pieces.

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  9. Pianists are fortunate to have Chopin's songs preserved through the Liszt transcriptions which are far more performed than in the original version. Just as Liszt's own songs, of which he transcribed for solo piano himself. Unfortunately (or fortunately), Chopin's songs

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  10. (continued) have become more known by their transcriptions.

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  11. Another comment about op 74, no. 1. The mazurka prelude and interludes do not sound as if Chopin had to change anything from composing his almost 60 mazurkas for solo piano to composing a mazurka underneath a vocal line.

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  12. Also, without a doubt the most influential thing for Chopin, was singers. There are countless diary entries where he travelled specifically to concerts to hear singers and how he wrote many of his melodic material (John Field too, in his nocturnes) in the style of a voice. While pianistic, a lot of his embelleshing material (in the nocturnes especially) are based on the way singers do the same.

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  13. Ben, thanks for mentioning this. Chopin was deeply influenced by the human voice! In fact, in the 1830's when he was in Paris, he was exposed to great performances of opera--Rossini, Bellini, Meryerbeer, etc. He also knew the great singers of the day and the bel canto tradition. It most certainly ended up being a model for his unique style of lyricism.

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  14. Chopin's lyric line for the voice is elegant yet unpredictable to my ears that are conditioned to expect Western harmonies, patterns, and resolution. Due to this special quality, Chopin's music is at once accessible, beautiful, and full of melodic and harmonic surprises.

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  15. The Swedish polska is very similar to the mazurka, so theses pieces sound quite familiar to me. The addition of the vocal line to the dance rhythm layers the telling of the story, which makes me think of how folk dancers tell a story as opposed to how singers tell a story.

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  16. The vocal line in Op. 74 No. 1 reminds me of Schubert in a way - of course it would be that way; how else could it possibly be written? Chopin's lines may be more angular, true, but it fits the character of the piano and the dance feel perfectly. It seems inherently singable, which, given Chopin's vocal influence, makes perfect sense.

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  17. I'm so happy to be able to listen to the Chopin piece again after hearing it in class. I can definitely hear how Chopin's melodies were the focal point of his songs and that the piano parts were surprisingly sparse (as Kimball mentioned). As such a prolific piano composer it's interesting that he did not transfer that into his songs. However, the end result is stunning and I wouldn't change a thing - I'm so sad the other two videos were taken off! I'll have to go explore the rest of the Chopin myself.

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  18. I replaced the second video with another I found at Youtube of the same performance with Elżbieta Szmytka. Thanks Katie and thanks Emily for letting me know in your comments when a video has been removed.

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  19. The similarity in form between the two pieces is very apparent. Like Emily and some others said, there’s a Schubertian feel to Chopin’s style of writing during this time. They are singable, short in length, accessible and not intimidating for singers. The Mazurka rhythms are predominately heard in both pieces and the piano really brings it out between the verses.

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  20. "Girl's Wish" reminds me of Chopin's waltzes. Though I enjoyed both recordings, I really liked Elzbieta Szmytka's recording. I think she captured the fluidity and charm of Chopin.

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  21. I can see the forests and the lake in the songs. I loved the second recording of Życzenie/ Wish. There was more color, inflection and just fun to listen to. The second recording may have been a better recording. I wished that more people knew of Chopin's songs. There is no need to comment on how well established Chopin is as a piano composer and it doesn't mean that when a composer chooses to specialize in a composing piano music that he can't write vocal works! It wasn't too long ago that composers like Bach wrote a variety music from chamber pieces, keyboard works, and vocal pieces.

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  22. Uh, I love "The Wish" so much. What whimsy! The waltz is ever present in this strophic song. I love that during the interludes, the piano takes over completing the singer's thought. In this recording, I like that the pianist varies weight and time in the turns during the interlude.

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  23. One of my favorite compositional techniques in Chopin's piano music is his use of irregular rhythmic groupings and though the piano writing is more subdued in his song accompaniments, I am glad to see that element still present. "The Girl's Wish" is a lovely, charming piece with a beautiful, naive melody. I enjoyed both of the performances--both sopranos have such lovely voices and wonderful musicality. I did like the ensemble between Szmytka and Martineau better, and loved Martineau's use of rubato in the interludes.

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  24. It is impressive how "the lyrical" seems to come so naturally for Chopin. It is true that folk dances are present (waltzes, mazurkas, polonaises), but there is always that element of the human voice singing, the natural timing of speech, that seems to permeate this piece (Girl's Wish).

    And, most strikingly, the same characteristics apply to his piano works! It is not surprising to find that he encouraged his students to learn how to sing, since it is a huge intrinsic part of his compositional style!

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  25. Chopin's songs have a beautiful, intimate quality. The recordings brought images of liederabend to my mind. The delicate rubato in "where she love's" piano and vocal line are stunning in this recording.

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  26. What strikes me about these settings is that they sound like Chopin solo piano pieces with a voice singing the melody that we would often hear in the right hand of the piano. The musical setting also doesn't sound very closely tied to the text. Because of the dance rhythms in the music, this gives these settings a rather nationalistic or folk-like characteristic.

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  27. For "The Maiden's Wish", I like the version Elzbieta Szmytka more because the faster tempo makes the music more joyful and sparkling. There is a transcription on this song by Liszt and it features a few variations. It's also very nice!

    I remember that Chopin preferred performing in salons than in concerts. I think these songs would work quite well as salon music. When listening to these songs, I could almost imagine Chopin playing the piano and a lady singing (perhaps a bit of dancing).

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  28. Connie, I love what you wrote about these pieces being heard in a salon setting. I think that is the perfect description for them! I love the way Chopin writes his vocal pieces with so much intimacy between performers and audience. I thought that was really tangible in these performances.

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  29. I grew up loving Chopin's piano music. How delightful to listen to these pieces. There is a lyricism in both and within each piece, an intertwining dance of the piano and voice. This reminds me very much of the wanderer in Nature very present in German Romanticism and both Schubert and Schumann were instantly brought to mind when listening to 'Girl's Wish'.

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