Although they date from the primary years of his creative activity (most of them were posthumously collected and published as Op. 74) and involved the leading Polish (and Ukrainian) poets of the day, Chopin's songs do not really sound like his piano music. Their general neglect in the West is likely due to the fact that they are all in the Polish language; here they are combined with four mazurkas texted in French and arranged by singer Pauline Viardot. The Naxos label sends users to their computers for all texts here, whether Polish, French, or English, but this is a lovely performance by Ukrainian sister act of soprano Olga Pasichnyk and pianist Natalya Pasichnyk. The harmonic language of the songs is a good deal simpler than that of the piano music in general, and the overall effect is one of limpid lyricism, heightened by the frequent recourse to Polish folk rhythms. Yet the songs are not simple parlor pieces, and they reward repeated hearings. Sample Nie ma czego trzeba (Nothing I Need Is Here, track 13): the minor vocal line is almost entirely diatonic, but rhythmically it pulls against the initial foursquare accompaniment in consistently unexpected ways, with the voice-piano unit seeming to slip in and out of declamation and melody. Olga Pasichnyk, mostly a Baroque specialist, has a voice of perfect dimensions for these songs, and she catches their quiet subtlety. The dimensions of the cavernous Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, however, are wrong for the music, and the booklet notes (in English only), wasting space on a potted biography of Chopin, are not up to snuff.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Seventeen Songs, Op. 74|