Holger Berndsen / Katarzyna Dondalska

Keep talking to me...

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AllMusic Review by

Soprano Katarzyna Dondalska has a lovely instrument; her singing is never heavy, her sense of pitch is true, and while she follows the emotional ebb and flow of the texts she sings, she never overdoes it. It's all around very fine singing; however, her Telos disc Keep Talking to Me…, where she is partnered with piano accompanist Holger Berndsen, is quite a challenge for the non-Pole, as it contains a program of 36 lieder in Polish. That's 12 lied by Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, 14 by Stanislaw Moniuszko, and 10 by Frédéric Chopin, half of this last group in versions converted into French by legendary prima donna Pauline Viardot-Garcia. The accompaniments in these songs are not particularly demanding and Berndsen does a good job of responding to Dondalska's moods with some measure of flair and without getting in her way. While Dondalska certainly sings pleasantly, the disc overall is not so compelling that it will carry you all the way through; it makes sense to listen to the three composers in their relative groups of 12, 14, and 10 songs in order not to develop a sort of Polish lieder ennui. The Polish and Viardot-Garcia's French texts are supplied but no translations are included. There are certain songs that stand out; Karlowicz's "Spi w blaskach nocy," Op. 3/4, is a lovely setting and Moniuszko's "Piesn Nai" is remarkable for its length and the characterization that Dondalska imparts to it. Admirably, Dondalska earns her paycheck in coloratura terms in the showy additions that Viardot-Garcia made to Chopin's songs; some of these flights of vocal fancy will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. As a survey of 19th century Polish song, Telos' Keep Talking to Me… is serviceable; not great, perhaps, but certainly decent and one could do a lot worse. Some knowledge of the Polish language will come in handy, however.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:22
2 1:36
3 2:14
4 1:32
5 0:55
6 1:38
7 1:38
8 1:46
9 1:00
10 1:35
11 0:55
12 3:10
13 6:27
14 1:13
15 2:18
16 2:41
17 1:45
18 2:43
19 2:04
20 1:54
21 1:27
22 2:18
23 2:23
24 1:22
25 2:29
26 1:18
27 2:24
28 2:05
29 3:01
30 2:20
31 1:50
32 4:09
33 3:03
34 3:11
35 3:23
36 2:22
blue highlight denotes track pick