In spite of his love for the voice, Chopin composed very little music for it, only the 19 mélodies recorded here, which he wrote over the span of his career. His vocal writing is fluent and graceful, characterized by flowing, lyrical melodies. Most have the simple elegance of folk tunes, and several sound close to the modal folk songs of Eastern European traditions. Many are dances -- waltzes and mazurkas -- and the use of triple meter predominates. The piano parts, Chopin's publisher wrote, are sketches the composer had intended to edit and elaborate upon, but that he never got around to. Nonetheless, the elegance of the piano writing is entirely characteristic of the composer, and its relative simplicity is appropriate for its accompanimental role, so the songs sound fully finished, and they include a wealth of gems that deserve broader exposure. Polish soprano Urszula Cuvellier has a warm, full voice with a soaring upper register and she sings with an unmannered simplicity that suits the music beautifully. French pianist Anne le Bozec plays with the assurance and rhythmic suppleness of a Chopin specialist. It's not hard to trace the lineage of Karol Szymanowski's cycle, Six Songs on texts by Tadeusz Micinski, written in 1909, to Chopin's lyrical legacy. Szymanowski's songs have moved beyond the folk feeling of Chopin, though, and are clearly late Romantic art songs, almost operatic in their expressive intensity. Cuvellier and le Bozec are equally effective in this more technically demanding repertoire. The sound is clean, clear, and natural.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Songs (6) for voice & piano, Op. 20, M20|