Under the category of composers that would have been familiar to our grandparents (or great-grandparents) but are mostly forgotten today falls Ignace Jan Paderewski, touring virtuoso, Polish political activist, and composer of moderate gifts. The varied origins of the old editions used in these performances attest to Paderewski's international popularity; they came from Berlin, Paris, and New York, but not from Poland, where Paderewski was ironically not so well known, at least as a musician. Despite his nationalist orientation, the songs of Paderewski collected here (dating from the early 1880s to the early 1900s) do not have a strongly Polish flavor. Indeed, not all of them are in the Polish language; half the album consists of settings of French texts, and most of those are by one Catulle Mendès, who set himself the task of imitating other authors such as Germany's Heinrich Heine (which works pretty well) and England's Algernon Charles Swinburne (which is less successful). The songs are a very mixed bag, but they're worth hearing for devotees of the national schools for the hints of contemporary styles that seep through, and they're given performances of absolute conviction by mezzo-soprano Anna Radziejewska. Of the earlier group, the most successful are the Six Songs, Op. 18, to texts by Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz, where Paderewski's active piano accompaniments (these are very much songs by a piano virtuoso) fit the sweeping lyrics ("My tears dropt, pure and profuse/I wept.../Over my youth, mountain-minded, fountaining folly/Over my mature years, beaten years, years of defeat"). As a song composer, Paderewski seems to have gained the confidence that leads to formal freedom in his later years, and the selection of poets in the French-language songs, including Baudelaire, is intriguing in itself. Those who do not speak French or Polish should note that texts for the French-language songs are given only in those two languages; the Polish-language songs are translated into English in the booklet (but not French). Especially with the Mendès text experiment, the album is worthwhile as a lens on interntional musico-poetic tastes at the end of the nineteenth century.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Songs (4) Op. 7|
|Songs (6), for voice & piano, Op. 18|
|Songs (12) of Catulle Mendès, for voice & piano, Op. 22|