It's not clear why this 2017 release, recorded in 2011, took six years to appear, but one may be glad that it did. Perhaps it was thought to have limited appeal outside of Poland; Stanislaw Moniuszko is known in his homeland but gets barely a mention in the history books in the West. In Poland itself he is one of the best-known composers of the 19th century, and from this collection of dance pieces you will get an idea why. The program consists not of ballet music in the usual sense, but mostly of instrumental dance interludes from operas as well as a few freestanding dance pieces. You can hear the influence of Weber in some of the more supernatural scenes, but the most appealing numbers are the brilliant nationalist dance pieces. Sample the "Highlanders' Dances" from Act III of the opera Halka (track 9) or the "Gypsy Dance" from Jawnuta (track 12). The pieces from Hrabina, a comic opera that satirized the division between Western-leaning and native elements in Polish society (a theme still relevant today) are also sparkling and richly allusive. Even fans of Otto Nicolai's Shakespearean opera The Merry Wives of Windsor may not be familiar with the dances Moniuszko wrote for interpolation into the work. A couple of the smaller pieces, like the exquisitely graceful Leokadia Polka (track 13), are undated, which indicates the historical neglect that has undeservedly befallen this composer; the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under Antoni Wit, who play the music with confidence and sympathy, have done a service by unearthing some of his music for audiences beyond Poland.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim