Antoni Wit / Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

Stanislaw Moniuszko: Overtures - The Haunted Manor, Paria, Halka, The Fairy Tale

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Stanislaw Moniuszko is little known outside of Poland except for the opera Straszny dwór (The Haunted Manor). The atmospheric overture to that opera is heavily in the vein of Carl Maria von Weber, but most of the other overtures here are clearly and simply divided into sections, follow Verdi more closely. Moniuszko devises tunes and foot-tapping marches that do their model proud. The most interesting and distinctive piece is the first one, Bajka (The Fairy Tale), designated as a concert overture, but really a little tone poem that might be likened to Liszt without the heaviness. The biggest attraction of all is the playing of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, whose tour of Polish music under the baton of Antoni Wit has been one of the joys of the Naxos catalog in the 21st century; it imparts a lively quality that has been missing from the few earlier recordings of Moniuszko's music. This is the kind of album you can play to stump musically knowledgeable friends who are unlikely to identify Poland as the source of the music. Novel repertory that deserves wider exposure.

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