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DAVID WILKINS listens to Urszula Kryger singing Chopin

Readers of this site might want to send me correcting e-mails with the exceptions (and I'd be glad to receive them) but, for my money, all serious composers want to engage themselves with texts at some stage. Perhaps it's all about the age-old debate between words and music - the one that Richard Strauss slightly (but rightly) fudged in his last opera - Capriccio. Abstract music may have the ability to communicate all generalised emotions but the temptation of the specific as presented in a poem is a tantalising challenge even for those, like Chopin, who succeeded in writing the most exquisite 'songs without words' in instrumental form.

Chopin never really intended his songs for the vagaries of posterity and public criticism. Or so we are told! Nevertheless, they contain a heavy weight of his personal feelings - about love and human relations and, as importantly, about his nationalistic sympathies for Poland's folklore and historically vulnerable but essentially indomitable spirit.

Chopin Songs. Copyright (c) 1999 Hyperion Records Ltd.Before receiving this excellent disc for review, I knew only a few of Chopin's songs as performed by Robert Tear as coupled to his Rachmaninoff recital on Belart (461 6262). They are extremely well performed by that doyen of English tenors - 'though he does make you think of Tchaikovsky's Onegin with every sigh-ridden phrase. On this superbly recorded Hyperion disc, however, they make the kind of authentic impact that reminds me of the scene in Visconti's film of 'Death in Venice' where the very spirit of Tadzio's Polishness is adumbrated by an unaccompanied vocal lament. The unfamiliar language weaves its own magic. The voice is richly communicative and the sense of accustomed melancholy (either accepted or temporarily spurned), quite overwhelming.

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Copyright © 14 May 2000 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK








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