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DAVID WILKINS listens to Urszula Kryger singing Chopin

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Nineteen of Chopin's authentic songs are, here, divided into two sets of so-called Liederkreis. A good number are brief, sentimental and unforgettably lovely. There is a preponderance of Polish rhythmic forms (especially the Mazurka) as well as Ukranian and Lithuanian folk styles [listen, track 4 - 01:20 - 02:11]. Urszula Kryger has the measure of every challenge these 'miniatures' (though they are much bigger than their time-span) present. She can seem to indulge what, on first hearing, seems an infuriating restraint until, on repetition, you realise is only a total identification with the sincerity of her response to the text.

There is drama enough in some of the songs and plenty of scope for Charles Spencer to demonstrate that he is an accompanist with all the required technique and none of the unwanted egotistic showiness that could so easily mar their effectiveness. [Listen, track 14 - 01:28 - 01:58.]

The addition of the Chopin/Viardot 'let's take these attractive Mazurkas and add song-texts to them' makes for a bizarre but interesting coupling. You might begin, like me, having an "is nothing sacred?" response but, unashamedly enough, they do work. [Listen, track 24 - 02:29 - 03:16.] Kryger's French diction, however, is a good couple of notches below what one might want. The voice makes you think there is a potentially great Carmen in embryo at the same time as you accept that they would need surtitles even at the Opera Comique. Perhaps she just treats an essentially 'camp' concept with too much artistic respect. There's plenty of 'beef' in the voice but maybe not enough 'ham' in the characterisation.

This is not a disc for 'completists' only. If my response is to be trusted, it should become indispensable to all who already know and love Chopin's piano output. And I feel nothing but immense sympathy for those who don't fall into that category.


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








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