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Part II began with Polish songs by Chopin. First she sang the waltz-like Gdzie Lubi ('A Girl's Desire'). After that we heard a lover's words in Sliczny ch'opiec ('The Handsome Lad'); a sad story in Pierscien ('The Ring'); a mother questioning her errant daughter in Piosnka litewska ('A Lithuanian Song'); and a beautiful description of a young girl in Moja Pieszczotka ('My Sweetheart').

Podles is not only a phenomenal contralto who can sing precise coloratura and reach the lowest notes, but she is also a fine interpreter who defines each of her portrayals with succinct gestures and dramatic variations of vocal coloration.

She finished her program with Rachmaninov songs sung in Russian, including the powerful Kristos Voskryes ('Christ is Risen') which speaks of the dichotomy between the elation of Easter and the state of a war torn world. Sung magnificently, this was a piece that made the listeners think about life beyond the concert hall.

Davno v lyubvi ('How Long Since Love Brought Joy?'), V Malchanii Nochi Tainoi ('In the silence of the Night'), Praqkhodit Fsyo ('Everything Passes'), and Ona, kak polden', Khorosha ('She is Beautiful as Noon'), all speak of the pain of lost love. The poignant sound of the contralto's voice pulled at the heart strings of her listeners as she held them under her spell.

The wonderful rippling accompaniment to the last song, Vesennije vody ('Spring Streams'), was elegantly played by Marchwinska. Podles sang it with bright opulent high notes leaving the audience with memories of the season which brings joy and renewal to us all.

The applause and shouts of 'Brava' after the final group were quite unlike what is normally heard from San Diego concert goers. Her well received encores were by Rossini: 'Cruda Sorte' from L'italiana in algieri and the Canzonetta spagnuola. The audience knew that this recital was a special treat and they were reluctant to see the artist leave the stage.

Copyright © 9 December 2003 Maria Nockin, Arizona, USA


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