SZYMANOWSKI In the Mists: Songs
The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is celebrated for his opera King Roger, four symphonies, two violin concertos and choral and chamber works. He followed in the footsteps of such illustrious Lieder predecessors as Schubert, Brahms and Mahler by composing more than 130 art songs. Baritone Krzysztof Biernacki and pianist Michael Baron perform 26 of these treasurable miniatures on their new recording, ‘In the Mists’, the title derived from one of the Six Songs, Op 2.
The disc moves chronologically from those early pieces to the Seven Songs, Op 54, spanning most of Szymanowski’s career and stylistic development. The texts are wide-ranging, comprising words in Polish (by Kazimierz Tetmajer, Wacaw Berent and Tadeusz Miciński), German (Richard Dehmel), Russian (Dmitri Davydov) and English (James Joyce), an indication of the composer’s broad cultural interests.
The songs are manifestations of Szymanowski’s rich and increasingly exotic harmonic language and the narratives – often dark, sometimes childlike – give the composer the chance to spin phrases of penetrating beauty. The writing is compact and direct, with the musical lines wedded seamlessly to the words.
Polish-born Biernacki wraps his pulsating baritone around Szymanowski’s urgent expressivity to keen dramatic effect. His English may not be ideally idiomatic but he treats each language with purpose and intensity. Baron is an exemplary partner, providing a fine sense of sweep and balances that allow voice and piano to interact as ardent conversationalists.