About this Recording
8.554774 - Polish Heart (The)
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THE POLISH HEART

Heroism, pride, happiness, romanticism, melancholy - these are but a few of the words which describe the passion and breadth of Poland's musical heritage. The Polish Heart has been created to evoke these feelings and explore, as much as seventy minutes allows, the great musical treasure of Polish classical music.

While some of the most famous Polish classics are here, this CD also includes gems which have been under-appreciated or unknown for too long. In this sense The Polish Heart is your invitation to discover the musical soul of Poland.

Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849) was perhaps Poland's most famous composer. The Polonaise and Nocturne which we have chosen are among his most popular works. However the other two Chopin selections are lesser known: a dreamy air based on an old Polish song, Już Miesiac Zeszedt (‘The Moon has Disappeared’) and his vigorous Krakowiak, a dance from Kraków, the ancient home of Polish kings.

Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1888) was to the violin what Chopin was to the piano: a great virtuoso and composer. Although his compositions were often technically difficult, Wieniawski also had a passion for and a deep understanding of Polish folk music as displayed in his two Mazurkas.

In 1856 Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska (1834-1861) wrote a whimsical piano piece to be played for her friends at the salons they would frequent. Her Maiden’s Prayer became a phenomenal success and was printed in more than eighty editions worldwide.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1868-1941) is represented by his exquisite Mélodie in G Flat Major. Paderewski was an excellent pianist and composer who was also very active in Polish politics. He took three years out of his international career to help re-establish the Polish state during the First World War. Handsome and charismatic, Paderewski became Poland's first prime minister in 1919 and later served as Poland's minister of foreign affairs.

Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938) was born in Poland and later took U.S. citizenship. He is considered one of the greatest pianists of all time whose writing influenced many composers for the piano including Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Ravel. Godowsky's Mélodie méditative, dedicated to his wife, is haunting, beautiful and utterly memorable.

It is surprising that the music of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is not better known in Western Europe and North America. He was an elegant composer and stylistically reminiscent of Ravel and Debussy. The melancholic Etude was orchestrated by his friend, the conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg. The other Szymanowski selection is an excerpt from the ballet-pantomime Harnasie which shows his fascination with the lively music of the Tatra Mountains people.

Alexander Tansman (1897-1986) - Polish by birth and French by adoption - was also a great student of Polish folk tradition. His three selections are taken from Suite in modo polonico, which he dedicated to his close friend, the legendary guitarist Andrés Segovia. It is colourful, contemplative, vital music, performed on an instrument not typically associated with Eastern European traditions.

Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994) is considered by many the leading Polish avant-garde composer of his generation. He was a master of orchestration who helped create new textures and sounds by combining instruments in unique ways. As an example of his music, we have the lovely Piosenka in which Lutosławski makes use of a melody from the village of Machowo in south-east Poland.

When Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (b. 1933) wrote his third symphony in 1976, his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, he never expected it would become one of the 1990's best selling classical CD's, even topping many pop charts around the world. The words for the second movement were found scratched into the wall of a Gestapo prison in Zakopane where an eighteen year-old girl was held. In her prayer she is seeking the protection of the Queen of Heaven. Górecki’s lyrical themes evolve in a powerful yet simple way.

The Polish Heartis an invitation to explore the wealth and diversity of Poland's musical culture. It is a mere sample of the centuries of treasures waiting for you.

Notes by Grzegorz Przygocki with Chris Pannell


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