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Drew Minter
Opera News, June 2011

Frédéric Chopin’s nineteen songs are nearly all settings of poems by his personal friends. Perhaps as a result, these miniatures (most less than two or three minutes long) feel like personal, interior emotional statements. Rhythmically, the songs are Polish dances, such as the mazurka or kujawiak. Chopin marked the songs with great particularity as to tempo: strophic songs often vary slightly between verses but come off sounding rather regular nonetheless.

Ukrainian soprano Olga Pasichnyk has been much decorated with international singing prizes, and it is no wonder: she has a dark-hued voice with a silvery sheen on top. Her clear, precise rhythmic inflection of both music and words is topped only by her spot-on pitch. These qualities, coupled with her easy enunciation of the Polish language, turn out to be ideal for Chopin’s songs; a singer any less rhythmically alert would be a disappointment. The many chromatic scale figures of the vocal line are handled with enviable ease, and Pasichnyk’s dark colorings imbue the mostly pathetic songs with the proper pathos. No less well-wrought is an ecstatic song such as “Moja pieszotka” (My darling). It’s an upbeat rarity among Chopin’s songs, and Pasichnyk’s enthusiastic reading suggests a lusty, eager maid. While observing all of Chopin’s rather detailed markings as to rubato, the soprano adds more of her own—considerably more in “Slliczny chlopiec” (A gorgeous young man). She is also generous with her use of portamento, which sounds perfectly stylish in this repertoire.

Olga’s sister Natalya is a nearly ideal accompanist for her, with many of the same rubato skills and a beautiful, warm tone in the soft songs. In several more bombastic songs about horse-riding and storms, the pianist seems less comfortable. Interestingly, neither artist succeeds completely in bringing the four Viardot mazurka song transcriptions to life…



Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, April 2011

The new Naxos disc is sung in the original Polish and while the rather meagre inlay has no room for the texts they can be accessed on the Naxos website.

The original language makes an important difference insofar as it was the Polish words that Chopin set. To sensitive song composers the musical values inherent in the sounds as much as the actual meaning of the words are essential. Here one feels an integration that seems totally authentic…I get closer to the atmosphere of the songs in the Olga Pasichnyk’s readings. Coming from Ukraine, Polish obviously isn’t her mother tongue but parts of her studies were carried through in Warsaw and she was soloist at the Warsaw Chamber Opera from 1992. Hers is a truly lovely and beautiful voice and she is a most sensitive singer, producing ravishing pianissimos. The majority of these songs are lyrical and poetic and Olga Pasichnyk is an ideal interpreter…she also has the required power Hulanka (tr. 4), this outgoing, burlesque dance, where she responds with some stirring chest notes while otherwise retaining the elegance and sensitivity.

She is also careful with words and the whole recital is so alive and ‘lived-in’. Just listen to her inflexions of the text in Sliczny chlopiec (tr. 8) and the hushed intensity in Melodia (tr. 9). She certainly covers all the interpretative facets of these songs. One of my favourites is Moja pieszczoyka (tr. 12), a delicate waltz, that I can’t remember hearing better sung, and Piosnka litewska (Lithuanian Song)(tr. 16) is another highlight, simple and enchanting.

Her sister Natalya is an extraordinarily flexible accompanist and contributes greatly to the overall impression.

As a bonus we are offered four out of the twelve songs the famous singer Pauline Viardot arranged from mazurkas by Chopin. Viardot was a technical phenomenon with a range of three octaves and virtuoso technique and the songs were written to show off her ability. Chopin was also satisfied with the songs and they are splendid showpieces. Olga Pasichnyk has both the brilliant top as well as a contralto depth—listen to Coquette (tr. 23)—and the technique to negotiate the vocal fireworks.

The recording is fully worthy of the interpretations and anyone wanting a recording of this lesser known part of Chopin’s oeuvre need look no further. At super budget price and sung in the original Polish—the Viardot songs are in French—and with texts and translations available on the internet this is a self-recommending issue.



Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, March 2011

It seems like 100 years ago, but it was only the late 1960s when Maria Kurenko’s now-legendary album of Chopin songs (recorded, I believe, in mono) first appeared on LP in this country. It was considered sui generis, and so it was for many years; but now here we are in the 21st century, and there are several collections of these charming pieces available, including the first-class performances by Konrad Jarnot reviewed above.

Olga Pasichnyk, a Ukrainian soprano who studied at both the Kiev Conservatory and the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, gives us beautiful, charming, deeply felt, and often spectacularly sung performances of these songs. Being in the original Polish helps a lot—excepting, of course, the four extra songs in French, which are actually arrangements by Pauline Viardot-Garcia of instrumental pieces, of which more later—and it also helps that Pasichnyk has not only the voice but the technique, interpretive skills, and voice to sing them. My only caveat is that, like so many Slavic soprano voices, hers has that unusual (to Western ears) prominent vibrato, not always even under pressure, but in this case Naxos’s overly ambient sonics cover some of the edginess of the voice. Otherwise, her voice is sweet of timbre, surprisingly flexible in both range and florid ornaments, and at times quite stunning in unexpected ways. Possibly because the original texts are less cumbersome in syllabic structure, she is able to sing them at quicker tempos than Jarnot, which allows her to fit in the four extra Viardot songs (totaling about 12 minutes) to the recital while only adding four minutes to the total disc time.

Pasichnyk also possesses a quality rare among present-day singers in that she has a “smile in the voice.” This is a rare and precious asset, not to be taken lightly, and she makes the listener smile as well. The Viardot-Garcia songs are rarely performed because they are far more technically difficult than Chopin’s own songs, but again Pasichnyk rises to the challenge; listen particularly to Aime-moi, set to the music of the Mazurka No. 23 in D. This piece demands not only a polished technique but, more importantly, the ability to use that technique in a flowing, instrumental manner—in other words, to emulate the way the notes are played on a piano. Pasichnyk does this so well, and so easily, that my jaw drops to hear it. And, like everything else she sings, she has worked over her technique so well that one is scarcely aware of the immense hard work that underlies her ease of execution. I assume that Natalya Pasichnyk is her sister, though the relationship is not mentioned in the notes, but whether she is or not, she is a first-rate accompanist and also knows this style like the back of her hand. Again, no texts are included in the booklet [available on naxos.com].



Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, March 2011

It seems like 100 years ago, but it was only the late 1960s when Maria Kurenko’s now-legendary album of Chopin songs (recorded, I believe, in mono) first appeared on LP in this country. It was considered sui generis, and so it was for many years; but now here we are in the 21st century, and there are several collections of these charming pieces available, including the first-class performances by Konrad Jarnot reviewed above.

Olga Pasichnyk, a Ukrainian soprano who studied at both the Kiev Conservatory and the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, gives us beautiful, charming, deeply felt, and often spectacularly sung performances of these songs. Being in the original Polish helps a lot—excepting, of course, the four extra songs in French, which are actually arrangements by Pauline Viardot-Garcia of instrumental pieces, of which more later—and it also helps that Pasichnyk has not only the voice but the technique, interpretive skills, and voice to sing them. My only caveat is that, like so many Slavic soprano voices, hers has that unusual (to Western ears) prominent vibrato, not always even under pressure, but in this case Naxos’s overly ambient sonics cover some of the edginess of the voice. Otherwise, her voice is sweet of timbre, surprisingly flexible in both range and florid ornaments, and at times quite stunning in unexpected ways. Possibly because the original texts are less cumbersome in syllabic structure, she is able to sing them at quicker tempos than Jarnot, which allows her to fit in the four extra Viardot songs (totaling about 12 minutes) to the recital while only adding four minutes to the total disc time.

Pasichnyk also possesses a quality rare among present-day singers in that she has a “smile in the voice.” This is a rare and precious asset, not to be taken lightly, and she makes the listener smile as well. The Viardot-Garcia songs are rarely performed because they are far more technically difficult than Chopin’s own songs, but again Pasichnyk rises to the challenge; listen particularly to Aime-moi, set to the music of the Mazurka No. 23 in D. This piece demands not only a polished technique but, more importantly, the ability to use that technique in a flowing, instrumental manner—in other words, to emulate the way the notes are played on a piano. Pasichnyk does this so well, and so easily, that my jaw drops to hear it. And, like everything else she sings, she has worked over her technique so well that one is scarcely aware of the immense hard work that underlies her ease of execution. I assume that Natalya Pasichnyk is her sister, though the relationship is not mentioned in the notes, but whether she is or not, she is a first-rate accompanist and also knows this style like the back of her hand. Again, no texts are included in the booklet [available on naxos.com].



John Boyer
American Record Guide, March 2011

We’ve had some fine recordings before…but this latest one from Naxos, performed by Ukrainian sisters Olga and Natalya Pasichnyk, may now take pride of place. Soprano Olga…spins a very fine pianissimo and a lovely sound in every register, regardless of volume. Sister Natalya demonstrates she is every bit the accomplished pianist that Olga is a singer.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.



Jeremy Nicholas
Gramophone, February 2011

The Chopin you rarely hear: his songs; presented in an impressive recording

It is a moot point as to whether Chopin ever intended any of his songs should survive his death. In the event, his friend Julian Fontana tracked down 17 manuscripts and, with the family’s permission, published them posthumously as Op 74 “Czary”, originally intended for the collection by removed by Fontana, and “Dumka”, an earlier version of Op 75 No 13, make up the complete cycle.

Though I have a soft spot for the ripe mezzo of Eugenia Zareska and her 1955 recording with the Giorgio Favaretto, the best version currently available is by mezzo Urszula Kryger and Charles Spencer (Hyperion, 2/00R). This new recording, however, from sisters Olga and Natalya Pasichnyk, is a serious rival. Presented, unlike Kryger, in numerical order, each song is individually characterised by Olga’s expressive and agile soprano—she can exchange a soubrette lightness for a rich chest tone at the drop of a hat—relishing the text with greater charm than Kryger but equally sensitive to the dominant characters of nostalgia, lovelorn youth and folkloric innocence. Natalya, slightly more backwardly placed than Spencer, follows her sister’s every twist and turn with remarkable empathy.

Added attractions are four of the 12 songs the great Spanish singer and friend of Chopin, Pauline Viardot-García (1821–1910), adapted from Chopin’s Mazurkas. Taken from the first set, published in 1864, they include “Aime-moi” (first recorded in 1907 by Marcella Sembrich to her own accompaniment) and “Coquette” with spectacular added vocal cadences. Hyperion, with four other Viardot adaptations, offers the complete texts and excellent annotation. Naxos, alas, does not—but don’t let that deter you from hearing this impressive sororial debut.



James Manheim
Allmusic.com, January 2011

Although they date from the primary years of his creative activity (most of them were posthumously collected and published as Op. 74) and involved the leading Polish (and Ukrainian) poets of the day, Chopin’s songs do not really sound like his piano music. Their general neglect in the West is likely due to the fact that they are all in the Polish language; here they are combined with four mazurkas texted in French and arranged by singer Pauline Viardot. The Naxos label sends users to their computers for all texts here, whether Polish, French, or English, but this is a lovely performance by Ukrainian sister act of soprano Olga Pasichnyk and pianist Natalya Pasichnyk. The harmonic language of the songs is a good deal simpler than that of the piano music in general, and the overall effect is one of limpid lyricism, heightened by the frequent recourse to Polish folk rhythms. Yet the songs are not simple parlor pieces, and they reward repeated hearings. Sample Nie ma czego trzeba (Nothing I Need Is Here, track 13): the minor vocal line is almost entirely diatonic, but rhythmically it pulls against the initial foursquare accompaniment in consistently unexpected ways, with the voice-piano unit seeming to slip in and out of declamation and melody. Olga Pasichnyk, mostly a Baroque specialist, has a voice of perfect dimensions for these songs, and she catches their quiet subtlety. The dimensions of the cavernous Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, however, are wrong for the music, and the booklet notes (in English only), wasting space on a potted biography of Chopin, are not up to snuff.



Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, December 2010

This is unusual and very welcome fare from Naxos for the Chopin bi-centenary in the form of his complete songs, plus four arrangements of his Mazurkas, made by French singer Pauline Viardot-García in 1864. These are enjoyably airy performances of mainly light-hearted music, though there is also power and beauty here, all well recorded.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2010

One of the many discs issued to mark Fryderyk Chopin’s 200th anniversary brings his songs composed over a period of fifteen years. They were conveniently gathered under the heading of ‘Seventeen Songs’, the disc including two further songs and four settings of words by Louis Pomey using Chopin’s Mazurkas in arrangements by the legendary singer, Pauline Viardot. Chopin used words by those exile Polish poets who enjoyed the luxury of creating a Polish nationalism while taking pleasure from life in Paris. They mostly speak of sadness, though that mood is offset by a cheerful drinking song in Hulanka (Revelry), and the tender love song, Moja pieszczotka. Chopin’s accompaniment graphically mirrors the atmosphere of words, and while they never achieved the level of Schumann or Schubert lieder, they deserve to be heard in the concert hall far more often than is the case. They are here performed by sisters—the soprano, Olga Pasichnyk, and pianist, Natalya. It is one of the most innocently beautiful voices I have heard in recent times, her intonation in the centre of every note, and with the lyric quality perfectly conveyed. She would be ill-advised to regularly push her voice into the realms of the Viadot songs, though she sings them superbly. I hope Naxos will let us here far more of her. Natalya is an equally fine musician who must sound very convincing in Chopin’s solo music. Add the first class sound quality from the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, and the sisters turn the disc into an unexpected delight that I urge you to hear.






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12:12:31 PM, 13 July 2014
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