Chopin Polish Songs
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)Polish Songs, Op. 74:
Iwona Sobotka, soprano. Ángel Cabrera, piano.
Musicstry Studios. TRT® sound (calibration 2.4b). Recorded: April 3, 4 2014. Released: January 23 2020. Liner notes: José Luis García del Busto. Producer: Mario Martínez. PC13003 ℗ & © 2021 Play Classics.
The Parisian salon, lyricism, the great romantic piano, echoes of Poland…
The splendour of the music for piano solo composed by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) is of such brilliance that it has partially blinded performers and public for a long time, insofar as they have found it difficult to see that Chopin's slender contributions to other genres are no less interesting and are indeed very much worth enjoying, e.g., the works for piano and orchestra (not only the two concertos), the important Sonata for cello and piano, and the songs presented in this CD as a complete collection.
Chopin lived and created in the intense first flush of European Romanticism, a period in which the genre of the recital or art song blossomed and rose to sensational aesthetic heights, a genre that came to be universally called the lied because its leading creators were in the German area. Indeed, Beethoven's lieder, which reached a pinnacle in the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved), blazed a trail on which Franz Schubert, that prolific lied composer of genius, was soon to have much to say, both in quantity and in quality. A contemporary of Chopin's, Robert Schumann, followed him down these same paths, and, on Chopin's death, it was Johannes Brahms, then just sixteen years of age, who would also come to swell this genre of the lied with magnificent works. Needless to say, songs were being composed in other countries too, particularly in the second half of the romantic century, to the extent that the existence of other lied "schools" could be detected, such as the Russian or French schools, both strongly individual in character.
Chopin's songs came into being one by one, and are individual products without any preconceived notion or desire of forming a "cycle" or even being compiled as "albums". In fact, they were not published in Chopin's lifetime. The bulk of Chopin's songs were published by Schlesinger in Berlin in 1857, eight years after the maestro's death, and consisted of 16 songs presented as op.posth. 74. These songs were then re-issued in 1873 with the inclusion of a seventeenth song that had been overlooked. Admired for the quality of these vocal pieces, his colleague and friend, the great Franz Liszt, wrote piano solo arrangements for six of Chopin's songs, set them in contrasting order to lend them a certain formal meaning or sense, and presented them as six Polish songs. Subsequently, two more of Chopin's songs that had been left out of op.posth. 74. were found and published as individual pieces.
We thus have nineteen songs which Chopin wrote at intervals over the period from 1829 to 1847. They are songs with a certain popular touch and are, naturally, imbued with the nostalgic whiff of the memories of his native Poland, a feeling that always formed part of the character of that Parisian-based pianist and composer. Hence, a considerable part of the texts used in these songs were drawn from Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), poet, patriot and fighter for the independence of Poland, and his followers, Jozef Bohdan Zaleski (1802-1886) and Zygmunt Krasinski (1812-1859). Other authors -all Polish- to which Chopin resorted for his songs were Ludwik Osinski (1775-1838), historian, literary critic and poet, and the poets, Wincenty Pol (1807-1872) and Stefan Witwicki (1801-1847), the latter a personal friend of the composer.
While it would be inappropriate to attempt to align Chopin's songs with the best Central European lieder of his time, this should in no way be taken to mean that his output was inconsequential. On the contrary, the warm Chopin-inspired lyrical and melodic feeling –let's not forget his devotion for Bellini!- his unrivalled mastery of the technical and expressive resources of the piano, and his qualities as a highly skilled and, at the same time, intuitive harmonist…are traits and virtues that converged to produce almost a score of admirably structured songs of great listening enjoyment, as can be appreciated and confirmed in this recording.
José Luis García del Busto
Iwona Sobotka achieved instant international acclaim as Grand Prix winner of the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium in 2004. Other awards include first prizes at the East & West Artists International Auditions in New York, the Warsaw Polish Art Song Competition and the Paderewski Competition in Bydgoszcz.
Ms. Sobotka has performed all over Europe, in the Americas, and Japan, visiting such prestigious venues as the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Konzerthaus, Carnegie Hall, Salle Pleyel, Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall and Suntory Hall.
In the 2007/2008 season Ms. Sobotka made her début at the Opéra national de Paris as Ygraine in Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue. The same production toured Japan in summer 2008. The following season she returned to Paris as First Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and also made her first appearance with the Polish National Opera in Warsaw as Zuzia in Moniuszko’s Verbum Nobile. She was invited to sing the main role Vespina in Haydn’s L’infedeltà delusa in Milan and Munich and created the title role in Stanislaw Moniuszko’s Halka at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.
Ms. Sobotka is widely acknowledged for her interpretations of Polish vocal repertoire – in particular the works of Karol Szymanowski. In 2004, she contributed to a complete collection of his songs released by the Dutch label Channel Classics. On a subsequent release for EMI Classics in 2006, performs Songs of a Fairytale Princess with Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. She also has recorded Szymanowski’s orchestral songs for Polish Radio with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Last season she participated in a ‘Szymanowski Focus’ at London’s Wigmore Hall curated by Piotr Anderszewski.
Recent notable debuts include return to Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival as Liu in Puccini Turandot, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Mahler 8th) in Royal Albert Hall and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Haydn Missa in angustiis d-moll) in Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall. She has also recorded Deutsche Motette by Richard Strauss with Rundfunkchor Berlin which will be released later this year. Ms Sobotka appeared also at the Le Folle Journee de Nantes, Musical Olympus and is regularly invited to the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern where she was awarded 2007 audience prize.
Ms. Sobotka graduated from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw and continued her studies with renowned artist and pedagogue Tom Krause at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Madrid.
Born in Guadalajara, Spain, in November 1977, Angel Cabrera began to improvise on the piano from a very early age, encouraged by his father who played various instruments by ear. Indeed, this was how Cabrera came to develop his affinity with and love for music, and what led him to begin his piano training at the Music Conservatory under Esther Zillarbide. Subsequently, he studied under maestros of the calibre of Fernando Puchol, Luis Rego, Galina Eguiazarova, Márta Gulyás, Boris Bloch and Aldo Ciccolini.
At a later stage, he had the honour of working side by side for ten years with the great Finnish baritone, Tom Krause, with whom he discovered a new universe of sound. Through their philosophy of life and way of understanding music, Tom Krause and Aldo Ciccolini became his greatest artistic and personal influence.
Cabrera shows himself to be a deeply passionate artist possessed of an exceptional diversity of touch, which enables him to play the most complex works with an astounding facility. His performances, brimming with poetic expression and incomparable technical control, make for a fascinating listening experience. "Ángel Cabrera transports us to some imaginary childhood planet with Debussy's "Deux Arabesques", a repertoire that he plays with absolute perfection, breathing the very air of the music and making it breathe..." says the La Nueva España newspaper, to which Ine Noticias adds, “an exquisite taste and outstanding technique” and Horizons states, “Ángel Cabrera, more than anybody else, knows how to communicate this powerful and creative spirit, with an artistic vision swathed in candour and hope".
Cabrera is also an enthusiastic and committed chamber musician who collaborates with leading artists such as Iwona Sobotka, Teresa Berganza, Helen Donath, Manuel Cid, Francisco Corujo, Manuel Lanza and soloists of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Berlin Ensemble, performing at some of the most prestigious concert venues around the world.
In addition to Cabrera's many live recordings for RNE (Spanish National Radio), RTVE (Spanish Radio & Television), Radio France and Canal Internacional, recording projects meriting special mention include his “Songs of Paolo Tosti” with Francisco Corujo, and Frédéric Chopin's complete song cycle with Iwona Sobotka, both released on the PlayClassics label.
Aside from the prizes won at the 1st José Iturbi International Music Competition of America, 16th José Iturbi International Piano Competition of Valencia and 9th Concours-Grieg International Piano Competition of Oslo, Ángel Cabrera has also received awards for his performances of Spanish Music, Edvard Grieg and Frédéric Chopin.