In Poland, Stanislaw Moniuszko is a national hero. Like Dvorak, he was able to retain the characteristic sound of his country’s folk music in classical works, creating music that sounded distinctively Polish. Most of Moniuszko’s composition are for the human voice; songs, cantatas, anthems and especially operas.
This new release features ten opera overtures from “the Father of Polish Opera,” and what a treat they are. Tuneful, straightforward, and full of energy — to my ears they sounded like a blend of Weber, Suppe and Dvorak. And there’s plenty of variety. some, like “The Hetman’s Mistress” are real curtain-raisers, uptempo and sprightly. Others, like “the Raftsman” are quieter, setting the stage with long, languorous melodies of tender beauty. And almost all have slightly unusual chord progressions or rhythms that give them a distinctively Polish sound.
Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra are admirably suited to these works. Just as a Viennese orchestra instinctively knows how to add a little something to a Strauss waltz, this Polish orchestra knows what Moniuszko’s referencing, and play it as it should be.
Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys mid-century romantic music — especially opera.
Stanislaw Moniuszko: Overtures
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Antoni Wit, conductor