Polish songs (Chopin)

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Chopin at 25, by Maria Wodzińska, 1835

Although Frédéric Chopin is best known for his works for piano solo, among his extant output are 19 songs for voice and piano, set to Polish texts.

Background[edit]

Chopin wrote these songs at various times, from perhaps as early as 1827 when he was 17, to 1847, two years before his death. Only two of them were published in his lifetime (Życzenie and Wojak were published in Kiev in 1837 and 1839 respectively).[1][2]

In 1857 the 17 then known songs were collected for publication by Julian Fontana as Op. 74, but they were not arranged in chronological order of composition within that opus. Due to censorship restrictions, he was only able to publish 16 of them initially. These appeared in Warsaw as Zbiór śpiewów polskich Fryderyka Chopina (A Collection of Polish Songs by Frédéric Chopin), published by Gebethner & Wolff; and in Berlin as 16 Polnische Lieder, published by A M Schlesinger. The 17th song, Śpiew z mogiłki (Hymn from the Tomb) was published separately in Berlin with a French title, Chant du tombeau.[3]

A further two songs were published in 1910. Some references now include all 19 published songs in Op. 74.

Chopin is known to have written a number of other songs that are now lost. Some extant songs have been attributed to Chopin but are now considered spurious or doubtful.

Texts[edit]

All but one of the texts of the Chopin songs were original poems by his Polish contemporaries, with most of whom he was personally acquainted. The sole exception is Piosnka litewska (A Lithuanian Song), which was set to a Polish translation by Ludwik Osiński of a Lithuanian song.

Ten of them are by a friend of Chopin’s family, Stefan Witwicki, from his Piosnki Sielskie (Idylls, 1830). (Chopin also dedicated his Mazurkas, Op. 41, to Witwicki.) Three were by Józef Bohdan Zaleski. Two were by Adam Mickiewicz. Wincenty Pol's revolutionary Songs of Janusz (1836) inspired Chopin to write up to a dozen songs, but only one survives. Zygmunt Krasiński, a rival with Chopin for the affections of Delfina Potocka, was another poet who inspired Chopin to write a song.[3]

The songs have been translated into over a dozen languages, but they are most effective in their original Polish. Various English titles have been applied to some of the songs.

Recordings[edit]

Those who have recorded the 17 songs of Op. 74, or all 19 known songs, include:

Other singers have recorded selected songs.

Arrangements[edit]

Chopin himself arranged the piano part of Wiosna as a piece for piano alone, Andantino in G minor, B. 117. There exist five manuscript versions of this arrangement, dated between April 1838 and 1 September 1848.

Between 1847 and 1860, Chopin's friend Franz Liszt arranged six of the Op. 74 songs as piano transcriptions under the title Six Chants polonais, S.480, a set which has long been a concert and recording favourite. The six are:

  • 1. Mädchens Wünsch (No. 1: Życzenie – The Wish)
  • 2. Frühling (No. 2: Wiosna – Spring)
  • 3. Das Ringlein (No. 14: Pierścień – The Ring), which leads without a break into ...
  • 4. Bacchanal (No. 4: Hulanka – Merrymaking)
  • 5. Meine Freuden (No. 12: Moja pieszczotka – My Darling)
  • 6. Heimkehr (No. 15: Narzeczony – The Bridegroom).

In this arrangement, Das Ringlein leads without a break into Bacchanal, and towards the end of the latter song, immediately before the coda, Liszt includes a short 6-bar reprise of the earlier song.

List of Polish songs by Chopin[edit]

Polish title[1] English translation[1] Alternative title(s) Text by[1] Date composed[1] Published[1] Opus no.[1] Other catalogue nos. Notes
Życzenie A Maiden's wish A Young Girl's Wish Stefan Witwicki c. 1829 1837, Kiev; later 1857, Berlin 74/1 WN 21, B. 33 Franz Liszt used this melody as No. 2 (Mélodie polonaise) of his Glanes de Woronince, S.249 (1847); Liszt also transcribed the song for piano solo as No. 1 of his Six Chants polonais, S.480 (composed 1847-1860); Chopin also used a motif from the song in his posthumous Nocturne in C sharp minor, Lento con gran espressione[5]
Wiosna Spring - Witwicki 1838 1857, Berlin 74/2 B. 116 Chopin rewrote the piano part as Andantino, B. 117; there exist 5 manuscripts of this arrangement, dated between April 1838 and 1 September 1848; Franz Liszt also transcribed the song for piano solo as No. 2 of his Six Chants polonais, S.480 (composed 1847-1860)
Smutna rzeka Troubled Waters The Mournful Stream, Sad River Witwicki 1831 1857, Berlin 74/3 B. 63/1
Hulanka Drinking Song - Witwicki August 1830 1857, Berlin 74/4 WN 32, B. 50 Franz Liszt transcribed the song for piano solo as No. 4 of his Six Chants polonais, S.480 (composed 1847-1860)
Gdzie lubi A Fickle Maid A Maiden’s Love, A Girl’s Desire Witwicki c. 1829 1857, Berlin 74/5 WN 22, B. 32
Precz z moich oczu Remembrance A Leave-taking, Out of my sight Adam Mickiewicz 1830 1857, Berlin 74/6 WN 33, B. 48
Poseł The Messenger The Message Witwicki 1830 1857, Berlin 74/7 WN 30, B. 50
Śliczny chłopiec Handsome Lad Charming Lad; My Beloved Józef Bohdan Zaleski 1841 1857, Berlin 74/8 B. 143
Melodia Melody Elegy; Lamento; Onward Zygmunt Krasiński 1847 1857, Berlin 74/9 B. 165
Wojak Before the Battle The Warrior Witwicki 1830 1839, Kiev; later 1857, Berlin 74/10 WN 34, B. 47
Dwojaki koniec The Double-End The Twofold End; The Two Corpses; Death's Divisions; United in Death Zaleski 1845 1857, Berlin 74/11 B. 156/1
Moja pieszczotka My Darling My Joys; My Delight Mickiewicz 1837 1857, Berlin 74/12 B. 112 Franz Liszt transcribed the song for piano solo as No. 5 of his Six Chants polonais, S.480 (composed 1847-1860)
Nie ma czego trzeba I Want What I Have Not Faded and Vanished; Melancholy; Lack of Light Zaleski 1845 1857, Berlin 74/13 B. 156/2 A simpler version was published in 1910 as Dumka
Pierścień The Ring - Witwicki 8 September 1836 1857, Berlin 74/14 B. 103 Chopin wrote this song into the album of Maria Wodzińska, to whom he had just become betrothed;[5] Franz Liszt also transcribed the song for piano solo as No. 3 of his Six Chants polonais, S.480 (composed 1847-1860)
Narzeczony The Bridegroom's return The Return Home, The Betrothed Witwicki 1831 1857, Berlin 74/15 WN 40, B. 63/2 Franz Liszt transcribed the song for piano solo as No. 6 of his Six Chants polonais, S.480 (composed 1847-1860)
Piosnka litewska Lithuanian Song - trans. Ludwik Osiński 1830 (1831)? 1857, Berlin 74/16 WN 38, B. 63/3 Translated from a Lithuanian folk song
Śpiew z mogiły Poland's Dirge Leaves are falling Wincenty Pol 8 May 1836 1857, Berlin 74/17 WN 49, B. 101
Dumka Reverie Dirge; Mist Before My Eyes Zaleski 25 March 1840 22 October 1910, Lwow (74/19)? B. 132, KK.IVb/9 Sometimes included in Op. 74; this is an earlier, simpler version of Nie ma czego trzeba.
Czary Witchcraft - Witwicki 1830 (?) 1910, Leipzig (74/18)? WN 31, B. 51, KK.IVa/11 Sometimes included in Op. 74; the 1910 publication was of a facsimile reproduction of an album Chopin had sent to Maria Wodzińska. It was not finally published in normal form till 1954.
Płótno Linen -  ?  ? - - KK.Vd/5 Lost; mentioned in a letter from Julian Fontana to Chopin's sister Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, dated 2 July 1852
Jakież kwiaty Which Flowers - I. Maciejowski 22 August 1829 1856, Warsaw - B. 39, KK.Iva/9 ded. Vaclav Hanka; piano part lost; reconstructed from extant preserved photograph
3 songs  ?  ?  ? - - KK.Vd/6-8 Lost; listed in a letter from Chopin's Scottish pupil Jane Stirling to Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, dated July 1852
4 songs Only the violin parts remain
 ?  ?  ?  ? - - KK.Vc/10 Lost; mentioned in a letter from Ludwika Jędrzejewicz to her brother Chopin, dated 9 January 1841
Dumka na Wygnaniu Song of the Exile - M Gosławski  ? - - KK.Anh. Ic/1 Doubtful authenticity
Tam na błoniu There on the Green -  ?  ? - - KK.Anh. Ic/2 Doubtful authenticity
Trzeci maj The Third of May - S Starzeński  ? - - KK.Anh. Ic/3 Doubtful authenticity
O wiem, że Polska Oh, I know that Poland - Krasiński  ? - - KK.Anh. Ic/4 Doubtful authenticity
Pytasz się, czemu You Ask Why - Krasiński  ? - - KK.Anh. Ic/5 Doubtful authenticity
Pieśni pielgrzyma polskiego Songs of a Polish Pilgrim - K Gaszyński  ? - - KK.Anh. Ic/6 Doubtful authenticity

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kornel Michałowski and Jim Samson. "Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  2. ^ Jim Samson
  3. ^ a b c Hyperion
  4. ^ Music Web International
  5. ^ a b Ramin Rezaei, Frederic Chopin's Chamber Music and Polish Songs

External links[edit]