Polish songs (Chopin)
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.
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).
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.
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.
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, the lover of Delfina Potocka, was another poet who inspired Chopin to write a song.
The songs have been translated into over a dozen languages. Various English titles have been applied to some of the songs.
Those who have recorded the 17 songs of Op. 74, or all 19 known songs, include:
- Elisabeth Söderström with Vladimir Ashkenazy
- Leyla Gencer with Nikita Magaloff
- Stefania Toczyska with Janusz Olejniczak
- Teresa Żylis-Gara with Halina Czerny-Stefańska
- Eugenia Zareska with Giorgio Favaretto
- Stefania Woytowicz and Andrzej Bachleda with Wanda Klimowicz
- Françoise Ogéas with Eva Osinska
- Maria Kurenko with Robert Hufstader
- Urszula Kryger with Charles Spencer.
- H Januszewska with M Drewnowski
- Joanna Kozłowska with Waldemar Malicki, CDAccord ACD051 (1999)
- Elzbieta Szmytka with Malcolm Martineau (1999)
- Ewa Podleś with Garrick Ohlsson
- Aleksandra Kurzak, soprano, and Mariusz Kwiecień, baritone, accompanied by Nelson Goerner (all 19 songs, recorded in Warsaw in 2009 and issued by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute)
- Olga Pasichnyk with Natalya Pasichnyk (2009)
- Mario Hacquard, baritone and Anna Zassimova, piano (French version by Victor Wilder - Recorded in Karlsruhe with a piano by Sebastien Erard - 2017)
- Chopin Lieder Op. 74, produced by Elegia Classics 2018 with Dominika Zamara sopran and Franco Moro piano
Other singers have recorded selected songs.
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 Wunsch (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
|Polish title||English translation||Alternative title(s)||Text by||Date composed||Published||Opus no.||Other catalogue nos.||Key||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||G major||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|
|Wiosna||Spring||-||Witwicki||1838||1857, Berlin||74/2||B. 116||G minor||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||F-sharp minor|
|Hulanka||Drinking Song||-||Witwicki||August 1830||1857, Berlin||74/4||WN 32, B. 50||C major||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||A major|
|Precz z moich oczu||Remembrance||A Leave-taking, Out of my sight||Adam Mickiewicz||1830||1857, Berlin||74/6||WN 33, B. 48||F minor|
|Poseł||The Messenger||The Message||Witwicki||1830||1857, Berlin||74/7||WN 30, B. 50||D major|
|Śliczny chłopiec||Handsome Lad||Charming Lad; My Beloved||Józef Bohdan Zaleski||1841||1857, Berlin||74/8||B. 143||D major|
|Melodia||Melody||Elegy; Lamento; Onward||Zygmunt Krasiński||1847||1857, Berlin||74/9||B. 165||E minor|
|Wojak||The Warrior||Before the Battle||Witwicki||1830||1839, Kiev; later 1857, Berlin||74/10||WN 34, B. 47||A-flat major|
|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||D minor|
|Moja pieszczotka||My Darling||My Joys; My Delight||Mickiewicz||1837||1857, Berlin||74/12||B. 112||G-flat major||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 minor||A simpler version was published in 1910 as Dumka|
|Pierścień||The Ring||-||Witwicki||8 September 1836||1857, Berlin||74/14||B. 103||E-flat major||Chopin wrote this song into the album of Maria Wodzińska, to whom he had just become betrothed; 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||C minor||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||F major||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||E-flat minor|
|Dumka||Reverie||Dirge; Mist Before My Eyes||Zaleski||25 March 1840||22 October 1910, Lwów||(74/19)?||B. 132, KK.IVb/9||A minor||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||D minor||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||G major||ded. Vaclav Hanka|
|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|
- Polish Songs, Op.74 (Chopin, Frédéric): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- The Spirit of Poland in Jim Samson: The Music of Chopin, pp 100, Oxford University Press 1985
- "Frédéric François Chopin - 17 Polish Songs, Op.74". classicalarchives.com.