Saturday, January 7, 2012

Heroism Personified

Your head might explode in the final track of Slavic Heroes. Bombarded by treacly tones and the lush eroticism of Szymanowski's Król Roger, this is heady stuff indeed. But it's just one of many such treats on Mariusz Kwiecień's new recording. Recital discs can be hit and miss. Too heavily themed and they appear gimmicky. Without a clear subject, they are vague vehicles. Here language is the only link. But from the familiar passages of Eugene Onegin to rarities by Smetana, Moniuszko and Dvořák, Kwiecień shows that he is truly a voice to reckon with. 

For the first time, Harmonia Mundi has extended is production outfit to the UK. A surprising choice, then, to go to Poland. But if talent and quality are the only criteria, they have chosen well. The Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra (under Łukasz Borowicz) provides a luscious soundscape. Given the weight and wealth of Kwiecień's voice, they are placed prominently in the mix. The sound is occasionally a little too velvety, as there's more steel in this music than the recording lets on.

But it's a tiny price to pay for the bounties it affords. After the anaemic anti-hero of ENO's recent Onegin, Kwiecień is sex personified. The sheer lyrical arrogance of his dismissal of Tatyana breaks your heart. And, as if playing the opera for real, his Act 3 aria is palpably neurotic. Yet he can just as easily turn his hand to the spirited aria from Moniuszko's Haunted Manor or the vast otherworldliness of Szymanowski. I cannot wait to hear Kwiecień performing these roles live. Click here to order a copy.