Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-1872): Overtures / Antoni Wit, Warsaw PO

Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszki, although not a household name outside his native country, is to this day a revered and prominent figure in Polish cultural life. His name and likeness have appeared on everything from building and park signs to currency and stamps. Products of early 19th century romanticism, his sparkling overtures are characterized by a classical era discipline and a romantic flair. This Naxos CD contains ten of his brilliant, melodic and dramatic overtures, splendidly performed by Antoni Wit and the fine Warsaw Philharmonic.

Moniuszko’s (1819-1872) musical talents were evident at a very young age. After taking piano lessons as a youngster, his formal studies began in Berlin at the age of eighteen where he continued his piano studies and learned scores of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Moniuszko’s music was very popular in Russia, where he was frequent visitor. There, he became acquainted with Glinka, Balakirev, Mussorgsky and Dargomyzhsky. When back in Western Europe, he moved in the circles of Auber, Rossini, Smetana and Liszt.

The core of his output was for voice. He was most active as a composer of songs, operas, operettas, masses, cantatas and choral works. Moniuszko had quite a knack for writing attractive melodies, a flair that is evident in these overtures. His greatest successes were in the operatic genre, where he became associated with the prevailing nationalistic style. Most of the lively works on this program are curtain openers for his operas; the remaining few are concert overtures. The sample in the right sidebar is the overture to the opera Verbum Nobile of 1860, and in the video below are further clips from the album.

There’s no question, these are light pieces designed to entertain, but if you liked the sample and would enjoy spinning an hour of Rossini overtures, for example, you’ll likely enjoy this program too. Naxos has produced a superbly engineered recording rounding out a fine release.

Album Overview

Stanisław Moniuszko was Poland’s leading opera composer in the 19th century, his work said to ‘bridge the gap between Chopin and Szymanowski’. His skill as a born melodist is apparent in the ‘beautiful and inspired’ overture to Paria, while the dramatic Halka was the work which brought him national acclaim. An affinity with Liszt’s tone poems can be heard in the substantial overture Bajka, while the scene for The Haunted Manor is set with an atmospheric Intrada.


Stanisław Moniuszko

Moniuszko was a Polish composer, conductor and teacher. He wrote many popular art songs and operas, and his music is filled with patriotic folk themes of the peoples of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Antoni Wit

Wit (born February 7, 1944 in Kraków) is a Polish conductor. Since year 2002 he has been music director of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Wit received a Cannes Classical Award for his album of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony; his recording of Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast cycle was also very well received. Wit currently teaches at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw.

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra continues the long and rich tradition of chamber music performed by artists associated with Warsaw Philharmonic. The first chamber ensembles were founded in the Philharmonic early in the 20th century. In the 1960s and 70s, the Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Musicians’ Ensemble under Karol Teutsch scored numerous successes on the world’s concert stages.


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