Witold,Lutosławski Cabaret songs ! Derwid, Lutosławski's "concealed Portrait". In the jpc.de sale, which often produces interesting things, I found this CD, originally recorded in a castle in Warsaw in 2004 but more recently re-released on Acte Préalable, a leading label promoting Polish Music. I put it on without reading anything about it. Snare drums, bongos, tenor sax and piano !
Yes, "the" Witold Lutosławski writing songs under the pseudonym Derwid for Polish radio between 1957 and 1963. A touch classier than commercial, pop, resembling the middle of the road feelgood music that swept the world before Rock and Roll and Teenage Rebellion. The last vestiges of the old Lieder tradition, or dance band music, or even both genres? They aren't quite as sophisticated as semi-art songs by poet/composers like Kosma and Prévert or Jacques Brel or Bob Dylan, but they are worth listening to. Lutosławski's originals, written for voice and piano were apparently very simple, lending themselves to more elaborate orchestration. Orchestral versions were done for Polish Radio who recorded them with famous singers of the era. This particular version, arranged by the pianist Krzysztof Herdzin translates them as semi-jazz with bluesy riffs -nothing too low down and dirty., because it wouldn't suit the period for which the songs were written.The singer, Mariusz Klimek, is classically trained and musically erudite, and sings with fluidity and lyrical freedom, which I think suits the composer very well indeed. The songs come over with refreshing charm, the accompaniment adding a bit of exotic spice. In Cold War Poland this might have been plenty racy enough !
Some of these songs are good enough to stand on their own, as concert pieces. Warszawski dorozkarz (Warsaw Taxi Driver) (1958) is atmospheric, with long curving lines: perhaps the guy spends a lot of time waiting for custom, observing the world around him. But when he gets a fare, he connects with people and has to rush. Another good song, Nie oczekuje dzis nikogo (I haven't been waiting for you today (1959) is subtly understated. It seems casual, even nonchalant, but the voice drops to near whisper, as if the feelings therein are too private to voice aloud. No translations. The singer is so clear that Polish speakers will, get every nuance. The rest iof us have to be sensitive and guess. And Z lat dziecinnych (Childhood Days) (1962) carefree but nostalgic. See this site for more details and other recordings. Definitely an addition to the repertoire.