Chopin’s relationship with Liszt was often a stormy affair, but the mutual respect was firm enough, no better shown than by Liszt’s efforts to be Chopin’s first biographer—and the book is by no means as bad as some critics have attested!—and by the time and care which Liszt put into these Six Polish songs
. The songs are certainly the only really neglected part of Chopin’s output (can it be simply because most singers are unfamiliar with Polish?) and here, as in dozens of other cases, Liszt seeks to propagate that which he already knows to be first-rate. In The Wish
(often called The Maiden’s Wish in older editions), the simple melody is treated to elaborate variations which in some way illuminate the original text, which describes a girl who, in turn, would be the sun, or a bird, in order to show her love. Spring
is an artless little poem about love, life and the spring, which Liszt arranges in the simplest way. The Ring
(also known as Drinking Song) are both mazurkas, and Liszt joins them together, pausing to quote the first, which speaks of a jilted boyfriend, towards the end of the second, where love is seen as less reliable than drinking. Liszt captures Chopin’s expanded mood exactly in My Darling
(My Joys, as it has been strangely rendered) and the poem of desire breaks forth in operatic grandeur, while the last song, The Bridegroom
(The Return Home) is made into a magnificent little symphonic sketch, far outreaching Chopin’s handling of the text, which describes the vain ride through the windswept forest of the bridegroom who will not reach his bride before she dies.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1989