Polskie Nagrania PNCD 0006A/D  , 4 CD’s

The Polish baritone, Andrzej Hiolski (1922-2000) studied singing with Helena Oleska at the Lwow Conservatory and later with the legendary Adamo Didur.

From 1945 to 1956 Andrzej Hiolski was a soloist of the Silesian Opera in Bytom. From 1957 until his death he was a soloist of the Warsaw Opera. Until his last days he was an active opera and concert singer: three days before his sudden death he gave a guest performance in Cracow.

An extremely versatile singer, Andrzej Hiolski was equally admired as opera singer, concert singer in oratorio/cantata repertoire, and art song performer. He was an artist of musical culture and immaculate technique. His repertoire was very wide, and included works from the early Baroque to compositions by Penderecki. He was an active propagator of Polish contemporary music. In 1966 he took part in the world premiere of The Passion According to St. Luke by Penderecki in Münster which he later repeated at the BBC Proms in 1967.  He sang the main baritone role in The Haunted Manor by Moniuszko (Miecznik), Tosca (Scarpia) and Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, Amonasro (Aida), Germont (Traviata), Escamillo (Carmen), Valentin (Faust), Silvio (Pagliacci), ….

Andrzej Hiolski performed at the major concert halls and opera houses in Europe and the Americas. He took part in the major musical festivals, such as the Berliner Festwochen, the Salzburger Festspiele, the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, the Prague Spring Festival, the Warsaw Autumn Festival and the Shiraz-Persepolis Arts Festival. He was the prize-winner of the coveted Grand Prix du Disque Award - in 1967 for The Passion According to St Luke and in 1970 for King Roger. In 1971 in Paris he received the Golden Orpheo Award for The Devils of Loudun.

A couple of vinyl recordings were once available and a few CD’s had been released in the past but they were hard to come by therefore this 4 CD box is a very welcome release and very economically priced.  The CD’s cover the whole gamut of Hiolski’s art. The first CD contains most of his opera recital recordings. The earliest is Renato’s aria from Un Ballo which goes back to 1953, the last Miecznik’s aria from from Straszny Dwor was recorded in 1973. The second Cd is devoted to song repertoire with songs by Polish composers : Chopin (rec.1956), Moniuszko (rec. 1958-1969) and Karlowicz (rec. 1972). The third CD contains Schubert’s Schwanengesang (rec. 1971) and Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder (rec. 1977) and  Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (rec. 1982).

The fourth CD features Bach cantates (rec. 1969) and Polish composers such as a cantata from Tadeusz Baird (rec. 1978), Augustyn Bloch’s Wordsworth songs (rec. 1978), excerpts from Szymanowski’s Krol Roger (rec. 1965) and Penderecki’s ‘Deus Deus Meus’ (rec. 1966).

Hiolski’s voice is a powerful vibrant baritone with warmth but also bite. In the songs he displays immaculate phrasing and unfailing musicianship with a smooth and polished legato singing. Hiolski perfected his singing technique enabling him to sing well even after three decades on stages. In the operatic recordings he shows he is a singer of the old school with a full-blooded delivery always in total command of his voice. The operatic CD also includes two excerpts from a live performance of Don Carlos from the Warsaw opera. His Mahler by the way is quite wonderful with an excellent orchestra and conductors.

Hiolski is a most versatile artist worth (re-) discovering. The tribute gave me lots of musical pleasure upon first hearing and it is a release I will certainly return to. So yes indeed, a must-buy for every vocal art collector.

There is luxurious packaging and the 65 pages monograph is a marvel of information and contains numerous photos.

Rudi van den Bulck, January 2017