• Górecki in wooden covers

I find it hard to believe that it is five years to the day that my irreplaceable friend, composer and life-force, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, died in Katowice.  But rather than dwell on this loss, I have dug up a memory from his 60th birthday, 6 December 1993.  The Great Symphony Orchestra of Polish Radio (WOSPR, now known as NOSPR, ‘National’) put on a celebratory concert of Górecki’s Second Symphony ‘Copernican’ and the Second Symphony by his beloved Karol Szymanowski (although he loved other Szymanowski works better).  Last year, not before time, NOSPR was rehoused in a wonderful purpose-built home the other side of the city, not ten minutes’ walk from Górecki’s house. (Deservedly, the new NOSPR building won ‘event of the year’ at last night’s annual musical ‘Koryfeusz’ awards in Warsaw, along with the composer Pawel Mykietyn for ‘personality of the year’, while the conductor Stanisław Skrowacewzki was honoured for his lifetime achievement.  To bring it full circle, Skrowaczewski conducted in the new hall last November.)

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At the reception after the concert in 1993, there was a surprise announcement from the then MD of the Polish Music Publishers, PWM.  PWM had imaginatively commissioned students of the School of Fine Arts in Zakopane, in the Tatra Mountains, to sculpt 25 wooden covers for commemorative copies of Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. I was one of the lucky recipients of this unusual gift and my no.4 is a treasured memento.  Five years later, for his 65th birthday, Górecki invited me, along with Susan Bamert from Boosey & Hawkes, to celebrate the occasion in snowy Zakopane, in a wooden chałupa (a traditional cottage), with much wining, dining, singing and dancing – and no symphonies.  But I haven’t dug those photos out yet.

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• PWM 70 Supplement

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The last (and only other) time that I was published in Tygodnik Powszechny (Catholic Weekly) was in the commemorative issue marking the death of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki five years ago.  I’ve just been alerted to a new supplement dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Polish Music Publishers PWM.  Its anniversary concert next Wednesday includes the world premiere of Górecki’s Sanctus Adalbertus (1997) and Tygodnik Powszechny have evidently been given the relevant part of my programme note.  It is the final item in the supplement, which includes articles by Małgorzata Gąsiorowska (the Bacewicz expert and author of a new book on PWM), Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska (the author of books on Górecki and Panufnik) and the music critic and cultural historian Jakub Puchalski.

Tygodnik Powszechny PWM 70 supplement October 2015

• Górecki World Premiere, Kraków

Death of Adalbertus, Gniezno CathedralA week today – on Wednesday 4 November 2015 – the last of Gorecki’s major posthumous works will receive its first performance, in Kraków.  It is Sanctus Adalbertus, an hour-long ‘oratorio’ composed eighteen years ago to mark the assassination of St Adalbert in 997 (illustration above from the doors of Gniezno cathedral).  Its projected premiere in 1997 fell through and he used part of the score for the final movement of Salve, sidus Polonorum (2000).  This first performance follows the world premieres last year in London and Warsaw of Symphony no.4 (2006) and Kyrie (2005). The second performance will take place a week later, in Gorecki’s home city Katowice, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of his death.

Kraków is awash with posters for the concert, which also marks 70 years of PWM, the music publishers to whom anyone interested in Polish music owes a huge debt of gratitude.  Sadly, I can’t be there for this double celebration, but I was asked to write the programme note, which may be accessed here.

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• Panufnik Revised: 2. Nocturne & Lullaby

For the second of five articles on Panufnik’s revisions made after he had fled to England in 1954, I have combined two works from 1947: Nocturne and Lullaby.  They remain two of his most enduring compositions, and Lullaby in particular has recently won a new following.  Nocturne is also a special piece and was subsequently held up by commentators as a pre-echo of the sonoristic developments in Polish music in the 1960s.  Curiously, Panufnik chose in his revisions of both pieces to cut out textural features that might have cemented this link to younger composers back in his native Poland.

Click here for the link to the article on Nocturne & Lullaby.

P.S.  I have not yet discovered why Nocturne was first published as Notturno.  Does anyone out there know?

• Panufnik Revised: 1. Tragic Overture

With last year’s Panufnik centenary and this year’s imminent publications – an expanded reissue of his autobiography (Toccata Press) and the English-language translation of Beata Bolesławska’s 2001 monograph (Ashgate) – it seems a good time to share a series of articles that I hope will shed new light on Panufnik’s music from his Polish period.

Panufnik was an inveterate reviser, but the post-war decade was also conditioned by his situation in communist Poland, especially by his decision to leave in 1954 and settle in England.  (Last October I put up a couple of posts and related articles on this latter topic: Panufnik’s Escape (1) ☛ article: Berne Legation Memo // Panufnik’s Escape (2)article: Scarlett’s Memoir.)

While I was preparing a conference paper for a Panufnik conference in Warsaw last September (‘Rustic – Heroic – Elegiac.  Panufnik and his Revisions’), I became aware of undiscussed processes of revision lying behind the compositions that were published first by PWM in Kraków and subsequently by Boosey & Hawkes in London.  I followed this up by examining autograph scores in Kraków.

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This little series will include just the orchestral pieces, which will be covered in chronological order over the coming weeks.  (Last December I also wrote about his first mass songs from 1948: Panufnik: One Song or Three? ☛ article: Panufnik’s 3 Songs for the PZPR.)  Future posts and articles will be on Nocturne, Lullaby, Sinfonia rustica, Symphony of Peace/Sinfonia elegiaca and Heroic Overture.  The first article is on Tragic Overture, his earliest surviving orchestral composition and one which is particularly interesting for his attention to graphic detail as it was prepared for publication.

• WL100/68: Nie oczekuję dziś nikogo (1959)

While I was in Warsaw last week, I popped into an antykwariat which specialises in journals and periodicals of all types.  It also has a comparatively desultory music section, but occasionally there are interesting things to find.  This time, among large-format song sheets (mainly inter-war German popular songs), I found a much flimsier and tinier item (it measured just 15cm x 21cm): the first publication (February 1963) of one of Lutosławski’s dance songs published under his pseudonym, ‘Derwid’.

NODN cover 1963

Nie oczekuję dziś nikogo (I’m not expecting anyone today, 1959, words by Zbigniew Kaszkur and Zbirniew Zapert) was Derwid’s most popular song (he wrote some three dozen c.1957-64).  Its melody first appeared on 3 January 1960 in Radio i Świat (Radio and the World), the Polish equivalent of the British Radio Times.  The cover of this mini song sheet features the singer Rena Rolska, then in her late twenties.  I did quite a bit of research on the Derwid songs in 1994 (‘Your Song is Mine’, The Musical Times, 1830 (August 1995), 403-10) and discovered that the refrain of this ‘slowfox’ (with its C minor walking bass and sharpened 4th) bore a striking resemblance to the opening of one of Lutosławski’s politicised mass songs, Najpiękniejszy sen (The most beautiful dream, 1950).  I’m sure the similarities were coincidental!

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Rolska recorded Nie oczekuję dziś nikogo in 1960, with the Polish Radio Dance Orchestra conducted by Ryszard Damrosz:

• WL100/63: Mi-parti, **22 October 1976

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One of the strangest aspects of this centenary year, and indeed of the performance and recording history since Lutosławski’s death almost twenty years ago, is the neglect of some works which during his lifetime were held in high regard.  The most notorious injustice relates to Livre pour orchestre, which I will return to in a later post.  Another example is Mi-parti, which Lutosławski wrote in 1975-76 and whose premiere he conducted with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam 37 years ago today.

During his lifetime, Lutosławski was the person who conducted Mi-parti most frequently.  His domination of its performance history is also true of many of his other orchestral and concertante works, which made for composer-authentic concert experiences but in the long run delayed much of his music’s entry into the repertoire of a broad range of career conductors.

As to professional concert performances over the past ten years, there have been only seven (excluding immediate repeat concerts), including just three in 2013, the third and most recent being by the Berlin Staatskapelle under Daniel Barenboim.  There have been five commercial recordings:

• WOSPR (NOSPR)/Lutosławski (EMI, rec. 1976; LP, reissued several times on CD)
• Prague Radio SO/Jacek Kasprzyk (Supraphon, rec. 1980; LP only)
• BBC PO/Yan Pascal Tortelier (Chandos, rec. 1993; CD)
• WOSPR (NOSPR)/Antoni Wit (Naxos, rec. 1997; CD)
• Warsaw National PO/Antoni Wit (CD Accord, rec. 2002; CD).

Chandos, with its magnificent 5-CD set of Lutosławski’s music, has inexplicably left out both works.  At least the Opera Omnia CD series by the Wrocław PO under Jacek Kaspszyk and Benjamin Shwartz will release both pieces in the near future.  On YouTube, Mi-parti has the thinnest of presences, with Lutosławski’s own recording accompanied by photographic artwork by the uploader: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laFCR96RPO4.

I would be very interested to hear what readers have to say about Mi-parti.  For me, it has a magical first section (although Lutosławski sometimes expressed doubts about it) whose essential idea he seems to have had in mind when composing the first section of the Fourth Symphony sixteen years later.  The second section is one of his most pulsating, the climax interrupted by trumpets (echoes of the Cello Concerto).  The coda is especially haunting. Perhaps the trouble is that it isn’t a ‘symphony’ so, like Livre, it is being left on the sidelines in the age of convenience programming.

…….

When I was researching in Lutosławski’s house in 2002, I came across many fascinating items: marked-up books, his conducting scores, a folder of folk-tune materials and a particular folder headed “ŚCIĄGACZKI” (Crib Sheets). Inside were separate pieces of MS paper connected with his work on LivreLes espaces du sommeilMi-parti and the Fourth Symphony.  Here are the two relating to Mi-parti.  They come from the second, fast section (apologies for the slightly fuzzy images).

The first is a ‘short-score’ reduction for the first eight bars of fig. 28.  The two lines represent the trumpets and trombones, whose individual purchase on the melodic line is fully worked out in the score (07’59”-08’09” on the accompanying YouTube video).

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The second is more sketchy.  Indeed, it consists only of a (sometimes biforcated) rhythmic line.  It tracks the score from fig. 29 (i.e., two bars after the first ‘crib sheet’ stops short) as far as the third bar of fig. 35.  Although at times the link between sketch and score may seem tenuous, the sketch is consistent with the final product even if Lutosławski does use notational shorthand at times and darts from one instrumental group to another.  Effectively, this ‘crib sheet’ presents the main rhythmic template, an aide-mémoire as he worked the idea up into this extrovert, hocketing passage that leads shortly afterwards to the work’s climax (08’12”-09’09” on the accompanying YouTube video).

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