• BBC R3 ‘Polska!’: Brochure & Previews

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 20.26.52For its main Polska! image, the BBC chose a still photograph by Eustachy Kossakowski of a 1967 happening by one of Poland’s most exploratory theatre directors, Tadeusz Kantor.  It was taken at Osieki on the north-west Polish coast during ‘A Sea Concert’.  Kossakowski took a number of photos of the event.  Here are a couple, including the one which furnished Polska! with its striking image:

A Sea Concert:1

Tadeusz-Kantor Eustachy Kossakowski Panoramic Sea Happening, Osieki, 1967

Ironically, although it was understandable for practical reasons on radio, Kantor did not feature in the drama coverage of Polska!.  The ‘conductor’ was the Polish artist Edward Krasiński, best known perhaps for his introduction a year later of a wide blue sellotape line that wove its way through his installations.

Here is the complete publicity brochure for the festival.

Polska! brochure cover

Polska! brochure:1

Polska! brochure:2

Polska! brochure:3

Polska! brochure:4

Polska! brochure:5

Early publicity was key.  But there is always one disaffected voice carping from the sidelines, warping both the intention and the actuality.  In this instance, it was Dermot Clinch in his ‘A Critical Guide: Staying In (Friday)’, The Independent on Sunday, 14 November 1993:

Polska! (7.30pm-12.30am R3).  Gone are the days of single programmes based simply on a single idea. It’s theme nights and seasons all the way.  Today, the start of Polish fortnight – and what more beguiling hook than the “75th anniversary of the reconstitution of Poland as an independent state”?  Including: Szymanowski’s String Quartet no.2 (7.45pm) and Lutoslawski’s Fourth Symphony (11.15pm).  And then the big names: Zarebski, Krupowicz, Palester…

The anticipatory response elsewhere was overwhelmingly positive.  Here are six preview pieces (I’ll post reviews later): one by myself, one from the radio critic of The Sunday Times, a short contribution from the senior music critic from The Guardian, plus an interview with me in London’s Dziennik Polski and two pieces from Warsaw’s Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpozpolita.

• Adrian Thomas, ‘Cultural glories of the great survivors’, The Times, 19 November 1993
• Ewa Turska, ‘Sezon polski w BBC’, Rzeczpozpolita, 19 November 1993
• Dorota Szwarcman, ‘Sezon polski w BBC 3’, Gazeta Wyborcza, 19 November 1993
• Paul Donovan, ‘Radio Waves: Poles without politics’, The Sunday Times, 21 November 1993
• Tomasz Walkiewicz, ‘Jestem zauroczony tym krajem’ (interview with Adrian Thomas), Dziennik Polski, 22 November 1993
• Andrew Clements, ‘Diary: Polishing up Radio 3’, The Guardian, 23 November 1993

Polska! Thomas

Polska! Turska

Polska! Szwarcman

Polska! Donovan

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 14.25.34

Polska! Clements

• Penderecki Festival, 17-23 November 2013

KP brochure 11:2013:1I have been remiss in not uploading details of the major Polish celebration of Krzysztof Penderecki’s 80th birthday, which falls on this coming Saturday, 23 November.  A week-long festival is taking place in Warsaw and boasts a star-studded line-up of soloists and conductors.  It encompasses his orchestral, choral and chamber music from over 50 years and is a well-chosen survey that demonstrates his unique contribution to the music of our times, ranging from the Three Miniatures for clarinet and piano (1956), through Strophes (1959), the (in)famous Threnody to the victims of Hiroshima (1960) and Dimensions of Time and Silence (1961) and on to the style-changing First Violin Concerto (1976).  The most recent works are the Double Concerto for violin and viola (2012) and Missa brevis (2012).  There are four of the symphonies: no.2 ‘Christmas’ (1980), no. 4 ‘Adagio’ (1989), no.7 ‘Seven Gates of Jerusalem’ (1996) and no.8 ‘Songs of Transience’ (2005/2007).  Choral music includes Credo (1998) and Kaddish (2009).  There is a good deal of chamber music, including the three string quartets (1960, 1968, 2008), plus two works by other composers, Aulis Sallinen and Paul Patterson.  Here’s the brochure.

KP brochure 11:2013:2

KP brochure 11:2013:3

KP brochure 11:2013:4

KP brochure 11:2013:5

KP brochure 11:2013:6

KP brochure 11:2013:7

KP brochure 11:2013:8

KP brochure 11:2013:9

KP brochure 11:2013:10

KP brochure 11:2013:11

KP brochure 11:2013:12

KP brochure 11:2013:13

KP brochure 11:2013:14

KP brochure 11:2013:15

KP brochure 11:2013:16

KP brochure 11:2013:17

KP brochure 11:2013:18

KP brochure 11:2013:19

• BBC R3 ‘Polska!’: 19 November 1993

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 20.26.52Twenty years ago today I was in Warsaw preparing to present my first ever live concert, and I could hardly have chosen a more publicised event.  I was at Studio S1 at Polish Radio, broadcasting to BBC Radio 3 for the opening concert of Polska!, the most extensive celebration of any nation’s culture mounted by a single BBC channel.  For 18 days, from 19 November to 6 December 1993, Radio 3 broadcast over 120 separate programmes involving producers, writers, performers and broadcasters not only from the musical world but many others too: poetry, fiction, drama, art, cabaret, history, cuisine, politics.

In late 1992, I was working as Head of Music at Radio 3.  I was wondering how the station might celebrate the 60th birthdays, at the end of the following year, of Krzysztof Penderecki (23 November) and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (6 December) as well as mark the 80th birthday of Witold Lutosławski at the start of the 1993.  (Little did we know that Lutosławski had already been diagnosed with cancer as Polska! began and that he would die in February 1994.)  I went to discuss the idea of a festival with the Controller of Radio 3, Nicholas Kenyon, and we quickly realised that we had the resources to organise something really special, involving not only all the BBC orchestras and the BBC Singers but the other departments which contributed to the rich variety of Radio 3’s programming.  If I remember correctly, it was Nicholas Kenyon who came up with the title and he was unreservedly enthusiastic and encouraging.  And so Polska! was born.

Polska!

Over the next 18 days, I will be posting occasionally about Polska!, its live and recorded music repertoire, its non-musical programmes, the press coverage in the UK and in Poland, and including as many direct images of press reviews etc. as possible.

Although I had left the channel at the end of June 1993, I remained deeply involved in the planning and programming of Polska! and was slated to do some of the presentation, both in Poland and the UK.  Hence my ‘continuity’ presence in Warsaw on 19 November.  A flavour of the musical breadth of the festival may be gathered from that evening’s five-hour opener, ‘Poland Now’ (a second blockbuster came towards the end of the festival).

Homma 1993

The opening evening’s main feature was the live broadcast from Polish Radio 2.  The first half was devoted to chamber music (I was intent on including the then-neglected Zarębski Piano Quintet, which today has a deservedly higher profile), while the second consisted of contemporary vocal repertoire (including Paweł Szymański’s recent Miserere, a commission from Polish Radio).

Polska! Programme 19.11.93

In the interval, for ‘A Musician’s Lot’, I talked with Szymański and two other Polish composers – Rafał Augustyn and Zygmunt Krauze –  as well as to the pianist Paweł Kowalski, to Monika Strugała, one of the organisers of the choral festival Wratislavia Cantans, to Elżbieta Szczepańska, Head of Promotion at the music publisher PWM, and to Andrzej Rakowski, a professor at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and the author of a recent report on music education in Poland.

In the 45′ profile of Polish political life – still a compelling issue four years after the ‘Round Table’ conference of 1989 had restored a level of democracy to the country – Piotr Kowalczuk was joined by Krzysztof Bobiński (Financial Times), the writer and lawyer Wiktor Osiatyński and Andrzej Wróblewski (Polityka), among others.

A second recent Polish Radio commission followed – Stanisław Krupowicz’s Fin-de-siècle, introduced by the composer and performed by WOSPR (Polish Radio Great SO), conducted by Takao Ukigaya.  For ‘A Composer’s Lot’, I was joined again by Augustyn, Krauze and Szymański, by three other composers, Krupowicz, Hanna Kulenty and Marta Ptaszyńska, and by Grzegorz Michalski from Polish Radio 2 and Elżbieta Szczepańska from PWM.

We were then able to draw on that year’s ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival when Lutosławski had conducted a complete programme of his own music with the Warsaw PO (it turned out to be his last appearance on the podium in Poland). He talked with me about the Fourth Symphony to introduce the broadcast.  Palester’s Adagio for Strings (1954) was performed by Sinfonia Varsovia under Jan Krenz.

The evening had begun with a specially recorded performance by Piers Lane of Chopin’s Etudes op.10 (virtually all of Chopin’s music was played during Polska! and Lane bookended the festival on 6 December with the Etudes op.25).  It ended with Szymanowski’s Myths and, like every subsequent evening of the festival, the last notes were left to one or more of Szymanowski’s mazurkas.

• Górecki memento/2: photo 1997

Here’s a photo taken in October 1997 (during the ‘Górecki Autumn’ festival in Los Angeles) in the house of Stefan and Wanda Wilk, the founders of the Polish Music Center at USC.  I think he was trying to teach me a góral version of Chopsticks.  A happy memory to soften the realisation that today is the third anniversary of his death.

gorthomasI also wrote a post on this day in 2011: Song of Joy and Rhythm.

• WL100/54: Lutosławski and Panufnik (1945)

Here are two forgotten assessments of Lutosławski and Panufnik from 1945.  I think that this is the first time that this material has been seen in modern times.  On one of my rummages in second-hand bookshops in Kraków, back in the 1990s, I came across a bundle of concert programme, one of which I featured in an earlier Lutosławski post: WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939.  This second programme, which I explored in the preceding post WL100/53: Trio, **2 September 1945, has the biographies of the five composers on the back page.  In fact, the biographical elements on Lutosławski and Panufnik take second place to assessments of the composers’ creative personae.  It is not indicated who wrote them.  I’ve translated the two for Lutosławski and Panufnik below.

WL program 2.09.45 4

WITOLD LUTOSŁAWSKI b. 1913 represents the youngest generation of Polish composers and, among them, the direction of the “extreme left”.  This avant-gardism expresses itself in Lutoslawski in the openly fanatical pursuit of logic and rigour in the design of his prevailing use of polyphony as a means towards these goals, searching absolutely for his own sound world, as far removed as possible from that used by previous generations of composers.  It is especially interesting to find that this avant-gardism appeared in Lutoslawski independently, as an expression of his own internal needs.  During his studies he found no external stimulus in this direction, nor did the environment in which he grew up and was educated have the slightest intrusive impact.  He completed his music studies at the Warsaw Conservatory in the class of Witold Maliszewski, one of the representatives of the most conservative tendency among our composers and teachers.
Among the most important works by Lutoslawski we may mention: Piano Sonatas (which he has performed several times), Symphonic Variations (performed at the Wawel Festival in 1939), Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos, fragments of a Requiem, piano pieces and songs.  Currently he is working on a symphony, of which the first movement is already fully completed, the rest in sketches.

This biography is fascinating for several reasons: (1) the placing of Lutosławski as a radical “extreme left” composer on the basis, presumably, of his main composition so far, the Symphonic Variations, (2) the early indication of his life-long desire for logic and rigour, (3) the emphasis on polyphonic writing (with only a few pieces as evidence) as distinct from the later emphasis on harmony, (4) the strong statement about Lutosławski’s independence from external sources and events (something which he reiterated over and again until the end of his life), and (5) the deliberate distancing from his teacher Maliszewski, whom later he often cited as a key influence on his structural thinking while recognising Maliszewski’s disapproval of the Symphonic Variations.  Given the strength of opinion expressed in this paragraph, it wouldn’t surprise me at least if it was written by the unknown author on the basis of a detailed briefing from the composer.  I don’t have the feeling that Lutosławski penned it himself (see the error mentioned in the paragraph below).

The list of works curiously multiplies the Piano Sonata.  This is the only time that I have read any suggestion that there might be more than one!  It also reveals where Lutosławski was in the composition of the First Symphony (1941-47).  We may now date the completion of the first movement as by August 1945 at the latest, with the other three movements being finished over the following two years.

ANDRZEJ PANUFNIK, whose “Tragic Overture” was such a success in Kraków’s last concert season*, is the second strong supporter – alongside Lutosławski – of radical trends among our youngest composers. And with him at the forefront, the quest for the greatest formal logic is advancing, and for the most part he experiments with clearly positive results in the pursuit of a new musical language.  At the same time, a very specific note of lyricism is revealed in his music, which gives his pieces the most distinctive physiognomy.
Panufnik is the author of: Variations for piano, Trio for violin, cello and piano, Folk Songs with wind instr. accomp., Songs with chamber orchestra, “Tragic Overture”, Orchestral Variations, Symphonic Image and two symphonies.
As an outstandingly gifted conductor himself, he is the best performer of his symphonic works.  In recent times, he has worked regularly with the Polish Film Unit in Łódż.

Panufnik’s biography is interesting for largely different reasons.  He has long been regarded as the most experimental Polish composer of the second half of the 1940s, so it is fascinating to see that he already bore this mantle in 1945 with a work like Tragic Overture (1942, reconstructed 1945) and that the lyrical side of his music achieves prominent notice at a moment when he was focusing on tight motivic cells.  The list of works includes some that had been lost during the Second World War and have generally been left out of his list of works since, including his early student Variations for piano, the Symphonic Variations – which Panufnik had conducted in the graduation concert – and Symphonic Image (both works were composed during Panufnik’s last year at the Warsaw Conservatoire, 1935-36) as well as the two symphonies (1940, 1941).**  The Songs with chamber orchestra are unidentifiable.

…….

* The dates of the wartime premiere in Warsaw of Tragic Overture vary according to the source: the Polish Encyklopedia Muzyczna and Panufnik’s autobiography Composing Myself give 1943, while the monographs by Beata Bolesławska and Ewa Siemdaj give 19 March 1944.  As to the premiere in Kraków of the reconstructed score, Siemdaj gives 10 January 1946, but this leaflet indicates that it was given sometime during the 1944-45 season.
** In his autobiography, Panufnik noted: ‘I then decided to try to rescue my Symphony no.1.  But here my memory faltered and the results were disappointing.  I performed it in one of our symphony concerts, but afterwards destroyed the score.  With that I renounced further reconstruction work…’.  Concert programmes from Kraków indicate that Panufnik conducted the premiere of his reconstructed First Symphony on 30 November 1945, and again on 6 December.

• WL100/53: Trio, **2 September 1945

With this programme leaflet, the precise date of the premiere of Lutosławski’s Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1944-45) can be determined.  It has long been known that it was given its first performance in Kraków during the Festival of Contemporary Polish Music (1-4 September 1945).  This leaflet indicates that the premiere was on Sunday 2 September, which was also the final day of the Congress of the Union of Composers (subsequently known as the Union of Polish Composers, ZKP), held 29 August – 2 September to galvanise Poland’s musical life in the immediate post-war months.  Lutosławski was appointed Secretary-Treasurer of the new union during the congress.

WL program 2.09.45 1

The programme of this Chamber Concert does not specify that this was the premiere of the Trio, but then it also fails to do the same for at least one of the other pieces.  The previously understood details of the premiere of Andrzej Panufnik’s Five Folk Songs (later known in English as Five Polish Peasant Songs, 1940, reconstructed 1945) were only that the piece was premiered during this festival under the young conductor and composer Stanisław Skrowaczewski (b.1923).  The details here give not only the date, but also the full complement of players, under a different conductor and composer, Artur Malawski (1904-57).

WL program 2.09.45 2

Also in the first half of the programme were several piano pieces by Jan Ekier (who celebrated his 100th birthday four days ago), most of them written before the war.

The second half of the programme focused on Roman Padlewski (1915-44) , whose death in valour during the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 was one of the greatest losses to Polish music during the Second World War. Padlewski’s first and third string quartets were destroyed during the Uprising, but the Second Quartet (1940-42) survived.  I don’t know if it was performed in one of Warsaw’s secret concerts during the war or whether this was its premiere.  It was preceded here by Tryptyk żałobny (Mourning Triptych), by Tadeusz Kassern (1904-57), which was based on melodies from a 16th-century hymnal and dedicated to Padlewski’s memory.

WL program 2.09.45 3

• WL100/52: His Last BBC Prom

Twenty years ago today, on Friday 27 August 1993, Lutosławski was in London to conduct the BBC SO in the UK premiere of his Fourth Symphony.  It was to be his last visit to this country, as he died on 7 February the following year.  Before the concert, looking fit and fired up for the performance, he talked to me about the new piece and answered questions from members of the Proms audience.

WL&AT, Proms, 27.08.93

And here’s an article/interview by Stephen Johnson published the same day in The Independent.

Johnson:WL article 27.08.93

• WL100/49: 22 July 1949 and a letter

In 1999, in a Polish archive, I came across a letter that was something of a surprise, to put it mildly.  Dated 8 April 1950, the letter was from Lutosławski to the Board of the Polish Composers’ Union ZKP, concerning its special call for scores (27 March).  The Composers’ Union letter had read:

To members of the ZKP, with the exception of musicologists and non-residents.

In connection with the forthcoming Festival of Polish Music, which will take place between November 1950 and March 1951, we kindly request prompt replies to the following questions:

1. What are you composing, or planning to compose, with the intention of submitting to the festival?  You should give an indication of the proposed title, the make-up of the ensemble, the duration and the completion date of the composition, on the understanding that

(a) pieces for symphonic forces should be sent in by September 1, 1950,
(b) smaller pieces for amateur, chamber or choral ensembles, and mass songs should be sent in by July 15, 1950, to the festival office: ul. Zgoda 15, Warsaw.

2. What ameliorations (journeys, vacations) as well as what expenses do you anticipate?

Irrespective of any grant which might be awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Art, the pieces which you send in could be commissioned by the Composers’ Commissioning Board of the ZKP or by other institutions, for example Polish Radio, the House of the Polish Army, the Union of Polish Youth, etc.  Pieces of the second type (under 1.b) are particularly sought by the festival Committee.

…….

The contents of Lutosławski’s reply are astonishing, especially in light of his later comments on his music of the late 40s and early 50s, when socialist realism was at its height.  Here is his letter, with my translation.

WL letter re Lipcowy wieniec

Warsaw, 8-IV-1950
To the Board of ZKP

In rep[ly] to the enquiry dated 27-III-1950 (L.Dz.565/50), I notify you that:

1.a) – I cannot yet at this moment give detailed information relating to the symphonic work proposed by me for the Festival. I would request the possibility of submitting it later.
b) – relating to broadly-based music I offer: 1) A folk suite for unison choir, solo voices and small orchestra, ent[itled] “COURTSHIP,” dur. c. 20′.  The score and parts are to be found at Polish Radio.  2) A triptych for solo baritone, male-voice choir and symphony orchestra ent[itled] “JULY GARLAND” (a piece written to words by K. I. Gałczyński, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the July Manifesto), dur. c.10′.  The score is to be found at the House of the Polish Army.  Please pass on the above-mentioned notification to the Festival organisers. –
Witold Lutosławski

That Lutosławski should have composed a work with such a blatant political purpose is extraordinary.  It never surfaced during his lifetime – it never appeared in his list of works – and one suspects that he had blanked it, understandably, from his memory.  Although its link with the preceding post – WL100/48: 22 July 1944 – is self-evident, much else remains to be explained.  The next post – WL100/50: Volcano in Łowicz – looks at Lutosławski’s collaboration with Gałczyński (1905-53), one of Poland’s most distinguished poets.

• WL100/44: Paroles tissées, **20 June 1965

Lutosławski probably met Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears for the first time in 1961, when they came to perform at the 5th ‘Warsaw Autumn’.  Their programme included three of Berg’s Seven Early Songs (‘Nacht’, ‘Im Zimmer’ and ‘Die Nachtigall’), Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo and Sechs Hölderlin-Fragmente, Poulenc’s Tel jour, telle nuit and Tippett’s Boyhood’s End.  This photo from their Warsaw visit was taken by Andrzej Zborski.

283ae1dcee_1190407134photo

A commission from Aldeburgh soon followed, but Lutosławski missed the deadline for the 1963 Festival.  Instead, Britten conducted the first concert performance of Lutosławski’s Dance Preludes in the version for clarinet and chamber orchestra (with Gervase de Peyer and the English CO).   Lutosławski later recalled that Britten hadn’t realised how difficult this version was because of the polymetric divisions between soloist and orchestra.  He apparently had an attack of nerves during the performance and stopped for a moment in order to find out where he was in the score.

Lutosławski eventually produced the score of Paroles tissées in time for the 1965 Aldeburgh Festival, and he conducted the piece there on 20 June, with its dedicatee Peter Pears and the Philomusica of London.  It is quite likely that Lutosławski stayed on in the UK for a few more days to hear Colin Davis conduct the Concerto for Orchestra on 25 June, with the London SO at the Royal Festival Hall.  This was possibly the work’s first UK concert performance, though it had been recorded for the BBC in 1958.

Here’s a video of Pears and Lutosławski reprising their partnership ten years later, this time with the Chamber Ensemble of the Warsaw National Philharmonic, on 25 September 1975, during the 19th ‘Warsaw Autumn’.  Check out Lutosławski’s natty get-up!

• Lutosławski Report (Warsaw, 2013)

The Institute of Music and Dance in Warsaw has today issued a Report on the presence of Witold Lutosławski’s music in the musical life of Poland and the world.  Its author is Ewa Cichoń.  It covers mainly the years since Lutosławski’s death in 1994, up to the end of 2012.  The report, which exists in English and Polish pdfs (links below), contains a wide range of data:

• Performances in Poland and abroad
• Selected festivals in Poland
• CD recordings
• Literature
• Literature – list of publications
• Films and DVDs
• Programmes broadcast on TVP (Polish TV)
• Websites devoted to Lutosławski
• Researchers and promoters
• Institutions
• Institutions, festivals, competitions bearing Lutosławski’s name
• Others connected with Lutosławski
• Musical works dedicated to Lutosławski
• A public survey on Lutosławski
• Appendix: Publication of Lutosławski’s works
• Appendix: Broadcasts on Polish Radio

• English-language version of the report
• Polish-language version of the report

%d bloggers like this: