• ‘Warsaw Autumn’ 2016 news

8c9180d245_WJ2016The 59th ‘Warsaw Autumn’ takes place this year 16-24 September.  Its central programme will be ‘multimedialny, parateatralny and parasceniczny’ (to borrow the Polish descriptions in the advance notice).  Highlights include:

• the Warsaw premiere of Paweł Mykietyn’s opera The Magic Mountain (2015)
• Sławomir Wojciechowski’s multimedia opera Aaron S (2016), a tribute to the internet activist Aaron Swartz
• Juliana Hodkinson’s assemblage (radio play/film soundtrack/instrumental theatre) Angel View (2014)
• Olga Neuwirth’s video-opera Lost Highway (2002-03)
• Fabian Panisello’s chamber opera Le Malentendu (2016)
• Salvatore Sciarrino’s opera Luci mie traditrici (1996-98), ‘ecstasy in one act’ Infinito Nero (1998), Shadow of Sound (2005) and other pieces

• Bôłt & 58th ‘Warsaw Autumn’ CDs

More Polish CD goodies came through the post this morning.  First there was a selection of five new releases from the innovative Bôłt Records.  I’m particularly intrigued by three CDs exploring Schubert’s Winterreise.  Details of these and other releases may be found on Bôłt’s English-language website.

IMG_8446 copySecondly, I opened the boxed set of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ sound chronicle for 2015 (six CDs).  This annual post-Christmas gift is not available commercially but is distributed to institutions and interested parties by the Polish Music Information Centre, and it is always a treat to savour.  As in recent years, the bulk of the recordings is of non-Polish music, and several of the main festival events – indoor and outdoor installations, music theatre – would not have suited the CD format.  Here’s the complete list of recordings (Polish composers in bold, ** = world premiere, * = Polish premiere):

CD1
• Alvin Lucier: Slices for cello and orchestra (2007)* 20’49”
Lidia Zielińska: Sinfonia concertante for small sound devices, small percussion and large orchestra (2014-15)**  26’13”
• Helmut Lachenmann: Air for percussion and large orchestra (1968-69, rev. 1994)  17’42”
• Justė Janulytė: Textile for orchestra (2006-08)*  10’55”

CD2
• Philippe Manoury: Zones de turbulences for two pianos and orchestra (2013)* 13’47”
• Simon Steen-Andersen: Double Up for sampler and small orchestra (2010)*  17’23”
• Ken Ueno: …blood blossoms… for amplified sextet (2002)*  11’45”
Marta Śniady: aer for clarinet/bass clarinet and chamber ensemble (2014)  19’25”
• Stefan Prins: Fremdkörper #3 (mit Michael Jackson) for cgamber ensemble and sampler (2010)*  13’10”

CD3
Jerzy Kornowicz: Wielkie Przejście (The Big Crossing) for piano and other concertante instruments and orchestra (2013)*  19’56”
• Carola Bauckholt: Emil will nicht schlafen… for voice and orchestra (2010)*  9’31”
• José María Sánchez-Verdú: Mural for large orchestra (2009-10)*  15’36”
• Phill Niblock: Baobab for orchestra (2011)*  22’05”

CD4
Paweł Hendrich: Pteropetros for accordion, wind quintet and string quartet (2015)**  15’08”
• Raphaël Cendo: In Vivo for string quartet (2008-11)*  19’45”
Michał Pawełek: Ephreia for string quartet, wind quintet and electronics (2008, new version 2015)**  20’45”
• Alex Mincek: …it conceals within itself… for string trio and piano (2007)*  10’25”

CD5
• Johannes Schöllhorn: Niemandsland for ensemble (2009)*  19’56”
• Vito Žuraj: Re-slide for solo trombone and ensemble (2012, rev. 2015)**  14’39”
Szymon Stanisław Strzelec: L’Atelier de sensorité for amplified prepared cello and chamber orchestra (2015)**  9’55”
• Ragnild Berstad: Cardinem for large ensemble (2014)*  12’11”
• Giacinto Scelsi: Anahit for violin and 18 instruments (1965)  11’31”

CD6 ‘Young Composers’ Carte Blanche’ (prizewinners of the 6th Zygmunt Mycielski Composition Competition)
Dominik Lasota: Concerto for Eight Instruments (2015)**  11’11”
Fabian Rynkowicz: Chaos for ensemble (2015)**  7’39”
• Aruto Matsumoto: Reunion for ensemble (2015)**  9’06”
Marcin Piotr Łopacki: Musica concertante op.74 for ensemble (2015)**  10’07”
Aleksandra Chmielewska: Trans-4-mation for ensemble (2015)**  6’16”
Żaneta Rydzewska: MorE for ensemble (2015)**  11’19”

• Warsaw Autumn 2015: DYNAMISTATYKA

postersThis year’s ‘Warsaw Autumn’ programme has just been announced under the banner ‘Dynamistatyka’, which is intended to represent the ‘constant change’ between music of ‘stopped time’ and music of ‘action’ (cf. Krzysztof Wołek’s title below).  Following the trend in recent years, the Polish content has to jostle for prominence with music from outside Poland.  Non-Polish composers whose music is receiving a Polish premiere include Alvin Lucier, Philippe Manoury, Hans Abrahamsen, Ray Lee, Masami Akita (Merzbow), Toshio Hosokawa, Phill Niblock, Carola Bauckholt, José-Maria Sánchez-Verdú, La Monte Young, James Dillon, Kasper Teodor Toeplitz, Ken Ueno, Stefan Prins, Raphäel Cendo, Johannes Schöllhorn, Ragnild Berstad, Vito Žuraj, Matthew Herbert, Simon Steen-Andersen, Michael Beil, Justė Janulytė and Rolf Wallin.

The main Polish content is listed below.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the most anticipated event will be the world premiere of LOST by Jagoda Szmytka.

Artur Zagajewski (b.1978): installation Wings**
Włodzimierz Kotoński (1925-2014), a posthumous 90th birthday tribute: Study on One Cymbal Stroke, Microstructures, AELA, Eurydice, Les Ailes,  Antiphonae, Tierra caliente
Krzysztof Knittel (b.1947): sound installation: As If They Weren’t Here, Or The Revolt at Królikarnia**  WA commission
Lidia Zielińska (b.1953): Sinfonia concertante for percussion, everyday objects and orchestra**
Zygmunt Krauze (b.1938): outdoor presentation Idyll 2**  WA commission
Paweł Szymański (b.1954): Partita III
Witold Szalonek (1927-2001): Improvisations sonoristiques
Krzysztof Wołek (b.1976): Motions, Stases
Marta Śniady (b.1986): aer
Paweł Hendrich (b.1979): Pteropetros**
Michał Pawełek (b.1978): Ephreia**
Szymon Stanisław Strzelec (b.1990): L’Atelier de sensorité**  WA commission
Jagoda Szmytka (b.1982): LOST**  WA commission
Jerzy Kornowicz (b.1959): Big Transition**

Other events include: 

• 2 Polish Composers’ Union Youth Circle concerts
• Polish Composers’ Union Warsaw Branch concert
• Kraków Music Academy student concert

• A tribute to Józef Patkowski, founder in 1957 of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio
• Conference ‘The Musical Language of Modern Polish Composers: An Autoreflection’
• Computer Sound Modelling Workshop, led by Wojciech Błażejczyk (b.1981)

• Panufnik, Penderecki, Zubel

To add to forthcoming Polish music events in the UK, there are two celebrations this month, in Glasgow and Manchester.  Next Saturday and Sunday (20-21 June), ‘Panufnik. A Celebration’ takes place at City Halls, Glasgow, with three concerts devoted almost entirely to his music.  A few days later (23-26 June), the RNCM in Manchester hosts ‘Seven Gates: The Music of Poland Explored’. Penderecki will conduct the first UK performance (!) of his Seven Gates of Jerusalem, only 18 years after it was premiered; his music and that of the much younger Agata Zubel (b.1978) take the foreground.  Lutosławski features at both events in a supporting role, with Górecki and Szymanowski also included in Manchester.  The Manchester repertoire has some little-known Penderecki works embedded in it, and of the three films Andrzej Wajda’s feature on Katyń and Wiktor Skrzynecki’s documentary about the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ will be well worth seeing.  For repertoire details, see below.

While I am delighted that these composers are being played and heard, I can’t help feeling that the repertoires of both events reinforce the impression in the UK that Polish music still consists of composers (Zubel excepted) who are either dead or reaching their creative dotage.  The one exception in this country, largely confined to sacred music, is Paweł Łukaszewski (b.1968), who has made a strong impact in choral circles here and was featured last year at the Presteigne Festival, which also promoted another Polish composer in his 40s but little-known in the UK, Maciej Zieliński (b.1971).  Zubel’s music is especially welcome this year in this context, and anyone wanting to hear her recent music, but who can’t get to Manchester, is recommended to seek out her CD ‘Not I’ on the Kairos label.

In case you missed it, Hyperion released a CD earlier this year of string quartets by Paweł Szymański (b.1954) and Paweł Mykietyn (b.1971), both of whom are well-established and no longer up-and-coming in Poland yet are virtually unknown here, despite Szymański having had some exposure with the London Sinfonietta some 25 years ago.  I am still waiting for high-profile performances of composers now in their 30s, like Szymański was when the BBC commissioned Partita IV for premiere at the Sonorities Festival in Belfast in 1987.  What about – and this is to name just a few composers in addition to Zubel, some deeply involved in multi-media work, who are headline figures in Poland and have international profiles elsewhere – Wojtek Blecharz (b.1981), Andrzej Kwieciński (b.1984), Dariusz Przybylski (b.1984), Marcin Stańczyk (b.1977) or Jagoda Szmytka (b.1982)?  There are dozens more (by focusing on those born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I am not forgetting that there are older – even younger – composers equally worthy of investigation!).

…….

Panufnik.  A Celebration
City Halls, Glasgow, 20-21 June 2015

BBC Scottish SO, conducted by Łukasz Borowicz, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Ewa Kupiec

Panufnik: Divertimento, after Janiewicz (1947), Lullaby (1947), Sinfonia rustica (1948), Polonia (1959), Piano Concerto (1961/several times revised), Sinfonia sacra (1963), Violin Concerto (1971), Symphony 10 (1988), unidentified piano music
Lutosławski: unidentified piano music

…….

Seven Gates: The Music of Poland Explored
RNCM, Manchester, 23-26 June 2015

RNCM New Ensemble, Dominic Degavino, RNCM SO, Chamber Choir and Chorus, Piero Lombardi Eglesias, Maciej Tworek, Krzysztof Penderecki (other soloists and ensembles tba)

Penderecki: Violin Sonata no.1 (1953), Three Miniatures for clarinet and piano (1956), Brigade of Death (tape, 1963), Agnus Dei (1981, arranged for eight cellos), Cadenza for solo viola (1984), Entrata (1994), Symphony no.7 ‘Seven Gates of Jerusalem’ (1996), String Quartet no.3 (2008),
Górecki: Harpsichord Concerto (1980)
Lutosławski: Dance Preludes (1954), Chain 1 (1983), Piano Concerto (1988)
Szymanowski: Songs of a Fairytale Princess (1915), Masques (1916)
Zubel: Suite for percussion trio (2011), Streets of a Human City (2011), Shades of Ice (2011)

Films:
• Katyń (Andrzej Wajda, 2007)
• Górecki: The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Tony Palmer, 1993, not 2008 as given in the brochure)
• 50 years of [the] Warsaw Autumn (Wiktor Skrzynecki, 2007)

• ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Chronicle 2014

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 15.46.52The days are long gone when the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Sound Chronicle contained only Polish repertoire.  The seven CDs of recordings from last year’s 57th festival have just been delivered by my postie and I can’t wait to delve into them, not least because of their mix of Polish and non-Polish pieces.  The boxed set is not available commercially but is made available to libraries, broadcasters and researchers on request to the Polish Music Information Centre.

Among the 2014 highlights are a blistering account of Serocki’s Pianophonie, intriguing sounds from Blecharz (although the work’s visual impact is missing), and a group of young composers from Kraków.  There are a few Polish absences from the festival programme, such as Hanna Kulenty’s Van… for piano four hands (2014)** and Andrzej Kwieciński’s Concerto. Re maggiore for harpsichord and orchestra (new version, 2013)**.  Here is the list of contents (Polish repertoire in bold).

CD1
Kazimierz Serocki: Pianophonie for piano, orchestra and electronic sound transformation (1978)  28’38”  with new computerised sound synthesis
• Jonathan Harvey: Body Mandala  14’33”
Marcin Stańczyk: Sighs for chamber orchestra (2008/2010-12)*  15’05”
• Simon Steen-Andersen: Ouvertures  17’06”

CD2
Jakub Sarwas:  Crépuscule du soir mystique for soprano and ensemble (2000-14)**  12’49”
Wojtek Blecharz: [one][year][later] for countertenor, flute, erhu, pipa, guzheng, yang qin and percussion (2014)**  23’30”
• Zygmunt Krauze: Rivière souterraine 2 for orchestra and electronics (2013)  19’09”
• Tansy Davies: Spiral House  22’49”

CD3
• Artur Zagajewski: brut for cello and ensemble (2014)  14’23”
• Philippe Leroux: Le cri de la pierre  8’44”
• Benjamin de la Fuente: Frôle  14’51”
• Ernesto Molinari & Theo Nabicht: 29,4 : 174,61  7’54”
• Leopold Hurt: Gatter  15’51”
• Raphaël Cendo: Action Painting  14’09”

CD4
• Wenchen Qin: Listen to the Valleys  11’31”
• Wenjing Guo: Late Spring  5’37”
• Guohui Ye: 964•Heterophony  9’49”
• Tato Taborda: Estratos  18’44”
• Canela Palacios: La permanencia  10’46”
• Cergio Prudencio: Cantos ofertorios  21’03”

CD5
• Mr Pebblestone in the World of Sounds**  22’05”  part of ‘Little Warsaw Autumn’: 12 minatures on earth, water, fire and air by twelve composers from the Kraków Academy of Music: Natalia Wojnakowska, Szymon Stanisław Strzelec, Renāte Stivriņa, Błażej Wincenty Kozłowski, Nadim Husni, Piotr Peszat, Piotr Roemer, Monika Szpyrka, Franciszek Araszkiewicz, Paulina Łuciuk, Martyna Kosecka and Kamil Kruk
• Cezary Duchnowski: Parallels for piano, MIDI keyboard, percussion and cello (2014)**  9’11”
• Wojciech Zimowit Zych: Roundflow/Throughflow/Outflow for eight spatially amplified cellos (2014)**  9’16”
• Szymon Stanisław Strzelec: The Hâsbeiya Fountain for spatially arranged ensemble (2012-13)  11’19”
Piotr Roemer: Re-Sublimations for strings and percussion (2012)  11’04”
Piotr Peszat: Interiør in Strandgarde for orchestra (2014)*  9’06”
Kamil Kruk: Parhelion for orchestra (2014)  3’52”

CD6
• Yuval Avital: REKA  72’23”

CD7
• Ewa Fabiańska-Jelińska: Allegro ma non troppo for vocal ensemble (2014)  3’51”
• Artur Żuchowski: Onion for a cappella choir (2014)  2’24”
• Kalina Świątnicka: Il rumore del silenzio for tape (2014)  7’20”
• Michał Dobrzyński: Elegy no.2. A Dialogue? for violin and live electronics (2007)  4’34”
• Tymoteusz Witczak: Signal/Noise for unspecified ensemble (graphic score, 2014)  4’05”
• Nikolet Burzyńska: Solarisss for tape (2014)  4’30”
• Marcin Piotr Łopacki: Folio no.2 for any solo string instrument (graphic score, 2006)  3’56”
• Andrzej Karałow: Shipyard Chant for bass clarinet and tape (2014)  3’53”
• Jarosław Drozd: X=Y for unspecified ensemble (graphic score, 2014)  6’30”

• The Spoils of Warsaw

One of the many joys of visiting Poland over the decades has been searching out scores, books and recordings (not to mention classic posters and dark spadziowy honey).  This year was no different.  I’d not been in Warsaw since last November, so there was plenty to catch up on and to indulge my hunter-gatherer tendencies.

There are two major music shops in Warsaw.  One is SAWART (online Polish-language link here) on Moliera at Plac Teatralny near Teatr Wielki.  The other is the shop in what used to be the Akademia Muzyczna Fryderyka Chopina and what is now the Uniwersytet Muzyczny Fryderyka Chopina.  You can also find CDs and DVDs in branches of EMPIK and at Teatr Wielki’s own shop.

Books

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 16.00.45Two Panufnik volumes have appeared in Poland in his centenary year.  The first is a reissue of his autobiography Composing Myself (1987), translated in 1990 as Panufnik o Sobie (Panufnik on Himself), although this paperback omitted the photographs from the UK edition.  It has been republished in hardback as Panufnik. Autobiografia with a supplementary section by his widow Camilla covering the final years of his life.  An English-language reprint, likewise updated and with additional documentation, is in press … watch this space.

The next Panufnik publication is the third in a sequence of interview recollections published by Polish Music Publishers PWM.  Scan 3First was Górecki. Portret w pamięci (Górecki. A Portrait in Memory, 2013), consisting of 42 interviews carried out by Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska. The second, slimmer volume inaugurated a new series ‘Rozmowy o kompozytorach’ (Conversations on Composers) and heralded a new design.  The interviews for Lutosławski. Skrywany wulkan (Lutosławski. A Hidden Volcano, 2013) were carried out by Aleksander Laskowski and focused on just four conductors: Edward Gardner, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Antoni Wit.  Both of these publications won major book prizes in Poland this year. Laskowski’s interviews will be published in English by Chester Music.

Scan 4Now comes Panufnik. Architekt emocji (Panufnik. Architect of Emotion, 2014), with a preface by the poet Adam Zagajewski.  It was launched during this year’s ‘Warsaw Autumn’ in the presence of Panufnik’s widow Camilla.  The author is again Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska, whose authoritative biography (PWM, 2001) will be published in English by Ashgate in the coming months.  She spoke to twelve people:

Łukasz Borowicz, the conductor of the comprehensive cpo series of eight CDs of Panufnik’s orchestral music
Roxanna Panufnik, Panufnik’s daughter and composer
Andrzej Dzierżyński, the painter and family friend, whose images adorn the covers of all but one (no.2) of the eight cpo CDs
Gerard Schwarz, conductor-laureate of the Seattle SO with whom he made a CD of Panufnik’s music in 1996
Stanisław Skrowaczewski, the conductor and composer, still active on the podium aged 91, who knew Panufnik early in their lives
Wanda Wiłkomirska, the violinist whose 1980 performance of Panufnik’s Violin Concerto can be heard on the new ninateka.pl site
Camilla Panufnik, the composer’s widow and tireless supporter since they met in England in the early 1960s
Ewa Pobłocka, who has made two commercial recordings of Panufnik’s Piano Concerto, one of them under the composer’s baton
Mark Stephenson, the British conductor who worked closely with the composer in his later years
Wojciech Michniewski, an insightful interpreter of contemporary Polish music who shared the podium with Panufnik during the concert when the composer conducted his Tenth Symphony in Warsaw in September 1990
Jem Panufnik, Panufnik’s son and graphic designer and musician
Julian Anderson, composer

I’ve not had time to read the interviews properly, but one observation by Julian Anderson caught my attention.  He concludes (p.243) that ‘one of the main things that Panufnik bequeathed to Polish music after his escape was the Polish experimental creativity that developed after 1956’ (I am translating from the Polish; these may not have been Anderson’s exact words).  This demands more scrutiny than this post allows, so I will return to this anon.

Scan 5Another book just hitting the shops is a compilation of writings by the music critic and broadcaster Andrzej Chłopecki, who died in 2012 in his early fifties: Dziennik Ucha. Słuchane na ostro (Ear Diary. Sharp Listening).  Chłopecki’s loss is still keenly felt, because he was unafraid to speak his mind, was not fazed by the establishment and quizzed everyone and everything.  His writings and charismatic radio broadcasts brought zest and intelligent prickliness to musical and philosophical debate.  This collection, running to over 500 pages,  brings together Chłopecki’s columns for Res Publica Nowa – ‘Dziennik Ucha’ (Ear Diary, 1993-98) and Gazeta Wyborcza – ‘Słuchane na ostro’ (Sharp Listening, 2001-11).  His range was astonishing.  His essays give pause for thought as well as huge enjoyment.  Sadly, they are unlikely to be translated into English.

However, there is good news on a related front.  The collection of Chłopecki’s essays on Lutosławski’s compositions, published as Andrzej Chłopecki. PostSłowie (Andrzej Chłopecki. AfterWord) in 2012, is a testament to his ability to look at – and to enable listeners to hear – music afresh.  And in the case of a composer as much discussed and analysed as Lutosławski, that was a very special gift.  The book, which he oversaw in the smallest detail and signed off just before his death, has now been translated into English by John Comber and may be out by the end of this year.

Encyklopedia Muzyczna

Finally, I have completed the set.  EM’s first volume ‘ab’ was published 35 years ago.  The series was completed by vol.12 ‘w-ż’ in two years ago.  There have also been supplements, necessary given the protracted timespan of the encyclopaedia – ‘ab’ (1998) and cd (2001) – although this process has stalled.  Instead, PWM has brought out special composer supplements: Chopin (2010), Górecki (2011), Szymanowski (2012) and Wieniawski (2011).  The Górecki volume is quite slight.  It runs to just 18 pages and was issued to commemorate the composer after his death in 2010.  It has an updated work list (but does not include posthumously released works like the Fourth Symphony), bibliography and a brand-new essay by Maciej Jabłoński.  The others supplements are more substantive: the Wieniawski has over 70 pages, the Szymanowski over 130 and the Chopin 180.Scan 2

This time I picked up a copy of the Lutosławski supplement (77 pages), published in 2013. In addition to an essay written by the late Jadwiga Paja-Stach and by Zbigniew Skowron, there are individual entries on over 60 performers, composers, poets, publishers and authors closely associated with him.  It is an honour to have been included in this distinguished gathering.

Recordings

Scan 7Various CDs have come my way in recent months, not least a range of discs from the ever-productive DUX company.  I also received a smart boxed set from Sinfonia Varsovia issued to mark the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising and the end of Word War II.  This non-commercial 3-CD set is called (a little loosely) Anthology of Polish Contemporary Music 1939-1945 and it contains much music that is hard to find elsewhere on disc.  The conducting duties for the twelve pieces are shared between Renato Rivolta (6), Jerzy Maksymiuk (5) and Jacek Kaspszyk (1).  There is an excellent booklet essay by Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek.  The complete repertoire is:

Grażyna Bacewicz, Overture (1943)
Andrzej Czajkowski, Piano Concerto no.2 (1966-71), with Maciej Grabowski
Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern, Concerto for String Orchestra (1943)
Stefan Kisielewski, Concerto for Chamber Orchestra (1944, 1949)
Witold Lutosławski, Symphonic Variations (1938)
Andrzej PanufnikTragic Overture (1942)
Andrzej Panufnik, Sinfonia elegiaca (1957, 1966)
Karol Rathaus, Music for Strings (1941)
Ludomir RóżyckiPietà. On Smouldering Ruins of Warsaw (1942, 1944)
Antoni Szałowski, Overture (1936)
Aleksander Tansman, Rapsodia polska (1940)
Mieczysław Weinberg, Cello Concerto (1948), with Marcel Markowski

Contemporary composers in Poland have as difficult time as anywhere getting their music heard and recorded, but there have been some initiatives in recent years to plug some of the gaps.  The ‘Warsaw Autumn’ annual chronicle of seven or more CDs provides a permanent reminder of live performances.  The chronicle is non-commercial, but libraries, institutes and interested individuals may request to be put on the distribution list.  The recordings come with either the Polish or English programme book for the year.  Enquiries may be made via this link.

In 2009, DUX launched an initiative called Young Polish Composers in Homage/Tribute to Frederic Chopin, in honour of the composer’s bicentenary in 2010.  The eleven CDs in the series introduced ten Polish composers and one Czech to the wider public:

Stanisław Bromboszcz (b.1980): Chamber Music, DUX 0746
Michał Dobrzyński (b.1980): Expression DUX 0752
Marcin Gumiela (b.1980): Sacred Works DUX 0753
Paweł Hendrich (b.1979): Chamber Works DUX 0754
Michał Moc (b.1977): Emotions DUX 0756
Dariusz Przybylski (b.1984): Works for Orchestra DUX 0721
• Weronika Ratusińska (b.1977): Works for Orchestra DUX 0723
Agnieszka Stulgińska (b.1978): Chamber Works DUX 0759
Sławomir Zamuszko (b.1973): Works for Orchestra DUX 0724
Wojciech Ziemowit Zych (b.1976): Works for Orchestra DUX 0722
+ the Czech composer
• Kryštof Mařatka (b.1972): Chamber Works DUX 0784

DUX prefaced the series in 2008 with a double sampler CD DUX 0635/0636, with mostly different pieces plus works by two other composers who did not go on to have had their own individual CDs: Marcin Stańczyk (b.1977) and Marcin Tomasz Strzelecki (b.1975).

On my visit to Warsaw last week I came across a more recent series devoted mostly to an older generation of Polish composers.  Under the heading Polish Music Today. Portraits of Contemporary Polish Composers, Polish Radio and the Polish Music Information Centre launched ten CDs earlier this year.  They are available via the Polish Radio online shop (click on links below), where you will also find information on each composer and tracks, but only in Polish.  The intention is to develop the project further.  The ten lucky composers so far are:

Magdalena Długosz (b.1954): PRCD 1743
Jacek Grudzień (b.1961): PRCD 1746
Aleksander Kościów (b.1974): PRCD 1750
Zbigniew Penherski (b.1935): PRCD 1741
Jarosław Siwiński (b.1964): PRCD 1747
Michał Talma-Sutt (1969): PRCD 1748
Ewa Trębacz (1973): PRCD 1749
Tadeusz Wielecki (b.1954): PRCD 1744
Anna Zawadzka-Gołosz (1955): PRCD 1745
Lidia Zielińska (b.1953): PRCD 1742

Now I must get down to some serious reading and listening…

• Panufnik’s Mushrooms (1991)

I met Panufnik only once, and that was in odd circumstances.  Although I had been at the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ in 1990 when he made his one and only return to Poland, I didn’t meet him then.  It was not until the following year that fate intervened, a month before he died.

At the end of September 1991, I called in at the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ temporary office on the first floor of the Europejski Hotel to thank the staff for once again hosting me as a guest of the festival.  There was a lady standing there, tenderly holding a package: “Do you know of anyone going to London after the festival?”, she was asking.  I replied that I was leaving at that moment.  “Ah, could you do me a great favour?  Andrzej Panufnik has expressed a wish to have wild mushroom soup, so I have been to the forest and picked these for him.  Do you think you could take them to Twickenham?”  I was only to happy to oblige.

I was living in London then, working at BBC Radio 3, so once I landed at Heathrow I hopped into a taxi and arrived at the Panufnik home mid-evening.  I knocked on the door.  Camilla Panufnik opened it and was puzzled by this stranger standing there, holding a dubious package.  “I’ve brought mushrooms for you from Warsaw”, I spluttered. “Oh, thank you!  You must come in and meet Andrzej.”

I was led upstairs to meet the composer, who was in a quietly cheery mood and thrilled to receive these fungal goodies from Poland.  Not wishing to tire him with any prolonged conversation, I quickly bid my farewells and got back into the taxi.  I gathered later that the soup was delicious and much appreciated.  I was just glad to have been one link in a chain that brought him some contentment in his last weeks.

• Toasting Pianophonie

One of the highlights of this year’s Warsaw Autumn was the performance of Kazimierz Serocki’s Pianophonie (1976-78) for piano, electronics and orchestra at the closing concert two days ago.  I was gutted not to able to get to the concert, so I had to make do with listening online just a few miles away.  Its impact was still startling.  Serocki was an original, a composer who kept his avant-garde head while many around him were losing theirs.

Today I saw a link to a review by Tadeusz Deszkiewicz, who had a family connection with Stanisław Wisłocki, the conductor of the Polish premiere at the 1979 Warsaw Autumn.  I’ve taken the liberty of translating (I hope faithfully) Deszkiewicz’s recollections and thoughts.

You can hear the 1979 recording here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJt5zotNk10.

___________

Kazimierz Serocki’s Pianophonie, under the baton of Jacek Kaspszyk, dominated the final concert.  I was curious to see how this work would sound today, 35 years after its Polish premiere during the 23rd Warsaw Autumn in 1979.  I was in the Philharmonic then not only because I was a radio journalist at Polish Radio 2 but also because it was my uncle, Stanisław Wisłocki, who was conducting.

The work was recorded before the Warsaw Autumn, and Wisłocki later described the event:

On 13 September (1979) we were in Warsaw, in the National Philharmonic Hall, for two rehearsals and a recording for LP of Kazimierz Serocki’s composition, Pianophonie.  For its performance it was necessary to import special electronic sound-processing equipment from Germany. […]  The soloist was the pianist Szabolcs Esztényi, who thanks to a special console placed next to the piano drew out of it a variety of sound effects.  He and the natural sound of the orchestra created a soundscape hitherto not used in music.  Serocki wrote this interesting composition in 1976-1978 on the initiative and at the request of Radio Südwestfunk in Baden-Baden and the Freiburg Experimental Studio.  It was the first performance in Poland and probably the last, because it is unlikely that any Polish orchestra can again afford to bring this incredibly complicated, unique and vast apparatus from the Federal Republic of Germany.

Wisłocki could not have imagined that, 35 years later, miniaturisation would have eliminated the vast apparatus and the group of technicians to support it.  And so today, for the first time, we heard an absolutely new electronic version of Pianophonie, which gave Serocki’s piece a fresh, excellent sound.  The creation of new software and the digital processing of the analog recording was created from ​​Kamil Kęska’s original.  The effect was revelatory, and the audience’s cries of delight and long applause greeted the work.  The excellent pianist Adam Kosmieja also aroused admiration.  He had the task of simultaneously playing the piano at breakneck speed, extracting sounds directly from the strings and using the computer placed next to him.  It takes a great musician to realise this difficult music so excellently, keeping in mind the phrasing, dynamic range and technical perfection required.

In 1979, the Warsaw audience also received the work very warmly. Wisłocki wrote:

After the interval, we performed Kazimierz Serocki’s Pianophonię (c.30′), in which the role of the sound engineer Hans Peter Haller was as important as that of the other performers.  The audience gave Serocki an ovation. After the concert, Kazimierz hosted a party at his home.  There was a great deal of vodka.  Kazio drank continuously to one and all and by the end of the party he was just reeling.  I did not even try to reason with him, because it would not have helped. […]  A few days later, I received the news that Kazio had been taken to hospital with symptoms of a cerebral haemorrhage.

After returning home from convalescence, Kazimierz Serocki tried to write with his left hand (his right hand was incapacitated after the stroke), but Pianophonie was to be his last piece.  This great composer – a co-founder of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ – died in January 1981.

Tadeusz Deszkiewicz, 28 September 2014

• Bogusław Schaeffer, b. 6 June 1929

There are few Polish composers still alive who were born before 1930.  Włodzimierz Kotoński (b. 1923) and Jan Krenz (b. 1926) are two of them.  Kotoński is additionally significant as an author and as a teacher of subsequent generations of Polish composers.  Krenz is primarily known as a conductor and champion of music by his compatriots.  Bogusław Schaeffer (born on this day 85 years ago), however, has even more strings to his bow.  He is an artist, dramatist and author, as well as a composer and teacher.

Bogusław Schaeffer

I first came across Schaeffer’s music at the 1970 ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival (the premiere of Quatuor SG by Zygmunt Krauze’s Music Workshop) and at the following year’s festival (the premiere of Heraklitiana by the harpist Urszula Mazurek).  Little did I realise when, a week or so later, I took the train to Kraków to study at the PWSM (State Higher School of Music) that I would spend seven fascinating months as his composition student.

We were like chalk and cheese in our musical tastes.  I was wet behind the ears, he was a polymath on contemporary music and performance practice.  He could not have been kinder.  He introduced me to a huge range of technical and notational devices and encouraged me to experiment, test and investigate.  His energy and restless imagination were incredibly stimulating.  Among the pieces that I wrote was a work for solo harp that Urszula Mazurek played at the 1976 ‘Warsaw Autumn’.  But in truth little else of substance emerged, not least because I was using the time also to get to know music by other Polish composers and to begin to build up my now extensive library of Polish music and, as a sideline, of Polish posters.

The main lesson for me was that there were huge positives to be gained by studying with a composer with diametrically opposite aesthetics.  It was not that I sensed no contact – far from it.  When I returned to the UK I took up a lectureship at Queen’s University, Belfast, where amongst other Polish repertoire I gave regional premieres of some of Schaeffer’s piano music, including the famous Nonstop (1960), as well as his music-theatre piece, TIS MW2 (1963). But my own compositional interests lay elsewhere, with Witold Lutosławski and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.  And it then emerged that neither of these composers had much time for Schaeffer.  That did not in itself affect my view of or relationship with Schaeffer.  I helped him with the text of his massive tome, Introduction to Composition (1976), and met up with him on many subsequent occasions, not least at an American School seminar in Salzburg at Easter 1976.

Yet there is no hiding the fact that Schaeffer has been a controversial figure in Polish music.  He has been regarded as a charlatan by some, an error-strewn analyst of contemporary scores by others.  His custom of working on several works at the same time no doubt accounts for his enormous output of well over 1000 creations across different media. The sheer imagination of his new notational schemata beggars belief, while his ‘happenings’ and music-theatre pieces are often outlandish and/or extremely funny.  His visual art, closely linked with his graphic notation, is never less than colourful and vital, while his several dozen theatre pieces are hugely popular in Poland and reach a quite different audience than his musical works.

Although Schaeffer remains outside the mainstream of Polish musical life (he has lived in Austria for several decades), he has a devoted following there and abroad who relish the wild, unpredictable character of his creative imagination. Like a number of other figures (Cage and Kagel come to mind), his presence is felt in performance and as a challenger of norms, although the corollary of this is that it has been hard to find conventional audio examples of his music.  The exception comes from the ever-resourceful Bôłt Records, whose double CD of Schaeffer’s music, ‘Assemblage’, contains several works and a couple of others may be found elsewhere on Bôłt compilations.  The advent of YouTube, however, has given his output a new lease of life, and there is selection of his music also on last.fm.

There are also online articles (a brief selection below) and I have added two passages on Schaeffer from my book Polish Music since Szymanowski (CUP, 2005).

• Bogusław Schaeffer. Biography (2002)
• Adrian Thomas, Polish Music since Szymanowski (2005)
• Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Bogusław Schaeffer, Music and Graphics (2010, including sound files)
• Magda Romańska, Bogusław Schaeffer: Poland’s Renaissance Man (2012)
• Alena Aniskiewicz, Bogusław Schaeffer: An Anthology (2013, review of four plays in English translation)

So, on this his 85th birthday, I send my former teacher all best wishes for this significant milestone, with huge thanks for his generosity of spirit, our walks in the Planty in foggy Kraków, and great memories of invigorating composition lessons. Sto lat! Sto lat! Niech żyje, żyje nam!

 

• WL100/62: Notebook, 19 October 1960

Lutosławski on objet sonore

Lutosławski’s affinity with French music and literature is well-known.  But the connection with the pioneer of musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, has largely slipped by unnoticed.  In truth, it is not Schaeffer’s tape music as such that caught Lutosławski’s attention but his discourse on the objet sonore.  Lutosławski referenced Schaeffer’s term in talks that he prepared for the Zagreb Biennale (1961) and the Tanglewood Summer School (1962), but his musing on the implications of objet sonore began earlier, in 1960, in his Notebook of Ideas (Zapiski).

There is no evidence that Lutosławski had read Schaeffer’s book À la recherche d’une musique concrète (1952). Almost certainly, he came across the term objet sonore from both fellow Polish composers and Schaeffer himself. Schaeffer came to the third ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival to introduce a programme of musique concrète (17 September 1959) that included a number of pieces, including his own Étude aux objets (1959).  It is more than likely that Lutosławski attended this concert (ground-breaking in the Polish context) and met Schaeffer during his visit.

Pierre Schaeffer

Just over a year later, on 21 September 1960, the fourth ‘Warsaw Autumn’ presented a lecture by Józef Patkowski, the head of the Experimental Studio at Polish Radio.  During his talk, Patkowski referred to Schaeffer and played Étude aux objets again.  Was it pure coincidence that just two days later Lutosławski made the first of two entries in his Notebook that elaborated on the idea of the objet sonore as it related to his own thinking?  Four weeks later, on 19 October, he returned to this theme.

Although Lutosławski subsequently stressed the prominence of chance procedures in his musical development in the early 1960s, he did not make any entries in his Notebook on alea and aleatorism for another year (the first appears on 20 December 1961).  In other words, it was Schaeffer’s visit in 1959 and the idea of the objet sonore that first drew his attention.  It was six months later that Lutosławski heard Patkowski introduce a recording of John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra in his ‘Musical Horizons’ programme on Polish Radio (16 March 1960) – the event which Lutosławski subsequently credited as being the critical juncture in his compositional thinking.  Yet we must no overlook Schaeffer in these developments.  In combination, both Schaeffer and Cage gave Lutosławski conceptual support just at the moment when Jeux vénitiens (1960-61) was being conceived.

It seems that rhythm (in the broadest sense, as a division of time in which the action of a musical work takes place) is the hardest element of musical material to destroy.  The idea of the ‘eternity’ of this element is tempting.  Instead of ‘melody, ‘harmony’, there appears a new element (perhaps not entirely new in its essence, but new in application) – objet sonore – the sound object.

Wydaje się, że rytmika (w najszerszym pojęciu – jako podział czasu, w którym rozgrywa się akcja utworu muzycznego) jest najtrudniejszym do zniszczenia elementem tworzywa muzycznego.  Kusi myśl o “wieczności” tego elementu.  Na miejsce “melodyki”, “harmoniki”, zjawia się nowy element (być może niezupełnie nowy w swej istocie, ale nowe w zastosowaniu) – objet sonore – przedmiot dźwiękowy.

Witold Lutosławski, 23 September 1960 [my translation]

In connection with technique based on ‘objects’:
Object = a collection of sounds, between which there is a closer connection than between each of these s[ou]nds and sounds belonging to another object.  This closer connection ensures, above all, connectivity in time.  But it can also be similarity of timbre, rhythm, attack, harm[onic] profile, choice of intervals etc..
Hence 2 rhythmic currents in a piece:
1) local rhythm, ‘small’ – interior of an object
2) general rhythm, ‘large’ – i.e., the rhythm of a sequence of objects.

W związku z techniką opartą na “przedmiotach”:
Przedmiot = zbior dźwięków, między którymi istnieje ściślejszy związek niż między każdym z tych dźw., a dźwiękami należącymi do innego przedmiotu.  Ten ściślejszy związek zapewnia przede wszystkim łączność w czasie.  Ale również może to być podobieństwo barwy, rytmiki, ataku, profilu harm., doboru interwali itd.
Stąd 2 nurty rytmiczne w utworze:
1) rytm lokalny, “mały” – wewnątrz przedmiotu
2) rytm ogólny, “duży” – czyli rytm następstwa przedmiotów.

Witold Lutosławski, 19 October 1960 [my translation]

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