• Polish ‘Awangarda’ CDs

For years, I’ve been bewailing the lack of CD representation of post-war Polish composers other than ‘the big three’. And there are still notable gaps, especially in the coverage of the music of Kazimierz Serocki: Musica concertanteSymphonic Frescoes (played at this year’s ‘Warsaw Autumn’), Forte e PianoPoezjeDramatic Story, Swinging MusicPianophonie.  But over the past couple of years the Polskie Nagranie company, in conjunction variously with the publishers PWM, Ricordi and the Polish Music Information Centre, has begun to issue and reissue archive recordings (from 1959 onwards) of some of the early figures of the Polish avant-garde.

Three CDs have appeared so far in the ‘Awantgarda’ series: Krzysztof Penderecki conducted by Andrzej Markowski (2011) – and it’s the Markowski connection that makes this CD interesting (Penderecki does not want for coverage!), Serocki (2012) and Włodzimierz Kotoński (2013).  A similar project, but outside the ‘Awantgarda’ sequence, was that of the music of Tadeusz Baird, in a double CD package (2011).  For anyone wanting to hear their music, these CDs are a great place to start, not least because there are some recordings never released on CD before and others never heard beyond the confines of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Chronicle recordings whose circulation was extremely limited.  There are one or two never released on any format before.  Any performance dates in the second half of September are from the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival.  ** = first performance, * = Polish premiere.

Tadeusz Baird. Selected Works (PNCD 1399, two CDs)

This double CD was first issued in 2003 (PNCD 525A/B).

Baird.m3404 Love Sonnets (second version, 1969): Andrzej Hiolski/Kraków PRO/Jan Krenz (July 1978)
Colas Breugnon (1951): WOSPR/Krenz (May 1955)
Trouvère Songs (1963): Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa/National PO, Warsaw/Witold Rowicki (24 June 1968)
• 5 Songs (1968): Szostek-Radkowa/Wrocław PO/Andrzej Markowski (June 1974)
Psychodrama (1972): WOSPR/Wojciech Michniewski (1 February 1979)
Erotyki (1961): Stefania Woytowicz/National PO/Rowicki (21 April 1963)
• Symphony 3 (1969): National PO/Krenz (10-11 June 1969)
Elegeia (1973): WOSPR/Michniewski (1 February 1979)
Concerto Lugubre (1975): Stefan Kamasa/Kraków PRO/Jacek Kaspszyk (10 April 1977)
Voices from Afar (1981): Jerzy Artysz/National PO/Rowicki (**, 22 January 1982)

Krzysztof Penderecki conducted by Andrzej Markowski (PNCD 1373)

Markowski was an extraordinary champion of new Polish music, and especially of Penderecki’s ground-breaking early scores.  This selection spans 1958-61, and only Emanations, the First String Quartet and Fonogrammi are missing from these years.

AWANGARDA_M.m340Psalms of David (1958): National PO (8 January 1966)
Strophes (1959): Silesian Philharmonic CO (**, 17 September 1959)
Anaklasis (1959-60): National PO (8 January 1966)
Dimensions of Time and Silence (1960): National PO and Choir (24 June 1972)
Threnody (1961): Kraków PO (22 September 1961)
Fluorescences (1962): National PO (8 January 1966)
Polymorphia (1961): Kraków PO (*, 26 September 1963)

Kazimierz Serocki (PNCD 1441)

It is terrific to have two early pieces on this CD, formative for both Serocki and Polish music around 1960, as well as the three ‘Warsaw Autumn’ performances.

Serocki_awangarda.m340Episodes (1958-59): WOSPR/Krenz (24 March 1965)
Segmenti (1960-61): WOSPR/Krenz (24 March 1965)
Continuum (1965-66): Warsaw Percussion Group (28 February 1980)
Fantasmagoria (1970-71): Roger Woodward/Hubert Rutkowski (23 September 1976)
Fantasia elegiaca (1971-72): Karl-Erik Welin, Hesse RSO/Markowski (*, 28 September 1973)
Arrangements for four recorders (1975-76): (20 September 1978)

Włodzimierz Kotoński (PNCD 1521/polmic 099)

Kotónski, now 88, has languished in the shadows of his contemporaries.  His early tape pieces especially were key to the development of the Polish avant-garde.  Less than a handful of his works had been commercially released on any format prior to this CD.  (There’s no Kotoński web-page yet on the Polskie Nagrania site.)

Homma 1993Study on One Cymbal Stroke (1959): (Polish Radio Experimental Studio, 1960)
Microstructures (1963): (PRES, 1963)
Aela (1970): (PRES, 1977)
Les ailes (1975): (Bourges, 1977)
Aeolian Harp (1974): Rozwitha Trexler and four instrumentalists (*, 21 September 1975)
Musique en relief (1959): National PO/Stanisław Wisłocki (*, 25 September 1960)
Musica per fiati e timpani (1964): National PO/Rowicki (1966)
Music for 16 Cymbals and Strings (1966): WOSPR/Jerzy Maksymiuk (1977)

• Lutosławski Research Conference

In three weeks’ time, under the patronage of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival, an international two-day conference will be held to celebrate the centenary of a certain Polish composer: ‘The music of Witold Lutosławski on the threshold of the 21st century’.  A fine poster has been produced, in the time-honoured tradition of Polish graphic design.

Konferencja naukowa - Muzyka Witolda Lutosławskiego - plakat

• 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.


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

• Gramophone blogs on Lutosławski

picture-3830If you haven’t noticed them already, check out Michael McManus’s blogs celebrating the Lutosławski centenary.  He blends personal reminiscence with insights into the works and their performances.  He has some intriguing observations, not least on Perényi’s recent Berlin performance of the Cello Concerto under Simon Rattle (4.03.13) and on Stanisław Skrowaczewski’s interpretation of the Concerto for Orchestra in a rehearsal with the Hallé Orchestra (20.03.13).  The blogs are available in the Gramophone online edition.  There have been five so far.

• 20.03.13  Keeping the Lutosławski tradition alive
• 4.03.13  Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto
• 13.02.13  Woven Words
• 30.01.13  Warsaw in the winter
• 29.01.13  Lutosławski at 100

• WL100/27: Notebook, 19 March 1961

Lutosławski and Rain

In order to justify classical rhythmic formulae, the argument has been used that this rhythm (i.e. ‘harmonic’, based on pulse) comes from nature: walking, the heartbeat.  Well, it is not correct to say that other rhythms have no counterpart in nature.  In fact, natural phenomena proceed for the most part in an irregular rhythm.  Example: the rhythm of the drops as rain begins to fall (pizz., in b.67 presto (II) from Jeux v.).

Dla uzasadnienia klasycznych formuł rytmicznych posługiwano się argumentem, że rytm ten (tzn. ‘harmoniczny’, oparty na pulsacji) pochodzi z natury: chodzenie, bicie serca.  Otóż nie jest słuszne twierdzenie, że inne rytmy nie mają odpowiedników w naturze.  Na pewno zjawiska natury przebiegają w swej większości w rytmie niepulsacyjnym.  Przykład: rytm kropel, gdy deszcz zaczyna padać (pizz., w t. 67 presto (II) z Jeux v.).

Witold Lutosławski, 19 March 1961  [my translation]

This is a rare example of Lutosławski linking extramusical observations to his music, aside from his several references to the theatre.  The passage in question (in the second movement of Jeux vénitiens, which he was writing at this very time and would complete nine days later) is interesting from a number of points of view.

For one thing, the string pizzicati are almost completely covered by a denser, more active texture in the woodwind, brass, pitched percussion and harp, so hardly of foreground interest.  For another, this is not the first but the third such passage in the movement: the first is led off by the bassoon at b.9 and the second (more briefly) by vibraphone at b.46, both against a background of scurrying muted strings played arco.  In each of these first two cases, the ‘irregular’ rhythms lead to fuller textures in the wind and pitched percussion, and it is the second of these that eventually runs in parallel with the string pizzicati cited by Lutosławski above.

This third and most developed passage extends from b.67 to b.82 and is given to the strings for the first time and marked pizzicato to make the point (the orchestration of these three sections is a good example of how Lutosławski thought of his music’s instrumentation in structural terms).  Bars 67-82 take the form of an increasingly dense rhythmic texture that is interrupted by the playing of cardboard tubes on the strings of the piano at b.83 (see WL100/24: Notebook, 11 March 1961 for details of this passage).  Given the dating of both this diary entry and of his work on the second movement, it looks highly possible that Lutosławski did have the irregular rhythm of a natural phenomenon like raindrops in mind when he composed not only bb.67-82 but also the two earlier passages to which this pizzicato section is the successor.  Incidentally, the movement is not headed Presto in the published score – it simply has the tempo indication of crotchet/quarter-note = 150.

Here’s a recording of the (unrevised) second movement from the premiere of the otherwise revised and completed version of Jeux vénitiens, given at the Warsaw Autumn on 16 September 1961, with the National Philharmonic conducted by Witold Rowicki.  The bassoon entry at b.9 is at 0’05”, while the vibraphone at b.46 is inaudible, as too is most of the string pizzicato starting at b.67 (0’46”).

WL JV:II bb.64-72

WL JV:II bb.73-81

• Lutosławski: Ein Leben in der Musik

WL OsteuropaKickstarting the Lutosławski centenary in print is this volume which has just appeared in the osteuropa series (I received my copy today).  It contains thirteen items from Germany, Poland, Russia and the UK:

• Danuta Gwizdalanka: ‘Klassiker der Avantgarde. Witold Lutosławski: Leben und Werk’
• Anne-Sophie Mutter: ‘ “Ein neuer musikalischer Kosmos”. Über Witold Lutosławski’
• Dorota Szwarcman: ‘Auf den Schultern von Riesen. Lutosławski und seine Vorgänger’
• Dorota Kozińska: ‘Gründe und Abgründe. Lutosławski und der Sozialistische Realismus’
• Maciej Gołąb: ‘Lutosławski auf der Suche. Elemente und Ursprünge des Frühwerks’
• Krzysztof Meyer: ‘Pan Lutosławski. Erinnerungen an meinen Lehrer und Freund’
• Sebastian Borchers: ‘Von Warschau nach Darmstadt und zurück. Lutosławski, Penderecki und Górecki’
• Rüdiger Ritter: ‘Heißhunger auf Neue Musik. Das Ende des Stalinismus und der Warschauer Herbst
• Wojciech Kuczok: ‘Unsortierte Bemerkungen. Von Lutosławski zur schlesischen Komponistenschule’
• Adrian Thomas: ‘Das Cello-Konzert lesen. Lutosławski und die Literatur’*
• Izabela Antulov: ‘Wütender Antagonismus. Lutosławskis Cello-Konzert’
• Vladimir Tarnopol’skij: ‘ “Ein Symbol der Freiheit”. Lutosławskis Einfluss auf der Sowjetunion’
• Adam Wiedemann: ‘Heiliger Witold, bitte für uns’

This issue also includes a CD with two pieces: Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto (the Naxos recording by Andrzej Bauer with the Polish National Radio SO under Antoni Wit) and Krzysztof Meyer’s Farewell Music (1997), written in tribute to Lutosławski.  The abstracts are also given in English and may be accessed online here.  The volume may be ordered online here (22 euros).

* This is a translation of my paper ‘Lutosławski and Literature’ (2010).

• WL100/6: Epitaph, **3 January 1980

Epitaph (1979) is virtually alone in Lutosławski’s output in being a duet that he never orchestrated.  There are orchestral versions of Dance PreludesGrave and Partita, and through these arrangements his chamber music has reached a wider audience in the concert hall and on disc.  Epitaph has not been so lucky, and there has been less than a handful of CD recordings.

Craxton_JanetYet Epitaph was the work which spurred Lutosławski’s late flowering of small chamber compositions, which included other duets with piano: Grave for cello (1981), Partita for violin (1984) and Subito for violin (1992), whose material was intended for an unfinished violin concerto for Anne-Sophie Mutter.  Lutosławski wrote Epitaph when he was 66, at the request of the British oboist Janet Craxton to commemorate her late husband, Alan Richardson.  With the pianist Ian Brown, Craxton premiered Epitaph at the Wigmore Hall in London on 3 January 1980.

At the time, Epitaph had a huge impact for its small size.  The musical world had become used to Lutosławski the composer of impressive works for orchestra (Second Symphony, LivreMi-partiNovelette) or for soloist with orchestra (Cello Concerto, Les espaces du sommeil).  Here all of a sudden was this melodic and gutsy gem of a duet, and his music was within reach of chamber musicians (to add to the  String Quartet of 1964).

It is more than likely that Lutosławski wrote Epitaph as a trial run en route to the Double Concerto (1979-80), which was premiered eight months later by the oboist Heinz Holliger and his wife, the harpist Ursula Holliger, with the Collegium Musicum conducted by Paul Sacher.  There is no specific material shared between the two pieces, but Sacher had been asking Lutosławski for something for Heinz Holliger for over a decade, so it is quite possible that the two works were interlinked in Lutosławski’s creative processes at some stage.


In May 1968, and again in a chasing letter dated 19 March 1969, Sacher pressed Lutosławski for a concerto for Holliger.  Lutosławski, who by then was engrossed in writing a cello concerto for Rostropovich, replied on 2 April in conciliatory tone, but his projected timescale was to be dislodged by a further nine years:

‘Une telle oeuvre est toujours dans mes plans, mais, comme cela arrive bien souvent, les dates où je m’attendais de terminer les compositions sur lesquelles je travaille maintenant se déplacent et je serais très vraisemblablement en retard.  J’envisage, que je serais prêt de commencer le travail sur l’oeuvre en question seulement en 1971.’


It is perhaps appropriate that Holliger (with the pianist Szabolcs Esztényi) gave the Polish premiere of Epitaph on 24 September 1980 at the 24th ‘Warsaw Autumn’, exactly a month after he had premiered the Double Concerto:

• Remembering Andrzej Chłopecki

It came as a shock to hear on Sunday that Andrzej Chłopecki, the Polish writer on contemporary music, had died that day, aged 62.  He was a singular man with multiple attributes.  He was keenly perceptive, wise, staunch, quirky, witty, impish, and never afraid to speak out whenever he came across the shallow or the hollow.  He got into very hot water with the Establishment when he dared to criticise Penderecki’s Piano Concerto after its Polish premiere at the end of the 2002 ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival.  I admired him hugely for being a real critic.  Above all, he was the most warm-hearted of colleagues and friends.

Others in Poland knew him much better than I did (he published almost exclusively in Polish, although his penetrating CD notes were translated into other languages for non-Polish labels).  And they can verify his enormous contribution to Polish musical life over the past 40 years and more.  He was for many years a key member of the Repertoire Committee of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ and at the time of his death was the Artistic Director of the biennial ‘Musica Polonica Nova’ festival in Wrocław.

He was a brilliant broadcaster, acute in his thinking and challenging in his debates.  My abiding personal memory is of when we jointly presented the live opening concert of BBC Radio 3’s Polska! festival on 19 November 1993, from the Witold Lutosławski Studio at Polish Radio in Warsaw.  He, however, was in a balcony on the opposite side of the hall, with a clear view of the artists’ entrance (which I could not see) below my balcony seat.  We were supposed to have a shared script and timing.  But Andrzej decided that he had more to say, with the result that I, with no experience of live concert presentation, ended up scrabbling to describe the interior of the hall (in English, across the EBU network) while he continued to improvise on the merits of the programme to Polish listeners, barely one eye on the players waiting below me.  I had no idea how long this was going to last.  Later on, there was a party at someone’s flat (it may even have been his) and, as the photo indicates, there were no hard feelings, though perhaps my expression indicates something along the lines of “You cheeky …!” and his of “Never mind, that’s what you get with me!”.  The cheeky fingers above Andrzej’s head belong to the composer Paweł Szymański.

Andrzej came from the generation whose composers succeeded Górecki, Kilar and Penderecki and brought new blood into Polish music in the late 1970s and 1980s.  Among them was not only Szymański, but also Rafał Augustyn, Eugeniusz Knapik, Stanisław Krupowicz, Andrzej Krzanowski and Aleksander Lasoń.  They came of age during the anti-communist protests of the 1970s and the rise and fall of Solidarity at the turn of the decade.  They were activists through music, and Andrzej paid for this by losing his job at Polish Radio between 1981 and 1991.  Their position has been vindicated by history.

I trawled through my photograph albums today and found a second photo, taken two years later in 1995, at a party held to mark the 25th anniversary (…) of my first visit to Warsaw and the ‘Warsaw Autumn’.  Quite why I’m holding a shotgun – and pointing it at him – is a mystery, but the ever-convivial Andrzej is obligingly filling my glass.  Behind me is Krupowicz, to his right Szymański, and behind/between them my longest-standing Polish friend, Michał Kubicki.  We had a good evening, and no-one got shot.

Andrzej would have wanted those who knew him to have a good wake in his memory.  Like all his friends and colleagues, I’m devastated that he has gone.  A crumb of comfort – which may turn out to be not that small – is that a week before he died he completed a book about Lutosławski which will be published in time to mark his centenary next year.  Thank you Andrzej for everything.

• 5 Archival Polish Music Videos

Five videos of Polish music have newly been made available online.  They date from 1968-75 and are all of performances at the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw during the annual ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival.  There are two pieces by Lutosławski and one each by Baird, Penderecki and Serocki.  Not only can we now witness Peter Pears, Wanda Wiłkomirska and Karl-Erik Welin in action but we can also experience Lutosławski conducting his own music as well as appreciate that inspirational and tireless champion of new music, Andrzej Markowski (1924-86).  Many Polish composers owed him a huge debt of gratitude, including Baird, Penderecki and Serocki.

In chronological order of recording, these five videos are:

• Krzysztof Penderecki: Capriccio for violin and orchestra (1967).  Wanda Wiłkomirska, National Philharmonic, cond. Andrzej Markowski, 21 September 1968 (opening concert).
• Kazimierz Serocki: Fantasia elegiaca for organ and orchestra (1972).  Karl-Erik Welin, Sinfonie-Orchester des Hessischen Rundfunks, Frankfurt, cond. Andrzej Markowski, 28 September 1973 (Polish premiere).
Very little of Serocki’s music post-1956 is available in audio formats, let alone video, so this upload is welcome.
• Witold Lutosławski: Preludes and Fugue for thirteen solo strings(1972).  Chamber Ensemble of the National Philharmonic, cond. Lutosławski, 30 September 1973 (Polish premiere).
A minor frustration here: this was the first half of the concert which closed the 1973 festival.  In the second half, Lutosławski conducted Heinrich Schiff in the much-postponed Polish premiere of the Cello Concerto.  How I would love to see a video of that!
• Tadeusz Baird: Elegeia (1973).  National Philharmonic, cond. Andrzej Markowski, 21 September 1974 (opening concert).
• Witold Lutosławski: Paroles tissées (1965).  Peter Pears, Chamber Ensemble of the National Philharmonic, cond. Lutosławski, 25 September 1975.
Peter Pears had been the dedicatee and first performer of this song cycle at the Aldeburgh Festival ten years earlier, on 20 June 1965This was not its Polish premiere, but it was the only time that Pears sang it there.

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