Wednesday, 1 October 2014
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.
Two 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. First 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.
Now 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.
Another 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.
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.
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.
Various 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 Panufnik, Tragic Overture (1942)
• Andrzej Panufnik, Sinfonia elegiaca (1957, 1966)
• Karol Rathaus, Music for Strings (1941)
• Ludomir Różycki, Pietà. 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…