• 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”

• 6th Festival of Premieres, Katowice

Last November, the 21st to be exact, I visited the new and magnificent home in Katowice of NOSPR, the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.  The occasion was a performance of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony under the baton of the 91-year-old Stanisław Skrowaczewski.

1510969_530640500404789_5062398667736756849_nIt was a searing account, made all the more special because that very morning I had come across a programme from 1949 when Skrowaczewski had conducted the same work with the other Katowice orchestra, the Silesian Philharmonic.  65 years on, and still going strong.

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I hope that in 2080 someone will come across the programme of NOSPR’s 6th Festiwal Prawykonań (Festival of Premieres, 17-19 April 2015) and make a similar connection with a performer or composer being featured in this edition.  The big change is that all the concerts will take place in the orchestra’s new home, barely ten minutes’ walk from Henryk Mikołaj Gorecki’s home.  The siedziba, as it’s called in Polish, not only includes the main symphony hall but the equally fine acoustics of the chamber hall.

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Back in 2013, I listed the repertoire of the 5th Festival.  This year, such is the diversity and extent of Polish composition that 75% of the names are different.  This biennial event is a great initiative, arguably the most important showcase for new Polish concert music.  It demonstrates the cultural significance of publicly-funded bodies like radio orchestras (Radio France take note).  I do not know the schedule of live or deferred broadcasts planned by Polish Radio Dwójka (PR2).

6-festiwal-prawykonanThe ensembles featured include Camerata Silesia, conducted by Anna Szostak, Orchestra Muzyki Nowej (New Music Orchestra), conducted by Szymon Bywalec, NOSPR conducted by Alexander Humala, Szymon Bywalec and José Maria Florêncio, Kwartludium, Kwartet Śląski (Silesian Quartet) and the AUKSO Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Marek Moś.

Here’s this year’s repertoire, in alphabetical order by composer:

** World premiere   * Polish premiere
• Rafał Augustyn: String Quartet no.3 ‘Monadologia’**
• Zbigniew Bagiński: String Quartet no.5**
• Zbigniew BargielskiHierofania 2 for orchestra**
• Marcin BłażewiczVisions for soprano, violin and piano**
• Marcin Bortnowskiku dźwiękom nocy for string quartet and accordion**
• Stanisław BromboszczAir for instrumental ensemble and electronic media**
• Roman Czura: Piano Concerto ‘Kraftfelder’**
• Jacek DomagałaElegia for voice and ensemble**
• Zofia DowgiałłoKompozycja z ruchomym tłem for orchestra**
• Cezary DuchnowskiSymfonia zbiorów for instrumental groups and electronics**
• Grzegorz DuchnowskiW malinowym chruśniaku for soprano and piano**
• Jan DuszyńskiSfex for accordion and cello**
• Mikołaj GóreckiElegia for cello and string orchestra**
• Marek GruckaRetaeh for piano, strings and percussion**
• Maciej Jabłoński: Symphony no.6 ‘Oneirophrenia’ for orchestra, electronics and multimedia**
• Zaid Jabri (Syrian composer living in Kraków): Beati Pacifici for soprano and piano*
• Justyna Kowalska-Łasoń która wszystko tworzy, wszystko ochrania for mixed choir of soloists, chamber orchestra and live electronics**
• Hanna Kulenty: Trumpet Concerto no.3**
• Sławomir Kupczak: white over red for mixed choir**
• Andrzej Kwiecińskierschallen for double bass and orchestra**
• Krzysztof MeyerMuzyka świata i półcienia for orchestra*
• Piotr Mossgo where never before for choir and instrumental ensemble*
PRASQUAL (aka Tomasz Prasqual): Muqarnyas for accordion and two orchestras in six spatial groups**
• Zbigniew SłowikThe Motor Poem (Quo vadis homine) for orchestra**
• Joanna Szymała: Clarinet Quintet**
• Sławomir Wojciechowski…play them back for ansambl and electronics**
• Emil Bernard WojtackiZefiro torna for soprano and orchestra**
• Artur ZagajewskiMechanofaktura**

• ‘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…

• Poles in Presteigne

UnknownThe 2014 Presteigne Festival in mid-Wales (21-26 August) has designed a special focus on Polish music.  This includes a new commission and premieres as well as sampling the music of composers such as Bacewicz, Lutosławski, Penderecki and Górecki.  There is a particular emphasis on the music of Andrzej Panufnik, on the centenary of his birth.  The full schedule may be found at: https://www.presteignefestival.com/PDFs/PF2014_brochure_for_web.pdf.

Here is an alphabetical-by-composer list of the Polish repertoire plus details of relevant talks and discussions
(** World premiere, * UK premiere):

Grażyna Bacewicz
• Concerto for String Orchestra (1948)
• Two Etudes for piano (1956)

Henryk Mikołaj Górecki
Two Sacred Songs for baritone and piano (1971)
• String Quartet no.1 ‘Already It Is Dusk’ (1988)

Witold Lutosławski
Dance Preludes for clarinet and piano (1954)
• Grave for cello and piano (1981)
• Partita for violin and piano (1984)

Paweł Łukaszewski
• Piano Trio (2008)
• Requiem** (2014, Festival commission)

Andrzej Panufnik
Miniature Etudes (Circle of Fifths), Book II, for piano (1947)
Landscape for string orchestra (1962/65)
Song to the Virgin Mary for choir (1964/69)
• Sinfonia Concertante for flute, harp and strings (1973)
• Love Song 
for mezzo-soprano and piano (1976)
• String Quartet no.3 ‘Wycinanki’ (1990)

Krzysztof Penderecki
• Prelude for solo clarinet (1987)
• Quartet for clarinet and string trio (1993)
• Serenade for string orchestra (1997)

Maciej Zieliński
• Lutosławski in memoriam for oboe and piano (1999)
Trio for MB for clarinet, violin and piano (2004)
Concello* (2013)

Talks and Discussions

• Warsaw Variations (award-winning Fallingtree Production, first broadcast on BBC R4 in 2012, with contributions by Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska, Camilla Panufnik and Adrian Thomas), followed by a discussion with Camilla and Roxanna Panufnik, radio producer Alan Hall, chaired by David Wordsworth
• Pre-concert event: Roxanna Panufnik, with Stephen Johnson
• Pre-concert event: Paweł Łukaszewski, with Thomas Hyde
• Pre-concert event: Paweł Łukaszewski, with Adrian Thomas
• Talk: Three Generations of Polish Composers (Adrian Thomas)
• Pre-concert event: Maciej Zieliński, with Adrian Thomas

• ‘onpolishmusic’ is back!

Thanks to all who continue to visit onpolishmusic!  If you’ve been wondering why the site has been silent since December 2013 it’s because I have been otherwise preoccupied with planning and then pursuing a four-month walk through France.  Now I am back, and new Polish posts and pages are in the offing.  As ever, if you have any suggestions for improving the site and its contents, I’ll be delighted to receive them.  Happy reading!

COMPETITION
Which author links the three composers Tomasz Sikorski, Lidia Zielińska and Agata Zubel?

682.01.ma,13362_zubel_coverI have a copy of Zubel’s new CD for the first person who can identify him/her and can name one work by each of these three composers that has a connection with this well-known writer.

Answers please via the CONTACT page.  I’ll post the solution below once the first correct answer comes in.  The prize was claimed within an hour of posting (see Comments, below)!

• 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.

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