• ‘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”

• MoMA on Polish Music

moma-logo-post-new1Yet another initiative that I missed earlier this year is a series of essays and other items emanating from New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  I came across MoMA’s post – notes on modern and contemporary art around the globe while writing my preceding post about the late Bohdan Mazurek.  On 19 December 2013 MoMA published a theme called Polish Radio Experimental Studio: A Close Look, in which Mazurek features.

This really is a superb English-language introduction to one of the ground-breaking initiatives in Western and Eastern European music in the 1950s.  PRES was the brainchild of Józef Patkowski. It was a most unlikely development in communist Poland and one that had a profound impact on the sound of Polish music.  Many composers, including Penderecki, Kotoński, Schäffer and Dobrowolski, made use of its expertise (principally Bohdan Mazurek and Eugeniusz Rudnik), and soon non-Polish composers also flocked to use its facilities.

The MoMA theme includes the following:

Essays

• Daniel Muzyczuk, ‘The Future Sound of Warsaw: Introduction to PRES
• David Crowley, ‘Spatial Music: Design and the Polish Radio Experimental Studio
• Michał Libera: Alchemist Cabinet of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio: Music Scores of and for Experiments

Interview

• Daniel Muzyczuk, ‘How much Rudnik is in Penderecki, and how much Rudnik is in Nordheim?  Interview with Eugeniusz Rudnik

Scores

• PRES Music Scores 1959-1972
[browsable scores originally published by PWM]
• Kotoński Music for One Cymbal Stroke (1959)*
• Dobrowolski Music for Magnetic Tape (1963)*
• Schaeffer Symphony – Electronic Music (1964)*
• Dobrowolski Music for Magnetic Tape and Oboe Solo (1965)
• Dobrowolski Music for Strings, Two Groups of Wind Instruments and Two Loudspeakers (1966)
• Kotoński Aela. Electronic Music (1970)*
• Dobrowolski Music for Magnetic Tape and Piano Solo (1972)*

No sound files are included on the MoMA site, but there is a fascinating double CD (2013) from Bôłt Records that brings together the original realisations of the five scores marked * above, plus modern realisations of the same pieces.  The two CDs are called PRES Scores and also include then-and-now versions of Penderecki’s Psalmus (1961).

• Polish commissions for 2013-14

In an age when transparency in government agencies is increasingly demanded, I wonder how many British or other national arts organisations can rival the almost brutal way in which commission applications by Polish composers become available as publicly as this.  In its latest newsletter, issued today, the Institute of Music and Dance in Warsaw announced a summary of the latest round of music commissions, with a link to the full list published by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.  All the details are there, whether or not a composer or organisation has been successful.  Top of the list came a proposal from Baltic Opera for a new opera Olimpia by Zygmunt Krauze.

Polish commissions 2013-14, top 5

Each application was awarded a score (first column), the sponsoring organisation named, the nature of the commission given (with a + sign linking to a breakdown of the points given in column 1 into three components: organisational – 10%, merit – 60%, strategic – 30%).  Successful applications had to achieve a minimum total rating of 60%.  The value of the award is given in the final column (roughly 5zł = £1).  The minimum awarded was 10,000zł (c. £2000), the maximum 60,000zł (c. £12,000), depending on the nature of the project (60,000zł for an opera is absurdly low and, I trust, only part of Krauze’s total commission fee, especially when compared with 25,000zł for a string quintet).  In this year’s round, 81 of the 218 applications have been  successful and the total disbursement by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage is 2,324,950zł (approximately £465,000).  The range of activity is impressively broad, as also befits a selection panel comprising two composers, a conductor and representatives from broadcasting and higher education (Zbigniew Bagiński, Joanna Grotkowska, Eugeniusz Knapik, Wojciech Michniewski and Krzysztof Szwajgier).

• Lutosławski @sacrum+profanum, 22.09.13

sacrum_logotypecmyk_jasnetlHot on the heels of my recent posts about the re-imagining of Lutosławski’s music by Polish musicians, news has come through of a potentially more far-reaching project involving non-Polish musicians at the 2013 sacrum+profanum festival in Kraków.

On 22 September, the AUKSO orchestra, under Marek Moś, will play Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre and Preludes and Fugue.  Their by-the-book performances will then be responded to by four composers known for their electronic work: Clark (Chris Clark, UK), Emika (UK, of Czech parentage), Mira Calix (UK) and Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin, USA).  The event – ‘Polish Icons 2’ – starts at 18.00, at the ArcelorMittal Hala Ocynowni.  Tickets (bilety) are 79zł (c. £20) until the end of May, thereafter 99zł (c. £25).  The Polish announcement is available here (the English-language pages have not yet caught up with the Polish news release).

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• Zubel Zings!

series_page_image_c_kopia tarasin jan_w238The Philharmonia’s Orchestra’s Woven Words celebration of the centenary of the birth of Witold Lutosławski has come to its end in London, although it is taking some of its repertoire abroad from time to time until September.  It has been an undeniable success, with great performances of Lutosławski’s music under Esa-Pekka Salonen.  I went to all three London concerts in the Royal Festival Hall, and the clear highlight for me was Krystian Zimerman’s superlative interpretation of the Piano Concerto in the first concert (30 January).  Jennifer Koh brought an exceptional intensity and drive to Chain 2 in the final concert (21 March) and Truls Mørk’s performance of the Cello Concerto in the second concert (7 March) was also very fine.  I wish I could be as enthusiastic about Mathias Goerne in Les espaces du sommeil, but his weak diction and exceedingly nervous manner were severe distractions.  The programming of Debussy and Ravel was inspired, especially the placing of Ma mère l’oye at the start of the third concert.  The performances of the French repertoire were, however, hit and miss: the complete Daphnis et Chlöe was riveting, La mer rather matter-of-fact, while La valse – the last piece in the series – went for absolutely nothing because of Salonen’s expression-denying, helter-skelter speed.

Less trumpeted were the complementary concerts.  Students from the Royal College of Music played a sterling role in this regard, in concerts on 4, 6 and 27 February and on 6 March.    There were also three events by young Polish musicians playing music of their contemporaries, though these events were barely evident in either the Philharmonia’s online publicity, which failed to keep up-to-date with some programme changes, or within the RFH signage itself.  This was a pity, and something of a discourtesy to the Polish side of the partnership (the Adam Mickiewicz Institute), which had brought fresh imagination to these supporting recitals.  (A full list of the Lutosławski and other Polish repertoire in the London concerts is given at the foot of this post.)

Kwartludium

The first supporting event in the RFH came before the second concert (7 March) and was given by the Polish ensemble Kwartludium (clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, percussion, piano).  The advertised repertoire of music by Wojciech Blecharz (b.1981) and Jagoda Szmytka (b.1982) was replaced by pieces by other Polish composers: Sławomir Wojciechowski (b.1971), Wojciech Ziemowit Zych (b.1976) and Dariusz Przybylski (b.1984).  Dagna Sadkowska and Piotr Nowicki began the recital with a performance of Lutosławski’s Subito, which the full ensemble followed with a ghostly ‘impression’ of the piece.  All three of the other works had great dynamism and instrumental imagination.  A fragment of Zych’s piece (in Polish: Stale obecna tęsknota) is available on the Kwartludium website: http://www.kwartludium.com/Zych.mp3.   This recital was an extremely rare opportunity in this country to hear Polish music written since 2000, and that in itself should give us pause for thought.  We are too wedded to the triumvirate of Lutosławski, Penderecki and Górecki.  There are not only many other Polish composers born before 1945 who are totally neglected in the UK, but also four decades of composers who now range in age from their mid-60s to their mid-20s and whose names are barely known, let alone their music.  Our concert repertoire – and not only with regard to Poland – remains more insular than we (are prepared to) recognise.

Cellotronicum and Cellonet

The second supporting event took place before the third concert (21 March).  The first part was given by Cellotronikum, comprising the cellist Andrzej Bauer with computer input by the composer Cezary Duchnowski (b.1971).  They gave the world premiere of For A.B. by Ryszard Osada (b.1972), followed by Duchnowski’s Broda.  In the second part, given by the Cellonet ensemble, Bauer conducted eight of his own students in Penderecki’s own arrangement of his Agnus Dei and in Octagon by the Ukrainian composer Lubawa Sydorenko (b.1979).  In both pieces, Cellonet was absolutely stunning, and you can hear the Sydorenko on the Cellonet MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/cellonet/music/songs/lubawa-sydorenko-octagon-58524337.  This was music-making of an unusual order, and it is a measure of its quality that two of the eight cellists – Bartosz Koziak and Marcin Zdunik – have won the Lutosławski Cello Competition (in 2001 and 2007 respectively).  I heard Zdunik give an inspired performance of Lutosławski’s Grave in Warsaw in January and he told me after the RFH recital that he’s about to record the Lutosławski Cello Concerto, so that is definitely something to look out for.

El Derwid

The final supporting event, and the most neglected, came after the third Philharmonia concert and was held in the distinctly unsuitable Clore Ballroom (diabolical acoustics, nil atmosphere).  It was a reworking of eight of over thirty dance songs that Lutosławski wrote in the late 1950s and early 60s under the pseudonym ‘Derwid’.  For some unfathomable reason, the evening’s concert sheet failed to mention this rather crucial connection.  I’ve known the Derwid songs in their original recordings for over twenty years, but even I was flummoxed by the unexplained heading ‘EL DERWID’.  Had someone been reading Doctorow?  Was there some unknown Venezuelan bandit connection?  Subsequent research revealed that the ‘El’ comes from ‘Elettrovoce’, a duet comprising the composer and singer Agata Zubel (b.1978) and Duchnowski.  Somebody might have thought to explain this.  Zubel and Duchnowski (on piano as well as computer) teamed up several years ago with Bauer to perform their realisations of a selection of Derwid songs; a recording of this ‘El Derwid’ repertoire is due out on CD Accord this autumn.

Even though I caught only five of the songs (their performance must have started the minute the concert ended, as they were on song no.3 by the time I got downstairs), they were sufficient to whet my appetite for the CD.  Zubel has great stage presence and a wonderfully flexible voice.  In Czarownica (Witch), she and Bauer seemed to be having a domestic tit-for-tat, to humorous effect, while in Daleka podróż (Distant Journey) the trio brought a grating darkness to this tale of dreaming of distant, sunny climes.  In this bitterly cold March weather, I knew how they felt.  The title song for their set, Plamy na słońcu (Sunspots), delightfully and unexpectedly interlaced Derwid’s music with the Passacaglia theme from Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra.  Woven works.  This fringe event brought a smile to the lips of those who had found it, and it gave the festival a properly fizzing conclusion.

Postscript

Two further aspects of Woven Words are worth mentioning.  Firstly, and more importantly, the detail and skill that have gone into the woven-words.co.uk website.  It is a model of its kind: launched well in advance of the festival (three months), it contains links to several specially commissioned films and a series of essays on Lutosławski.  This is a very valuable resource, not just for the festival but for future readers and viewers.  Secondly, there was a Lutosławski Study Day – ‘Lutosławski and the Interior Drama: The Spaces of Dream’ – held at the RFH on 16 March. There were five sessions: talks by Steven Stucky (‘Glimpsing an Ideal World’), myself (‘The Spaces of Dream: Lutosławski and Surrealism’) and Nicholas Reyland (‘The Sense of an Ending: Late Music, Enduring Concerns’), plus a workshop on the String Quartet with Steven Stucky and the Jubilee String Quartet, who then played the work complete.  The day concluded with a panel discussion by the three speakers.

Woven Words: 20th- and 21st-Century Polish Repertoire

Lutosławski/Philharmonia: Concerto for Orchestra (1954), Musique funèbre (1958), Cello Concerto (1970), Les espaces du sommeil (1975), Chain 2 (1985), Piano Concerto (1988), Symphony no.4 (1992)

• Lutosławski/RCM: Two Studies (1941), Bucolics (1952), Dance Preludes (1954), Jeux vénitiens (1961), String Quartet (1964), Epitaph (1979), Grave (1981), Mini-Overture (1982), Symphony no.3 (1983), Partita (1984), Fanfare for CUBE (1987), Subito (1992)

• Lutosławski/Kwartludium: Subito (1992)

• Lutosławski/Jubilee String Quartet: String Quartet (1964)

• ‘Derwid’/El Derwid: Cyrk jedzie (The Circus is Coming), Jeden przystanek dalej (One Stop Further), Z lat dziecinnych (From Childhood), Czarownica (Witch), Złote pantofelki (Golden Shoes), Daleka podróż (Distant Journey), W lunaparku (At the Funfair), Plamy na słońcu (Sunspots)

• Other 
Cezary Duchnowski: Broda (2005)
Ryszard Osada: For A.B. (2013?) world premiere
Krzysztof Penderecki: Agnus Dei (1981), arr. eight cellos (2007)
Dariusz Przybylski: Medeas Träume (2008)
Sławomir Wojciechowski: Rope of Sands (2009)
Wojciech Zimowit Zych: Ever-Present Longing (2005)

• Jazz & Experimental Music from Poland

At the end of this month, Polish and British musicians are getting together in London for four nights of jazz and experimental music.  If last year’s programme is anything to go by, audiences at The Forge (25.11), Vortex Jazz Club (26.11), Queen of Hoxton (27.11) and The Hackney Cut (28.11) are in for something special.  The experimental music scene in Poland – across a whole range of genres and disciplines – has never been more vibrant.

Among those appearing are the Postaremczak/Kusiołek Duo (sax/accordion), three solo jazz musicians – Hubert Zemler (percussion), Rafał Mazur (acoustic bass guitar) and Marcin Masecki (piano), who made such an impression last year – the Warsaw-based band ParisTetris and the Levity trio.

Also taking part are UK musicians including Vocal Constructivists (who will be singing works by my own composition teacher, the iconoclastic Bogusław Schaeffer), Cornish-born Jim Hart (vibes) and Patrick Farmer, who’s creating a programme of installations and performances based on the ‘absent’ sounds of the city, in collaboration with Krzysztof Topolski and Kacper Ziemianin (who also appeared last year).

You can access all the necessary details @ http://www.experimentalpl.co.uk.  This highly informative site – complete with artist bios, videos and audio files – also includes details of last year’s programme: http://jazz.deconstructionproject.co.uk.

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