• New Book: Polish Music since 1945

A new collection of essays on post-war Polish music has just been published by Musica Iagellonica in Kraków.  It is edited by Eva Mantzourani, who convened a conference four years ago, at the Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, UK, under the title ‘Polish Music since 1945’.  Scholars young and old came from far and wide, and this volume of 31 essays is the result of those very stimulating days in May 2009.  It may be purchased at the Musica Iagellonica online shop for 85zł (c. £17/$27, plus postage).  The list of contents is given below.

Polish Music since 1945
PART I: Polish Composers in Context

• Charles Bodman Rae: ‘The Polish musical psyche: From the Second Republic into the Third’
• Adrian Thomas: ‘Locating Polish music’
• Marek Podhajski: ‘Polish music, Polish composers 1918–2007’
• Ruth Seehaber: ‘The construction of a “Polish School”: Self-perception and foreign perception of Polish contemporary music between 1956 and 1976’
• Bogumiła Mika: ‘Between “a game with a listener” and a symbolic referral to tradition: Musical quotation in Polish art music since 1945’
• David Tompkins: ‘The Stalinist state as patron: Composers and commissioning in early Cold War Poland’
• Maja Trochimczyk: ‘1968 – Operation Danube, ISCM, and Polish music’
• Alicja Jarzębska: ‘Polish music and the problem of the cultural Cold War’
• Niall O’Loughlin: ‘Panufnik and Polishness’
• Violetta Kostka: ‘Tadeusz Kassern: Music from his American period’
• Barbara Literska: ‘The “commissioned” works of Tadeusz Baird’
• Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek: ‘Paweł Szymański and the multiple narrative in music’
• Marta Szoka: ‘The music of Paweł Mykietyn: In between pastiche, deconstruction and the great narration’
• Caroline Rae: ‘Dutilleux and Lutosławski: Franco-Polish connections’

PART II: Analytical perspectives

• Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska: ‘Lutosławski’s Second Symphony (1967) and Górecki’s Second Symphony (1972): Two concepts of the bipartite late avant-garde symphony’
• Teresa Malecka: ‘Górecki’s creative journeys between nature and culture: Around the Copernican Symphony
• Stanisław Będkowski: ‘Wojciech Kilar’s last symphonies: Modification of a paradigm’
• Zbigniew Skowron: ‘Lutosławski at the crossroads. Three Postludes: A reappraisal of their style and compositional technique’
• Suyun Tang: ‘Lutosławski’s tonal architecture as defined by a Schenkerian tonal model’
• Aleksandra Bartos: ‘Witold Lutosławski’s Portrait of Woman 2000: New aspects of his compositional technique’
• Amanda Bayley and Neil Heyde: ‘Interpreting indeterminacy: Filming Lutosławski’s String Quartet’
• Cindy Bylander: ‘Back to the future: The interaction of form and motive in Penderecki’s middle symphonies’
• Regina Chłopicka: ‘The St Luke Passion and the Eighth Symphony Lieder der Vergänglichkeit: The key works in Penderecki’s oeuvre’
• Tim Rutherford-Johnson: ‘Theological aspects to Penderecki’s St Luke Passion
• Agnieszka Draus: ‘Infernal and celestial circles in Paradise Lost: Milton and Penderecki’
• Tomasz Kienik: ‘The musical language of Kazimierz Serocki: Analytical aspects of his musical output’
• Iwona Lindstedt: ‘Sonoristics and serial thinking: On the distinctive features of works from the “Polish School”’.
• Anna Masłowiec: ‘The sonoristic score: Inside and outside’

PART III: Polish jazz, film music and the marketplace

• Zbigniew Granat: ‘Underground roads to new music: Walls, tunnels, and the emergence of jazz avant-garde in 1960s Poland’
• Nicholas Reyland: ‘Experiencing agapē: Preisner and Kieślowski’s Three Colours: Blue
• Renata Pasternak-Mazur: ‘Sacropolo or Sacrum in the marketplace’

• 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).

• WL100/28: Jazz Conversations (Lutosphere)

Having heard Agata Zubel, Andrzej Bauer and Cezary Duchnowski in conversation with Lutosławski’s alter ego ‘Derwid’ at the end of the Philharmonia’s Woven Words festival last month (Zubel Zings!), I’ve revisited an earlier set of ‘conversations with Lutosławski’.  These took place in the project Lutosphere, when Bauer teamed up with the pianist Leszek Możdżer and the DJ M.Bunio.S to explore Lutosławski’s concert music.  Among the pieces which they reference are the Intrada and Passacaglia from the Concerto for Orchestra (1954) and the Cello Concerto (1970). As I’ve written before, there’s quite a tradition of Polish jazz musicians reworking the music of major Polish composers (Chopin, Szymanowski), but this is the first time that the composer’s own voice has been included in the process!

There are currently a handful of uploads on YouTube, some with live video footage.  Here are five (two of them are short extracts), dating from 2008-10.

OFF festival, Mysłowice (8.08.2008)


Polish Radio (pre 6.11.2008, with partly English-language intro by Możdżer)


(pre 17.05.2009)


Kraków Philharmonic (31.10.2009)


Theatre on the 6th Floor, Warsaw (26.08.2010)


• 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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