• Panufnik: One Song or Three?

343px-POL_PZPR_logo.svgLast month I spent a few days researching Panufnik manuscripts in Kraków’s Jagiellonian Library.  I was interested mainly in his working versions of major pieces from the 1940s and 50s; I will write on these shortly.  Another set of manuscripts also caught my eye.  These were of three songs written for a competition celebrating the imminent formation in December 1948 of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR).  Although Panufnik professed in his autobiography to writing just one song, and that under duress, it has been known for a while, from other archives, that like five of his colleagues he wrote music to all three set texts.  But the existence of these fair copies in his own hand has not been so well-known.  I have written a short article exploring these manuscripts and their history.

• Letters from 1950

Reproduced here for the first time is a letter dated 21 April 1950.  It is from Andrzej Panufnik, who expresses his desire to write a Revolutionary Symphony.  Not heard of this work before?  That’s not surprising, because he never wrote it. Instead, the project transmuted itself into his Symphony of Peace (1951).

Scan 4The source of this letter, and of letters from over 50 other Polish composers, is a file I stumbled across in a Polish archive, half a century after it was sent.  I have written about Panufnik’s letter and Lutosławski’s before, and my article on this collection was published online by the Polish Music Center in Los Angeles in 2002.  I have now republished it here – File 750: Composers, Politics and the Festival of Polish Music (1951) – alongside updated appendices.

These letters from 1950 provide an insider’s view of how composers navigated the system of commissions and funding at the height of socialist realism, what they had already written that they deemed suitable, what they wanted to write, how they justified their proposals, how much they thought they were worth financially, and how much the Minister of Culture rated them.  There are further research questions to be asked of this primary material, not least of which is the fact that the majority of the proposed compositions never materialised.  Here, for starters, is my initial survey from 2002.

• 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’

• WL100/59: Lutosławski in Moscow (1951)

In 1951, Witold Lutosławski was a (no doubt reluctant) member of an official delegation from Poland to the Soviet Union, visiting Moscow, Rostov and Leningrad over the space of three weeks, all in the cause of ‘Polish-Russian Friendship’.   Quite apart from his dismay at the blatantly political role of the visit, a large part of his reluctance to be part of this 22-strong group must have stemmed from his childhood memories of his father’s fate: Lutosławski saw him briefly in prison before both his father and his uncle were shot by Bolshevik forces in 1918 (see my earlier post: WL100/55: Death of Lutosławski’s father).

Lutosławski subsequently reported on his visit for the Polish journal Muzyka 2 (November 1951, no.11 (20), pp.6-7). But his subject matter is remarkably distanced from standard politicised propaganda about the USSR.   Even so, its unctuous tone is so exaggerated that one wonders who could have genuinely believed that Lutosławski’s heart was in it.  Indeed, it is more than likely that it was edited by a political minder or even written by one and added to by Lutosławski.  On the eve of my first visit to Moscow – to its Conservatoire, among other places – I thought of his account, written under considerably more duress than affects today’s visitors to Russia, who cannot be unaware, however, of its government’s perpetuation, even expansion of restrictions on personal freedoms and self-expression.

Homma 1993 1

This article is reprinted in Witold Lutosławski. O muzyce. Pisma i wypowiedzi, ed. Zbigniew Skowron (Warsaw, 2011, pp.365-7), but it is not included in the preceding English version Lutosławski on Music (Lanham MD, 2007).  The translation here is my own.

A few impressions from a trip to the USSR
Kilka wrażen z podróży do ZSRR

When one goes down into the Moscow metro for the first time, one succumbs to feelings of awe and admiration: we are in a palace.  Marble, sculptures, mosaics, intricate chandeliers, wall lamps, all sparkling clean, all gleaming with light.  Each glimpsed station delights the eye with its novelty, different from the one before.  Like rooms in a grand residence, individual metro stations make up a precisely worked-out, artistic whole.  The splendid Ploshchad Revolyutsii, filled with bronze figures, the modest Mayakovskaya, all graceful, finished steel curves, and much, much more.

Gdy po raz pierwszy zejdziemy do metra moskiewskiego, ulegniemy uczuciom zdumienia i podziwu: jesteśmy w pałacu.  Marmury, rzeźby, mozaiki, kunsztowne żyrandole, kinkiety, wszystko lśni czystością, jarzy się światłem.  Każda ujrzana stacja raduje oczy swą nowością, niepodobna jest do poprzedniej.  Jak sale w pysznej rezydencji, stacje metra stanowią – każda osobno – starannie wypracowaną, artystyczną całość.  Wspaniała, wypełniona postaciami z brązu stacja Rewolucji, skromna, cała we wdzięcznych, stalą wykończonych łukach Majakowskaja i wiele, wiele innych.

We are awed in that first moment.  Our habits and memories from other European cities still make us associate the idea of an underground station with some sort of huge, dirty bathroom.  Our amazement recedes, however, after a moment’s reflection.  The metro is still a mechanism for millions of people, so what is odd about so much work and artistic finish being put into its construction?  Is it not more amazing – in the negative sense of the word – that in recent times palaces have been built for the daily use of just one family?  While works of art, these buildings are also evidence of unbounded self-centredness.  In the Soviet Union, they are today admittedly converted into museums, accessible to every citizen, though they are not daily at anyone’s disposal.  The only true palace built for millions of people is the Moscow metro.  Every citizen in this capital of several million feels at home in this palace; not a day goes by when he does not spend a few moments in it and can rejoice at will in its splendour.

Zdumiewamy się tym w pierwszym momencie.  Przyzwyczajenia nasze i wspomnienia z innych miast Europy każą nam przecież kojarzyć pojęcia stacji kolei podziemnej z jakąś olbrzymią, brudnawą łazienką.  Zdumienie nasze ustępuje jednak po chwili zastanowienia.  Metro jest przecież urządzeniem dla milionów ludzi, cóż więc dziwnego, że w jego budowę włożono tu tyle pracy i artystycznego wykończenia?  Czyż nie bardziej zdumiewającym – w ujemnym sensie tego słowa – jest fakt, że w minionych czasach budowano pałace, mające na co dzień służyć zaledwie jednej rodzinie?  Będąc dziełami sztuki, były te budowle jednocześnie świadectwem bezgranicznego egocentryzmu.  W Związku Radzieckim są dziś one wprawdzie zamienione na muzea, są dostępne każdemu obywatelowi, nikomu jednak na co dzień nie służą.  Prawdziwym pałacem zbudowanym dla milionów ludzi jest dopiero metro moskiewskie.  Każdy obywatel kilkumilionowej stolicy czuje się w tym pałacu u siebie, nie ma dnia, aby nie spędził w nim kilku chwil, może do woli radować się jego wspaniałością.

*

The Moscow Conservatoire, named after Tchaikovsky, is an academy of great, universal traditions.  Its founder was Anton Rubinstein, one of its professors Tchaikovsky.  From the walls of this academy have come great artists, whose names belong to the first rank in the world.  Today, the Moscow Conservatoire is the leading music academy in the Soviet Union.  Young people from the many nations of the USSR are educated there.  The great traditions are alive in every sense and year on year are enriched by new talents and new pedagogical achievements at the highest level.

Konserwatorium moskiewskie imienia Czajkowskiego jest uczelnią o wielkich, światowych tradycjach.  Założycielem jego był Antoni Rubinstein, jednym z profesorów – Czajkowski.  Z murów tej uczelni wyszło wielu artystów, których nazwiska należą do pierwszych w świecie.  Dziś konserwatorium moskiewskie jest przodującą uczelnią muzyczną Związku Radzieckiego.  Kształci się w nim młodzież wielu narodów ZSRR.  Wielkie tradycje żyją w całej pełni i są z roku na rok wzbogacane nowymi talentami i nowymi osiągnięciami pedagogicznymi na najwyższym poziomie.

We were at the Conservatoire to become acquainted with the work of students in the composition class.  For this unique opportunity we are indebted to the exceptional kindness of the director of the conservatoire, [Alexandra] Sveshnikova, as well as Professors [Yuri] Shaporin and [Anatoly] Bogatyrev, who at our request specially organised a little compositional event.  With passionate interest we hear this improvised concert.  Before us a group of students, composers and performers, representatives of various nationalities: besides the Russians there are also citizens of Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and the Mari El Republic.

Znaleźliśmy się w konserwatorium, aby zapoznać się z twórczością studentów klas kompozycji.  Wyjątkową tę okazję mamy do zawdzięczenia niezwykłej uprzejmości dyrektora konserwatorium Swiesznikowa, jak również profesorów Szaporina i Bogatyriowa, którzy na naszą prośbę specjalnie zorganizowali małą produkcję kompozytorską.  Z żarliwym zainteresowaniem słuchamy tego zaimprowizowanego koncertu.  Przed nami grupa studentów, kompozytorów i wykonawców, przedstawicieli różnych narodowości: oprócz Rosjan są to obywatele Gruzji, Armenii, Kazachstanu, Republiki Maryjskiej.

We will try to sketch the common features of the pieces being performed.  The words that immediately suggest themselves are clarity of thought, simplicity and melodiousness.  A lack of any excesses or technical displays. Compositional technique is used here as a means of expression.  None of the young composers has given in to the temptation to show first and foremost what he knows.  He always shows what he has to say.  This displays great maturity, a developed sense of responsibility.  Tremendous maturity is also met in the instrumental aspects of the works.  Each of the compositions that we hear sounds instrumentally accurate and idiomatic, and not infrequently is a testament to real artistry in its field (e.g. the Piano Toccata by [Andrei] Eshpai or the Cello Suite by [Sulkhan] Tsintsadze).  The performing side of the event we heard was of the highest level.  Some students are fully mature, first-rate artists.  Among them, a star of the first magnitude: the cellist [Daniil] Shafran.

Spróbujemy naszkicować wspólne cechy wykonanych utworów. Słowa, które od razu same się narzucają, to jasność myśli, prostota, melodyjność.  Brak wszelkich przerostów i popisów technicznych.  Technika kompozytorska służy tu jako środek wyrazu.  Żaden z młodych kompozytorów nie ulega pokusie, aby pokazywać przede wszystkim to, co umie.  Zawsze pokazuje to, co ma do powiedzenia.  W tym widać dużą dojrzałość, rozwinięte poczucie odpowiedzialność.  Ogromną dojrzałość widzi się również w stronie instrumentalnej utworów.  Każda z usłyszanych kompozycji uderza trafnością i swobodą w użyciu instrumentu, nierzadko zaś jest świadectwem prawdziwego kunsztu w tej dziedzinie (np. Toccata fortepianowa Eszpaja czy Suita wiolonczelowa Cyncadze).  Strona wykonawcza usłyszanej produkcji stała na najwyższym poziomie.  Niektórzy studenci to zupełnie dojrzali, świetni artyści.  Wśród nich – gwiazda pierwszej wielkości: wiolonczelista Szafran.

*

Ruza is a village 120 kilometres distant from Moscow.  The location of the village is exceptionally beautiful: mixed forest, traversed by narrow paths, on the upper Moscow River, a small bathing area, a landing stage.  In the woods, at a few hundred metres, are one-, two- and three-room cottages, wooden or brick, fully furnished, with a piano.  In these cottages work Soviet composers.  Each a member of the Composers’ Union, and if he has a plan to devote several months to working on his own composition, he is directed to one such artistic colony.  He finds everything here that is essential for work: peace, quiet, delightful nature, without all the troubles of everyday life.  After work he can relax in the fresh air, play sports like tennis, volleyball, swimming, rowing, skiing in winter, skating, etc..  If he wants, he can spend time in Ruza with his family.

Ruza jest to miejscowość odległa o 120 kilometrów od Moskwy.  Położenie miejscowości jest wyjątkowo piękne: las mieszany, poprzecinany wąskimi dróżkami, niżej rzeka Moskwa, małe kąpielisko, przystań.  W lesie, co paręset metrów domek jedno-, dwu- lub trzypokojowy, drewniany lub murowany, kompletnie urządzony, z fortepianem.  W tych domkach pracują kompozytorzy radzieccy.  Każdy członek Związku Kompozytorów, jeśli ma zamiar poświęcić kilkumiesięczny okres wyłącznie na pracę nad swym dziełem, skierowywany jest do jednej z podobnych kolonii twórczych.  Znajduje tam wszystko, co mu jest niezbędne do pracy: spokój, ciszę, uroczą przyrodę, brak wszelkich kłopotów dnia codziennego.  Po pracy może wypocząć w zdrowym powietrzu, używać sportów, jak tenis, siatkówka, pływanie, wiosłowanie, zimą narty, ślizgawka itd.  Jeśli chce, może przebywać w Ruzie z rodziną.

We go to Ruza with the General Secretary of the Composers’ Union, [Tikhon] Khrennikov.  While taking a walk in the grounds, we visit composers at work in their cottages.  [Marian] Koval, busy with the instrumentation of a children’s opera [probably the second version of The Wolf and the Seven Kids (1951)], then [Aram] Khachaturian, working on his ballet Spartacus [(1954)].  We ate lunch together with all the residents of the colony.  We are welcomed in an atmosphere of uncommon sincerity and comradeship.  In conversations with Russian colleagues we have the chance to see that they are all full of enthusiasm for Ruza and the excellent conditions that are found there for their work.  From the examples of Ruza we are able to determine with our own eyes how much importance the Soviet authorities attach to art and how admirably they protect the creative endeavours of artists.

Do Ruzy jedziemy z sekretarzem generalnym Związku Kompozytorów Chrennikowem.  Odbywszy przechadzkę po terenie, odwiedzamy kompozytorów w ich domkach przy pracy.  Kowala, zajętego instrumentacją opery dla dzieci, następnie Chaczaturiana, pracującego nad baletem Spartakus.  Spożywamy wspólny obiad z wszystkimi mieszkańcami kolonii.  Jesteśmy przyjęci w atmosferze niezwykłej serdeczności i koleżeństwa.  W rozmowach z kolegami radzieckimi mamy możność przekonać się, że wszyscy oni są pełni entuzjazmu dla Ruzy i znakomitych warunków, jakie tam znajdują dla swej pracy.  Na przykładzie Ruzy i my mamy możność stwierdzić naocznie, jak wielką wagę przywiązuje władza radziecka do sztuki i jak wspaniałą opieką otacza twórczy wysiłek artystów.

• WL100/54: Lutosławski and Panufnik (1945)

Here are two forgotten assessments of Lutosławski and Panufnik from 1945.  I think that this is the first time that this material has been seen in modern times.  On one of my rummages in second-hand bookshops in Kraków, back in the 1990s, I came across a bundle of concert programme, one of which I featured in an earlier Lutosławski post: WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939.  This second programme, which I explored in the preceding post WL100/53: Trio, **2 September 1945, has the biographies of the five composers on the back page.  In fact, the biographical elements on Lutosławski and Panufnik take second place to assessments of the composers’ creative personae.  It is not indicated who wrote them.  I’ve translated the two for Lutosławski and Panufnik below.

WL program 2.09.45 4

WITOLD LUTOSŁAWSKI b. 1913 represents the youngest generation of Polish composers and, among them, the direction of the “extreme left”.  This avant-gardism expresses itself in Lutoslawski in the openly fanatical pursuit of logic and rigour in the design of his prevailing use of polyphony as a means towards these goals, searching absolutely for his own sound world, as far removed as possible from that used by previous generations of composers.  It is especially interesting to find that this avant-gardism appeared in Lutoslawski independently, as an expression of his own internal needs.  During his studies he found no external stimulus in this direction, nor did the environment in which he grew up and was educated have the slightest intrusive impact.  He completed his music studies at the Warsaw Conservatory in the class of Witold Maliszewski, one of the representatives of the most conservative tendency among our composers and teachers.
Among the most important works by Lutoslawski we may mention: Piano Sonatas (which he has performed several times), Symphonic Variations (performed at the Wawel Festival in 1939), Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos, fragments of a Requiem, piano pieces and songs.  Currently he is working on a symphony, of which the first movement is already fully completed, the rest in sketches.

This biography is fascinating for several reasons: (1) the placing of Lutosławski as a radical “extreme left” composer on the basis, presumably, of his main composition so far, the Symphonic Variations, (2) the early indication of his life-long desire for logic and rigour, (3) the emphasis on polyphonic writing (with only a few pieces as evidence) as distinct from the later emphasis on harmony, (4) the strong statement about Lutosławski’s independence from external sources and events (something which he reiterated over and again until the end of his life), and (5) the deliberate distancing from his teacher Maliszewski, whom later he often cited as a key influence on his structural thinking while recognising Maliszewski’s disapproval of the Symphonic Variations.  Given the strength of opinion expressed in this paragraph, it wouldn’t surprise me at least if it was written by the unknown author on the basis of a detailed briefing from the composer.  I don’t have the feeling that Lutosławski penned it himself (see the error mentioned in the paragraph below).

The list of works curiously multiplies the Piano Sonata.  This is the only time that I have read any suggestion that there might be more than one!  It also reveals where Lutosławski was in the composition of the First Symphony (1941-47).  We may now date the completion of the first movement as by August 1945 at the latest, with the other three movements being finished over the following two years.

ANDRZEJ PANUFNIK, whose “Tragic Overture” was such a success in Kraków’s last concert season*, is the second strong supporter – alongside Lutosławski – of radical trends among our youngest composers. And with him at the forefront, the quest for the greatest formal logic is advancing, and for the most part he experiments with clearly positive results in the pursuit of a new musical language.  At the same time, a very specific note of lyricism is revealed in his music, which gives his pieces the most distinctive physiognomy.
Panufnik is the author of: Variations for piano, Trio for violin, cello and piano, Folk Songs with wind instr. accomp., Songs with chamber orchestra, “Tragic Overture”, Orchestral Variations, Symphonic Image and two symphonies.
As an outstandingly gifted conductor himself, he is the best performer of his symphonic works.  In recent times, he has worked regularly with the Polish Film Unit in Łódż.

Panufnik’s biography is interesting for largely different reasons.  He has long been regarded as the most experimental Polish composer of the second half of the 1940s, so it is fascinating to see that he already bore this mantle in 1945 with a work like Tragic Overture (1942, reconstructed 1945) and that the lyrical side of his music achieves prominent notice at a moment when he was focusing on tight motivic cells.  The list of works includes some that had been lost during the Second World War and have generally been left out of his list of works since, including his early student Variations for piano, the Symphonic Variations – which Panufnik had conducted in the graduation concert – and Symphonic Image (both works were composed during Panufnik’s last year at the Warsaw Conservatoire, 1935-36) as well as the two symphonies (1940, 1941).**  The Songs with chamber orchestra are unidentifiable.

…….

* The dates of the wartime premiere in Warsaw of Tragic Overture vary according to the source: the Polish Encyklopedia Muzyczna and Panufnik’s autobiography Composing Myself give 1943, while the monographs by Beata Bolesławska and Ewa Siemdaj give 19 March 1944.  As to the premiere in Kraków of the reconstructed score, Siemdaj gives 10 January 1946, but this leaflet indicates that it was given sometime during the 1944-45 season.
** In his autobiography, Panufnik noted: ‘I then decided to try to rescue my Symphony no.1.  But here my memory faltered and the results were disappointing.  I performed it in one of our symphony concerts, but afterwards destroyed the score.  With that I renounced further reconstruction work…’.  Concert programmes from Kraków indicate that Panufnik conducted the premiere of his reconstructed First Symphony on 30 November 1945, and again on 6 December.

• WL100/53: Trio, **2 September 1945

With this programme leaflet, the precise date of the premiere of Lutosławski’s Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1944-45) can be determined.  It has long been known that it was given its first performance in Kraków during the Festival of Contemporary Polish Music (1-4 September 1945).  This leaflet indicates that the premiere was on Sunday 2 September, which was also the final day of the Congress of the Union of Composers (subsequently known as the Union of Polish Composers, ZKP), held 29 August – 2 September to galvanise Poland’s musical life in the immediate post-war months.  Lutosławski was appointed Secretary-Treasurer of the new union during the congress.

WL program 2.09.45 1

The programme of this Chamber Concert does not specify that this was the premiere of the Trio, but then it also fails to do the same for at least one of the other pieces.  The previously understood details of the premiere of Andrzej Panufnik’s Five Folk Songs (later known in English as Five Polish Peasant Songs, 1940, reconstructed 1945) were only that the piece was premiered during this festival under the young conductor and composer Stanisław Skrowaczewski (b.1923).  The details here give not only the date, but also the full complement of players, under a different conductor and composer, Artur Malawski (1904-57).

WL program 2.09.45 2

Also in the first half of the programme were several piano pieces by Jan Ekier (who celebrated his 100th birthday four days ago), most of them written before the war.

The second half of the programme focused on Roman Padlewski (1915-44) , whose death in valour during the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 was one of the greatest losses to Polish music during the Second World War. Padlewski’s first and third string quartets were destroyed during the Uprising, but the Second Quartet (1940-42) survived.  I don’t know if it was performed in one of Warsaw’s secret concerts during the war or whether this was its premiere.  It was preceded here by Tryptyk żałobny (Mourning Triptych), by Tadeusz Kassern (1904-57), which was based on melodies from a 16th-century hymnal and dedicated to Padlewski’s memory.

WL program 2.09.45 3

• Sto lat! Jan Ekier (and Lutosławski)

Jan Ekier (2010)Happy Birthday to the Polish pianist Jan Ekier, whose 100th birthday today is being celebrated by a ten-hour marathon of Chopin performances (by younger pianists!) as part of the Chopin and His Europe festival in Warsaw.  This is entirely appropriate, because Ekier was the editor-in-chief of the National  Edition of Chopin’s music which followed Paderewski’s long-standing Complete Edition.  Chopin scholarship has moved on again since Ekier started his edition, but I’m surprised that he has no entry in the New Grove dictionaries, neither in 1980 nor in 2001.  His role within Poland as a pianist, teacher as well as editor is significant. He received Poland’s highest honour, the Order of the White Eagle (above) in 2010, at the same time as Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.  For a time he was also a composer – Kolorowe melodie for piano (1948) is his best-known work.

Ekier was a good friend of Lutosławski and his wife.  In Danuta Gwizdalanka’s fascinating texts for the mobile app. Witold Lutosławski. Guide to Warsaw, she quotes Ekier’s recollections of when he and Lutosławski shared a flat immediately after the end of World War II:

Aleja Waszyngtona [Washington Avenue] 22

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 19.37.08Witold Lutosławski lived here for just under a year in 1945-1946.  He was taken in by one of his school friends, the pianist and composer Jan Ekier, who was one of the first musicians to return to the ruins of Warsaw.  “Witold was looking for somewhere to stay for a while till things fell into place for him.  He lived in my apartment.  At first it was just us, but later we were joined by his wife, his housekeeper Bronia and a black cat,” Ekier later recalled.
In this apartment Lutosławski mainly composed programme music for radio and for two documentary films, By the Oder to the Baltic (directed by Stanisław Możdżeński) and Warsaw Suite (directed by Tadeusz Makarzyński).  On a commission from the Polish Music Publishing House [PWM], he also composed a cycle of 12 easy works for piano – Folk Melodies.  The conditions in that flat were such that Lutosławski and Ekier couldn’t help but overhearing each other working.  “We were in neigbouring rooms, I guess we each had our own instrument, because I still had an extra borrowed piano,” explained Ekier, “As we were both fascinated by Polish folk music, when he was writing his Folk Melodies, I was writing my Colourful Melodies
[…]
The hard winter of 1945/46 made life difficult for residents of Warsaw, who had to shelter somehow in unheated apartments, but it also made things easier for those needing to cross the Vistula [the bridges had not yet been rebuilt].  You simply walked across the ice.  “We took it as a gift of Providence,” was Jan Ekier’s recollection of the frozen river.
“In our bachelor days we had plenty of culinary adventures, because we were left to fend for ourselves,” said Ekier.  “There were plenty of surprises resulting from the fact that neither of us had any particular talent for cooking.  Sometimes the neighbours helped out, because if we wanted to cook up something hot, it never turned out right.  Later on, a measure of normality was achieved when Witold lived at my place together with his wife…”

Ekier was a fine pianist, and came eighth in the third International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1937.  I first heard him when he played in the concert that inaugurated the Chopin Competition in 1970.  On that occasion, he introduced me to the orchestral music of Szymanowski in a scintillating performance of the Symphonie Concertante. It was great to relive that moment this morning: Petroc Trelawny programmed the finale (with the Warsaw PO under Witold Rowicki) on BBC Radio 3’s Breakfast at 07.20, following my tip-off to him on Twitter yesterday.  Nice work, Petroc, and thanks for the mention!

Here is Ekier in a recording of Chopin’s Polonaise in A flat, recorded in the late 1950s and released on the Muza label.

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