• 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.

• 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’

• WQXR Q2: A new Polish marathon

The New York classical music station WQXR Q2 is about to launch another focus on Polish music.  In January last year, I reported on its intensive, week-long ‘Muzyka Nowa: A Celebration of Contemporary Polish Music’.  On that occasion, the results were mixed, as I wrote at the time: Polish Music ‘Muzyka Nowa’, WQXR ★★★✩✩.  This year, the ‘Celebrating Poland’ focus seems more selective and is split up over a longer period.

celebrating-Poland

There are three 24-hour marathons: this coming weekend (Friday 25 October), six days later (Thursday 31 October) and on Tuesday 12 November.  The first date includes a ‘live performance stream’ of music by Penderecki and there is a final event on Friday 13 December, this time a live relay of music by Lutosławski.

Friday 25 October
The first marathon promises an examination of ‘the strength and diversity of contemporary classical music from Poland’.  I certainly hope that the programmers broaden the range beyond familiar names and play more music by composers now in their 20s, 30s and 40s than the few examples that were included last year.  It will be very interesting to see how much music written in the last ten years is included to illustrate what is really happening in contemporary Polish music.  The programme of the Penderecki live relay – Cadenza for viola (1984), String Quartet no.3 (2008), Capriccio for cello (1968), Clarinet Quartet (1993) and Sextet (2000) – gives slight cause for hope in this regard.

Thursday 31 October
Polish music will form part of what is billed as a ‘Halloween Scarathon’.  Guess which pieces/composers…

Tuesday 12 November
This is the most promising of WQXR Q2’s offerings.  It will examine ‘the full spectrum of and story behind Lutosławski’s contributions to 20th-century classical music’.  Even more assuringly, it will include seven one-hour episodes curated by Steven Stucky, so real authority and insight will be brought to the proceedings.  Esa-Pekka Salonen will also make an appearance.

Friday 13 December
Steven Stucky resurfaces as a composer in the second live relay, from Symphony Space with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.  The programme consists of Lutosławski’s Sacher Variation for cello (1975), Bukoliki in the arrangement cello for viola and cello (1952/62) and the String Quartet (1964).  Stucky’s contribution consists of Dialoghi for solo cello (2006) and Nell’ombra, nella luce for string quartet (1999-2000).

You can catch these online broadcasts by accessing any page of WQXR and clicking on the Q2 Music tab at the top (the play/pause tab is to the left).  Schedules and playlists can be accessed by selecting the relevant tabs on the next bar below.  No specific timings were available when this post was uploaded, but as NY time is 5/6 hours behind UK/European time WQXR Q2’s evening events will be in the small hours this side of the Atlantic.

• Polish ‘Awangarda’ CDs

For years, I’ve been bewailing the lack of CD representation of post-war Polish composers other than ‘the big three’. And there are still notable gaps, especially in the coverage of the music of Kazimierz Serocki: Musica concertanteSymphonic Frescoes (played at this year’s ‘Warsaw Autumn’), Forte e PianoPoezjeDramatic Story, Swinging MusicPianophonie.  But over the past couple of years the Polskie Nagranie company, in conjunction variously with the publishers PWM, Ricordi and the Polish Music Information Centre, has begun to issue and reissue archive recordings (from 1959 onwards) of some of the early figures of the Polish avant-garde.

Three CDs have appeared so far in the ‘Awantgarda’ series: Krzysztof Penderecki conducted by Andrzej Markowski (2011) – and it’s the Markowski connection that makes this CD interesting (Penderecki does not want for coverage!), Serocki (2012) and Włodzimierz Kotoński (2013).  A similar project, but outside the ‘Awantgarda’ sequence, was that of the music of Tadeusz Baird, in a double CD package (2011).  For anyone wanting to hear their music, these CDs are a great place to start, not least because there are some recordings never released on CD before and others never heard beyond the confines of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Chronicle recordings whose circulation was extremely limited.  There are one or two never released on any format before.  Any performance dates in the second half of September are from the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival.  ** = first performance, * = Polish premiere.

Tadeusz Baird. Selected Works (PNCD 1399, two CDs)

This double CD was first issued in 2003 (PNCD 525A/B).

Baird.m3404 Love Sonnets (second version, 1969): Andrzej Hiolski/Kraków PRO/Jan Krenz (July 1978)
Colas Breugnon (1951): WOSPR/Krenz (May 1955)
Trouvère Songs (1963): Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa/National PO, Warsaw/Witold Rowicki (24 June 1968)
• 5 Songs (1968): Szostek-Radkowa/Wrocław PO/Andrzej Markowski (June 1974)
Psychodrama (1972): WOSPR/Wojciech Michniewski (1 February 1979)
…….
Erotyki (1961): Stefania Woytowicz/National PO/Rowicki (21 April 1963)
• Symphony 3 (1969): National PO/Krenz (10-11 June 1969)
Elegeia (1973): WOSPR/Michniewski (1 February 1979)
Concerto Lugubre (1975): Stefan Kamasa/Kraków PRO/Jacek Kaspszyk (10 April 1977)
Voices from Afar (1981): Jerzy Artysz/National PO/Rowicki (**, 22 January 1982)

Krzysztof Penderecki conducted by Andrzej Markowski (PNCD 1373)

Markowski was an extraordinary champion of new Polish music, and especially of Penderecki’s ground-breaking early scores.  This selection spans 1958-61, and only Emanations, the First String Quartet and Fonogrammi are missing from these years.

AWANGARDA_M.m340Psalms of David (1958): National PO (8 January 1966)
Strophes (1959): Silesian Philharmonic CO (**, 17 September 1959)
Anaklasis (1959-60): National PO (8 January 1966)
Dimensions of Time and Silence (1960): National PO and Choir (24 June 1972)
Threnody (1961): Kraków PO (22 September 1961)
Fluorescences (1962): National PO (8 January 1966)
Polymorphia (1961): Kraków PO (*, 26 September 1963)

Kazimierz Serocki (PNCD 1441)

It is terrific to have two early pieces on this CD, formative for both Serocki and Polish music around 1960, as well as the three ‘Warsaw Autumn’ performances.

Serocki_awangarda.m340Episodes (1958-59): WOSPR/Krenz (24 March 1965)
Segmenti (1960-61): WOSPR/Krenz (24 March 1965)
Continuum (1965-66): Warsaw Percussion Group (28 February 1980)
Fantasmagoria (1970-71): Roger Woodward/Hubert Rutkowski (23 September 1976)
Fantasia elegiaca (1971-72): Karl-Erik Welin, Hesse RSO/Markowski (*, 28 September 1973)
Arrangements for four recorders (1975-76): (20 September 1978)

Włodzimierz Kotoński (PNCD 1521/polmic 099)

Kotónski, now 88, has languished in the shadows of his contemporaries.  His early tape pieces especially were key to the development of the Polish avant-garde.  Less than a handful of his works had been commercially released on any format prior to this CD.  (There’s no Kotoński web-page yet on the Polskie Nagrania site.)

Homma 1993Study on One Cymbal Stroke (1959): (Polish Radio Experimental Studio, 1960)
Microstructures (1963): (PRES, 1963)
Aela (1970): (PRES, 1977)
Les ailes (1975): (Bourges, 1977)
Aeolian Harp (1974): Rozwitha Trexler and four instrumentalists (*, 21 September 1975)
Musique en relief (1959): National PO/Stanisław Wisłocki (*, 25 September 1960)
Musica per fiati e timpani (1964): National PO/Rowicki (1966)
Music for 16 Cymbals and Strings (1966): WOSPR/Jerzy Maksymiuk (1977)

• Polish Music at the 2013 BBC Proms

Polish Music at the 2013 BBC Proms

p0179z7mThe 2013 BBC Proms have been launched today.  It is great to see Polish music taking a prominent role, instigated by the centenary this year of the birth of Witold Lutosławski.  This is no mean feat, given that 2013 also marks the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten and the bicentenaries of Verdi and Wagner.  And this is not to mention other anniversaries, like the 50th anniversary of the death of Francis Poulenc.

There are seven pieces by Lutosławski in this year’s programme.  There are also two by both Andrzej Panufnik (his centenary falls next year) and Karol Szymanowski.  And there is one each by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki, who were born 80 years ago.  There is also a concert including music of the Polish Renaissance.  An outline calendar of Polish music at the 2013 Proms is given below.

My essay for the BBC Proms Guide may be read here.

Prom 1 • 12 July
• Lutosławski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini

PCM 1 • 15 July
• Lutosławski: Partita

Prom 8 • 17 July
• Lutosławski: Cello Concerto

Prom 9 • 18 July
• Szymanowski: Symphony no.3 ‘Song of the Night’

PCM 2 • 22 July
• Polish and other European Renaissance Music

Prom 32 • 7 August
• Lutosławski: Symphonic Variations
• Lutosławski: Piano Concerto

Prom 44 • 15 August
• Penderecki: Concerto Grosso

Prom 55 • 23 August
• Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra
• Panufnik: Tragic Overture
• Panufnik: Lullaby

PSM 4 • 24 August
• Lutosławski: Paroles tissées

Prom 68 • 2 September
• Szymanowski: Violin Concerto no.1

Prom 71 • 4 September
• Górecki: Symphony no.3 ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’

• New CD Note (Penderecki & Lutosławski/Hyperion)

034571179438-1I have been a fan of the Royal String Quartet for several years.  I heard these superb Polish musicians play Górecki’s Third String Quartet at the St Magnus Festival on Orkney in 2010 and subsequently wrote the booklet note for their Hyperion CD of all three Górecki quartets.  Now they’ve released an equally stunning account of the three Penderecki quartets alongside Lutosławski’s sole contribution to the genre.

Here’s the link to my booklet note for Penderecki & Lutosławski String Quartets, or you can scroll the CD NOTES tab above.

• Lutosławski: Ein Leben in der Musik

WL OsteuropaKickstarting the Lutosławski centenary in print is this volume which has just appeared in the osteuropa series (I received my copy today).  It contains thirteen items from Germany, Poland, Russia and the UK:

• Danuta Gwizdalanka: ‘Klassiker der Avantgarde. Witold Lutosławski: Leben und Werk’
• Anne-Sophie Mutter: ‘ “Ein neuer musikalischer Kosmos”. Über Witold Lutosławski’
• Dorota Szwarcman: ‘Auf den Schultern von Riesen. Lutosławski und seine Vorgänger’
• Dorota Kozińska: ‘Gründe und Abgründe. Lutosławski und der Sozialistische Realismus’
• Maciej Gołąb: ‘Lutosławski auf der Suche. Elemente und Ursprünge des Frühwerks’
• Krzysztof Meyer: ‘Pan Lutosławski. Erinnerungen an meinen Lehrer und Freund’
• Sebastian Borchers: ‘Von Warschau nach Darmstadt und zurück. Lutosławski, Penderecki und Górecki’
• Rüdiger Ritter: ‘Heißhunger auf Neue Musik. Das Ende des Stalinismus und der Warschauer Herbst
• Wojciech Kuczok: ‘Unsortierte Bemerkungen. Von Lutosławski zur schlesischen Komponistenschule’
• Adrian Thomas: ‘Das Cello-Konzert lesen. Lutosławski und die Literatur’*
• Izabela Antulov: ‘Wütender Antagonismus. Lutosławskis Cello-Konzert’
• Vladimir Tarnopol’skij: ‘ “Ein Symbol der Freiheit”. Lutosławskis Einfluss auf der Sowjetunion’
• Adam Wiedemann: ‘Heiliger Witold, bitte für uns’

This issue also includes a CD with two pieces: Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto (the Naxos recording by Andrzej Bauer with the Polish National Radio SO under Antoni Wit) and Krzysztof Meyer’s Farewell Music (1997), written in tribute to Lutosławski.  The abstracts are also given in English and may be accessed online here.  The volume may be ordered online here (22 euros).

* This is a translation of my paper ‘Lutosławski and Literature’ (2010).

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