• Blecharz, Stańczyk + ‘Górecki’ at Huddersfield

For the second year running, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (18-27 November) has a Polish strand. Last year, the HCMF featured music by Jagoda Szmytka, Agata Zubel, Zbigniew Karkowski and Tomasz Sikorski, among others.  For 2016, the focus is on two young (living) Polish composers and one late-lamented composer in a new guise.


Wojtek Blecharz (photo credit: Krzysztof Bieliński)

The festival ends with a live performance of Górecki’s Third Symphony by the American saxophonist Colin Stetson and his ensemble, released on vinyl, CD and digital earlier this year.  Stetson’s ‘reimagining’ under the title Sorrow may not appeal to those for whom the original is sacrosanct, but neither is it the first – nor, I suspect, the last – version to reshape the audioscape of Górecki’s most famous piece.

Marcin Stańczyk (b.1977) is a prominent member of a generation of young composers who are breaking all sorts of boundaries observed by previous generations of Polish composers who in their 30s also broke moulds.  His orchestral Sighs won the Takemitsu Prize in 2013 and in recent years he has developed a fascination, like his teacher Zymunt Krauze, with the paintings of the mid-century avantgardist Wladysław Strzemiński.  His some drops… (2016), given its world premiere a month ago at the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Kraków by the same forces as at HCMF on 18 November, features the trumpet wizardry of Marco Blaauw.

The performance of the other new work – a world premiere – will take place in the soaring angularities of The Hepworth, Wakefield.  It is Body-opera (2016) by Wojtek Blecharz (b.1981).  Blecharz is one of the most laceratingly inquisitive of composers.  The first performances of his opera-installation Transcryptum (2013) took place behind the scenes at Warsaw’s Grand Theatre and his Soundwork was premiered last month at the innovative TR Warszawa. (As I write, Blecharz is participating as a living installation – composing four hours a day over two weeks – in Ari Benjamin Meyers’ Who is afraid of sol la ti? at the Hamburger Bahnhof-Museum für Gegenwart.)  Body-opera at The Hepworth on 20 November promises to be a real ear/eye-opener.

• Górecki UK premiere, Liverpool, 3.11.16

rlp_logoFurther to my earlier post today, the first broadcast of Henryk Górecki’s Tristan Postludes and Chorale (Polish Radio 2, 18.30 UK time) precedes the live UK premiere of the same work tomorrow by one hour.  The UK performance takes place on Thursday, 3 November, in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, with the RLPO conducted by Patrycja Pieczara.  So aficionados within reach have the opportunity to hear two ‘first’ performances of the work in one evening.

Like the three other posthumously premiered works, Tristan Postludes and Chorale has been realised by Górecki’s son Mikołaj and was first performed in Warsaw on 16 October this year.  The programme note for the RLPO performance has been written by Richard Powell and may be found at the RLPO’s Programme Notes Online.

My thanks to Michał Kubicki for alerting me to both of tomorrow’s events.

• Two Górecki premieres, PR2, 3.11.16

If you tune in to Polish Radio 2 tomorrow night (Thursday, 3 November 2016) you will be able to hear a recording of a concert given in Warsaw on 16 October.  The highlights are world premieres by Henryk Górecki (father) and Mikołaj Górecki (son).  Following work on several of his late father’s pieces (Kyrie, Sanctus Adalbertus and Symphony no.4), Mikołaj has brought to life his Two Tristan Postludes and Chorale (Dwa postludia tristanowskie i chorał, op.82).  Mikołaj himself is represented by his new orchestral piece, Orfeusz i Eurydyka.  The concert is quite a family affair, with Mikołaj’s sister Anna playing the piano solo in their father’s Little Requiem.  The concert, given by Sinfonia Varsovia under Jerzy Maksymiuk, opens with the work by Aleksander Tansman that introduced the concert in London in 2014 at which Henryk Górecki’s Fourth Symphony was given its posthumous premiere.

• Aleksander Tansman: Stèle in memoriam Igor Stravinsky
• Mikołaj Górecki: Orfeusz i Eurydyka**
• Henryk Górecki: Dwa postludia tristanowskie i chorał (orchestrated by Mikołaj Górecki)**
• Henryk Górecki: Little Requiem

If you follow this link to the Polish Radio 2 site, the concert begins at 19.30, Warsaw time (18.30, UK time).

Then just press screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-10-20-35 at the top of the PR2 page.

• New CD Notes (Bacewicz/Chandos, Friedman & Różycki/Hyperion, Kwieciński/Bôłt)

ch10904One of the joys of writing CD notes is the mix of familiar and unfamiliar repertoire that comes along.  The string quartets of Grażyna Bacewicz (filling two CDs) have been a staple of Polish music for decades, but I had never heard the piano quintets by Ignacy Friedman and Ludomir Różycki (and nor had anyone else since the 1920s).  Most recently, I have got to know, both in recorded and live performance, the music of Andrzej Kwieciński, now in his early thirties, whose works for string quartet+ have just been issued on a single CD.


034571281247The three companies responsible for bringing this repertoire to new audiences – the British-based Chandos and Hyperion and the Polish-based Bôłt (along with DUX Records) – have produced here extraordinarily vivid recordings of a century of Polish chamber music, from Różycki’s Piano Quintet (1913) to Kwieciński’s Contregambilles (2014).  All thirteen works on these four CDs are well worth seeking out.



14716038_1115964275177997_6599105676164667594_nA little belatedly (the Chandos CD came out in July, the Hyperion CD in September), here are the links to my booklet notes for Chandos’s double-CD of the Complete String Quartets of Bacewicz, Hyperion’s CD of the Piano Quintets by Friedman & Różycki, and for Bôłt’s just-released Kwieciński CD, Umbrae.

Or you can scroll the CD NOTES tab above.

• ‘Warsaw Autumn’ 2016 news

8c9180d245_WJ2016The 59th ‘Warsaw Autumn’ takes place this year 16-24 September.  Its central programme will be ‘multimedialny, parateatralny and parasceniczny’ (to borrow the Polish descriptions in the advance notice).  Highlights include:

• the Warsaw premiere of Paweł Mykietyn’s opera The Magic Mountain (2015)
• Sławomir Wojciechowski’s multimedia opera Aaron S (2016), a tribute to the internet activist Aaron Swartz
• Juliana Hodkinson’s assemblage (radio play/film soundtrack/instrumental theatre) Angel View (2014)
• Olga Neuwirth’s video-opera Lost Highway (2002-03)
• Fabian Panisello’s chamber opera Le Malentendu (2016)
• Salvatore Sciarrino’s opera Luci mie traditrici (1996-98), ‘ecstasy in one act’ Infinito Nero (1998), Shadow of Sound (2005) and other pieces

• Lutosławski’s ‘didlumdi, didlumdaj’

On my visit to the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice last week – and what a terrific institution it is, both in terms of staff and students and of its buildings, old and new – I took advantage of its library to check out a volume that furnished Witold Lutosławski with melodies for his Dance Preludes.  From transcriptions that I found in a folder of folk materials in his house in 2002, I knew that he had relied for the melodies of the first two preludes on the work of Łucjan Kamieński.  It was but a small step to guess that they came from Kamieński’s Pieśni Ludu Pomorskiego, I: Pieśni z Kaszub południowych (Pomeranian Folk Songs, I: Songs from Southern Kaszuby, 1936).

Sure enough, the melodies – one in the first prelude from Borsk, two connected tunes in the second prelude from Rybaki – were there, alongside the other eleven tunes that he’d selected but not used.  Lutosławski had transposed most of the melodies and sometimes modified them rhythmically.  I was hoping that the material for the other three preludes would be in the bulk of the volume that he had not apparently transcribed.  Frustratingly, they were not there, so the search for their sources goes on.

I was tickled by the text of the refrain of the melody for the first prelude, which was also the first tune in Kamieński’s volume.  Now I can no longer listen to Lutosławski’s version without mentally muttering the immortal words: ‘didlumdi, didlumdaj, didlum, didlumdaj!’.

Borsk 1

• Szymanowski Letters in English, vol.1

Other than Polish publications, the greatest insights and investigation into the life and music of Karol Szymanowski have come from English-language authors.  Jim Samson, Christopher Palmer and Stephen Downes are just three major contributors over recent decades.  But when it comes to documentary sources in translation, only now is the interested reader able to appreciate something of the range of material available to Polish readers for a much longer time.

Since February 2012, William Hughes has undertaken the gargantuan task of translating a host of Polish articles about Szymanowski.  The tally continues to rise (see http://drwilliamhughes.blogspot.co.uk); today’s post is ‘Karol Szymanowski – Diary of the First Journey to America (1921)’.  Hughes published the first stage of his project – Karol Szymanowski.  Posthumous Tributes (1937-38) – in hard copy in 2013.  I wrote about his book in an earlier post, The Indefatigable William Hughes.

Since 1999, however, there has been one printed source in English, and it is a real treasure trove: Szymanowski on Music.  Selected Writings of Karol Szymanowski, edited and translated by Alistair Wightman.  Wightman is also the author of two hard-copy studies of the music: Karol Szymanowski.  His Life and Work (1999) and Szymanowski’s King Roger: The Opera and its Origins (2015).Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 20.27.58Wightman has now published – and it would appear to be online only – the first volume of a series devoted to the composer’s letters: Karol Szymanowski: Correspondence,  Volume 1: 1902-1919.  There are 401 letters in the volume and it is available from Smashwords at $15.99.  I have not yet had time to read it, but it includes explanatory footnotes, a very brief Bibliography, a Personalia and Indexes.  The first years of the correspondence are available to read as a free sample at https://www.smashwords.com/extreader/read/622747/2/karol-szymanowski-correspondence-volume-1-1902-1919.

Such acts of selfless dedication by Hughes and Wightman to broaden the readership of Szymanowski materials is hugely to be applauded and supported, so the more people who buy Hughes’s hard-copy book and Wightman’s new online volume the better.

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