• Bôłt & 58th ‘Warsaw Autumn’ CDs

More Polish CD goodies came through the post this morning.  First there was a selection of five new releases from the innovative Bôłt Records.  I’m particularly intrigued by three CDs exploring Schubert’s Winterreise.  Details of these and other releases may be found on Bôłt’s English-language website.

IMG_8446 copySecondly, I opened the boxed set of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ sound chronicle for 2015 (six CDs).  This annual post-Christmas gift is not available commercially but is distributed to institutions and interested parties by the Polish Music Information Centre, and it is always a treat to savour.  As in recent years, the bulk of the recordings is of non-Polish music, and several of the main festival events – indoor and outdoor installations, music theatre – would not have suited the CD format.  Here’s the complete list of recordings (Polish composers in bold, ** = world premiere, * = Polish premiere):

CD1
• Alvin Lucier: Slices for cello and orchestra (2007)* 20’49”
Lidia Zielińska: Sinfonia concertante for small sound devices, small percussion and large orchestra (2014-15)**  26’13”
• Helmut Lachenmann: Air for percussion and large orchestra (1968-69, rev. 1994)  17’42”
• Justė Janulytė: Textile for orchestra (2006-08)*  10’55”

CD2
• Philippe Manoury: Zones de turbulences for two pianos and orchestra (2013)* 13’47”
• Simon Steen-Andersen: Double Up for sampler and small orchestra (2010)*  17’23”
• Ken Ueno: …blood blossoms… for amplified sextet (2002)*  11’45”
Marta Śniady: aer for clarinet/bass clarinet and chamber ensemble (2014)  19’25”
• Stefan Prins: Fremdkörper #3 (mit Michael Jackson) for cgamber ensemble and sampler (2010)*  13’10”

CD3
Jerzy Kornowicz: Wielkie Przejście (The Big Crossing) for piano and other concertante instruments and orchestra (2013)*  19’56”
• Carola Bauckholt: Emil will nicht schlafen… for voice and orchestra (2010)*  9’31”
• José María Sánchez-Verdú: Mural for large orchestra (2009-10)*  15’36”
• Phill Niblock: Baobab for orchestra (2011)*  22’05”

CD4
Paweł Hendrich: Pteropetros for accordion, wind quintet and string quartet (2015)**  15’08”
• Raphaël Cendo: In Vivo for string quartet (2008-11)*  19’45”
Michał Pawełek: Ephreia for string quartet, wind quintet and electronics (2008, new version 2015)**  20’45”
• Alex Mincek: …it conceals within itself… for string trio and piano (2007)*  10’25”

CD5
• Johannes Schöllhorn: Niemandsland for ensemble (2009)*  19’56”
• Vito Žuraj: Re-slide for solo trombone and ensemble (2012, rev. 2015)**  14’39”
Szymon Stanisław Strzelec: L’Atelier de sensorité for amplified prepared cello and chamber orchestra (2015)**  9’55”
• Ragnild Berstad: Cardinem for large ensemble (2014)*  12’11”
• Giacinto Scelsi: Anahit for violin and 18 instruments (1965)  11’31”

CD6 ‘Young Composers’ Carte Blanche’ (prizewinners of the 6th Zygmunt Mycielski Composition Competition)
Dominik Lasota: Concerto for Eight Instruments (2015)**  11’11”
Fabian Rynkowicz: Chaos for ensemble (2015)**  7’39”
• Aruto Matsumoto: Reunion for ensemble (2015)**  9’06”
Marcin Piotr Łopacki: Musica concertante op.74 for ensemble (2015)**  10’07”
Aleksandra Chmielewska: Trans-4-mation for ensemble (2015)**  6’16”
Żaneta Rydzewska: MorE for ensemble (2015)**  11’19”

• Wartime Warsaw Recollections

Back in October 2014, I reported briefly on a new 4-CD boxed set of recordings of Polish music composed, for the most part, during World War II.  Now a book of recollections has been published by the Witold Lutosławski Society in Warsaw to commemorate the composers and performers who went through and, in some cases, died during the Nazi occupation.  It has been put together by Elżbieta Markowska, formerly Head of Music at Polish Radio 2, and Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek, who is the foremost specialist on Polish musical life in 1939-45 and contributes a 30-page essay to introduce Okupacyjne losy muzyków (The Fates of Musicians during the Occupation).

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Sadly, for non-Polish readers, it exists only in Polish.  But its photographic documentation more than makes up for any linguistic barrier.  There are photographs of daily life in Warsaw and of musical venues – the Warsaw Philharmonic, Grand Theatre and cafés – damaged during the war.  There are private photographs of the featured musicians, of their documents, letters and postcards (also transcribed alongside), posters, pages from scores and concert programmes, the vast majority of which have not been published previously.

The roster of composers, performers and writers is the most comprehensive yet assembled, although there are absences, possibly because of the lack of personal documentation.  The sources are varied and expertly marshalled, not least in the visual design of the volume, which runs to some 300 pages.  It is an intriguing and insightful compilation, and I hope it will sometime be published in English.  Here is the list of contributors in the order in which they appear:

Andrzej Panufnik (1914-91), composer, pianist and conductor: excerpts from his autobiography (already published in English and Polish), photos of rehearsals for the premiere of Tragic Overture (March 1944) and concert programmes, including one for the Lutosławski-Panufnik duo on 22 March 1942, when the repertoire of Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, Ravel and Albeniz was interlaced with Lutosławski’s Paganini Variations, a slow-fox by Cole Porter, paraphrases of Bizet and Johann Strauss and a jazzowa parafraza on Liszt’s Liebestraum no.3.
Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994), composer and pianist: mostly identity documents and family letters that mention Lutosławski; less extensive than Panufnik’s entry.
• Bolesław Woytowicz (1899-1980), composer (but not during occupation), pianist and initiator of one of Warsaw’s main musical cafés: various sources, including the diary begun while he was in Pawiak prison, plus recital schedules (he gave three complete cycles of the Beethoven sonatas).
Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-69), composer and violinist: mainly letters to her brothers.
• Halina Kowalska (1913-98), cellist, and her husband Henryk Trzonek (1912-43), viola player: Kowalska’s interview for Polish Radio in 1960, recollections by Włodzimierz Kusik of the street arrest and execution of Trzomek, plus reproduction of a poster naming the 100 victims of this police operation in December 1943.
• Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (1894-1980), writer (cousin of Szymanowski): excerpts from published diary.
• Roman Padlewski (1915-44), composer and underground fighter: letters, accounts and documents; the most extensive entry in the volume.
• Eugenia Umińska (1910-80), violinist: documentation, recollections by Kazimierz Wikormirski (cellist) Stanisław Wiechowicz (composer), transcript (English) of brief interview for BBC radio in 1948.
• Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953), conductor: letters to Stefan Spiess (1945).
• Edmind Rudnicki (1892-1957), pianist and underground organiser: recollections by others.
• Zofia Nałkowska (1884-1954), writer: excerpts from published diary.
 Roman Palester (1907-89), composer: fragments from typewritten memoirs.
• Zbigniew Drzewiecki (1890-1971), pianist: recollections.
Jan Krenz (b.1926), conductor and composer: recollections.
Marian Filar (1917-2012), pianist: recollections.
Andrzej Markowski (1924-1986), pianist and composer (later conductor) and underground fighter: documentation, Polish Radio archive; contributions from his wife Bogusława.  *The cover photo of Okupacyjne losy muzyków shows Andrzej Markowski playing at the Actors’ Café in Autumn 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising.
Jan Krzysztof Markowski (1913-80), composer (especially of underground songs) and pianist, brother of Andrzej: documentation and reproduction of two songs.
• Jerzy Waldorff (1910-99), writer and critic: excerpts from published diary.
• Władysław Szpilman (1911-2000), pianist and composer (subject of the film ‘The Pianist’): Polish Radio archive.

 

• WL100/80: Lutosławski’s Chair

When the BBC Radio 3 Music Matters team was preparing for its profile of Lutosławski to mark the centenary of his birth (broadcast on 19 January 2013), its web page included several archive photos of the composer plus one taken on location by his stepson, Marcin Bogusławski.  This photo was of his studio, with his desk and bookshelves.

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It is interesting to compare this photo from 2013 with the one taken by me in September 2002

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and with the undated one taken much earlier by Malcolm Crowthers with Lutosławski at his desk.  It was used for the front cover and inside flap of O muzyce. Pisma i wypowiedzi (Gdańsk, 2011), the Polish version of Lutosławski on Music (Plymouth, 2007).

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Crowthers’ photo is self-evidently the earliest of the three, with Lutosławski gazing out of the window from his desk, which is much fuller of materials than when I took my shot.  (See also my photos in WL100/72: Lutosławski’s Desk and WL100/74: Lutosławski Rules!.)  Bogusławski’s photo has many, but by no means all, of the same books on the shelves, often in a different order.  It also has the accoutrements of modern technology, in which Lutosławski had no interest: a computer and printer.  His typewriter is still there, as are the painting on the end wall and the wooden library steps underneath.  There is, however, a noticeably new office chair.

I cannot tell from Crowthers’ photo what Lutosławski was sitting on, but I would hazard a strong guess that it was the office chair that was still tucked into the desk in 2002.  Sadly, it was in a parlous state by then.  The padded seat was in a bad way and the adjustable back had lost its upright position and leaned impossibly towards the floor.

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It was something deeply melancholic to see it in this state of disrepair, its occupant long absent.  It was a reminder of how much Lutosławski had written from this chair and how much he was missed.

Incidentally, on the seat in the background of my photo is the growing pile of materials that I and Nicholas Reyland made during our three days in the house in 2002.  It contained conducting scores and folders of manuscript materials etc..  On the top we put a note to suggest that they should all go to the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basle to join the rich array of other items that Lutosławski had deposited there.  I do not know if that was ever done; I hope so.

Tomorrow will bring the last of my WL100 posts.  (Better late than never.)  To give you a sporting chance of guessing what it might be, here is a choice of score lines (ho-ho):

• Roussel 3, Lutosławski 1
• Roussel 3, Lutosławski 3

Happy New Year!

• WL100/75: Lutosławski’s Bookshelves

I took the opportunity when spending three days researching in Lutosławski’s house in September 2002 of taking shots (with permission) of his bookcases: in his studio, the attic room, the upper hallway and the lounge.  It now turns out that in the intervening years many of the volumes on these shelves have been dispersed and so these photos – which I believe were little touched since the composer’s death and that of his wife in 1994 – are perhaps the only surviving survey of Lutosławski’s collection.

Studio

The first floor studio is L-shaped, or, more accurately, reversed L-shaped.  The entrance was along the inside wall of the short limb of the L and the first sight that greeted visitors was Lutosławski’s much photographed grand piano.  His wife Danuta moved it out after his death and replaced it with her bed.  Neither piano nor bed was there in 2002.  I took two photographs of the long limb of the room.  The first looks from the patio doors towards the desk (the piano would have been on the immediate left).

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The bookcase beyond the desk contained reference volumes, mainly dictionaries; handy for when Lutosławski was writing letters or programme notes.

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Behind him, along the wall hidden from view on the main photograph, were shelves and cupboards, with a number of souvenir items, awards etc. on display.  Here there were more reference volumes (such as a Grove dictionaries), other books (including two copies of Steven Stucky’s monograph and my own little volume on Bacewicz) plus his collection of scores by other composers (of which more anon).  It had three divisions; here they are reading from left to right.

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The second location photo looks from the entrance to the corner behind the coffee table, with the patio windows onto the veranda just out of shot to the right.  The desk and other shelving are over the left shoulder.

134-3417_IMGThis corner shelving contained quite a miscellany, with Lutosławski’s books of and on foreign literature, especially French poetry, plus other volumes on composers plus his (incomplete) run of ‘Warsaw Autumn’ programme books. Among the items that I found here, but which has sadly now disappeared according to his daughter-in-law, was the one containing his annotation of Desnos’s poem Les espaces du soleil (it can be seen in the second of the next group of photographs, bottom shelf, sixth from the right). In order to try and capture as much of the detail as I could, I split each of the bookcases into top and bottom, so the following sequence runs top right, bottom right, top left, bottom left.

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Attic

It was in the attic that I discovered the folder containing Lutosławski’s collected folk materials (1950-54) which I have written and talked on several times since.  Also here were two cupboards containing spare copies of his published scores.  Other bookshelves contained a wide range of books for which there was no room downstairs.

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Landing

On the first-floor landing was a single bookcase, holding a non-musical selection of books, notably volumes by Stanisław Dygat, the brother of Lutosławski wife.  The top shelf contains Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, which spends a couple of paragraphs reporting the reception of the Russian premiere of Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto in 1972.

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Lounge

As a low-level partition, there was a double-sided bookcase containing primarily Polish literature, plays (Genet, Ibsen and Shaw among them) and philosophical volumes.  My apologies that the second photo is poorly focused.

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• Panufnik’s ‘Silesian Hammers’

Leafing through Trybuna Robotnicza (Workers’ Tribune) as one does – I came across an entry yesterday that brought me up sharp.  Trybuna Robotnicza was the daily newspaper in Silesia of Poland’s United Workers’ Party PZPR between 1945 and 1990.  Its pages in the late 1940s and early 50s are filled with the customary eulogies to Stalin, Lenin, Bierut, to peace, culture for the masses, etc..  I’ve been looking for musical items, of which there are precious few.  Most of these centre on workers’ ensembles, opera and ballet, and most of all on the Silesian Philharmonic.

Occasionally, national musical items appear, and I suspect that this little column published on 27 April 1950 was syndicated from Warsaw, and it therefore may well have appeared elsewhere in the Polish press at that time.  It’s a list of composers with pieces they have proposed, are still writing or have completed as Labour Day approaches.  Top of the list is Andrzej Panufnik, with a work whose title is not only completely new to me but I suspect will be new to everyone else.

Silesian Hammers is enough to make the mind boggle.  What magnificent industrial heroism did Panufnik intend to evoke?  It seems highly improbable that the score was ever begun, let alone completed, but one never knows.  One possibility, which I have yet to explore fully, is that Silesian Hammers may have been an intermediate stage in the convoluted history of Panufnik’s Heroic Overture, which was first heard under this title at the end of 1950.  Some of the other composers are familiar, although some of their pieces, like Silesian Hammers, may never have materialised.

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New Musical Works for 1 May

Numerous Polish composers, wanting to mark the approaching Labour Day, have undertaken to write or complete by the First of May a range of new mass songs, cantatas, symphonic pieces etc..

Andrzej Panufnik – has proposed an orchestral piece called Silesian Hammers.
Grażyna Bacewicz undertook to complete a Suite of Polish Dances for symphony orchestra.  She has fulfilled her compositional commitment ahead of schedule.
Stanisław Skrowaczewski has completed a cantata called A Word about Stalin [this almost certainly became the Cantata about Peace (1951)].
Alfred Gradstein has proposed two youth songs.
Stanisław Kazuro has undertaken to orchestrate his 128-page score of Polish Rhapsody.
Jerzy Sokorski is composing a solo song called Song about the Coal Basin.
Aleksander Wielhorski has proposed a youth song called Heroes of Labour.
Apolinary Szeluto has finished his May Song to words by Orłow.
Henryk Swolkień is writing for 1 May a song for solo, choir and orchestra to words by Tadeusz Kubiak.
Stanisław Prószyński has committed to composing a song for ZSCh [Zwiążek Samopomocy Chłopskiej – Union of Peasant Self-Help] called Shared Harvest.
Jan Krenz has proposed a cantata to a text by K. I. Gałczyński [Conversation of Two Cities (1950)].
Jerzy Młodziejowski is finishing a cantata called Hey, Hammers, To Work!.

In addition, similar commitments for 1 May have been made by many other composers.

• Commemorating Composers

Six weeks ago, Andrzej Panufnik had a walk named after him in a Warsaw park.  Today, I passed by plaques set side-by-side on the wall of a building in the Saska Kępa district (south-east Warsaw) where the conductor and composer Andzej Markowski and the composer Zbigniew Turski once lived.  They are not far from the building where Witold Lutosławski lived after the war until 1968.  He too has his plaque.

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photo courtesy Michał Kubicki

Later on, my hosts and I passed near a skwer (Eng.: square/green) in Ujazdowski Park named after the critic, writer and composer Stefan Kisielewski.  Panufnik may have his road sign and Markowski, Turski and Lutosławski their plaques, but Kisielewski has not just one skwer but two.  Half an hour later, in Piaseczno, south of Warsaw, we drove past a second ‘Skwer im. Stefana Kisielewskiego’.

Our destination, en route to a family get-together, was a few hundred metres further on: the old cemetery at Piaseczno.  There lies Witold Maliszewski, a composer who is known primarily for one thing – having been Lutosławski’s composition teacher.  While Markowski, Turski, Kisielewski and Lutosławski were all buried in Powązki in north Warsaw, Maliszewski was interred in Piaseczno, close to where he had lived.  Like all Polish cemeteries, it was a riot of colour from the flowers placed there on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, the weekend before last.

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• 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.

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