• Bohdan Mazurek (1937-2014)

kronika_3_-_mazurekThe Polish composer and sound engineer Bohdan Mazurek – a key figure in the development of electronic music in Poland – has died at the age of 76.  Alongside Eugeniusz Rudnik, Mazurek helped to develop the Polish Radio Experimental Studio after its foundation in 1957 by Józef Patkowski into a central force in Polish music in the 1960s and 70s.  He assisted many composers in realising their electronic music but was also a composer, in his own right, of both electronic and film music.  His music won prizes in several competitions (Dartmouth, Bourges) and he taught not only at the Warsaw Music Academy but at several institutions in the USA.

I knew Bohdan Mazurek early on in my involvement in Polish music.  He was a gentle giant, modest and with a selfless devotion to his metier.  He was a thoroughly decent and lovely man and I recall spending many good-spirited hours in his company.  He helped me hugely as I tried to find my way in the rich panorama of Polish music.  His own music went largely undervalued, with very little percolating abroad.  Bozzetti was, however, included in the 1970 boxed LP set ‘Electronic Panorama’ (Philips 6740 001), which profiled new electronic compositions from Paris, Tokyo, Utrecht and Warsaw.

br_es02Fortunately, in 2010  the Warsaw-based independent label Bôłt Records, in partnership with Polish Radio and Foundation 4.99, issued a double CD of Mazurek’s music, Sentinel Hypothesis’.  It includes an excellent essay and notes by Bolesław Błaszczyk. The twelve works on these discs are: Bozzetti (1967), Epitaph for Jan Palach (1969), Sinfonia Rustica (1970), Canti (1973), Ballade (1976), Children’s Dreams (1976), Daisy Story (1977-79), Six Electronic Preludes (1981), From the Notebook (1983), Letter to Friends (1986), Pennsylvania Dream (1987), Reverie (1989).

An appreciation just published (in Polish) at culture.pl includes YouTube links for Bozzetti (1967) and Canti (1973).

OBITUARY

• 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.

• WL100/55: Death of Lutosławski’s Father

It is 95 years since Lutosławski’s father Józef and uncle Marian were shot dead in Russia: ‘In April 1918 they were arrested in Murmansk by the Bolsheviks, taken to Moscow and there charged with counter-revolutionary activities and the alleged forgery of secret diplomatic documents.  On 5 September of the same year, without a trial, the brothers were killed in a mass execution in Vshekh-Shvyatskoye, a village outside Moscow.  Five-year-old Witold visited his father in the Butyrki Prison just before the execution.’ (Witold Lutosławski. A Bio-Bibliography, 2001, 1-2).

A few days later, the news reached Warsaw.  The twice-daily Nowa Gazeta printed three items on Wednesday 11 September 1918, and I am very grateful to Elżbieta Szczepańska-Lange for sending me the front pages of both the morning and afternoon editions from that day.  The morning edition included a prominent funeral notice:

WL Nowa Gazeta 11.09.18 no.363

WL Nowa Gazeta obituary notice

The official communication of the loss in Moscow of our two distinguished countrymen, the brothers Marjan and Józef Lutosławski, has undoubtedly filled the whole of Polish society with absolute indignation, horror and grief.  Giving voice to this sentiment, the Office of the Civil Regency Council extends an invitation to the requiem mass for the repose of their souls, on Thursday 12 September at the Church of the Holy Cross at 11.30 a.m..

In the afternoon edition, there were two front-page items, the longer of which focused on the lives and careers of Marian and Józef, with a concluding paragraph on what was then known of the the circumstances of their deaths:

WL Nowa Gazeta account of lives+                                                          deaths

Obituary.  The Lutosławski brothers, who have died such a tragic death, were known in circles across our city. The late Marjan was born in 1871 in Drozdowo, in the Łomża district.  By profession an engineer, and settled in Warsaw, he developed energetic activities as both an engineer and an inventor, as well as in the field of social welfare.  From 1904, he played an active part in the work of the  National Democratic Party.  After the outbreak of war, he was a member of the Cent[ral] Cit[izens’] Com[mittee] and with it he went to Minsk and then to Moscow.  In 1916 he went to London, Paris and Italy, after which he returned to St Petersburg.
The late Marjan Lutosławski leaves a wife Marja (née Zielińska) and four children.
From his writings dedicated mostly to industrial-economic issues should be mentioned his major work, “Electric Current”.  He was also the author of the comprehensive handbook, “The Art of Conducting Debates”.
The late Józef Lutosławski was born to the same Drozdowo family in 1882.  After completing his agricultural studies in Zurich, and his socio-economic studies in London, he returned to this country and founded and edited for two years the political weekly “Polish Thought”.  He subsequently lived in Drozdowo, where he took over the management of local industrial plants.  In 1915, he was forced by the retreating Russian army to leave Drozdowo and found himself in Moscow.  There he became the plenipotentiary of the CCC [Central Citizens’ Committee] for the Ryazansky region and during his brother Marjan’s visit to the West he became his proxy for the central district.  In 1917 he took an active part as a working journalist in the columns of “Gazeta Polska” and also contributed to the creation of Polish army units.  He leaves a widow, a doctor of medicine (née Olszewska), and 3 children.
The Lutosławski brothers were arrested half a year ago in connection with the disbandment by the Bolshevik authorities in Moscow of the Bartosz Głowacki regiment.  The commander of the regiment, Colonel Kazimierz Majewski, was arrested along with the Lutosławskis.  A few weeks ago, rumours began to circulate that Colonel Majewski had been shot.  Faced with the execution of the Lutosławskis, this is seems highly probable.

The third item is dedicated principally to the memory of Marian Lutosławski:

WL Nowa Gazeta city tribute

Commemoration.  Opening yesterday’s sitting of the city council, the President, Eng[ineer] P. Drzewiecki, in brief words full of gravity, informed those present of the news that had reached Warsaw of the crimes committed on the persons of the brothers Marjan and Józef Lutosławski in Moscow.  Paying tribute to the victims of this bloody terror, the speaker highlighted the merits of the late Marjan Lutosławski, who, in his position as a member of the former citizens’ committee in the first period of its existence, had been of great service to the city. The council commemorated the late Marjan Lutosławski by rising.

• Lutosławski Research Conference

In three weeks’ time, under the patronage of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival, an international two-day conference will be held to celebrate the centenary of a certain Polish composer: ‘The music of Witold Lutosławski on the threshold of the 21st century’.  A fine poster has been produced, in the time-honoured tradition of Polish graphic design.

Konferencja naukowa - Muzyka Witolda Lutosławskiego - plakat

• WL100/41: Symphony 4 (Polish premiere)

This time twenty years ago, Lutosławski was dashing around Europe.  On 18 May 1993, he received the Polar Music Prize in Stockholm.  Four days later, on 22 May, he conducted the London Sinfonietta in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. And the following night he was back in Warsaw for the Polish premiere of his Fourth Symphony.  On this occasion, he was in the audience at the Studio Koncertowe S1 at Polish Radio – it would be named after him three years later.

I too had dashed in May 1993 from the QEH to S1.  There was a last-minute change of programme (Novelette replaced Chantefleurs et Chantefables) and, yes, the tickets did cost 50,000zł each!

Your Song Is Mine 1

Twenty years later, I’m again in Warsaw on 23 May, this time for the premiere at Teatr Wielki of a double-bill of works by composers two generations younger than Lutosławski: Dla głosów i rąk (For Voices and Hands) by Jagoda Szmytka (b.1982) and Transcryptum by Wojciech Blecharz (b.1981).  The excitement is still there!

Projekt-P-big

• RSQ +1

Following its acclaimed CD of the Górecki quartets for Hyperion in 2011, the Royal String Quartet is riding high with its new Hyperion release of the quartets by Penderecki and Lutosławski.  Since its inception 15 years ago, when its members were students at the (then) Academy of Music in Warsaw, its concerts and recordings have received worldwide praise.  The RSQ has had a particularly fruitful career in the UK.  In 2004-06 it was chosen as one of the participants in BBC Radio 3’s renowned New Generation Artists scheme, and since 2012 it has been Quartet in Residence at The Queen’s University of Belfast, where I worked for the first 23 years of my own career.  I want to draw your attention, however, to the other music-making that the RSQ carries out in its native Poland which may not be so familiar to listeners elsewhere.

First and foremost are the RSQ’s ‘Kwartesencja’ festivals that it has mounted in Warsaw every year bar one since 2004.  These are designed not only to feature the RSQ but also to explore a huge range of collaborative possibilities with one or more other musicians.  Its two concerts from last year alone are excellent pointers to the versatility and imagination that the RSQ brings to its programming.

Kwartesencja 2012

I wish that I had been at the two concerts on 7 and 8 December 2012 (the programmes for this and previous Kwartesencja festivals are still online, but only in Polish).  Fortunately, the RSQ is media-savvy and excerpts from the 2012 events and follow-up recordings are now available on YouTube.

The first +1 was the actress Stanisława Celińska, well-known in Poland on stage and screen.  She performed ‘Songs about Warsaw’ with the RSQ, in arrangements by Bartek Wąsik (piano).  The concert on 7 December 2012 was a huge success and the project was encored on 4-5 January 2013.  It’s being repeated tomorrow night (19 March) in Wrocław.  Several of the songs have since appeared on YouTube and the collection has been issued on the CD Nowa Warszawa (New Warsaw).

These songs are but the most recent in a long Polish tradition of part-sung, part-declaimed lyrics with a mix of melancholic and nostalgic texts (my favourite in this regard is still the magical collaboration between Ewa Demarczyk and Zygmunt Konieczny in the 1960s).  Whether Nowa Warszawa has wider appeal outside Poland – Polish lyrics might be the sticking point – remains to be seen, but I hope it does.  Here’s the video of  ‘Warszawa’ from Kwartesencja 2012.  (It was originally recorded by the Polish ’80s band, T[eenage]. Love, whose own version is quite a contrast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCfDEusHaDw.)

 

Here’s a track from the Nowa Warszawa CD: Stanisław Sojka/Soyka’s ‘Tango Warszawa’:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8WeRk4wDt8

herdzinThe second +1, on 8 December 2012, was the young Polish jazz violinist, Adam Baldych.  In a move which might come across as sacrilegious, the RSQ and Baldych created a far-reaching improvisation on Lutosławski’s String Quartet.  Such an approach to their musical heritage is not entirely unknown among Polish musicians. Chopin has been the subject of attention from the Jagodziński Trio and Leszek Możdżer.  And the RSQ previously worked with the Polish jazz pianist Krzysztof Herdzin and his quartet, in Herdzin’s Fantasy on Themes from Grażyna Bacewicz’s Fourth String Quartet (CD issued in 2008, right).

See and hear for yourself what Baldych and the RSQ made of the Lutosławski quartet.  In this studio recording for Polish TV Kultura, there are some odd things going on in the background (the changing number of people sitting around the table in the shadows), plus two editing blips (at 12’31” and 16’02”), which make it hard to determine what the full performance was like.  Nevertheless, it makes an intriguing counterpart to the RSQ’s riveting performance of Lutosławski’s original quartet on its new Hyperion CD.

 

• New app: Lutosławski Guide to Warsaw

Unknown-1News has just come through that two of the three app. platforms (IoS and Android) are now up and running for the Witold Lutosławski Guide to Warsaw.  It’s available in Polish or English.  There’s a very helpful website which tells you all about this inventive app., which is one of the more unusual ways that the Poles have come up with to celebrate the centenary of Lutosławski’s birth.   I wonder what he’d make of it.

To obtain further information on the IoS, Android and Windows versions of the app., click on this link to Przewodnik po Warszawie.

• WL100/21: Funeral and Homily, 16.02.94

It was Ash Wednesday, 1994.  I had not gone specially to Warsaw for Lutosławski’s funeral on 16 February; I had arrived a week earlier on a pre-planned research trip.  But I could not stay away from Powązki Cemetery.  My recollections are slender, my few photographs, for what they are worth, rather remote.  Those were the days before digital photography, my camera had a poor zoom, and it didn’t seem right to photograph those present at close quarters (how customs have changed in less then 20 years).

Funeral

As you would expect, it was a cold day, but not snowbound as on my recent visit to the grave on the centenary of his birth.  Lutosławski had been cremated (there was at that stage only one crematorium in Poland – in Poznań – and the Roman Catholic church had an ambivalent attitude to cremation, to say the least).  I got to the cemetery early, before the mass in the chapel.  I located the grave, which was squeezed in next to that of Witold Rowicki, the conductor who commissioned Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra in 1950.  I was intrigued to see that a full-size grave had been dug, a couple of feet deep, lined with bricks and half covered-over with curved concrete panels.

WL Funeral, 16.02.94:1

WL Funeral, 16.02.94:2

The chapel at the edge of the cemetery, inside the three-metre perimeter wall, was packed and stuffy.  The family wanted the minimum of fuss, with only one oration (translated below).  Stefania Woytowicz, who had been one of the great Polish sopranos and a passionate advocate of new Polish music, gave a less than steady account of the early Lacrimosa.  I decided to move outside.  Eventually, the funeral party emerged past an array of wreaths. Lutosławski’s stepson carried the simple wooden casket (to the left of the wreaths in the photo below).

WL Funeral, 16.02.94:3It was a circuitous route to the graveside.  A soldier carried the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honour, which had been awarded to Lutosławski shortly before he died.

WL Funeral, 16.02.94:4

I found myself standing the other side of the grave from the family.  Lutosławski’s stepson, Marcin Bogusławski, climbed into the narrow opening to place Lutosławski’s casket on the grave’s floor (not the easiest of tasks). Lutosławski’s widow Danuta looked terribly frail.  She was heard to say: “Happy Rowicka, that she died straight after her husband!” (she must have glanced to her right and seen the inscription on the adjacent grave of Rowicki and his wife, who died within weeks of each other in 1989).  Danuta Lutosławska died less than three months after her husband, on 23 April 1994.

I returned a day or two later to see the grave, now covered in a mound of earth.

WL Funeral, 16.02.94:5

Homily

The homily at Lutosławski’s funeral was given by Father Wiesław Niewęgłowski.  It was reproduced at the end of Tadeusz Kaczyński’s Lutosławski. Życie i muzyka (Warsaw: Sutkowski, 1994), 237-8.  The translation is mine.

We have come here to say farewell to Witold Lutosławski, who is going on a long journey.  Among his incessant travels around the world, this is the last.  The final stop the house where there are many mansions – eternity.  He has left us citizens of the world, while simultaneously being a faithful son of the Polish homeland.  An eminent artist, a great composer, and above all a man of integrity.

He was born during the winter in Warsaw.  And in Warsaw he also died on a winter day.  A graduate of the Warsaw Conservatory.  Before he knew what success was, he experienced deprivation.  During the years of occupation he earned his living playing the piano in a few cafés in the capital city.  During martial law, he took the side of society.

An artist of great talent.  He created his own musical language.  A unique art.  Already during his lifetime he was seen as a classic of the twentieth century.  His works entered the treasure-house of world musical culture.  They are of permanent and universal value.  He was aware of his gift, but also the responsibility for these gifts entrusted to him.  Which is why he once said, “Talent is a good entrusted.  And with this good I need to do something wise and noble.  Talent must be given back to people.  It is the duty of the artist”.  These talents he multiplied and generously gave to the world.  Inspired, but also hard-working, he repeated after Tchaikovsky: “Inspiration does not visit the lazy”.

We know how he avoided publicity.  He was self-effacing.  But the world appreciated him – he was presented with honorary degrees by many renowned universities, many distinguished prizes and decorations.  A great talent, heart and spirit.  Open to people, kindly, independent and steadfast.  Totally elegant and calm, he was a free man.  But his freedom, both as an artist and as a man, created a harmonious whole.  He was a person of clear choices.  Which is why he was seen as an unquestioned authority, not only musically but also morally.

He leaves on the day when at Church people pour ashes on their heads, saying an old truth: remember man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.  A funeral ceremony on Ash Wednesday in a way doubly proclaims the truth about life.  Europe, as a result of strenuous efforts in the field of philosophy and culture, has sponsored an anthropological reduction of people.  The latest proposed model according to the conception of the West is a man devoid of the spiritual dimension, a man crippled.  Today’s European man is conceived of as an irreligious man.  But is it possible to limit him and his thinking space on the horizon of eternity?  As you know, unbelief is the idea only of white, European man.  Atheism in the cultures of other continents is an unknown phenomenon.  Today’s ceremony has revealed the need for the Absolute.  It shows that, alongside mental activity, the spiritual element, humility and realism are necessary for every climate. 

Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return – this sentence is not uttered to arouse fear.  Dust does not evoke a symbol but reality.  Man is a transient being.  But he is the only being who the inevitability of his own death knows.  The ritual of the ash and the ritual of the funeral, however, proclaim the truth not about death, but about life.  From the time of Christ, the insignificance of man is filled with the infinite, death brings life – like the chrysalis of a butterfly.  As the ash fertilises the earth and thus becomes a source of new life during the following spring, so  the ash, which is man, sown in the ground with Christ, may have its own spring.

In this liturgy, we ask God for this eternal spring for Witold Lutosławski.  We heard in today’s reading from the Letters of St Paul, that Man does not live for himself, but for Christ.  Man does not live for himself, but for people with whom Jesus identifies himself.  Our recently deceased brother Witold fulfilled this truth in his service as an artist, in his service as a Christian.  May his actions intercede for him with God, and that will be a sign for how we must go.

Przyszliśmy tutaj, aby pożegnać Witolda Lutosławskiego, który udaje się w daleką drogę.  Wśród jego bezustannych podróży po świecie – ta jest ostatnią.  Kóncowym przystankiem dom, w którym mieszkań jest wiele – wieczność.  Odchodzi od nas obywatel świata, a jednocześnie wierny syn polskiej ojczyzny.  Wybitny artysta, wielki kompozytor, a przede wszystkim człowiek prawy.

Urodził się podczas zimy w Warszawie. I w Warszawie też umarł w zimowy dzień.  Absolwent Konserwatorium Warszawskiego.  Zanim dowiedział się czym jest sukces, poznał smak niedostatku.  W latach okupacji zarobkował grą na fortepianie, w kilku kawiarniach stołecznego miasta.  W stanie wojennym opowiedział się po stronie społeczeństwa.

Artysta wielkiego talentu.  Stworzył własny język muzyczny.  Sztukę niepowtarzalną.  Już za życia postrzegano go jako klasyka XX wieku.  Jego dzieła weszły do skarbca światowej kultury muzycznej.  Są wartością stałą i uniwersalną.  Miał świadomość własnego obdarowania, ale i odpowiedzialności za powierzone mu dary. Dlatego kiedyś powiedział: “Talent to dobro powierzone.  I z tym dobrem trzeba coś mądrego i szlachetnego zrobić.  Talent trzeba oddać ludziom.  Jest to obowiązek artysty”.  Owe talenty mnożył i hojnie rozdawał światu. Natchniony, ale i pracowity – powtarzał za Czajkowskim: “natchnienie nie nawiedza leniwych”.

Wiemy, jak unikał rozgłosu.  Był skromny.  Ale świat go docenił – ofiarowano mu doktoraty honoris causa wielu renomowanych uczelni, wiele znakomitych nagród i orderów.  Wielki talentem, sercem i duchem.  Otwarty na ludzi, życzliwy, niezależny i niezawodny.  Pełen elegancji i spokoju, był człowiekiem wolnym.  Ale jego wolność i jako artysty, i jako człowieka, tworzyła harmonijną całość.  Był osobą jasnych wyborów.  Dlatego postrzegano go jako nie kwestionowany autorytet nie tylko muzyczny, ale i moralny.

Odchodzi w dniu, kiedy w Kościele sypie się ludziom na głowę popiół, mówiąc starą prawdę: pamiętaj człowiecze, że prochem jesteś i w proch się obrócisz.  Pogrzebowa ceremonia w Środę Popielcową jakby podwójnie głosi prawdę o życiu.  Europa w wyniku usilnych zabiegów na terenie filozofii i kultury zafundowała ludziom redukcję antropologiczną.  Proponowany najnowszy model według koncepcji Zachodu – to człowiek pozbawiony wymiaru duchowego, człowiek okaleczony.  Dzisiejszy człowiek europejski pomyślany jest jako człowiek niereligijny.  Ale czy można zamknąć go i przestrzeń jego myśli na horyzonty wieczności?  Jak wiecie, niewiara jest pomysłem jedynie człowieka białego, europejskiego.  Ateizm w kulturach innych kontynentów jest zjawiskiem nieznanym.  Dzisiejsza ceremonia odsłania potrzebę Absolutu.  Ukazuje, że obok aktywności umyśłowej potrzebny jest także każdemu klimat i pierwiastek duchowy, pokora, realizm.

Pamiętaj człowiecze, że prochem jesteś i w proch się obrócisz – to zdanie nie jest wypowiadane ku wzbudzaniu lęku.  Proch nie przywołuję symbolu, ale rzeczywistość.  Człowiek jest istotą przemijającą.  Ale jest także jedyną istotą, która o nieuchronności swej śmierci – wie.  Obrzęd popielcowy i obrzęd pogrzebowy głoszą jednak prawdę nie o śmierci, ale o życiu.  Od czasu Chrystusa znikomość człowieka wypełniona jest nieskończonością, śmierć wydaje życie – jak poczwarka motyla.  Jak popiół użyźnia ziemię i tym samym staje się przyczyną nowego życia podczas kolejnej wiosny; tak posiany z Chrystusem w ziemię proch, którym jest człowiek, może mieć swoją wiosnę.

O tę wieczną wiosnę dla Witolda Lutosławskiego prosimy Boga podczas tej liturgii.  Słyszeliśmy w czytanym dzisiaj liście św. Pawla, że Człowiek nie żyje dla siebie, ale dla Chrystusa.  Człowiek nie żyje dla siebie, ale dla ludzi, z nimi utożsamia sź Jezus.  Świętej pamięci nasz brat Witold wypełnił tę prawdę swą służbą artysty, służbą chrześcijanina.  Niech jego czyny orędują za nim u Boga, a dla nas będą znakiem, jak iść mamy.

• A Brush with Lutosławski

18619_437344239663934_545288166_nI’ve just been to Warsaw to celebrate Lutosławski’s centenary.  I’ve returned with commemorative books, CDs, a pencil, a medal and a brush, with the promise of an IoS app to follow.  More importantly, I’ve experienced an enlightening and inspiring five days with friends old and new, all gathered together by the music and memories of one man.  It was a bit surreal: we were there, but he wasn’t, except in his music.  I felt his absence keenly, even though it’s almost 19 years since he died.

Day 1 (Thursday, 24 January)

It had all been a bit hairy getting from Cornwall to Warsaw.  Yesterday, I made it to Poole for a performance by Johannes Moser, the Bournemouth SO and Kirill Karabits of Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto.  Moser is playing it a dozen times or so this year and his was a vibrant and alert reading.  We also had a great discussion in a pre-concert event with Tom Hutchinson of the RPS (who had commissioned the work and was on the eve of its own 200th-anniversary celebrations) and I’m looking forward to poring over the score with Moser in the near future.  But neither threats of snow and ice nor broken-down trains got in the way of my safe arrival in Poland today to snow and minus temperatures that back home would be regarded as a national catastrophe.

4230738-1The pre-centenary concert was given mainly by the young generation of Polish and visiting artists in the Royal Palace, as the opening concert of this year’s Łańcuch X (Chain 10) festival built around Lutosławski’s music.  There were fine readings of Musique funèbre, Grave (with Marcin Zdunik) and Paroles tissées (with the Dutch tenor Marcel Beekman) by the AUKSO CO under Marek Moś.  A special treat were the readings from Paul Valéry, Henri Michaux and Cyprian Kamil Norwid by one of Poland’s most famous actresses, Maja Komorowska.  She was in the very first Polish film that I ever saw, Zanussi’s Zycie rodzinne (Family Life).

An unexpected part of the evening was the presentation of a specially minted medal by the Witold Lutosławski Society not only to Lutosławski’s stepson and wife, Marcin and Gabriela Bogusławski, but also to about a dozen other guests.  These included the Polish conductor Jan Krenz, long a champion of Lutosławski’s music, Polish writers such as Mieczysław Tomaszewski (who was at the PWM publishers when Lutosławski’s career really took off in the early 1950s) and Michał Bristiger.  Both Tomaszewski and Bristiger are in their 90s and as sprightly in body and spirit as ever.  Younger Polish writers also honoured included Danuta Gwizdalanka and the composer Krzysztof Meyer, whose joint two-volume study of Lutosławski’s life and music is being issued in a single, German-language volume later this year, and Zbigniew Skowron, whose editorial and archival work has done much to bring Lutosławski’s music and thought to non-Polish readers.

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Non-Polish recipients included the German musicologist Martina Homma, the Russian musicologist Irina Nikolska, the American composer and author of the first major study of Lutosławski’s life and work, Steven Stucky, and two British writers: Charles Bodman Rae and myself.  James Rushton of Chester Music accepted the medal as Managing Director of Lutosławski’s publishers, Chester Music.  The following day, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Antoni Wit also received the medal on the stage of the Philharmonic Hall at the end of the opening centenary concert.  The Poles are good at this type of recognition and we were all honoured and touched by the generosity of the gesture.

Day 2 (Friday, 25 January)

Today was the big day and a packed programme for the visiting guests.  First stop was the Chopin Museum, where we were shown a recently purchased autograph of Chopin’s Waltz in F minor.  Krzysztof Meyer inspected it closely.

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The Director of the Chopin Institute Artur Szklener and the Senior Curator of the Chopin Museum Maciej Janicki were our expert guides. Janicki then took us through the interactive displays and artefacts installed in the museum. We could also glimpse a more recent tribute to Chopin in the shape of a giant mural on a nearby building.  You can see the even more giant and infinitely less prepossessing national stadium on the other side of the River Vistula.

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At lunchtime we moved across from the reconstructed Ostrogski Palace that houses the Chopin Museum to the ultra-modern facilities of the National Frederic Chopin Institute.  We weren’t there for Chopin, but for a press conference to launch a smartphone app: Witold Lutosławski: Guide to Warsaw.  As I write, it’s available only on Android; the IoS version is awaiting approval from Apple.

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I was impressed, not only by the way in which the creators outlined their intentions – principal among the people involved were (from left to right above) Grzegorz Michalski, President of the Lutosławski Society, Danuta Gwizdalanka, Kamila Stępień-Kutera and Artur Szklener – but also how good the application looked.  It’s been designed by the Kraków-based company NETIGEN and project-managed by a former music student Kamil Ściseł.

7149506The app has English and Polish versions, numerous photos, spoken and written texts, and it guides the user through Lutosławski’s Warsaw, visiting over fifty locations.  The team decided early on not to include music so as to keep the app manageable.  It seemed from the demonstration to be both handsome and user-friendly and should prove to be a major source of interest to a wide spectrum of people around the world.  It will be much cheaper for those with foreign SIM cards to use at home than on the streets of Warsaw, but it is designed to inform users who are following Lutosławski’s footsteps either on the ground or virtually.

From the press confeence it was on to Warsaw’s Powązki Cemetery, where Lutosławski was buried on 16 February 1994.  Most of us had been there many times before, not least because there are the graves of so many famous creative artists in its grounds.  Lutosławski’s grave is close by those of many other musicians.  It was getting pretty cold by mid-afternoon and the snow had piled up.  Earlier visitors had, however, cleared the gravestone of Lutosławski and his wife Danuta and it was already covered in huge wreaths.

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There was little room in the space between the rows of graves to fit everyone in.  Krzysztof Meyer adjusted the wreath ribbons.

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Speeches were made by the President of the Polish Composers’ Union Jerzy Kornowicz and by Steven Stucky.

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In the photo above, you can see (from left to right) Jerzy Kornowicz, Krzysztof Meyer, Martina Homma and Irina Nikolska.  Below, Steven Stucky, Krzysztof Meyer and Danuta Gwizdalanka partly hidden, Mieczysław Tomaszewski, Martina Homma and Irina Nikolska (also partly hidden).

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Being a little frivolous by nature, I couldn’t help noticing that the profile of the conductor Stefan Rachoń behind Lutosławski’s grave had been lent a certain Victorian air by the accumulation of snow.

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I stepped the other side and was followed by Meyer through the snow drifts between the graves.  I then took a final photo of Kornowicz, Stucky and Homma.

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IMG_7455 copyThe major event on the centenary of Lutosławski birth was the evening’s concert by the Warsaw Philharmonic under Antoni Wit.  It was an interesting and in the event a brave choice to open with a piece not by Lutosławski but by one of the younger generation whom Lutosławski helped with scholarships and other funding.  Pawel Szymański (b.1954) is arguably the best-known Polish composer of his generation, but he’s been out of the limelight for some time, mainly finishing his opera Qudsja Zaher (premiere, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw, 20 April 2013).  His new orchestral piece, Sostenuto, is characteristically oblique, slow-moving (initially) and demanding of concentration.  Its main climax approached Lutosławski’s in intensity and it subsided in a similar fashion.  Szymański dedicated Sostenuto to Lutosławski, including a brief reference to the latter’s Partita (which I missed) and ended with a veiled reference, also missed, to Brahms’s Piano Concerto no.1.  Szymański remains as enigmatic as ever.

Wit’s performance of Lutosławski’s Third Symphony was solid and well-paced, even if it didn’t fully catch fire.  The fireworks came with Anne-Sophie Mutter’s performance of Partita-Interlude-Chain 2 in the second half.  This is her piece (These are her pieces?) and she gave them all the subtlety and passion that they deserve.  The hall was packed and it was great to meet up again with friends like the conductor Wojciech Michniewski (who’s conducting the premiere of Szymański’s opera) and the pianist and composer Zygmunt Krauze.

Day 3 (Saturday, 26 January)

The official celebrations are over for the time being.  I decided to stay on for a few days, and today I had two events. The first was completely unrelated to Lutosławski.  It was a piano recital by the Hungarian-born, Polish-domiciled Szábolsc Esztényi of music by his friend Tomasz Sikorski (1939-88).  Sikorski, a contemporary of Krauze, was one of the most original voices in Polish music, and his strong, repetitive minimalist idiom is as challenging today as it was back in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

This recital was being given in the old Królikarnia palace in south Warsaw, which looked picturesque under lamplight, surrounded by deep snow, but was pretty cold inside too.  The cause was the launch of two CDs – issued by Bôłt records in association with DUX and Polish Radio among others – of music by Sikorski.  Esztényi’s double CD also includes two of his own works (Creative Music no.3 in memoriam Tomasz Sikorski, 1989, and Concerto, 1971).  There’s also Presence (2007) by Kasia Głowacka.  The other pieces, by Sikorski, are mainly archival – Echoes II (1963), Antiphones (1963), Diario 87 – as well as his Solitude of Sounds (1975).  The second CD is by John Tilbury, who plays his own Improvisation for Tomasz Sikorski (2011) alongside Sikorski’s Autograph (1980), Rondo (1984) and Zertstreutes Hinausschauen (1971).

The Bôłt series is a fascinating and inventive mix of archival performances and new interpretations and I’ll be doing a substantial survey of some of its repertoire – around ten CDs – in the near future.

Unfortunately, I was double-booked that night and had the chance to hear only two of the Sikorski pieces in Esztényi’s recital, including Sikorski’s Sonant (1967).  I was immediately struck by the correlation between Sikorski’s remorseless, expressionless repetitions and the opening of Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto.  I wonder…

I rushed from south to north Warsaw via the magic of the metro, which offered relief from the temperatures which were plummeting towards -21C.  I was on my way to an informal supper party at Lutosławski’s house.  Unfortunately, I got lost on the way from the Plac Wilsona station and was lucky to find other souls out on the streets who could direct me towards Śmiała 39.  I recognised it immediately, although I’d not seen it in the snow before.

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The giveaway was the relief plaque on the wall.

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The house is now occupied by Lutosławski’s stepson and his wife, who welcomed us all inside with whiskey, wine and good food.  It was nice to relax and to be back in this special place.  At one point, we were led up to Lutosławski’s studio on the first floor (the lit window on the exterior photograph above), where I had spent three days exploring his books, sketches and scores in September 2002.  The arm of the studio containing his desk and main bookshelves (by the lit window) is much as I remember it, whle some of the other bookshelves have been removed or replaced.  Sadly, Lutosławski’s 1970 carpet that he bought in London is no more, revealing the clunky parquet flooring which he had covered over for acoustic purposes.

Day 4 (Sunday, 27 January)

Bitterly cold again.  A morning trip to visit the newly opened gallery at the National Museum devoted to 20th-century and 21st-century Polish art.  It’s really good.  The Poles have developed such an extraordinary visual acuity, teamed with a range of symbolism (much of it socio-political), that every item has something intriguing and stimulating to offer.  There was Leopold Lewicki’s sculpture Musical Composition (1935), which offered multiple cubist viewpoints.

Leopold Lewicki Musical Composition 1935

There were several pieces by Władysław Strzemiński, whose unistic paintings so inspired Krauze’s music in the 1960s.  His little piece Cubism – tensions of material structure (1921) was particularly striking.

Strzemiński Cubism (1921)

The period since 1945 was represented by some socialist-realist pieces through to contemporary film and video.  If you are going to Warsaw, do visit.  I was most thrilled to see in the flesh again Bronisław Linke’s Autobus, about which I have enthused previously in these pages.  Close-up (and you can get much closer to the artwork here than in most of the other galleries I go to), this is a stunning, visceral work that has lost none of its power to shock since it was painted just over 50 years ago.

After a family lunch with my friends, it was off to the Lutosławski Studio at Polish Radio for a concert by the Polish Radio SO conducted by Łukasz Borowicz: Lutosławski’s Little Suite in its original version for chamber orchestra, Penderecki’s Piano Concerto in its revised version, and Stravinsky’s Symphony in C.  This is a lively orchestra, giving its all to two relatively minor pieces by the Polish composers (I’m afraid that Penderecki’s Piano Concerto is as vacuous and overscored a piece as it was when I heard its Polish premiere in the original version in 2002; others disagree).

Day 5 (Monday, 28 January)

andrzej-chlopecki-przewodnik-po-muzyce-witolda-lutoslawskiego-postslowie-okladka-2013-01-29-530x635I was back at Polish Radio this afternoon for the press launch of a book on Lutosławski by Andrzej Chłopecki, who died last autumn.  It is subtitled ‘Przewodnik po muzyce Witolda Lutosławskiego’ and is available only in Polish.  I’ll return in a future post to this rather special guide, to a new photo album and an 8-CD box set of archival recordings also published to mark Lutosławski’s centenary.

My final Lutosławski experience was in the evening’s concert by the Wrocław PO under its conductor Jacek Kaspszyk.  The main item was Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto, played by Garrick Ohlsson, who won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1970.  He was still feeling his way into the piece (he’d played it for the first time just two days earlier, but every performer has to start somewhere!) and frankly there was no comparison with Krystian Zimerman’s magical performance in London with the Philharmonia under Esa-Pekka Salonen two days later.  In the same way that the Philharmonia celebrations for Lutosławski are pairing him with two of his favourite composers (Debussy and Ravel), the Wrocław PO completed its concert with dynamic performances of Stravinsky’s Firebird suite and Ravel’s La Valse.

And so, as the temperature rose on Tuesday to a balmy 0C, I left Warsaw for London, thoroughly invigorated and grateful to friends old and new for five days of celebration for a composer who has been hugely important to me since I was a student.

Oh, the brush!

The Poles are so imaginative.  The Adam Mickiewicz Institute, which along with the Institute of Music and Dance and the Witold Lutosławski Society has brought these events to fruition, decided to give a special present to its guests on Friday evening at the Philharmonic.  It looked at first glance like an old-fashioned pencil box.

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On opening it, there was a familiar, early photo of Lutosławski working at his piano.

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Underneath, inside the box, was a pencil and a mini version of the brush in the photo.

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What was it for, you may ask?  Clue: Lutosławski worked in pencil, frequently rubbing out and correcting his sketches and scores.  And he was a naturally tidy man and disliked mess…  I remember seeing a brush on his desk when I was in his studio in 2002, so this resonated with me.  What a brilliant gift to bring back home!

• WL100/9: Lutosławski’s carpet

Did you know that all of Lutosławski’s works from 1971 onwards were composed as he paced to and fro on a carpet made and sold in the British Isles?  And that his grand piano and writing desk stood on it too?  You didn’t?  Read on!

Below is an undated photo of Lutosławski’s studio.  The state of the rucked carpet, the style of the curtains and the blank walls, where subsequently there were bookshelves, allow us to date the photo (first published in 2007) to 1968-70.  How can we tell?

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In 1968, the Lutosławskis moved from their cramped flat in East Warsaw, where they’d lived since the Second World War, to a spacious detached house in North Warsaw.  The first work that Lutosławski composed in his L-shaped first-floor studio was his Cello Concerto.  The concerto was premiered in London on 14 October 1970.  I discovered the following correspondence at the Paul Sacher Stifting in Basle in 2003:

From Faith Crook (Chester Music) to Lutosławski, 26 October 1970
“Mr Rizza [then MD of Chester Music, London] has passed on to me your note about the carpet you wish to order and get sent to you from Gamages.  […]  I note that what you require is ‘Tintawn’ No.526 (“White Heather” shade) and you asked for the 108 inch (9 feet) width, but the length you gave of 13 yards 7 inches we find rather puzzling.”

From Lutosławski to Faith Crook, 4 November 1970
“I am very sorry to bother you with that carpet for me.  The only excuse to offer is, that it will be a part of the equipment of my working room and thus – serve in a way the purposes of the firm!  […]  It may seem puzzling, but the room is not a straightforward rectangular one.  It is an “L”-form and that is why two strips of different length will have to be pieced together.”

From Faith Crook to Lutosławski, 11 November 1970
Gamage invoice, Holborn, E.C.1
Cost of carpet  £65 16s 0d
Carriage  £12 15s 0d
Packing  £1 10s 0d
Insurance  £1 6s 0d
Total  £81 7s 0d

Evidently, Lutosławski had gone to London not only for the premiere of the Cello Concerto but also with the measurements of his studio, intent on purchasing a good quality carpet.  Wall-to-wall carpets are unusual in Poland, where wooden flooring is usual, so part of his reasoning must have been to do with the room’s acoustics.  Gamage’s, which closed in 1972 and was subsequently knocked down, was a huge department store famous for its unusual diversity, from its toy department and Christmas bazaar to a specialist section for motor parts.  It evidently had a good carpet showroom too.  More particularly, it was in Holborn, barely ten minutes’ walk from Chester Music’s then offices at Eagle Court in E.C.1.  Did Lutosławski pass it by accident or was he directed to it by his publishers?

Fast forward to 2002 when, during the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival, I was privileged to spend several days, with Nicholas Reyland, examining Lutosławski materials at his house.  I had been downstairs in 1981, but I had never seen the ‘working room’ upstairs.  We were given extraordinary freedom to research and document what we found. It was exciting, as always, to see where a composer composed.  The grand piano had been moved out, but the general layout of the rest of the room was as it had been from the beginning.  The photo below was taken from the double doors leading onto the first-floor balcony (compare the 1968-70 photo pointing in the opposite direction).

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What was different was the increased shelf-space, the elongated desk area to accommodate the hifi and CDs, and the absence of curtains.  The coffee table and flower vase were where they had been in the late 60s, as were the leather easy chairs and sofa, but in a more modern guise.

At the time (2002), I hadn’t found out about the carpet, so took no special photos of it.  But here are a couple of clips from other photos.  The lower one, taken close to the desk, shows signs of wear and tear, but after over 20 years of Lutosławski’s pacing (he habitually composed standing at the piano, but evidently worked a great deal at his desk also), and a further decade since his death, such signs were hardly surprising.

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Yet what was remarkable was how few such patches there were.  This must have been a good-quality carpet that Lutosławski chose in London.  As soon as I got back from my research to Basle in 2003, I investigated further.  And I received this prompt reply from Axminster:

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What I didn’t pick up, until it was pointed out today by my friend Colin Stark (who played Epitaph for Lutosławski in Belfast in 1987), is that this carpet was not made at Axminster but in Newbridge, Co. Kildare in Ireland.

It’s nice – if perhaps irrelevant – to think that the music of Lutosławski’s last 23 years (Preludes and FugueLes Espaces du sommeilMi-partiEpitaphGrave, Symphonies 3 and 4, Chains 1-3, Piano Concerto, Chantefleurs et Chantefables, among others) was created as he pondered his next compositional move on a carpet that he bought in London, a creative investment and a material reward, if you like, for one of his greatest artistic achievements.

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