• Woodworm Don’t Like Your Music

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 09.10.32I don’t think I have ever seen such a colourful series of titles for the BBC Radio 3 series Composer of the Week.  Today, and for the rest of this week, it’s the turn of Grażyna Bacewicz, presented by Donald Macleod with me muttering a few words from the wings.  The titles are nothing to do with me, but I hope that they bring in the listeners!

Programmes are broadcast at 12.00 (BST) and repeated at 18.30 (except Fri, when the repeat is at 19.00).

An Unseen Little Engine (Mon 25 May)
A Mood of Determined Resistance (Tues 26 May)
A False Dawn (Wed 27 May)
Opening the Modernist Floodgates (Thurs 28 May)
Woodworm Don’t Like Your Music (Fri 29 May)

Full repertoire details in my earlier post.

• BBC R3: Bacewicz is COTW (25-29.05)

n1877p01At last!  In two weeks’ time, Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-69) will be BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week.  Five programmes, each lasting an hour, will be broadcast 25-29 May, at 12 noon and again at 18.30.  Donald Macleod presents, as usual, and I’ll be chipping in with a few comments towards the end of each programme.  I’ve not been involved in the selection of the repertoire.

…….

I’ve just been looking back at coverage of Polish composers on COTW.  Sadly, the BBC webpages (once you’ve learned how to navigate them) are reliable only for the past ten years.  Before that, specific years and dates then become very patchy and there is nothing concrete before 2001 except an alphabetical list of names since the series’ inception in 1943.

Chopin has been well represented over the years, but what of 20th-century Polish composers?  Is it not strange that neither Górecki nor Penderecki has been featured?  (I was asked to contribute to a Górecki week last year, but when I was unavailable for recording the proposal was postponed and I’ve heard nothing since; I hope it will resurface soon.)  If COTW can cover Henze (2005), Ligeti (2009) and Schnittke (2010), why not their near-contemporaries in Poland?  Panufnik was featured in his centenary year (2014), but Lutosławski was passed by in his (2013).  Szymanowski, on the other hand, has been almost over-exposed.  Here is my list, extracted from the COTW webpages (the 2006 slot may be a repeat):

• 2014: Andrzej Panufnik
• 2011: Karol Szymanowski
• 2010: Fryderyk Chopin
• 2008: Fryderyk Chopin
• 2006: Karol Szymanowski
• 2004: Karol Szymanowski

Before Donald Macleod became the voice of COTW, other presenters participated, including myself.  In the 1990s I presented a few weeks and Roxana Panufnik presented one on her father:

• 1998: Karol Szymanowski
• 1993: Andrzej Panufnik (as part of R3’s Polska! festival)
• 1993: Polish Romantics (“) – Karłowicz, Moniuszko, Noskowski, Paderewski, Wieniawski, Zarębski
• 1993: Witold Lutosławski

It seems to me that there is an unanswerable case for Górecki, Penderecki and Lutosławski to be included in future plans for COTW.  They are more than equal to quite a few composers who have been featured in the series over the past ten years.  There are other Polish names too, who might be grouped together if there was insufficient recorded material for them to be treated singly: Kazimierz Serocki, Tadeusz Baird, Wojciech Kilar and Zygmunt Krauze come to mind, or even composers of younger generations.  And there is now much more available on 19th-century Polish music, not to mention the Polish Renaissance and Baroque.  But back, for now, to Bacewicz.

…….

Part of the challenge for a representative coverage of Bacewicz’s music is the lack of recordings of certain periods, although there was a surge of CDs around the centenary of her birth.  This is particularly obvious of the mid-1960s, where works such as Musica sinfonica (1965), Contradizione (1965), In una parte (1967) and the Viola Concerto (1968) have never been issued on CD.  There is, for example, only one recording of the key work Music for Strings, Trumpets and Percussion (1958).  That was made for the Chandos label in 2009, her centenary year.  Once again, when it comes to the recording of Polish music, it is a British company that has taken the lead.  Given the available recorded repertoire, the choice made by COTW presents a good, more-or-less chronological sample of Bacewicz’s music.  I hope it will garner new enthusiasts for her music, especially among performers and promoters.  Here’s the day-by-day list of works that have been selected (movement details tbc):

Monday 25 May
• Sonatina for piano, first movement (1933)
• Violin Sonata no.3 (1948)
Children’s Suite for piano, movements 1-5 (1933)
• Sinfonietta for strings (1936)
• Violin Concerto no.1 (1937)

Tuesday 26 May
• Three Songs (1938)
Three Grotesques for piano (1935)
• Violin Sonata no.1 ‘Sonata da camera’ (1945)
• Violin Concerto no.2, movements 2 and 3 (1945)
• Overture (1943)

Wednesday 27 May
• String Quartet no.3 (1947)
• Violin Sonata no.4 (1949)
• Concerto for String Orchestra (1948)

Thursday 28 May
• String Quartet no.4, first movement (1951)
• Partita for violin and piano (1955)
• Ten Concert Studies for piano, nos 1-3 (1956)
Music for Strings, Trumpets and Percussion (1958)

Friday 29 May
Pensieri notturni for orchestra (1961)
• Piano Quintet no.2, movements 1 and 2 (1965)
• Violin Concerto no.7 (1965)
• Divertimento for strings (1965)

• 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.

AP TR 1950 27.04.50 115 p.6 Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 10.52.37
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.

• BBC Scottish SO’s ‘Muzyka Polska’

Later this week I’m paying a flying visit to Glasgow to give a pre-concert talk as part of the first night of the BBC Scottish SO’s Muzyka Polska series during its 2012-13 season.  This has been built around next year’s centenary of the birth of Witold Lutosławski and I’m very happy to have been able to play a small part in advising on the choice of repertoire.  With its concentration on Lutosławski and on Szymanowski, the 75th anniversary of whose death falls this year, there was limited room for other major figures (no Baird, Górecki or Serocki, for example).  I’m particularly delighted to see Mieczysław Karłowicz’s Eternal Songs (1906) in the mix and pleased to see that there is music by at least one composer born after World War II, Paweł Szymański’s A Study of Shade (1989).  The ‘big’ night is on 17 January 2013, when six Polish works will be performed.

• Chopin  Piano Concerto no.2 (1829-30)   14 March 2013
• Chopin  Piano Concerto no.1 (1830)   11 October 2012
• Szymanowski  Concert Overture (1905)   11 October 2012
• Karłowicz  Eternal Songs (1906)   15 November 2012
• Szymanowski  Songs of a Fairytale Princess (1915, orch. 1933)   17 January 2013
• Szymanowski  Violin Concerto no.1 (1916)   15 November 2012
• Szymanowski  Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin (1918, orch. 1934)   17 January 2013
• Bacewicz  Concerto for String Orchestra (1948)   25 October 2012
• Lutosławski  Concerto for Orchestra (1954)   17 January 2013
• Penderecki  Polymorphia (1961)   17 January 2013 (Post-Concert Coda)
• Lutosławski  Cello Concerto (1970)   28 February 2013
• Szymański  A Study of Shade (1989)   17 January 2013 (Post-Concert Coda)
• Lutosławski  Symphony no.4 (1992)   17 January 2013

There are two supplementary chamber recitals as Post-Concert Codas: Johannes Moser will play Polish music for cello on 28 February after his performance of Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, and Garrick Ohlsson will play solo piano pieces by Chopin on 14 March after his performance of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto.  Ohlsson rocketed to fame after winning the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1970.  Moser is becoming one of the foremost performers of the Lutosławski.  His Glasgow appearance follows on from a performance in Poole in January with the Bournemouth SO (which premiered the work with Rostropovich in 1970), three performances in Stuttgart the week before he comes to Glasgow, and he then plays it twice in Bilbao in April.

The full schedule for the BBC SSO Muzyka Polska series may be accessed here or by navigating from its home website.

• Yours for only £1131/$1767 …

No author likes being remaindered, but this Amazon ad (sent to me by Raymond Yiu) is absurd.  What planet are they on?  £1131/$1767?  That’s £11/$17 dollars per page.

My extremely modest little paperback study, Grażyna Bacewicz: Chamber and Orchestral Music, was published in Los Angeles in 1985, and remains the only book in English that explores Bacewicz’s music in any detail.  I’ve no idea what the print-run was, though it wouldn’t have been large.  Scarcity is one thing, but imagining that anyone would pay anything over the list price (c.£11/$17 – equivalent to a single page at this ad’s rate) is plain ridiculous.

There is another used copy on Amazon, on sale for $350, which is preposterous in itself.  If anyone interested in Bacewicz’s music would like to see what I sketched out in 1985, just get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

…….

Another friend, Justin Geplaveid, alerted me this week to a Polish TV documentary on Bacewicz, made in 1999 to mark the 90th anniversary of her birth and the 30th of her death.  It’s an old-style, chronological account, and none the worse for that.  It is in Polish only.  Even so, much can be gleaned about her life and work.  There are plentiful excerpts from an interview with her sister Wanda and appearances by her teachers Kazimierz Sikorski and Nadia Boulanger. Keen observers will also glimpse Lutosławski, Mycielski and Serocki in company with Boulanger and Bacewicz.  There are some home movies and, most importantly, excerpts of live performances of her music.  There is a full list of performances and performers at the end of the film.

Included in these archive performances are Divertimento (1965), Witraż (1934), Violin Concerto 1 (1937), Oberek (1949, Grażyna Bacewicz, with her brother Kiejstut), Concerto for String Orchestra (1948, the first movement in a compilation of recordings, including one conducted by Yehudi Menuhin), Olympic Cantata (1948), String Quartet 4 (1951), Symphony 3 (1952), Music for Strings Trumpet and Percussion (1958), Musica sinfonica (1965, as a ballet), The Adventure of King Arthur (1959, radio opera), String Quartet 7 (1965) and Violin Concerto 7 (1965, conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki).

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