• Unsound = Satanic?

headline_logoThe ‘Unsound’ festival in Kraków has established itself as a major force for musical exploration since its first appearance in 2006.  It has since had offshoot festivals in New York, London, Adelaide and Toronto.  The 2015 festival begins today, but its launch has just been tarnished by accusations of satanism against the festival and the British musician David Tibet from one of the churches in which it holds its events.  ‘Unsound’ is noted for pushing boundaries, but it has always had a friendly and cooperative relationship with Kraków churches.  I know no more than what the attached press release and statement from Tibet reveal.  They are remarkably restrained in tone, but it does seem from this distance that what my parents would have called ‘an interfering old busybody’ has been stirring it under false pretences.  Good for ‘Unsound’ for dealing with this so coolly and with dignity and for finding another venue for this already sold-out event by Tibet’s group ‘Current 93’ next Friday.


A follow-up statement indicates that three ‘Surprise’ morning instrumental concerts have also had to be moved from Kraków churches, none of them involving (as far as I can tell) any textual/verbal content.  The ‘surprise’ element has been revealed by Unsound to demonstrate the absurdity of the ecclesiastical back-tracking.  The relevant part of this further statement may be read below the first statement below or in full by following this link:


See also the 2015 Festival/Events side-bar for the link to Unsound.

First Statement from the organisers of Unsound Festival (11 October 2015)

With great shock, it has come to our attention that accusations have been posted on a Polish Internet website that our festival — as preposterous as it is to even repeat — allegedly promotes and propagates Satanism. These accusations, initially made in a letter to St Catherine’s Church, are completely unfounded, unreasonable, and slanderous. They undermine the good name of the festival, which since 2003 has been an enthusiastic participant in Krakow’s cultural life, and we reject the accusation unequivocally.

Were it possible to ignore this as a sick joke, we would. Unfortunately, this statement harms not only the festival organisers, but also our guests – including both artists and the festival audience.

As the organisers of Unsound, we of course categorically deny that Satanism is now or has ever been promoted at our festival. The goal of the Unsound festival has always been bringing artists and audiences together in the promotion of art and culture. There has never been any political ideology or religious motivation behind the festival programming. And, moreover, the organisers of the festival have always appreciated the hospitality of Krakow churches, where over the span of several years many concerts have taken place.

Today, Unsound is an important international cultural event, which brings many wonderful artists and thousands of national and international attendees to Krakow. The attention it garners across the globe also brings increasing interest and curiosity about the city and all it has to offer. In regard to people who spread harmful and untrue accusations about the festival and its participants — whether out of spite or extreme ignorance, we do not know — we invite them to Unsound to discover what its main goals actually are.

We received a message from St. Catherine’s Church that they have been asked by the curia to cancel the concert of Current 93, which was meant to take place there on October 16th. We are especially sorry because David Tibet — the founder and leader of Current 93 — sent us a statement in which he explains his faith as a Christian, as he has many times in interviews. This letter was forwarded to the church, but without effect. He is upset and hurt by the fact we are now forced to change venues. Below we have published a brief statement from David Tibet.

Statement from David Tibet +++

My friends Mat Schulz and Gosia Płysa at Unsound informed me of some crazy allegations against me and my work, accusing me of being a Satanist and other such ridiculous slanders.

I absolutely deny these laughable slurs, first made in a complaint by someone to St. Catherine’s Church, and then reposted on a sensationalist and scurrilous blog site. Perhaps they should reacquaint themselves with Matthew XV:14:

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

and St. Luke VI:39:

“And He spake a parable unto them, “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?’”

I have declared many times that I am Christian. Nearly all of my work manifests this belief, both my music and my artwork — and this conviction remains no less true even if my work often displays a dark humour — as well as my studies, including those in Coptic, which I learnt in order to work on apocryphal New Testament texts.

My lyric book, SING OMEGA, is dedicated “to Yesu the Aleph, the Secret Lion”. Indeed, the title of the book is taken from a homily by the Coptic monk Shenoute, quoting the Coptic monk Pachomius.

My work may sometimes be unorthodox and misunderstood by those holding different views to my own, but I have stated on many, many occasions that I am Christian.

I would like to thank Mat, Gosia and all of those at Unsound, who have responded to this small, and stupid, set-back with generosity and determination, and I and all of C93 look forward to seeing you in a different venue on the same night!

With Love and Chariots, and Watch and Pray!

David Tibet+++

And on the rocks
The moss is everywhere
And the sky is blackblue
And it is darkening
Statues point to the sky
And dawn
And I believe
Christ is the Son of God
And I believe
Christ is His Son
from “The Blue Gates of Death”

Clear as rain and Adam
Not because falls
Not as the fox barks
The legend was a he at sea
Christ arose in glory
A rose in glory
Christ is the Rose
from “Not Because The Fox Barks”

The flowers are everywhere
Christ Glorious Entwined
The dip of the moon
And the sun as it shines
And the roots as they burrow
And tunnel through earth
And the birds as they soar on their wings
I heard them whisper your name
from “MockingBird”


Second Statement from the organisers of Unsound Festival (11 October 2015)


Note: As a result of the false and bizarre claims made by a few individuals accusing Unsound of a supposedly “Satanic” agenda, we have also now been informed that we will need to relocate our morning shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from the two beautiful Krakow churches where they were due to be held. These shows were all meant to be surprises, as per the festival theme, but as we would like to underscore the absurdity of this situation, we will now reveal who is playing:

• John Tilbury – One of the foremost pianists in the world of experimental and improvised music. He is playing with one of Poland’s leading experimental musicians, Robert Piotrowicz.

• Raphael Rogiński – One of Poland’s most famous jazz and improvisational guitarists, who is playing the music of John Coltrane, as heard on his recent Bolt Records release.

• RRose plays James Tenney – The U.S. musician Rrose will play a piece by renowned American composer James Tenney on a 32-inch gong.

Once again, we would like to state that Unsound — an open-minded festival dedicated to the promotion of music and culture — is not guided by any political or religious agenda. Our audience and the artists who play for them are made up of people with many different beliefs and world views — they are all joined together by music.

News on alternate venues will come soon. We are also working to confirm an alternate venue for the Current 93 show. We will share this information as soon as we have it.

• Collegium Maius, Kraków

My favourite building in Poland: the fourteenth-century Collegium Maius of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Even on a wet, colour-draining November day, it is still magnificent.

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• WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939

There was a time not so long ago in Kraków when you could find a really good antykwariat (second-hand bookshop) in several of the city’s central streets.  Those days are long gone, but in the 1990s I was able to build up my collection of library of books on Polish culture by delving into such emporia.  My most unexpected find was a bundle of old concert programmes.  These were mainly from the Kraków Philharmonic’s concerts between 1945 and 1952.  And in amongst these fascinating documents were a couple of other items, of which this one-off programme is the earlier. It is notable now for marking the concert premiere of Lutosławski’s Symphonic Variations (1936-38).

Lutosławski’s completed this, his first proper orchestral work, in mid-December 1938 and it was given a live broadcast on Polish Radio in April the following year.  Its first public performance, however, took place on Saturday 17 June 1939.  In the programme, it’s called simply ‘Variations’; whether ‘Symphonic’ was mistakenly omitted  or added later I cannot tell.  While it has never really made a huge impact in the broadly held canon of Lutosławski’s music, it is evidence of his early maturity, his ear for orchestral colour, and his symphonic instincts.  (It’s been programmed in this year’s BBC Proms, on Wednesday 7 August.  The performers are the BBC SO under Edward Gardner, reprising, along with the Piano Concerto and Louis Lortie, two of the pieces on their scintillating Chandos CD ‘Witold Lutosławski. Orchestral Works II’, CHSA 5098‘.)

Krakøw concerts 17-20.06.39 cover

The premiere was given by the Polish Radio [Symphony] Orchestra, conducted by its founder and music director Grzegorz Fitelberg.  It was the opening concert of the Kraków Arts Days Festival, which ran from 17-20 June 1939. Three of the five concerts, including this one, were given in the arcaded Renaissance courtyard of Wawel Castle in Kraków (in Lutosławski literature, the festival has normally been called the Wawel Festival).  All three Wawel concerts began at 21.00 hours – I hope the weather was balmy!  That’s more than could be said for what happened two and a half months later.

This programme is printed on cream card measuring 27 x 21 cms, printed in dark blue ink and folded to provide four sides (among the obvious misprints are E. Edgar, Bethoven, and con fucco).  The second side gives the programme for the first of the three symphonic concerts. For this ‘Concert of Polish Music’, the Polish Radio SO was joined by the singer Ewa Bandrowska-Turska (1894-1979), one of Poland’s most distinguished sopranos, and the pianist Józef Śmidowicz (1888-1962), who had been Lutosławski’s piano teacher in 1924-25.

Krakøw concert 17.06.39

Even though Kurpiński was a key figure in the development of opera in nineteenth-century Poland, his music today clings onto public awareness only through the overtures, such as this one to his opera Jadwiga, Queen of Poland (1814).  Melcer’s folk-infused Piano Concerto no.2 in C minor (1897) has maintained a certain place in the Polish repertoire.  Modern recordings by Jonathan Plowright (Hyperion, 2007) and Joanna Ławrynowicz (Acte Préalable, 2008) have been joined by an archive recording by Melcer himself (Selene, 2012).

The selection of four songs by Szymanowski includes two from his cycle Songs of a Fairytale Princess (1915), three songs from which he orchestrated in 1933 and were premiered by Bandrowska-Turska (there’s another mistake: the op. no. for the third song should be op.26).  Szymanowski had died in 1937, and Fitelberg was his ardent champion, so it was fitting that the programme included Fitelberg’s orchestral arrangement of Szymanowski’s Nocturne and Tarantella for violin and piano (1915).  The final work in this first programme was the now long-forgotten First Symphony by Woytowicz, who went on to run one of the artists’ cafes where Lutosławski and Andrzej Panufnik played their two-piano arrangements in war-torn Warsaw.

Krakøw concerts 18.06.39

Side 3 of the programme announces the two non-symphonic concerts in the Kraków Arts Days Festival.  The first, on Sunday 18 June, in the Bednarski Park south of the River Vistula, was of folk music played by Polish Radio’s Small Orchestra, Chorus and vocal soloists.  This was followed by the second, an ‘Evening of Musical Serenades’, which was given in the courtyard of the Jagiellonian University near Wawel.  This mixed programme included Mozart, 16th and 17th-century madrigals, songs by unnamed Polish composers, etc.

Krakow cncerts 19-20.06.39

Side 4 outlines the details of the last two symphonic concerts.  The first, on Monday 19 June, included two works by Mieczysław Karłowicz, his tone poem Stanisław i Anna Oświecimowie (1907) and the Violin Concerto (1902). Pieces by three lesser-known composers followed: the symphonic poem Anhelli (1909) by Ludomir Różycki, the Cello Concerto (1928, on Gregorian themes) by Jan Maklakiewicz and the overture Swaty polskie (Polish Courtship, 1903) by Feliks Nowowiejski.  The soloists were Irena Dubiska (1899-1989), a noted violinist who in 1930 founded the Polish Quartet of which the other soloist, the cellist and composer Kazimierz Wiłkomirski (1900-95), was also a member.  Dubiska went on, like many other distinguished players, to perform in Woytowicz’s cafe during the Second World War.

The final concert, on Tuesday 20 June, cast its net outside Poland (muzyka obca = foreign music), including Elgar’s tribute to the stateless Polish nation during the Great War, Polonia, and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.  Of more interest is the repertoire by Ravel, Debussy and de Falla: Daphnis et Chloé (Second Suite), Nocturnes and the Suite from The Three-Cornered Hat.

• Lutosławski @sacrum+profanum, 22.09.13

sacrum_logotypecmyk_jasnetlHot on the heels of my recent posts about the re-imagining of Lutosławski’s music by Polish musicians, news has come through of a potentially more far-reaching project involving non-Polish musicians at the 2013 sacrum+profanum festival in Kraków.

On 22 September, the AUKSO orchestra, under Marek Moś, will play Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre and Preludes and Fugue.  Their by-the-book performances will then be responded to by four composers known for their electronic work: Clark (Chris Clark, UK), Emika (UK, of Czech parentage), Mira Calix (UK) and Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin, USA).  The event – ‘Polish Icons 2’ – starts at 18.00, at the ArcelorMittal Hala Ocynowni.  Tickets (bilety) are 79zł (c. £20) until the end of May, thereafter 99zł (c. £25).  The Polish announcement is available here (the English-language pages have not yet caught up with the Polish news release).


• WL100/7: Lutosławski info online

Looking for substantial information online on Lutosławski?  You will find more in this ‘timeline’ pdf than elsewhere:

The Diary of the Life, Works and Activity of Witold Lutosławski

Published in 2007, Stanisław Będkowski’s annotated chronology is the best source that I’ve yet found online. It includes many quotes from the composer’s own recollections, interviews and writings.  I wouldn’t be surprised if an updated version appears this year.

WL_Studies_1_2007_oklAlong with Stanisław Hrabia, Będkowski has also published Witold Lutosławski. Discography in the same source, the English-language Witold Lutosławski Studies (Kraków: Witold Lutosławski Center, Institute of Musicology, Jagiellonian University).  This discography is an updated version from 2008 of the discography in their massively informative Witold Lutosławski. A Bio-Biography (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2001).  Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if a further updated version appears this year.

Three volumes of Witold Lutosławski Studies have appeared (2007, 2008, 2009).  I’m not sure what plans there are for further issues.  All three volumes are well-worth investigating (among other items, Będkowski provides an index of Lutosławski’s correspondence in the third volume, while the 2008 issue includes a penetrating article on musical plot by Nicholas Reyland).  The full contents may be accessed online at:


• New Polish Pantheon in Kraków

Last week it was announced that a new Polish Pantheon would be established in Kraków.  The existing Krypta/ Panteon Zasłużonych (Crypt/Pantheon of the Distinguished), under St Stanisław’s Church on Skałka, has no more room.

The existing Crypt was first brought into use in 1880, and first honoured Jan Długosz, an early Renaissance historian and diplomat.  Over the past 130 years, the Crypt of the Distinguished has become the final resting place of just twelve more men (no women), most of whom were writers and many of whom had Kraków connections.

Photo: Ivonna Nowicka (2010). Szymanowski’s tomb is on the far left


1880  Jan Długosz
1881  Wincenty Pol
1881  Lucjan Siemieński
1887  Józef Ignacy Kraszewski
1893  Teofil Lenartowicz
1897  Adam Asnyk
1902  Henryk Siemiradzki
1907  Stanisław Wyspiański
1929  Jacek Malczewski
1937  Karol Szymanowski
1954  Ludwik Solski
1955  Tadeusz Banachiewicz
2004  Czesław Miłosz


Wyspiański was also a renowned artist, and his interment and that of the painter Siemiradzki seem to have opened the way for other non-literary figures to be included: Malczewski (painter), Szymanowski (composer), Solski (actor and theatre director) and Banachiewicz (mathematician and astronomer).

As the above list indicates, the Crypt was used very intermittently, so can hardly be said to be representative of the great and the good from the worlds of the arts and sciences over the last 130 years.  I wonder whom the authorities have got in mind for the new Pantheon, which will be under the Church of SS Peter and Paul, close to Kraków’s city centre?  They could, I imagine, disinter some who are already dead, such as the composers Witold Lutosławski (Warsaw) or Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (Katowice), but somehow I think that is unlikely.  When Krzysztof Penderecki’s time comes, he might be a likely candidate, not least because he is Kraków born and bred.  Among literary figures, Wisława Szymborska – who died earlier this year and, like Miłosz, was a Nobel laureate – might be considered.  It remains to be seen how the new Pantheon will mark the resting places of those who have been cremated.

The Poles are attached to their great figures and believe in good memorials.  Being given a magnificent tomb in such a crypt, however, is no guarantee of long-lasting recognition or significance, especially outside Poland, as the list of those in the existing Crypt makes evident.

Sometimes you can find just as much dignity and remembrance in a graveyard open to the air.  The Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw is a case in point.  It is the resting place of huge numbers of distinguished people from all walks of life, from times of both peace and war.  There is a particular area with a cluster of composers and performers, including Lutosławski, Baird, Serocki, Rowicki and many others.  I make a point of going to Powązki when I am in Warsaw for more than a couple of days.  Next time I go, I will search out the grave of my friend and distinguished music critic and thinker, Andrzej Chłopecki, who was buried there three days ago.

• Szymanowski’s Funerals

Szymanowski’s sister Stanisława by her brother’s coffin, Lausanne, March-April 1937

Today is the 75th anniversary of Szymanowski’s funeral ceremony in Warsaw and tomorrow the anniversary of his burial in Kraków.  His body had travelled to Warsaw by train from Lausanne, where he had died on the night of 28-29 March 1937 (see my earlier post, When did Szymanowski die?).  The train stopped for commemorative ceremonies in Berlin, at the German-Polish border, and in Poznań in central Poland.  It arrived in Warsaw on Sunday evening, 4 April, and was taken to the Conservatory of Music, where it lay in state until the following evening.

The Warsaw funeral took place on the morning of Tuesday, 6 April, in the Church of the Holy Cross (where an urn containing Chopin’s heart was immured).  Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater was performed during the service. Afterwards, the cortège moved north up Krakowskie Przedmieście, past the University, and turned left to pass in front of the Grand Theatre, where an excerpt from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung was played.  From there it moved south to the Philharmonic, pausing while an arrangement of some of Szymanowski’s piano Variations on a Polish Folk Theme was heard.  Late that evening, the coffin was placed on an overnight train to Kraków.

Szymanowski’s coffin arrived in Kraków early on Wednesday, 7 April, and by 09.00 it had been ceremonially placed in the Mariacki Church on the city’s central square.  During the Kraków service, which began two hours later, Berlioz’s Requiem was performed.  At noon, the famous daily iteration of the hejnał (trumpet alarm) was sounded from the top of the church tower.

Afterwards, the cortège wound its way, to the strains of Beethoven, south-west past Wawel castle and on to St Stanisław church on Skałka (‘the little rock’).  There, Szymanowski’s coffin was placed in the Krypt Zasłużonych (Crypt of the Distinguished).  Szymanowski shares this Polish Pantheon with a dozen other distinguished artistic figures, including Adam Asnyk, Stanisław Wyspiański, Jacek Malczewski and Czesław Miłosz.  Szymanowski is the only composer.  The last music heard after his committal was a folk tune played by Tatra highlanders (a modern commemoration is shown in the picture below), a tribute that was also paid in Katowice at the burial of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in 2010.

For a contemporary account of the events of 4-7 April 1937, by the composer and critic Stefan Kisielewski, see the following three-part English translation by William Hughes:

Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part One]
Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part Two]
Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part Three]

Photos from these impressive ceremonies in Warsaw and Kraków can be found on several pages of the Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (National Digital Archive), starting at http://www.audiovis.nac.gov.pl/haslo/279:224/. They knew how to do funerals in those days.

• Polish Independence Day

Once again, Armistice/Remembrance Day on 11 November reminds us of the sacrifice of millions in 1914-18 and in subsequent conflicts.  It is rightly a moment of reflection.  Who, though, is ‘us’?  The date and time – ‘the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ – are key for the citizens of the UK, the Commonwealth, France, Belgium and the United States (where it’s called Veterans Day).  But it’s interesting to learn that ‘our’ private and ceremonial marking of the anniversary is not universal.

New Zealand, for example, focuses on 25 April, Anzac Day.  Italy commemorates 4 November, Germany marks the second Sunday before Advent, Volkstrauertag.  Holland combines remembrance with celebration: Remembrance Day falls on 4 May, followed by Liberation Day on 5 May (both dates referring to the end of the Second World War). This seems to me to strike the right balance between commemorating the dead and celebrating victory.

For the Poles, the situation is quite different. 11 November is National Independence Day. That was the date when, in 1918, as the Armistice was signed in the railway carriage in Compiègne in France, Poland regained its freedom after 123 years of partition and occupation by Russia, Prussia and Austria. 11 November is therefore a day for solemn celebration (the picture is of bunting in Floriańska St in Kraków), not least because the date was officially removed from the calendar after the Second World War by the communist authorities until the restoration of democratic processes in 1989.  The Poles are fanatical about anniversaries, so the official restoration of the celebrations – and a public holiday – are fully savoured.

There is an added resonance in those countries, including Poland, where 11 November is St Martin’s Day, Martinmas.  This a cause for processions, bonfires, singing and feasting, particularly in the evening and with a roast goose, a time to mark the transition from autumn to winter and the first taste of the year’s new wine.

There is also a pastry that is particular to Martinmas in certain countries. Germany has the Martinshörnchen and Poland – especially the central region around Poznań – has the rogal świętomarciński.  These are horn-shaped croissants enriched with poppy seeds, crushed almonds and icing.  Delicious!

Maybe ‘we’ could learn a thing or two from these other ways of marking anniversaries.  Why not the proper solemnity of ‘the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ in the morning and a joyous celebration of more ancient rituals in the evening?  Shall we start tonight?

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