• 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).


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.


• Poles launch ‘100/100 Lutosławski’

18619_437344239663934_545288166_nLutosławski year was officially launched in Warsaw yesterday under the banner ‘100/100 Lutosławski’.  A new website has been published (in Polish/English), but precise details of events are yet to be fully revealed.  I outlined the details of the Philharmonia’s splendid Woven Words website, launched in October, in an earlier post.  Here, I’ll outline what has so far emerged from Polish sources.


• http://lutoslawski.culture.pl/web/lutoslawskien  The ‘100/100 Lutosławski’ website, hosted by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, is a companion to the one launched to mark the 75th anniversary of Szymanowski‘s death earlier this year. It currently has a three SoundCloud clips (Concerto for Orchestra, Symphonies 3 and 4), though not all the clips and the accompanying notes are credited.  There’s a short video discussion between Steven Stucky and Esa-Pekka Salonen as well as videos shared with the Woven Words website.  Its Calendar of events has still to be unveiled, and its list of Resources consists at the moment only of a short bibliography that has got as far as the letter ‘R’ (so no Stucky yet…).  No doubt the whole website will become more fully populated in the coming days and weeks.
• http://www.lutoslawski.org.pl/en/lutoslawski2013/info  This is the home of the Witold Lutosławski Society, which has existed since the late 1990s.  Like ‘100/100 Lutosławski’, it has both a Polish and an English site.  It promises details shortly.  By the way, for anyone with a short orchestral piece close to hand, the WLS is hosting a composition competition with a deadline of 25 January 2013, the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.  The competition’s regulations may be accessed here.


The Lutosławski components of the Warsaw Philharmonic’s forthcoming programmes have been published for some time and may be found by scrolling the Warsaw Philharmonic’s concert schedule.  Its celebrations begin on 11 January 2013.  Until the ‘100/100 Lutosławski’ Calendar is uploaded, you can find details of quite a few concerts worldwide at https://www.facebook.com/LutoslawskiCentennialCelebration, under ‘About’.


It seems to me that it has been non-Polish ensembles and recording companies who have been taking the lead in this area of activity, notably the BBC SO under Edward Gardner for Chandos (4 CDs since 2010, a fifth on its way). Next month, Sony re-releases the Los Angeles PO/Salonen recordings of Symphonies 2-4 plus their newly-recorded version of the First Symphony.  The Polish Accord label started its Lutosławski Opera Omnia series in 2008, but there has been no further release since the third CD in 2010.  I am not privy to Polish recordings planned for release in 2013.  I am, however, very excited by the two ventures outlined below.

UnknownAs part of the official launch yesterday in the Witold Lutosławski Studio at Polish Radio and Television, the Polish National Audiovisual Institute (NInA) issued a press release (in Polish) containing the following information:

• A unique collection of recordings will be made available on the nina.gov.pl portal in the second half of 2013. All of Lutosławski’s compositions will be uploaded in at least one performance.  (As the 80th birthdays of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (d. 2010) and Krzysztof Penderecki also fall in 2013, their music will be similarly covered by NInA next year.)  This online collection – drawn from Polish Radio archives – will be developed further in due course.  Its accompanying texts, by the late Polish Radio broadcaster and musicologist Andrzej Chłopecki, will be available in both Polish and English.

• NInA will also issue a six-disc set called ‘Lutosławski/świat’ (Lutosławski/World) – 5 CDs and a DVD – in the second half of 2013.  The vast majority of these recordings, from Polish Radio and WFDF (Documentary and Feature Film Studio), are being released for the first time.  They include archive recordings conducted by Lutosławski, and the booklet notes, many by young musicologists, promise fresh perspectives.  The project editor is Adam Suprynowicz.

What is especially interesting in the Polish context is the promise that Lutosławski’s complete output will be represented, including those works (socialist-realist pieces, film music and popular songs) which, as the press release says, ‘he himself sometimes wanted to forget’.  This promises to be a fascinating document, one which sets Lutosławski’s rich legacy of pieces and recordings in the broadest possible context.

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