• Panufnik, Penderecki, Zubel

To add to forthcoming Polish music events in the UK, there are two celebrations this month, in Glasgow and Manchester.  Next Saturday and Sunday (20-21 June), ‘Panufnik. A Celebration’ takes place at City Halls, Glasgow, with three concerts devoted almost entirely to his music.  A few days later (23-26 June), the RNCM in Manchester hosts ‘Seven Gates: The Music of Poland Explored’. Penderecki will conduct the first UK performance (!) of his Seven Gates of Jerusalem, only 18 years after it was premiered; his music and that of the much younger Agata Zubel (b.1978) take the foreground.  Lutosławski features at both events in a supporting role, with Górecki and Szymanowski also included in Manchester.  The Manchester repertoire has some little-known Penderecki works embedded in it, and of the three films Andrzej Wajda’s feature on Katyń and Wiktor Skrzynecki’s documentary about the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ will be well worth seeing.  For repertoire details, see below.

While I am delighted that these composers are being played and heard, I can’t help feeling that the repertoires of both events reinforce the impression in the UK that Polish music still consists of composers (Zubel excepted) who are either dead or reaching their creative dotage.  The one exception in this country, largely confined to sacred music, is Paweł Łukaszewski (b.1968), who has made a strong impact in choral circles here and was featured last year at the Presteigne Festival, which also promoted another Polish composer in his 40s but little-known in the UK, Maciej Zieliński (b.1971).  Zubel’s music is especially welcome this year in this context, and anyone wanting to hear her recent music, but who can’t get to Manchester, is recommended to seek out her CD ‘Not I’ on the Kairos label.

In case you missed it, Hyperion released a CD earlier this year of string quartets by Paweł Szymański (b.1954) and Paweł Mykietyn (b.1971), both of whom are well-established and no longer up-and-coming in Poland yet are virtually unknown here, despite Szymański having had some exposure with the London Sinfonietta some 25 years ago.  I am still waiting for high-profile performances of composers now in their 30s, like Szymański was when the BBC commissioned Partita IV for premiere at the Sonorities Festival in Belfast in 1987.  What about – and this is to name just a few composers in addition to Zubel, some deeply involved in multi-media work, who are headline figures in Poland and have international profiles elsewhere – Wojtek Blecharz (b.1981), Andrzej Kwieciński (b.1984), Dariusz Przybylski (b.1984), Marcin Stańczyk (b.1977) or Jagoda Szmytka (b.1982)?  There are dozens more (by focusing on those born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I am not forgetting that there are older – even younger – composers equally worthy of investigation!).

…….

Panufnik.  A Celebration
City Halls, Glasgow, 20-21 June 2015

BBC Scottish SO, conducted by Łukasz Borowicz, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Ewa Kupiec

Panufnik: Divertimento, after Janiewicz (1947), Lullaby (1947), Sinfonia rustica (1948), Polonia (1959), Piano Concerto (1961/several times revised), Sinfonia sacra (1963), Violin Concerto (1971), Symphony 10 (1988), unidentified piano music
Lutosławski: unidentified piano music

…….

Seven Gates: The Music of Poland Explored
RNCM, Manchester, 23-26 June 2015

RNCM New Ensemble, Dominic Degavino, RNCM SO, Chamber Choir and Chorus, Piero Lombardi Eglesias, Maciej Tworek, Krzysztof Penderecki (other soloists and ensembles tba)

Penderecki: Violin Sonata no.1 (1953), Three Miniatures for clarinet and piano (1956), Brigade of Death (tape, 1963), Agnus Dei (1981, arranged for eight cellos), Cadenza for solo viola (1984), Entrata (1994), Symphony no.7 ‘Seven Gates of Jerusalem’ (1996), String Quartet no.3 (2008),
Górecki: Harpsichord Concerto (1980)
Lutosławski: Dance Preludes (1954), Chain 1 (1983), Piano Concerto (1988)
Szymanowski: Songs of a Fairytale Princess (1915), Masques (1916)
Zubel: Suite for percussion trio (2011), Streets of a Human City (2011), Shades of Ice (2011)

Films:
• Katyń (Andrzej Wajda, 2007)
• Górecki: The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Tony Palmer, 1993, not 2008 as given in the brochure)
• 50 years of [the] Warsaw Autumn (Wiktor Skrzynecki, 2007)

• Polish Composer Doodles Revealed

Last week I posted two doodles cropped from working materials of the 1950s by two Polish composers.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 18.36.22

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 16.29.58Here they are on their full pages.

The first comes from the first score of Symfonia pokoju (Symphony of Peace, 1950-51) by Andrzej Panufnik.  The blue-ink score is not in Panufnik’s hand, but it is overlaid with many markings and revisions in pencil and coloured crayon that are in his hand.  It is clear that Panufnik used this score to conduct the rehearsals for and first performance of Symfonia pokoju on 25 May 1951.  The revisions may or may not have been made during rehearsals for the premiere.  Panufnik would revise it again for publication by the Polish publishing house PWM (1952) and yet again when he renamed it Sinfonia elegiaca (1957).

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 10.41.18The doodle – the only one on this score – comes during the central movement.  It seems decorative rather than compositionally functional.  I am no expert, but like so many doodles it has repetitive, symmetrical qualities.  These, of course, tie in with Panufnik’s lifelong obsession with mirrored patterns.  Here there is an untidy vertical dislocation between the bottom and top parts of the doodle (or is it an attempt at perspective?).  More intriguingly, the top part seems to be built around a cross, with lines radiating outwards from its centre.  I can find no reason why it appears where it does, but then that is also a common feature of doodles.

The second doodle is of a different character and arguably is more like a graphic representation of an aural intention.  It comes from Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s first sketchbook and relates to his pre-compositional work on the First Symphony ‘1959’.  The intersecting angular lines of different strengths are typical of Górecki’s directness and forcefulness.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 16.38.11The annotation indicates that it relates to the second movement, ‘Antiphon’.  Below the line is a short sequence of seven notes.  This is the opening phrase of Poland’s most famous hymn, Bogurodzica, a source of inspiration for a wide range of composers, Górecki and Panufnik included.  In this instance, Górecki may have been echoing it in the finished score by using unison notes in ‘Antiphon’ and an oscillation between D natural and C natural in the third movement, ‘Chorale’.

 

• 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.

• Commemorating Composers

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

unnamed

photo courtesy Michał Kubicki

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

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

IMG_5152

• Letters from 1950

Reproduced here for the first time is a letter dated 21 April 1950.  It is from Andrzej Panufnik, who expresses his desire to write a Revolutionary Symphony.  Not heard of this work before?  That’s not surprising, because he never wrote it. Instead, the project transmuted itself into his Symphony of Peace (1951).

Scan 4The source of this letter, and of letters from over 50 other Polish composers, is a file I stumbled across in a Polish archive, half a century after it was sent.  I have written about Panufnik’s letter and Lutosławski’s before, and my article on this collection was published online by the Polish Music Center in Los Angeles in 2002.  I have now republished it here – File 750: Composers, Politics and the Festival of Polish Music (1951) – alongside updated appendices.

These letters from 1950 provide an insider’s view of how composers navigated the system of commissions and funding at the height of socialist realism, what they had already written that they deemed suitable, what they wanted to write, how they justified their proposals, how much they thought they were worth financially, and how much the Minister of Culture rated them.  There are further research questions to be asked of this primary material, not least of which is the fact that the majority of the proposed compositions never materialised.  Here, for starters, is my initial survey from 2002.

• Panufnik Centenary (200th post)

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 17.44.39Another event (or, rather, series of events) that I have missed by being away is the initial celebration of the centenary of Andrzej Panufnik, who was born in Warsaw on 24 September 1914.  So far it seems to have been relatively quiet, certainly in comparison to the Lutosławski centenary last year.  Yet there is quite a bit going on.  There are conferences and focused events as well as performances within the 2013-14 and 2014-15 season.  There are over 100 concerts, principally in Poland and the UK, with a smattering in each of Austria, Germany, Latvia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Romania, Australia and Brazil.  The gaps, though, speak for themselves.  Really, is there nothing in the USA except for Camilla Panufnik’s guest lecture at the University of Southern California? Nothing in Scandinavia, Holland, France, Spain or Italy?

Last month there was surprise, and dismay, that the BBC Proms had programmed no music by Andrzej Panufnik in 2014, although his daughter Roxanna makes a welcome appearance.  This isn’t good enough.  Just because last year’s Proms included two short works composed while Panufnik still lived in Poland – Tragic Overture and Lullaby – is no reason to ignore his substantial orchestral and chamber output composed since he settled in the UK in 1954.

But the Proms season is not alone.  Very few British orchestras have programmed Panufnik’s music this year.  The London SO is the leading light here, with performances of Lullaby and Sinfonia sacra (Symphony no.3) in February and Symphony no.10 in October in the new Polish Radio concert hall in Katowice and, the following night, in the Barbican Hall, London.  The list of performances monitored by Panufnik’s publishers, Boosey & Hawkes, shows how a wonderful opportunity has been missed.  As it stands, only half of Panufnik’s ten symphonies are being played this year.  Sinfonia sacra, arguably his most compelling symphony, has six performances overall, no.10 three, and nos 2, 4 and 5 two each.  That means that Sinfonia rustica (no.1), Sinfonia mistica (no.6), Metasinfonia (no.7), Sinfonia votiva (no.8) and Sinfonia di Speranza (no.9) are at present totally absent from concert halls around the world in this centenary year.  I find this totally mystifying.  The non-symphonic orchestral repertoire is more frequently on the bill: Tragic Overture (three), Lullaby (four), Heroic Overture (perhaps his least characteristic work, eight), Autumn Music (just one), Arbor cosmica (two) and Harmony (three).  No sign of one of his best pieces, Nocturne, which is nothing short of scandalous (I am reminded here of the rarity of Lutosławski’s masterpiece Livre during 2013).  Other notable absentees include Katyń Epitaph and Universal Prayer.

The concertos and chamber music fare better (Sinfonia concertante, no.4, should really figure in the first group).  The Piano Concerto and Piano Trio are notching up 13 performances apiece, while the Violin Concerto is being played on nine occasions and the Cello Concerto three. The string quartets and string sextet appear between three and six times each, and rising.  One of the major events is at the Presteigne Festival in Wales.  Over its six days (21-26 August), six of Panufnik’s pieces for voice(s), piano, chamber ensemble and string orchestra will be heard.  Isn’t it often the case that small or modest-scale organisations are more imaginative and flexible than big ones?

Nevertheless, most of Panufnik’s pieces are represented at some point during 2014, the vast majority in professional concerts, with a healthy sprinkling of amateur performances.  Some works have multiple hearings through tours or back-to-back concerts, and some are the repeated focus of specific performers, such as the Piano Concerto (Maciej Grzybowski). The Violin Concerto does particularly well in terms of range of soloists (Tai Murray, Maria Machowska, Tasmin Little, Aleksandra Kuls, Szymon Krzeszowiec, Alexander Sitkovetsky).

I live in hope, even at this late stage in concert planning for 2014-15, that some of the repertoire gaps will be bridged and that more of Panufnik’s music – which is distinctive, powerful, lyrical and tightly focused in an exceptional way – will be brought before the ears of the concert-going public this year.  And if not this year, then in subsequent years as a testimony to his unique creative voice.

panufnik.com

The Boosey & Hawkes list is located at the impressive panufnik.com.  This site has been up and running for a while, and includes his biography, a discography (current and past), a complete list of published works (by category and chronologically), audio excerpts, stills and a few videos from his brief film career in Poland (under the heading Extras-Unknown Panufnik) and a generous bibliography of Polish and English coverage (Extras-Further Reading). There is also a very welcome collection of Panufnik’s diagrammatic designs that are attached to eleven of his compositions.

The audio excerpts are taken from the cpo series (2008-13) with the Polish Radio SO under Łukasz Borowicz.  I have just today – very belatedly – taken delivery of its seven CDs (and the just-released father-daughter double act with Roxanna’s music) and am eagerly looking forward to listening to them.  Borowicz is a persuasive conductor and, even if live performances of Panufnik’s orchestral music are unfairly patchy this year, at least there is this well-planned and comprehensive series that will last well beyond 2014.

IMG_3295 copy

Where panufnik.com is shy of being fully comprehensive is in some of the repertoire from the late 1940s and early 1950s.  Symphony of Peace (1951), although it was published in Poland, gets only a passing mention as furnishing the material for Sinfonia elegiaca (1957), and it is absent from the biography.  Also missing are the several mass songs that he wrote, and were published, in 1949-54 (no mention, for example, under Unknown Panufnik).  No-one is pretending for one moment that these minor propaganda pieces have musical importance, but they do have cultural-political significance and to imply that they never existed is unfortunate.  One only has to look at the openness with which such items were dealt with during the Lutosławski centenary to see that there are huge benefits for the understanding of the difficult life of Polish composers in those years.

In every other respect, panufnik.com is a valuable source of information, easy to navigate and handsome to look at.

 

• WL100/54: Lutosławski and Panufnik (1945)

Here are two forgotten assessments of Lutosławski and Panufnik from 1945.  I think that this is the first time that this material has been seen in modern times.  On one of my rummages in second-hand bookshops in Kraków, back in the 1990s, I came across a bundle of concert programme, one of which I featured in an earlier Lutosławski post: WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939.  This second programme, which I explored in the preceding post WL100/53: Trio, **2 September 1945, has the biographies of the five composers on the back page.  In fact, the biographical elements on Lutosławski and Panufnik take second place to assessments of the composers’ creative personae.  It is not indicated who wrote them.  I’ve translated the two for Lutosławski and Panufnik below.

WL program 2.09.45 4

WITOLD LUTOSŁAWSKI b. 1913 represents the youngest generation of Polish composers and, among them, the direction of the “extreme left”.  This avant-gardism expresses itself in Lutoslawski in the openly fanatical pursuit of logic and rigour in the design of his prevailing use of polyphony as a means towards these goals, searching absolutely for his own sound world, as far removed as possible from that used by previous generations of composers.  It is especially interesting to find that this avant-gardism appeared in Lutoslawski independently, as an expression of his own internal needs.  During his studies he found no external stimulus in this direction, nor did the environment in which he grew up and was educated have the slightest intrusive impact.  He completed his music studies at the Warsaw Conservatory in the class of Witold Maliszewski, one of the representatives of the most conservative tendency among our composers and teachers.
Among the most important works by Lutoslawski we may mention: Piano Sonatas (which he has performed several times), Symphonic Variations (performed at the Wawel Festival in 1939), Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos, fragments of a Requiem, piano pieces and songs.  Currently he is working on a symphony, of which the first movement is already fully completed, the rest in sketches.

This biography is fascinating for several reasons: (1) the placing of Lutosławski as a radical “extreme left” composer on the basis, presumably, of his main composition so far, the Symphonic Variations, (2) the early indication of his life-long desire for logic and rigour, (3) the emphasis on polyphonic writing (with only a few pieces as evidence) as distinct from the later emphasis on harmony, (4) the strong statement about Lutosławski’s independence from external sources and events (something which he reiterated over and again until the end of his life), and (5) the deliberate distancing from his teacher Maliszewski, whom later he often cited as a key influence on his structural thinking while recognising Maliszewski’s disapproval of the Symphonic Variations.  Given the strength of opinion expressed in this paragraph, it wouldn’t surprise me at least if it was written by the unknown author on the basis of a detailed briefing from the composer.  I don’t have the feeling that Lutosławski penned it himself (see the error mentioned in the paragraph below).

The list of works curiously multiplies the Piano Sonata.  This is the only time that I have read any suggestion that there might be more than one!  It also reveals where Lutosławski was in the composition of the First Symphony (1941-47).  We may now date the completion of the first movement as by August 1945 at the latest, with the other three movements being finished over the following two years.

ANDRZEJ PANUFNIK, whose “Tragic Overture” was such a success in Kraków’s last concert season*, is the second strong supporter – alongside Lutosławski – of radical trends among our youngest composers. And with him at the forefront, the quest for the greatest formal logic is advancing, and for the most part he experiments with clearly positive results in the pursuit of a new musical language.  At the same time, a very specific note of lyricism is revealed in his music, which gives his pieces the most distinctive physiognomy.
Panufnik is the author of: Variations for piano, Trio for violin, cello and piano, Folk Songs with wind instr. accomp., Songs with chamber orchestra, “Tragic Overture”, Orchestral Variations, Symphonic Image and two symphonies.
As an outstandingly gifted conductor himself, he is the best performer of his symphonic works.  In recent times, he has worked regularly with the Polish Film Unit in Łódż.

Panufnik’s biography is interesting for largely different reasons.  He has long been regarded as the most experimental Polish composer of the second half of the 1940s, so it is fascinating to see that he already bore this mantle in 1945 with a work like Tragic Overture (1942, reconstructed 1945) and that the lyrical side of his music achieves prominent notice at a moment when he was focusing on tight motivic cells.  The list of works includes some that had been lost during the Second World War and have generally been left out of his list of works since, including his early student Variations for piano, the Symphonic Variations – which Panufnik had conducted in the graduation concert – and Symphonic Image (both works were composed during Panufnik’s last year at the Warsaw Conservatoire, 1935-36) as well as the two symphonies (1940, 1941).**  The Songs with chamber orchestra are unidentifiable.

…….

* The dates of the wartime premiere in Warsaw of Tragic Overture vary according to the source: the Polish Encyklopedia Muzyczna and Panufnik’s autobiography Composing Myself give 1943, while the monographs by Beata Bolesławska and Ewa Siemdaj give 19 March 1944.  As to the premiere in Kraków of the reconstructed score, Siemdaj gives 10 January 1946, but this leaflet indicates that it was given sometime during the 1944-45 season.
** In his autobiography, Panufnik noted: ‘I then decided to try to rescue my Symphony no.1.  But here my memory faltered and the results were disappointing.  I performed it in one of our symphony concerts, but afterwards destroyed the score.  With that I renounced further reconstruction work…’.  Concert programmes from Kraków indicate that Panufnik conducted the premiere of his reconstructed First Symphony on 30 November 1945, and again on 6 December.

%d bloggers like this: