My preparations for and execution of my peregrinations in France prevented me from highlighting a major online resource that was launched in Poland at the end of 2013.  I have been provoked into posting details now by the world premiere on 21 April of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s Kyrie.  Although a recording has already been posted on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNuWAb_5OPk), there is also an audio file on NINATEKA: Three Composers.  It can, however, take some time for the NINATEKA files to load on the in-built player, although I can’t tell if this is down to the strength or weakness of the wifi signal.

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NINATEKA is hosted by Poland’s Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny (National Audiovisual Institute) and covers a wide range of creative arts.  It is a Polish-language site, with the notable exception of Trzej Kompozytorzy (Three Composers).  Witold Lutosławski, Krzysztof Penderecki and Górecki all had significant anniversaries in 2013, and this initiative brings together archive recordings of their music, mostly from Polish Radio.  Here you will find not only the major concert works but also smaller, less familiar pieces.  There are timelines, biographies and glossaries (‘alphabet’).  Tucked away is the roster of the editorial team, led by Dr Iwona Lindstedt.

The navigating tools are fairly straightforward once you have worked them out.  Under ‘music’, you can pick an individual year or span of years, you can see a composer’s complete repertoire (‘all forms/genres’) or narrow it down under this same heading or in groups (scroll down ‘all categories’).  You can be guided by ‘recommended’ or ‘popular’ or read the playlists suggested by musicians and family members.  Or you can use ‘advanced search’ to filter by duration, instrumentation etc..  But if you want to look chronologically, you may initially be stumped.  For this, you have to look higher up the page and click on ‘creative periods’.

Happy exploration.  NINATEKA: Three Composers really is a treasure trove.

• WL100/14: Lutosławski at Polish Radio

WL w Polskim RadiuPolish Radio’s new website Witold Lutosławski w Polskim Radiu looks like being one of the most interesting archival sources on the composer so far.  There are audio files and photo galleries connected with Lutosławski’s work at Polish Radio in the 1940s and 50s as well as a host of radio interviews made with and about him over the years. The initial on-screen teething problems have now been sorted, although the promised English-language transcripts of some of the items have yet to materialise.

The contents are already of considerable interest, and I hope they will be added to in the coming weeks and months. Currently the contents include:

• over thirty radio reminiscences and interviews
• two examples of incidental music for Polish Radio Theatre unheard since the mid-1950s
• three photo galleries: Witold Lutosławski and His Time (52 items), From the Family Album (22) and Documents from Polish Radio (17)

For those who don’t understand Polish, the second and third groups above may be of the greatest interest.

Incidental Music

Polish Radio has unearthed two sequences of Lutosławski’s incidental music for Polish Radio Theatre.  This activity was one which he pursued from the late 1940s until 1960.  Little has been written on his incidental music because it was thought that it existed, if at all, almost exclusively in score form.  Polish Radio has now released these two audio compilations from its sound archives.

The earlier of the two is called Anccasin ef Nocolette on the PR website.  I must admit that I cannot rationalise the language nor find any source for this title.  Martina Homma has identified the item as Okassen i Mikołajka, which seems linguistically more reliable.  She dates the broadcast of this authorless text to 8 November 1954 (eighteen days before the premiere of the Concerto for Orchestra).  Although the PR site gives the duration of the music as 5’39”, it lasts for 11’17”.  The music is Baroque pastiche, the fragments up until 08’50” for harpsichord alone. Thereafter, a flute and violin join in.  I wonder if Lutosławski was himself playing the keyboard.  The recording is rather basic and the performance is not without the occasional fluff.

The second of the two sequences was broadcast almost three months later, on 30 January 1955.  It was composed for one of the Arabic folk tales from Klechdy sezamowe (Tales of Sesame, 1913) by Stanisław Leśmian, who is better known by his first forename, Bolesław.  The music for Zeklęty rumak (PR site), or O zaklętym rumaku (Homma), is more fantastic and richly scored, for chamber ensemble, than the frankly boring music for the earlier piece.  It lasts for 10’27” (the PR site says 5’14”).  Let’s hope there are more riches in the sound archives from Lutosławski’s prolific period as a composer of incidental music.

Photo Galleries

There are many unfamiliar items here, so these three sections present new windows into the past.  The third section of documents is perhaps the least interesting as it draws on administrative paperwork from the post-war decade. The second section of family photographs consists almost entirely of old images of the Lutosławski family rather than of the composer.  His likeness to his brother Jerzy and his father Józef is very striking.

It is the first section that brings Lutosławski really to life, with photographs dating from after the Second World War up until 1993.  I was thrilled to see the sequence of photos from the rehearsals and concert for the full premiere of the Second Symphony, which Lutosławski conducted in Katowice in 1967.  There are also black and white stills from the documentary film made by Krzysztof Zanussi in 1990 for the BBC (see my post WL100/13: In Conversation with Zanussi).

But for me it’s the first two photographs which I find utterly compelling.  They were evidently taken during the same photo shoot (PR indicates that this was in January 1946) as another image used on the front cover of Polish Radio’s listings magazine Radio i Świat in April 1948 (see the top illustration in Panel 2: 1946-49 Music for Radio from my exhibition ‘The Hidden Composer’).  Of these two new images, which are technically much better than the one reproduction that I found, it is the first which I find almost unbearably haunting.

WL, January 1946

• Gardner/BBC SO top Polish Radio poll

Yesterday afternoon (19 January), a Polish Radio panel chose Edward Gardner’s recording of Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, with the BBC SO on Chandos, as its top recommendation for CDs of this much-recorded work.  This was no ordinary ‘Building a Library’ type of format, however.  This was an elimination contest based purely on listening, with no foreknowledge of who the performers were.

UnknownRadio Dwójka (PR 2) is Polish Radio’s cultural channel.  Every fortnight on Płytowy Tribunał Dwójki, a panel of three sits down to debate and vote on the best recorded interpretation of a selected work.  There is also a studio audience which gets its own vote.  It’s an intriguing format, one in which the panel puts its reputation on the line.  Last night, it consisted of the music critics and broadcasters Dorota Kozińska and Kacper Miklaszewski, and the conductor Wojciech Michniewski.  Jacek Hawryluk was in the chair.  Michniewski knew Lutosławski well, has conducted his music frequently, including sharing the conducting of Trois poèmes d’Henri Michaux with the composer on the 6-LP boxed set of Lutosławski’s music issued by EMI in 1978.  He was a key figure in the Breaking Chains festival in London in 1997 and in 2001 recorded a CD of Lutosławski’s music on Accord.  But I digress.

The schedule for yesterday’s ‘tribunal’ on the Concerto for Orchestra was as follows:

• Round 1: Opening of I ‘Intrada’
• Round 2: Opening of II ‘Capriccio notturno ed Arioso’
• Round 3: Opening of III ‘Passacaglia’
• Round 4: Continuation of III ‘Toccata e Corale’

After listening to the ‘Intrada’ from all six unidentified recordings, two were eliminated at the end of Round 1, then one more each round until two were left in Round 4. The results were:

• After Round 1: the two recordings eliminated were both of recordings by the Warsaw Philharmonic.  The earlier recording was conducted by the man who commissioned the Concerto for Orchestra in 1950 and gave the premiere four years later, Witold Rowicki (Philips, 1964, first released on LP).  The second recording was more recent, conducted by Antoni Wit (Dux, 2005)

• After Round 2, the composer’s own recording from 1976/77 was eliminated (EMI, first released on LP in 1978).

• After Round 3, Mariss Jansons’s new recording with the Bavarian Radio SO (BR Klassik, 2011) got the chop.

That left just two recordings.  The panel had proved itself pretty much of one mind during the earlier eliminations, and so it proved here too.

• In Round 4, the runner-up was Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s recording with the London PO (LPO label, recorded live in 2008 at the Royal Festival Hall, London, released 2011).

• The winner was Edward Gardner’s recording with the BBC SO, recorded and released in 2010 on the first of Chandos’s much-acclaimed series devoted to Lutosławski (for which I’ve had the privilege of writing the booklet notes).


The studio audience also agreed with the panel about the top recording, but chose Lutosławski’s recording as the runner-up.  While the panel preferred the three recent versions to the older ones, I was pleased to see that Lutosławski’s powerful interpretation still made an impact.


If you’ve come across Hyperion’s recent release of Juliusz Zarębski’s wonderful Piano Quintet – played by Jonathan Plowright and the Szymanowski Quartet – you may be interested that Zarębski’s work also comes up before the Polish Radio 2 ‘tribunal’ in four weeks’ time, on Saturday 16 February.  Of course, no-one knows if the Hyperion CD will be among those under discussion (my guess is that it will), but I’ll keep you posted!


UPDATE! On 24 January 2013, Polish Radio 2 responded to this post with one of its own: Wyroki Trybunału komentowane w Wielkiej Brytanii (Verdicts of the Tribunal commented on in Great Britain).  When I posted on the Tribunal’s deliberations on Zarębski’s Piano Quintet, Polish Radio 2 responded again: Adrian Thomas po raz drugi o werdykcie Trybunału (Adrian Thomas for the second time on the verdict of the Tribunal).

• Recalling Górecki: Two Radio Tributes

The other day, I came across these two short tributes on the Polish Radio website thenews.pl.  Although they were broadcast a year ago, they are still available.  Just follow the indicated mp3 link on each page.

The first is by David Harrington, the leader of Kronos Quartet.  Harrington was instrumental in commissioning Górecki’s three string quartets (1988, 1991 and 1995/2005) and he and Górecki formed a close professional and personal friendship.  On the day of Górecki’s death (12 November 2010), Kronos happened to be in Poland to give  a concert that evening in Wrocław.  In tribute, they played an arrangement of ‘Z Torunia ja parobecek’ (I am a Farmhand from Toruń), the fourth of Górecki’s Five Kurpian Songs (1999).  Harrington spoke the following day with Michał Kubicki.


The second interview is one that I also recorded with Michał Kubicki that day.


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