• Toasting Pianophonie

One of the highlights of this year’s Warsaw Autumn was the performance of Kazimierz Serocki’s Pianophonie (1976-78) for piano, electronics and orchestra at the closing concert two days ago.  I was gutted not to able to get to the concert, so I had to make do with listening online just a few miles away.  Its impact was still startling.  Serocki was an original, a composer who kept his avant-garde head while many around him were losing theirs.

Today I saw a link to a review by Tadeusz Deszkiewicz, who had a family connection with Stanisław Wisłocki, the conductor of the Polish premiere at the 1979 Warsaw Autumn.  I’ve taken the liberty of translating (I hope faithfully) Deszkiewicz’s recollections and thoughts.

You can hear the 1979 recording here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJt5zotNk10.

___________

Kazimierz Serocki’s Pianophonie, under the baton of Jacek Kaspszyk, dominated the final concert.  I was curious to see how this work would sound today, 35 years after its Polish premiere during the 23rd Warsaw Autumn in 1979.  I was in the Philharmonic then not only because I was a radio journalist at Polish Radio 2 but also because it was my uncle, Stanisław Wisłocki, who was conducting.

The work was recorded before the Warsaw Autumn, and Wisłocki later described the event:

On 13 September (1979) we were in Warsaw, in the National Philharmonic Hall, for two rehearsals and a recording for LP of Kazimierz Serocki’s composition, Pianophonie.  For its performance it was necessary to import special electronic sound-processing equipment from Germany. […]  The soloist was the pianist Szabolcs Esztényi, who thanks to a special console placed next to the piano drew out of it a variety of sound effects.  He and the natural sound of the orchestra created a soundscape hitherto not used in music.  Serocki wrote this interesting composition in 1976-1978 on the initiative and at the request of Radio Südwestfunk in Baden-Baden and the Freiburg Experimental Studio.  It was the first performance in Poland and probably the last, because it is unlikely that any Polish orchestra can again afford to bring this incredibly complicated, unique and vast apparatus from the Federal Republic of Germany.

Wisłocki could not have imagined that, 35 years later, miniaturisation would have eliminated the vast apparatus and the group of technicians to support it.  And so today, for the first time, we heard an absolutely new electronic version of Pianophonie, which gave Serocki’s piece a fresh, excellent sound.  The creation of new software and the digital processing of the analog recording was created from ​​Kamil Kęska’s original.  The effect was revelatory, and the audience’s cries of delight and long applause greeted the work.  The excellent pianist Adam Kosmieja also aroused admiration.  He had the task of simultaneously playing the piano at breakneck speed, extracting sounds directly from the strings and using the computer placed next to him.  It takes a great musician to realise this difficult music so excellently, keeping in mind the phrasing, dynamic range and technical perfection required.

In 1979, the Warsaw audience also received the work very warmly. Wisłocki wrote:

After the interval, we performed Kazimierz Serocki’s Pianophonię (c.30′), in which the role of the sound engineer Hans Peter Haller was as important as that of the other performers.  The audience gave Serocki an ovation. After the concert, Kazimierz hosted a party at his home.  There was a great deal of vodka.  Kazio drank continuously to one and all and by the end of the party he was just reeling.  I did not even try to reason with him, because it would not have helped. […]  A few days later, I received the news that Kazio had been taken to hospital with symptoms of a cerebral haemorrhage.

After returning home from convalescence, Kazimierz Serocki tried to write with his left hand (his right hand was incapacitated after the stroke), but Pianophonie was to be his last piece.  This great composer – a co-founder of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ – died in January 1981.

Tadeusz Deszkiewicz, 28 September 2014

• Polish ‘Awangarda’ CDs

For years, I’ve been bewailing the lack of CD representation of post-war Polish composers other than ‘the big three’. And there are still notable gaps, especially in the coverage of the music of Kazimierz Serocki: Musica concertanteSymphonic Frescoes (played at this year’s ‘Warsaw Autumn’), Forte e PianoPoezjeDramatic Story, Swinging MusicPianophonie.  But over the past couple of years the Polskie Nagranie company, in conjunction variously with the publishers PWM, Ricordi and the Polish Music Information Centre, has begun to issue and reissue archive recordings (from 1959 onwards) of some of the early figures of the Polish avant-garde.

Three CDs have appeared so far in the ‘Awantgarda’ series: Krzysztof Penderecki conducted by Andrzej Markowski (2011) – and it’s the Markowski connection that makes this CD interesting (Penderecki does not want for coverage!), Serocki (2012) and Włodzimierz Kotoński (2013).  A similar project, but outside the ‘Awantgarda’ sequence, was that of the music of Tadeusz Baird, in a double CD package (2011).  For anyone wanting to hear their music, these CDs are a great place to start, not least because there are some recordings never released on CD before and others never heard beyond the confines of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Chronicle recordings whose circulation was extremely limited.  There are one or two never released on any format before.  Any performance dates in the second half of September are from the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival.  ** = first performance, * = Polish premiere.

Tadeusz Baird. Selected Works (PNCD 1399, two CDs)

This double CD was first issued in 2003 (PNCD 525A/B).

Baird.m3404 Love Sonnets (second version, 1969): Andrzej Hiolski/Kraków PRO/Jan Krenz (July 1978)
Colas Breugnon (1951): WOSPR/Krenz (May 1955)
Trouvère Songs (1963): Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa/National PO, Warsaw/Witold Rowicki (24 June 1968)
• 5 Songs (1968): Szostek-Radkowa/Wrocław PO/Andrzej Markowski (June 1974)
Psychodrama (1972): WOSPR/Wojciech Michniewski (1 February 1979)
…….
Erotyki (1961): Stefania Woytowicz/National PO/Rowicki (21 April 1963)
• Symphony 3 (1969): National PO/Krenz (10-11 June 1969)
Elegeia (1973): WOSPR/Michniewski (1 February 1979)
Concerto Lugubre (1975): Stefan Kamasa/Kraków PRO/Jacek Kaspszyk (10 April 1977)
Voices from Afar (1981): Jerzy Artysz/National PO/Rowicki (**, 22 January 1982)

Krzysztof Penderecki conducted by Andrzej Markowski (PNCD 1373)

Markowski was an extraordinary champion of new Polish music, and especially of Penderecki’s ground-breaking early scores.  This selection spans 1958-61, and only Emanations, the First String Quartet and Fonogrammi are missing from these years.

AWANGARDA_M.m340Psalms of David (1958): National PO (8 January 1966)
Strophes (1959): Silesian Philharmonic CO (**, 17 September 1959)
Anaklasis (1959-60): National PO (8 January 1966)
Dimensions of Time and Silence (1960): National PO and Choir (24 June 1972)
Threnody (1961): Kraków PO (22 September 1961)
Fluorescences (1962): National PO (8 January 1966)
Polymorphia (1961): Kraków PO (*, 26 September 1963)

Kazimierz Serocki (PNCD 1441)

It is terrific to have two early pieces on this CD, formative for both Serocki and Polish music around 1960, as well as the three ‘Warsaw Autumn’ performances.

Serocki_awangarda.m340Episodes (1958-59): WOSPR/Krenz (24 March 1965)
Segmenti (1960-61): WOSPR/Krenz (24 March 1965)
Continuum (1965-66): Warsaw Percussion Group (28 February 1980)
Fantasmagoria (1970-71): Roger Woodward/Hubert Rutkowski (23 September 1976)
Fantasia elegiaca (1971-72): Karl-Erik Welin, Hesse RSO/Markowski (*, 28 September 1973)
Arrangements for four recorders (1975-76): (20 September 1978)

Włodzimierz Kotoński (PNCD 1521/polmic 099)

Kotónski, now 88, has languished in the shadows of his contemporaries.  His early tape pieces especially were key to the development of the Polish avant-garde.  Less than a handful of his works had been commercially released on any format prior to this CD.  (There’s no Kotoński web-page yet on the Polskie Nagrania site.)

Homma 1993Study on One Cymbal Stroke (1959): (Polish Radio Experimental Studio, 1960)
Microstructures (1963): (PRES, 1963)
Aela (1970): (PRES, 1977)
Les ailes (1975): (Bourges, 1977)
Aeolian Harp (1974): Rozwitha Trexler and four instrumentalists (*, 21 September 1975)
Musique en relief (1959): National PO/Stanisław Wisłocki (*, 25 September 1960)
Musica per fiati e timpani (1964): National PO/Rowicki (1966)
Music for 16 Cymbals and Strings (1966): WOSPR/Jerzy Maksymiuk (1977)

• Grave matters

I’m catching up on Polish arrears, having dallied since my visit to Warsaw last month by staying in London to see Covent Garden’s Ring cycle (frankly, I might just as well have listened to it on the radio, so inept and wilfully contrary was the set design and production; the final half hour in particular was a total travesty).  And then I succumbed to a week of ‘underweatherness’ here in Cornwall, and that has meant a backlog of deadlines.

Today – 12 November 2012 – is the second anniversary of the death of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.  Two nights ago, Polish Television broadcast a new documentary about him (Please Find, directed by Violetta Rotter-Kozera), with contributors from Europe and America, including myself.  I should have been in Katowice last Friday to see a private screening with the family, but circumstances got in the way.  I’m looking forward to seeing it in due course.

This morning, BBC Radio 3 broadcast the second movement of his Third Symphony, choosing not Dawn Upshaw’s breakthrough recording (now 20 years old), but the first ever recording, by Stefania Woytowicz with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jerzy Katlewicz.  Upshaw and Woytowicz are two quite different singers, and I admire them both, but for me that first recording captures the excitement and extraordinary atmosphere of the late 1970s and the powerful shock that the symphony made on me and on others who were lucky enough to come across it at the time.  It was this recording, for example, that captivated the conductor David Atherton, who played a huge role in promoting it during the 1980s.

This is all a bit by-the-by.  I had intended to visit Henryk’s grave on my visit to Katowice.  Niestety, nie zdążyłem.  I did, however, manage to visit Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw last month, mainly to pay homage to particular people, but also to sample again its special atmosphere.

…….

Finding it as it was.

…….

My first main port of call was the grave of my friend, the Polish musicologist and critic, Andrzej Chłopecki, who had died a month earlier.

…….

Some distance away, not far from the cemetery chapel, lie a number of composers and conductors who shaped Polish music in the second half of the twentieth century.  First and foremost, there’s the grave of Witold Lutosławski and his wife.

Here’s the grave from the rear.  I was present at his funeral and watched from this vantage point as his stepson climbed into the grave to place his urn on the floor of the chamber.  It now has a classically restrained gravestone and had evidently been attended to recently.

Next door lies that great champion of Polish music, the conductor Witold Rowicki. His grave is more demonstrative!

A little further to the right of Rowicki’s grave is one set aside for Jan Krenz, a champion of contemporary Polish music.  It seems strange to me (but it’s not unusual there) that such monuments are erected before death.

Behind Rowicki’s grave is that of Stefan Rachoń – a far less well-known conductor, at least outside Poland –  and his widow, the opera singer Barbara Nieman.

On the other side of the main path from these graves are several more.  Notable among them are those of Kazimierz Serocki and Tadeusz Baird, whose music deserves to be far more widely known and appreciated.  Baird, Krenz and Serocki formed ‘Grupa ’49’ as the youngest generation of composers during post-war socialist realism.

…….

One of the most striking graves is that of the film-maker, Krzysztof Kieślowski.  If only I had his eye for framing.

• 5 Archival Polish Music Videos

Five videos of Polish music have newly been made available online.  They date from 1968-75 and are all of performances at the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw during the annual ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival.  There are two pieces by Lutosławski and one each by Baird, Penderecki and Serocki.  Not only can we now witness Peter Pears, Wanda Wiłkomirska and Karl-Erik Welin in action but we can also experience Lutosławski conducting his own music as well as appreciate that inspirational and tireless champion of new music, Andrzej Markowski (1924-86).  Many Polish composers owed him a huge debt of gratitude, including Baird, Penderecki and Serocki.

In chronological order of recording, these five videos are:

• Krzysztof Penderecki: Capriccio for violin and orchestra (1967).  Wanda Wiłkomirska, National Philharmonic, cond. Andrzej Markowski, 21 September 1968 (opening concert).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLYY6Knc77w
• Kazimierz Serocki: Fantasia elegiaca for organ and orchestra (1972).  Karl-Erik Welin, Sinfonie-Orchester des Hessischen Rundfunks, Frankfurt, cond. Andrzej Markowski, 28 September 1973 (Polish premiere).
Very little of Serocki’s music post-1956 is available in audio formats, let alone video, so this upload is welcome.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4NuCcpakbU
• Witold Lutosławski: Preludes and Fugue for thirteen solo strings(1972).  Chamber Ensemble of the National Philharmonic, cond. Lutosławski, 30 September 1973 (Polish premiere).
A minor frustration here: this was the first half of the concert which closed the 1973 festival.  In the second half, Lutosławski conducted Heinrich Schiff in the much-postponed Polish premiere of the Cello Concerto.  How I would love to see a video of that!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo1pdDEeLaM
• Tadeusz Baird: Elegeia (1973).  National Philharmonic, cond. Andrzej Markowski, 21 September 1974 (opening concert).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPKxpv8gBZs
• Witold Lutosławski: Paroles tissées (1965).  Peter Pears, Chamber Ensemble of the National Philharmonic, cond. Lutosławski, 25 September 1975.
Peter Pears had been the dedicatee and first performer of this song cycle at the Aldeburgh Festival ten years earlier, on 20 June 1965This was not its Polish premiere, but it was the only time that Pears sang it there.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czUDDNjwo_Q

• Polish Music ‘Muzyka Nowa’, WQXR ★★★☆☆

If you tune into New York’s WQXR Q2 this week, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a week-long celebration of Chinese music, ‘The Year of the Dragon’.  Bringing new music to its audiences is WQXR Q2’s mission.  It’s been ‘on air’ since October 2009 and is a listener-supported online streaming service devoted to music by living composers. The nature of its audience’s musical preferences may be gleaned from its 2011 ‘New-Music Countdown’, where listeners voted for their favourite music written since 1900.  22 of the top 50 pieces were by living composers, most of them American: Adams (5 works), Adès, Andriessen, Carter, Corigliano, Dennehy, Duckworth, Glass, Golijov (2), Gordon, Lang, Lindberg, Pärt (2), Reich (2) and Riley.

The only Polish composer in the top 50, unsurprisingly, was Górecki, whose Third Symphony came in fifth.

On 20 December last year, Q2 announced a new week-long venture: Muzyka Nowa. A Celebration of Contemporary Polish Music’ (16-22 January 2012).  Well, I was all ears at this news and last week I spent more waking hours listening via iTunes than I had first intended.  This was partly because the streaming audio experience was new to me and I was curious to see how it worked in practice.  I was particularly fascinated to find out how Q2 would tackle such a big theme editorially, given the dearth of Polish names in their end-of-year poll.  The results, as you’ll see, were mixed.

It is perhaps worth comparing a few statistics with the New York Juilliard School’s 27th Focus! festival – Polish Modern: New Directions in Polish Music since 1945′ – which took place exactly a year ago (22-28 January 2011). Juilliard’s Polish Modern festival presented 39 works by 36 composers (one piece per composer, with the exception of Lutosławski, who had the final concert to himself).  It had six concerts, with some 8 hours of music.  Q2’s Muzyka Nowa, by my count, had 107 (post-1945) works by 38 (Polish-born and Polish-trained) composers.  These were spread over six and a half days, including two 24-hour all-Polish marathons (actually, they were just over 21 hours). Where Polish Modern was concentrated, Muzyka Nowa tended towards the diffuse.

Streaming

At least half of each weekday’s playlist at Q2 is unhosted.  That means no announcers and no ‘on air’ indication of what is being played (you have to look ‘on screen’).  There are two main hosted programmes, each repeated twelve hours later: an hour-long slot for music involving keyboard – ‘Hammered!’ – with a short introduction to the day’s repertoire at the top; and a four-hour programme with more conventional introductions and back announcements to each piece.  This means that the online playlists are crucial for anyone wanting to find out what is ‘on air’.  These were fairly easy to access (they give composer and performer details, plus the source).  There were several times in this Polish week, however, when the playlists gave only the title, not the composer. So we had Subito (Lutosławski), Stabat Mater (Szymanowski), En blanc et noir (Augustyn, not Debussy) and String Quartet no.6 (Bacewicz? Meyer? no – Lasoń).  The major drawback is that there is generally no advance notice of programme details.  This makes structured listening impossible.  For some listeners, that may be perfect, the ideal ‘innocent ear’ environment.  But for anyone who likes to plan some or all of their listening, it can be immensely frustrating.  It doesn’t do, either, to expect a programme to begin or end at the allotted hour.

The appearance of Szymanowski was anachronistic, given the basic idea behind Muzyka Nowa.  In fact, his contribution was quite slight, with Métopes (1915), the Mazurkas op.50 (1925) and Stabat Mater (1926) being the only major pieces.  But at least they were written within the past 100 years.  Karłowicz’s 1902 Violin Concerto (3 complete airings plus two of the three movements on another occasion) was a puzzling inclusion, while the appearance of Chopin’s Polonaise in F sharp minor (1841) on this ‘Living Music. Living Composers’ station was altogether bizarre.  And even the presenter was surprised by the inclusion, during Wednesday’s all-Polish marathon, of the Tenth Piano Sonata by a Russian composer: “Scriabin, of all people”, he muttered.

A further sign of editorial fluidity was the way in which programme titles changed as the week progressed.  ‘Jakub Ciupiński Hosts’ became ‘The Holy [‘Holy’?] Trinity of Contemporary Polish Music’ and ‘Poland’s Next Wave’, while the four-hour hosted programme ‘Polish Composers: 20th Century Masters to the Next Generation’ became the exaggerated ‘Titans of Polish Music: Past, Present and Future’.  Outside the two marathon days, this particular slot, like the unhosted segments, generally devoted 50%-60% of its play time to Polish repertoire.

Presentation

To be brutally honest, little was added to listener enjoyment or knowledge by the hosted programmes, with the exception of the two slots specially hosted by Jakub Ciupiński.  Ciupiński is a young Polish composer now living in New York and he brought an insight to his chosen repertoire that was a model of enthusiasm and concision.  He should do more broadcasting.  The shame was that Q2 seemed not to have used his ability as a native speaker to do something about other presenters’ pronunciation of Polish names.

Almost twenty years since Górecki became a household name, it was extraordinary to hear ‘Goorekki’ rather than ‘Gooretski’.  Nowa inexplicably became ‘Nuova’, Piotr became ‘Peetor’.  The consonant ‘z’ frequently became invisible/inaudible.  Bruzdowicz was first said correctly (hooray!), then immediately ‘corrected’ to ‘Brudowicz’.  For Andrzej we heard ‘Andrezh’.  And yet, seconds later, the ‘J’ of Jacek miraculously was not a ‘Zh’ but the correct ‘Y’. Such manglings were all too common.  Unhosted segments suddenly seemed more attractive.

The quality of the commentaries also left something to be desired.  The real low-point was the introduction to Penderecki’s Polish Requiem during the first marathon on Wednesday.  Having described it as “big, beautiful, crazy, awesome” – a less appropriate, more vacuous series of adjectives is hard to imagine – the presenter concluded with “he sort of wrote it piecemeal … he sort of expanded it … at the basic level it’s just a setting of the requiem … Antoni Wit is the conductor of the whole shebang”.

Repertoire

The range of post-1945 music included in Muzyka Nowa was fairly impressive (a full repertoire list is given at the end of this post).  It highlighted, as Q2 put it, the ‘Titans’ or the ‘Holy Trinity’ – Lutosławski, Penderecki and Górecki – and included composers born in every decade from the 1900s to the 1980s, with the youngest composer, as far as I can tell, being the 24-year-old Jacek Sotomski.  There was a good variety of solo, chamber, orchestral, vocal and vocal-instrumental music, though no examples of opera, music theatre or jazz.  It also skirted a little around the experimental trends of the past 50 years (no Schaeffer, just one piece by Krauze).

There did not appear to be much in the way of editorial planning in terms of sub-groupings or sub-themes, and this left the sense of an opportunity missed.  After all, there is surely no automatic equation: ‘unhosted=unthemed’. Would it not have been possible to retitle and structure some of the random unhosted segments, just for this Polish week? Closest to such an idea was the programming of the six CD-available string quartets by Lasoń, but nowhere was this flagged up as a feature.  There were no complete symphonies by any of the ‘Holy Trinity’, no works written for the seminal chamber ensemble ‘Music Workshop’, no focus on any selected genre, generation or sub-period, such as sacred music, ‘Generation ’51’ or music post-1989.  But anyone who has programmed a festival will know that there is always too much choice, so hats off to Q2 at the very least  for bringing its listeners a decent if apparently random selection from the Polish table.

A word on sources.  Q2 is primarily a CD operation although it’s not afraid to use private recordings, some of them live, when it suits the programming and is of acceptable quality.  That’s all to the good.  I imagine that it is run on something of a shoestring, so is dependent on what is to hand, such as a copious supply of Naxos CDs.  It had also evidently been given a number of CDs made by the superb Silesian Quartet from Katowice.  On this occasion, importantly, it had access to live performances:

• Since the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival began in 1956, it has sought to promote the (mainly Polish) music that it has programmed by means of recordings, its ‘Sound Chronicles’.  These were issued initially on LPs, later on tape cassettes, and now on CDs.  Unfortunately, the Sound Chronicles have never been available commercially.  University libraries and major radio stations are the most likely places to hold these extensive and valuable recordings.  Q2 made most use of a selection of highlights from the first 50 years of the festival, compiled in 2007 by the Polish music critic Andrzej Chłopecki.  It’s a 10-CD box set, with single pieces by 70 composers, eight of which were included in Muzyka Nowa.  Recordings were also taken from the Sound Chronicles for the 2008 and 2009 festivals.
• Q2 trumpeted its broadcasting of excerpts from two other festivals.  The first of these was the 2011 UNSOUND festival in Kraków.  In the event, only one Polish piece was aired – (Michał) Jacaszek’s launch of music from his new album Glimmer – although it was very much worth it, as reviews for the album have already proved.  The second festival was last year’s Juilliard Focus! on Polish modern music, mentioned at the top of this post.  Sad to report, but only four of the 39 pieces from Polish Modern made it onto the Muzyka Nowa playlist.
• Top of the live performance contributions was Q2’s own recording of a concert last November, given to mark the first anniversary of Górecki’s death.  More on this towards the end of this post.

The outline of 107 works by 38 composers spread over almost 160 hours needs some elaboration.  At the heart of the WQXR Q2 operation is the principle of repeat programming.  This not only applies to the hosted segments, as outlined above, but to the rest of the schedule too.  So it’s not surprising to find that 2/3rds of the 107 pieces were repeated.  That’s fair enough.  But when the repetitions themselves were repeated, alarm bells started to sound and interest began to wane.  When the number of repeat airings increased further, the only conclusion that could be drawn was that insufficient editorial control had been exercised (did we really need five performances of Górecki’s Four Preludes or Lutosławski’s Piano Sonata, both early and unrepresentative works?).  34 pieces had three or more airings, with 13 of them heard four or more times:

• Joanna BruzdowiczWorld (4)
• Jakub CiupińskiMorning Tale (7: Lin, 3; Chow, 4)
• Henryk Górecki: Piano Concerto (2) = Harpsichord Concerto (4), Four Preludes (5)
• Wojciech Kilar: Chorale Prelude (5: Juilliard/Sachs, 4; NOSPR/Wit, 1)
• Eugeniusz KnapikCorale, interludio e aria (4)
• Andrzej Krzanowski: String Quartet no.3 (4)
• Witold Lutosławski: Piano Sonata (5)
• Andrzej Panufnik: Violin Concerto (4)
• Elżbieta Sikora: Canzona (4: Moscow CME/Thorel, 1; New Juilliard E/Sachs, 3)
• Stanisław SkrowaczewskiMusic at Night (4)
• Paweł Szymański: Two Studies (7: Grzybowski, 4; Esztényi, 3), Une suite de pièces de clavecin par Mr Szymański (7)

All in all, there were 131 repeat airings (not including partial repeats), compared with the basic repertoire of 107 compositions.  That made 238 broadcast items overall, at least by my reckoning (that’s equivalent to 34 a day, or one and a half pieces an hour).  There was no discernible rationale for which pieces were or were not repeated.  I for one welcome the additional exposure for Knapik, Krzanowski and Sikora (she fared particularly well).  If Q2 wanted to raise the profile of Bruzdowicz, however, they could have done better than to broadcast her song cycle World in a recording which harboured the most grotesque singing that I have ever heard.

Undoubtedly the most unbalanced programming was accorded to Szymański, whom I have admired for over 30 years and remain an ardent champion.  But even he would acknowledge that to air two of his keyboard compositions seven times apiece – and one of them with just one recording – was out of proportion.  It’s not even as if they are his most distinctive or distinguished works.

Just think what could have been done had the extent of the repetitions been cut back.  If those two keyboard works by Szymański, for example, had had just two airings each, instead of seven, that would have freed up 3 hrs 45′.  We might then have heard a wider range of Szymański works, like his Partita III, Partita IV, Lux Aeterna or Miserere.  All of these pieces, totalling just under an hour of music, are on the same CD from which Q2 drew the three airings of Szymański’s Two Studies which were played by its dedicatee, Szábolcs Esztényi.  How easy it would have been to include these four other works, and to what benefit of the repertoire.  Furthermore, their inclusion would still have left 2 hrs 45′ for other new repertoire.  The principle of this idea is self-evident.  This was a programming opportunity missed, and Muzyka Nowa was the poorer for it.

Absent Friends

It was even poorer for some serious omissions from its roster of composers.  Whether or not the relatively modest number of 38 composers was a deliberate decision is impossible to say, but seven other names among many were notable for their absence.  Firstly, though perhaps not most importantly, was Henryk Górecki’s son Mikołaj, who is also a composer and teaches in Texas.  Q2 had spoken to him and posted An Interview with Mikołaj Górecki online. They even got him to provide a playlist, commenting also that he “is plenty accomplished in his own right”.  But not a note of his music was heard.  Also absent was one of Poland’s most imaginative and internationally recognised composers, Marta Ptaszyńska, who has lived and taught in the United States for many years.  Where was she? Where also were Tadeusz Wielecki and Stanisław Krupowicz, contemporaries of Knapik, Lasoń and Szymański and equally important figures in Polish music since the late 1970s?  And where was Hanna Kulenty, surely one of the most talented and exploratory composers born in the 1960s?

The most astonishing hole in the repertoire was left by the total exclusion of Tadeusz Baird and Kazimierz Serocki. Baird and Serocki were the driving force behind the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival, on whose Sound Chronicles Q2 relied for the majority of its ‘live’ output.  Even if such historical significance is put to one side, is there anyone with any knowledge of Polish music who would deny that Baird and Serocki were composers of international significance, composers of striking individuality whose music stands up as well today as it did when they were alive?  All Q2 had to do, with minimum effort, was to take Chłopecki’s choice from the 1956-2005 ‘Warsaw Autumn’ boxed set – as it did for pieces by Augustyn, Bargielski, Grudzień, Knapik, Krauze, Meyer, Stachowski and Szymański – and broadcast Baird’s Play and Serocki’s Impromptu fantasque.  While Serocki is not well served by the CD catalogue, several CDs of Baird’s music are available and would have immensely enriched the mix of the week’s repertoire.

Górecki live

‘In memoriam Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’ was the flagship event for Muzyka Nowa.  It was a recording of a concert given at the New York bar/café (Le) Poisson Rouge, which has a full artistic programme of events embracing a wide musical spectrum.  On 8 November 2011, Q2 recorded two pieces: the Second String Quartet ‘Quasi una fantasia’, performed by the JACK Quartet, and Little Requiem, performed by Signal Ensemble.  The concert was preceded by an interview with Bob Hurwitz, the founder of Nonesuch Records and the man responsible for that recording of Górecki’s Third Symphony.  The transmission was scheduled for 19.00 local time (midnight UK time) last Thursday, 19 January.

Things could not have gone more disastrously wrong.  For unexplained reasons, the broadcast began 50 minutes early, the last 3′ of Quasi una fantasia were overlapped by the first 3′ of Little Requiem, and the pre-concert talk was broadcast at the end.  Fortunately, the rebroadcast during the second marathon, on Saturday, was all in order (although the ambient noise of the venue and the uneven miking did not help on either occasion).  Was this episode a consequence of misfortune or incompetence?  It certainly made me realise what a blessing it is in the UK to have responsible broadcasters.

Postscript

Despite my criticisms, I don’t want to leave the impression that this was by any means a failure, just that with a little more thought and programming tweaks it could have been excellent.  It was a bold venture and one which reaped many rewards, not least the unexpected juxtapositions of composers and pieces.  Q2’s principal aim – to bring a vibrant musical repertoire to the attention of a potentially new audience – was in good measure realised.

For this listener, there were some real highlights, among them:

• being reacquainted with music by Polish composers now in their 40s and early 50s, such as Jacek Grudzień’s Ad Naan (2002) with its dynamic use of electronic manipulation, and Agata Zubel’s Cascando (2007), in which she was the engaging vocal soloist.
• being introduced to the music of younger composers, still in their 20s or early 30s, such as Jacaszek’s electro-acoustic Glimmer (2011, already mentioned), Mateusz Ryczek’s NGC 4414 for two pianos and percussion (2008) and Krzysztof Wołek’s Elements for ensemble and live electronics (2009).
• and, best of all, hearing the extraordinary jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stańko improvising over Tomasz Sikorski’s tape piece Solitude of Sounds (1975) at the 2009 ‘Warsaw Autumn’.

…….

Q2 ‘Muzyka Nowa’ Repertoire, 16-22 January 2012

alphabetical by composer, with works in the order in which they first appeared
the (x) after a work indicates the number of times that the same recording was used

• Rafał AugustynEn blanc et noir
• Grażyna Bacewicz: Piano Sonata no.2 (2), Violin Concerto no.1, Partita for violin and piano (3), Piano Quintet no.2 (3), Overture, Concerto for String Orchestra (2), Capriccio, Violin Concerto no.3 (2), Piano Quintet no.1 (3), Sonata no.2 for Solo Violin
• Zbigniew BagińskiDanza generale
• Zbigniew BargielskiSlapstick (3)
• Wojciech BlecharzTorpor
• Wojciech BłażejczykSeica
• Marcin Bortnowski…looking into the heart of the light, the silence
• Joanna Bruzdowicz16 Pictures at an Exhibition of Salvador Dali (2), World (4)
• Jakub CiupińskiMorning Tale (7: Lin, 3; Chow, 4), Continuum/II (3), Street Prayer
• Henryk Górecki: Piano Concerto (2) = Harpsichord Concerto (4), Miserere, Four Preludes (5), Symphony no.2/II, String Quartet no.2 (2), Little Requiem (2), Piano Sonata (2), Szeroka woda, Symphony no.3, Symphony no.2, O Domina NostraGood Night
• Jacek GrudzieńAd Naan (3)
• (Michał) JacaszekGlimmer 
• Wojciech KilarOrawa (2), Kościelec 1909, Chorale Prelude (5: Juilliard/Sachs, 4; NOSPR/Wit, 1)
• Eugeniusz KnapikCorale, interludio e aria (4), String Quartet
• Krzysztof KnittelA Memoir of the Warsaw UprisingLipps (3), Harpsichord Concerto
• Jerzy KornowiczFrayed Figures
• Zygmunt KrauzeAus aller Welt stammende (2)
• Andrzej Krzanowski: String Quartet no.3 (4), Relief V
• Aleksander Lasoń: String Quartet no.6 (2), String Quartet no.2 (2), String Quartet no.3, String Quartet no.5 (3), String Quartet no.1 (2), String Quartet no.7
• Witold Lutosławski: Piano Concerto (2), String Quartet (2), Livre (2) Chantefleurs et Chantefables (3: Anderson, 2; Pasiecznik, 1), Piano Sonata (5), Symphony no.2 (2), Concerto for Orchestra (3), Subito, Variations on a Theme of Paganini (2), Sacher Variation (2), Overture for Strings (3), Symphony no.4, Symphony no.3
• Krzysztof MeyerFireballs (3)
• Paweł Mykietyn3 for 13 (2), Sonata for Cello (2)
• Aleksander NowakFiddler’s Green and White Savannahs Never More (2), Songs of Caress (3), Sonata ‘June-December’ (2)
• Andrzej Panufnik: Violin Concerto (4), Sinfonia Sacra (2), String Sextet (3), Sinfonia di sfere (3), String Quartet no.2 (2)
• Krzysztof PendereckiAnaklasis (2), Seven Gates of Jerusalem/I (2), Te Deum (2), Hymne an den heiligen Daniel (2), Polish Requiem (2),  Polish Requiem/Lacrimosa, Polish Requiem/Chaconne (2), St Luke Passion, Horn Concerto, Violin Concerto no.1, De natura sonoris no.2
• Grażyna Pstrokońska-NawratilEl Condor … ‘thinking of Vivaldi’ (Spring) (2)
• Mateusz RyczekNGC 4414 (3)
• Elżbieta Sikora: Suite (2), Le Chant de Salomon (3),  Concertino for ‘Blue’ Harp and Orchestra ‘South Shore’ (3), Three Lieder ‘Eine Rose als Stutze’, Canzona (4: Moscow CME/Thorel, 1; New Juilliard E/Sachs, 3)
• Tomasz SikorskiStrings in the Earth (2), Solitude of Sounds (2)
• Stanisław SkrowaczewskiMusic at Night (4)
• Jacek SotomskiEnneaszyna
• Marek Stachowski: Divertimento
• Witold Szalonek: Chaconne (2), Inside? – Outside?
• Paweł Szymański: Two Studies (7: Grzybowski, 4; Esztényi, 3), Une suite de pièces de clavecin par Mr Szymański (7), Singletrack (3), Gloria (3)
• Ewa TrębaczErrai
• Krzysztof WołekElements (2)
• Agata ZubelCascando (2)
• Wojciech Ziemowit Zych: Symphony no.1 (3), Bass Clarinet Concerto

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