• WL100/65: Mr and Mrs

Lutosławscy, Prague 1957?

Today marks the 67th anniversary of the wedding of Witold and Danuta Lutosławscy.  Though there appear to be no photos of the occasion, here’s one from a few years later.  I’m pretty certain that this one was taken in Prague, to the left of the entrance to one of its most famous hotels (on Wenceslas Square).  When it was taken is not clear, but it looks likely that it was in May 1957, if corroborative photos are correct.*

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* There is another photograph dated Prague, May 1957, with the Lutosławscy wearing the same suits and standing in the sunshine on a large square (no bouquet but a handbag!), in a selection of photographs at the back of Zofia Owińska’s Lutosławski o sobie (Gdańsk: słowo/obraz territoria and the Witold Lutosławski Society, 2010).

Lutosławscy, Wenceslas Square (?), Prague, 1957

There is also a photo, taken in Switzerland (which the Lutosławscy also visited in 1957), in which Danuta Lutosławski is wearing the same two-piece suit.  Also in shot are the composer Konstantin Regamey and the pianist Witold Małcużyński.  This photo is reproduced in Danuta Gwizdalanka & Krzysztof Meyer’s first volume (-1960) of their two-volume study of Lutosławski and his music (Kraków: PWM, 2003), between pp. 256-257.

Regamey, Lutosławscy, Małcużyński, Switzerland, 1957

The photo reproduced at the top is a cut-down version of much larger, off-vertical and unidentified photo that was published earlier this year by the Witold Lutosławski Society in its centenary album Lutosławski 1913-2013 (p.222).  Its wider angle confirms my hunch about the location.  But Danuta’s shoes seem to be different than in the photo in the square (though the same as in Switzerland!), so perhaps the two Prague photos were taken at different times.

Danuta & Witold, Prague, 1957?

• WL100/64: Notebook, 24 October 1959

Lutosławski on independence and Webern

To accomplish anything reasonable, one has to be completely independent of life outside.  This is Webern’s case.   Here also lies the fundamental difference between Webern and the Webernists, who are stuck in endless confrontation, which is why none of them even attempts to focus on something more durable, consistent, long-term.  Engaging in constant dialogue with opinion is a kind of slavery.

Aby dojść do czegoś sensownego, trzeba być całkiem uniezależnionym od życia zewnętrznego.  To jest przypadek Weberna.  Tu jest też zasadnicza różnica między Webernem a webernistami, którzy są zdani na ciągle konfrontacje i dlatego żaden z nich nie próbuje nawet skupić się nad czymś bardziej trwałym, konsekwentnym, długodystansowym.  Zaangażowanie się w ustawiczny dialog z opinią jest rodzajem niewoli.

Witold Lutosławski, 24 October 1959 [my translation]

Four years later, Lutosławski wrote a short text on Webern at the request of the renowned Slovakian arts and science periodical Slovenské Pohľady, which wished to mark the 80th anniversary of Webern’s birth.  Titled ‘Webern a hudba dneška’, it was published in Polish a few years later.

Lutosławski on ‘Webern and the Music of Today’

‘The concise man makes one think, the verbose man bores’ – with these simple words Edouard Manet once expressed a truth which – contrary to what it might seem – has served only a few composers as a signpost.*  To these few, unlike his imitators, belongs first and foremost Anton Webern.  Among the many revelations made by this man, one has really made me think.  This is the discovery of a sound-world of microscopic proportions in which the shortest, instantaneous musical event can become the source of a strong experience.

Like the work of every great explorer, Webern’s output has gone through its good and bad periods.  The current one I would call ‘bad’ for Webern, because the wave of imitations – often inept, vulgar, distorting his ideas – has not yet subsided, and we are still driving ‘postwebernism’ away like a tiresome fly.  I believe, however, that – like Debussy from ‘Debussyism’ recently – the music of Webern will free itself from the besmirching and obnoxious effect of its imitators.  It will then shine in its true and pure brilliance.

“Człowiek zwięzły skłania do zastanowienia; gadatliwy nudzi…” – tymi prostymi słowami wyraził kiedyś Edouard Manet prawdę, która – wbrew temu, co mogłoby się wydawać – tylko niewielu twórcom służyła za drogowskaz.  Do tych niewielu, w odróżnieniu od swych naśladowców, należał przede wszystkim Anton Webern.  Wśród licznych odkryć, jakich dokonał ten człowiek, jedno zastanawia mnie szczególnie.  Jest to odkrycie świata dźwiękowego mikroskopijnych rozmiarów, w którym najkrótsze, migawkowe muzyczne zdarzenie może stać się źródłem silnego przeżycia.

Jak twórczość każdego wielkiego odkrywcy, tak i twórczość Weberna przeżywa swoje dobre i złe okresy.  Obecny okres nazwałbym dla Weberna ‘złym’, ponieważ fala naśladownictw – często nieudolnych, wulgarnych, wykoślawiających jego idee – jeszcze nie opadła, i wciąż jeszcze od ‘postwebernizmu’ oganiamy się jak od uprzykrzonej muchy.  Wierzę jednak, że – jak niedawno Debussy od ‘debussyzmu’ – wyzwoli się również i dzieło Weberna od zamazujących i obrzydzających je naśladownictw.  Zalśni on wtedy swym prawdziwym i czystym blaskiem.

Witold Lutosławski, ‘Webern a hudba dneška’,
Slovenské Pohľady 79 no.12 (1963), pp.92-93 [my translation]
reproduced, in Polish, in Stefan Jarociński,
Materiały do monografii (Kraków: PWM, 1967), p.42

* I don’t know where Lutosławski found this quote, but it originated in an article by Georges Jeanniot in La Grande Revue in 1907.  The full quotation, which could equally be Lutosławski’s credo, reads:

La concision en art est une nécessité et une élégance; l’homme concis fait réfléchir, l’homme verbeux ennuie; modifiez-vous toujours dans le sens de la concision.

• WL100/63: Mi-parti, **22 October 1976

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 08.47.06

One of the strangest aspects of this centenary year, and indeed of the performance and recording history since Lutosławski’s death almost twenty years ago, is the neglect of some works which during his lifetime were held in high regard.  The most notorious injustice relates to Livre pour orchestre, which I will return to in a later post.  Another example is Mi-parti, which Lutosławski wrote in 1975-76 and whose premiere he conducted with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam 37 years ago today.

During his lifetime, Lutosławski was the person who conducted Mi-parti most frequently.  His domination of its performance history is also true of many of his other orchestral and concertante works, which made for composer-authentic concert experiences but in the long run delayed much of his music’s entry into the repertoire of a broad range of career conductors.

As to professional concert performances over the past ten years, there have been only seven (excluding immediate repeat concerts), including just three in 2013, the third and most recent being by the Berlin Staatskapelle under Daniel Barenboim.  There have been five commercial recordings:

• WOSPR (NOSPR)/Lutosławski (EMI, rec. 1976; LP, reissued several times on CD)
• Prague Radio SO/Jacek Kasprzyk (Supraphon, rec. 1980; LP only)
• BBC PO/Yan Pascal Tortelier (Chandos, rec. 1993; CD)
• WOSPR (NOSPR)/Antoni Wit (Naxos, rec. 1997; CD)
• Warsaw National PO/Antoni Wit (CD Accord, rec. 2002; CD).

Chandos, with its magnificent 5-CD set of Lutosławski’s music, has inexplicably left out both works.  At least the Opera Omnia CD series by the Wrocław PO under Jacek Kaspszyk and Benjamin Shwartz will release both pieces in the near future.  On YouTube, Mi-parti has the thinnest of presences, with Lutosławski’s own recording accompanied by photographic artwork by the uploader: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laFCR96RPO4.

I would be very interested to hear what readers have to say about Mi-parti.  For me, it has a magical first section (although Lutosławski sometimes expressed doubts about it) whose essential idea he seems to have had in mind when composing the first section of the Fourth Symphony sixteen years later.  The second section is one of his most pulsating, the climax interrupted by trumpets (echoes of the Cello Concerto).  The coda is especially haunting. Perhaps the trouble is that it isn’t a ‘symphony’ so, like Livre, it is being left on the sidelines in the age of convenience programming.

…….

When I was researching in Lutosławski’s house in 2002, I came across many fascinating items: marked-up books, his conducting scores, a folder of folk-tune materials and a particular folder headed “ŚCIĄGACZKI” (Crib Sheets). Inside were separate pieces of MS paper connected with his work on LivreLes espaces du sommeilMi-parti and the Fourth Symphony.  Here are the two relating to Mi-parti.  They come from the second, fast section (apologies for the slightly fuzzy images).

The first is a ‘short-score’ reduction for the first eight bars of fig. 28.  The two lines represent the trumpets and trombones, whose individual purchase on the melodic line is fully worked out in the score (07’59”-08’09” on the accompanying YouTube video).

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 08.41.56

The second is more sketchy.  Indeed, it consists only of a (sometimes biforcated) rhythmic line.  It tracks the score from fig. 29 (i.e., two bars after the first ‘crib sheet’ stops short) as far as the third bar of fig. 35.  Although at times the link between sketch and score may seem tenuous, the sketch is consistent with the final product even if Lutosławski does use notational shorthand at times and darts from one instrumental group to another.  Effectively, this ‘crib sheet’ presents the main rhythmic template, an aide-mémoire as he worked the idea up into this extrovert, hocketing passage that leads shortly afterwards to the work’s climax (08’12”-09’09” on the accompanying YouTube video).

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 08.41.36

• WL100/62: Notebook, 19 October 1960

Lutosławski on objet sonore

Lutosławski’s affinity with French music and literature is well-known.  But the connection with the pioneer of musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, has largely slipped by unnoticed.  In truth, it is not Schaeffer’s tape music as such that caught Lutosławski’s attention but his discourse on the objet sonore.  Lutosławski referenced Schaeffer’s term in talks that he prepared for the Zagreb Biennale (1961) and the Tanglewood Summer School (1962), but his musing on the implications of objet sonore began earlier, in 1960, in his Notebook of Ideas (Zapiski).

There is no evidence that Lutosławski had read Schaeffer’s book À la recherche d’une musique concrète (1952). Almost certainly, he came across the term objet sonore from both fellow Polish composers and Schaeffer himself. Schaeffer came to the third ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival to introduce a programme of musique concrète (17 September 1959) that included a number of pieces, including his own Étude aux objets (1959).  It is more than likely that Lutosławski attended this concert (ground-breaking in the Polish context) and met Schaeffer during his visit.

Pierre Schaeffer

Just over a year later, on 21 September 1960, the fourth ‘Warsaw Autumn’ presented a lecture by Józef Patkowski, the head of the Experimental Studio at Polish Radio.  During his talk, Patkowski referred to Schaeffer and played Étude aux objets again.  Was it pure coincidence that just two days later Lutosławski made the first of two entries in his Notebook that elaborated on the idea of the objet sonore as it related to his own thinking?  Four weeks later, on 19 October, he returned to this theme.

Although Lutosławski subsequently stressed the prominence of chance procedures in his musical development in the early 1960s, he did not make any entries in his Notebook on alea and aleatorism for another year (the first appears on 20 December 1961).  In other words, it was Schaeffer’s visit in 1959 and the idea of the objet sonore that first drew his attention.  It was six months later that Lutosławski heard Patkowski introduce a recording of John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra in his ‘Musical Horizons’ programme on Polish Radio (16 March 1960) – the event which Lutosławski subsequently credited as being the critical juncture in his compositional thinking.  Yet we must no overlook Schaeffer in these developments.  In combination, both Schaeffer and Cage gave Lutosławski conceptual support just at the moment when Jeux vénitiens (1960-61) was being conceived.

It seems that rhythm (in the broadest sense, as a division of time in which the action of a musical work takes place) is the hardest element of musical material to destroy.  The idea of the ‘eternity’ of this element is tempting.  Instead of ‘melody, ‘harmony’, there appears a new element (perhaps not entirely new in its essence, but new in application) – objet sonore – the sound object.

Wydaje się, że rytmika (w najszerszym pojęciu – jako podział czasu, w którym rozgrywa się akcja utworu muzycznego) jest najtrudniejszym do zniszczenia elementem tworzywa muzycznego.  Kusi myśl o “wieczności” tego elementu.  Na miejsce “melodyki”, “harmoniki”, zjawia się nowy element (być może niezupełnie nowy w swej istocie, ale nowe w zastosowaniu) – objet sonore – przedmiot dźwiękowy.

Witold Lutosławski, 23 September 1960 [my translation]

In connection with technique based on ‘objects’:
Object = a collection of sounds, between which there is a closer connection than between each of these s[ou]nds and sounds belonging to another object.  This closer connection ensures, above all, connectivity in time.  But it can also be similarity of timbre, rhythm, attack, harm[onic] profile, choice of intervals etc..
Hence 2 rhythmic currents in a piece:
1) local rhythm, ‘small’ – interior of an object
2) general rhythm, ‘large’ – i.e., the rhythm of a sequence of objects.

W związku z techniką opartą na “przedmiotach”:
Przedmiot = zbior dźwięków, między którymi istnieje ściślejszy związek niż między każdym z tych dźw., a dźwiękami należącymi do innego przedmiotu.  Ten ściślejszy związek zapewnia przede wszystkim łączność w czasie.  Ale również może to być podobieństwo barwy, rytmiki, ataku, profilu harm., doboru interwali itd.
Stąd 2 nurty rytmiczne w utworze:
1) rytm lokalny, “mały” – wewnątrz przedmiotu
2) rytm ogólny, “duży” – czyli rytm następstwa przedmiotów.

Witold Lutosławski, 19 October 1960 [my translation]

• WL100/61: Symphonic Variations

75 years ago today, Lutosławski put the finishing touches to his Symphonic Variations, his first surviving orchestral work.  I wrote about the premiere in an earlier post (WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939).  Since then, the Symphonic Variations featured in the Lutosławski strand of the 2013 BBC Proms, with same forces – the BBC SO under Edward Gardner – which give such a scintillating performance on Chandos CHSA 5098 (2012).  Here’s a YouTube upload of the Polish Radio broadcast of the Proms performance on 7 August … plus Lutosławski’s own, third-person comment (undated):

This is the work with which the author (then 26) made his debut in 1939 at a musical festival in Kraków.  The style of the work is, maybe, far from being definitively crystallised and yet on the basis of the Symphonic Variations one might speak of the artistic maturity of its then young author, principally thanks to the richly developed orchestral palette as well as the compact and balanced structure.

Są utworem, którym autor (wówczas dwudziestosześcioletni) zadebiutował w 1939 roku na festiwalu muzycznym w Krakowie.  Styl utworu jest, być może, daleki od ostatecznego skrystalizowania i jeśli na podstawie Wariacji symfonicznych można by mimo to mówic o dojrzałości artystycznej ich młodego wówczas autora, to przede wszystkim dzięki bogato rozwiniętej palecie orkiestrowej oraz zwartej i zrównoważonej architekturze.

…….

Today is also the anniversary of the partial premiere of the Second Symphony, whose second movement ‘Direct’ was performed on 15 October 1966, in Hamburg, with the Sinfonie Orchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks conducted by Pierre Boulez.  For Lutosławski, Boulez’s conducting on this occasion was not entirely satisfactory (WL100/31: Notebook, 9 April 1969), but I have never fully understood Boulez’s subsequent lack of interest in Lutosławski’s music.

• WL100/60: Cello Concerto, **14 October 1970

On this day in 1970, Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto was premiered in London’s Royal Festival Hall by Mstislav Rostropovich and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Edward Downes.  The work was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society (the first post-war commission to a foreign composer) with funds from the Gulbenkian Foundation.  The work was repeated on the following nights in Bournemouth and Exeter.

The first half of the programme consisted of Balakirev’s symphonic poem Tamara and Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, followed in the second half by Borodin’s Second Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. Lutosławski wrote in the RPS’s copy of the programme: ‘with my warmest thanks for this unforgettable experience’. In a letter to his Danish publisher, he wrote: ‘Rostropovich is unique and played it as if it were his own work’.

Homma 1993 4

Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto is now the most recorded post-war cello concerto after the two by Shostakovich.  At the latest count, there have been 16 commercial recordings (11 of them since Lutosławski’s death), with at least two more in the pipeline.  There is also more than a handful of recent concert performances available on YouTube and other platforms.  In this centenary year, it looks as if the Cello Concerto will be his most frequently performed work.  It is a remarkable compliment to Lutosławski’s extraordinary music.

Here are the links to the current uploads of complete professional performances:

• Felix Fan/RTVE SO/Adrian Leaper (2002)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdoW0q81F24
• Nicolas Altstaedt/Finnish Radio SO/Dmitri Slobodeniuk (2007)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIxvBjP7ld8
• Silver Ainomäe/Finnish Radio SO/Dmitri Slobodeniuk (2007)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVqx2uUls54
• Oren Shevlin/WDR SO/Jukka-Pekka Saraste (2011)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kliW2KCYq8http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdjzGN4dYxw
• Alexander Baillie/Boston PO/Benjamin Zander (2012)
http://vimeo.com/40106492http://vimeo.com/40153844http://vimeo.com/40113484
• Kian Soltani/Helsinki PO/John Storgårds (2013; link broken by mid-December 2013)
http://areena.yle.fi/tv/1907455
• Paul Watkins/BBC SO/Thomas Adès (2013)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se-S8iEMWI8

• WL100/59: Lutosławski in Moscow (1951)

In 1951, Witold Lutosławski was a (no doubt reluctant) member of an official delegation from Poland to the Soviet Union, visiting Moscow, Rostov and Leningrad over the space of three weeks, all in the cause of ‘Polish-Russian Friendship’.   Quite apart from his dismay at the blatantly political role of the visit, a large part of his reluctance to be part of this 22-strong group must have stemmed from his childhood memories of his father’s fate: Lutosławski saw him briefly in prison before both his father and his uncle were shot by Bolshevik forces in 1918 (see my earlier post: WL100/55: Death of Lutosławski’s father).

Lutosławski subsequently reported on his visit for the Polish journal Muzyka 2 (November 1951, no.11 (20), pp.6-7). But his subject matter is remarkably distanced from standard politicised propaganda about the USSR.   Even so, its unctuous tone is so exaggerated that one wonders who could have genuinely believed that Lutosławski’s heart was in it.  Indeed, it is more than likely that it was edited by a political minder or even written by one and added to by Lutosławski.  On the eve of my first visit to Moscow – to its Conservatoire, among other places – I thought of his account, written under considerably more duress than affects today’s visitors to Russia, who cannot be unaware, however, of its government’s perpetuation, even expansion of restrictions on personal freedoms and self-expression.

Homma 1993 1

This article is reprinted in Witold Lutosławski. O muzyce. Pisma i wypowiedzi, ed. Zbigniew Skowron (Warsaw, 2011, pp.365-7), but it is not included in the preceding English version Lutosławski on Music (Lanham MD, 2007).  The translation here is my own.

A few impressions from a trip to the USSR
Kilka wrażen z podróży do ZSRR

When one goes down into the Moscow metro for the first time, one succumbs to feelings of awe and admiration: we are in a palace.  Marble, sculptures, mosaics, intricate chandeliers, wall lamps, all sparkling clean, all gleaming with light.  Each glimpsed station delights the eye with its novelty, different from the one before.  Like rooms in a grand residence, individual metro stations make up a precisely worked-out, artistic whole.  The splendid Ploshchad Revolyutsii, filled with bronze figures, the modest Mayakovskaya, all graceful, finished steel curves, and much, much more.

Gdy po raz pierwszy zejdziemy do metra moskiewskiego, ulegniemy uczuciom zdumienia i podziwu: jesteśmy w pałacu.  Marmury, rzeźby, mozaiki, kunsztowne żyrandole, kinkiety, wszystko lśni czystością, jarzy się światłem.  Każda ujrzana stacja raduje oczy swą nowością, niepodobna jest do poprzedniej.  Jak sale w pysznej rezydencji, stacje metra stanowią – każda osobno – starannie wypracowaną, artystyczną całość.  Wspaniała, wypełniona postaciami z brązu stacja Rewolucji, skromna, cała we wdzięcznych, stalą wykończonych łukach Majakowskaja i wiele, wiele innych.

We are awed in that first moment.  Our habits and memories from other European cities still make us associate the idea of an underground station with some sort of huge, dirty bathroom.  Our amazement recedes, however, after a moment’s reflection.  The metro is still a mechanism for millions of people, so what is odd about so much work and artistic finish being put into its construction?  Is it not more amazing – in the negative sense of the word – that in recent times palaces have been built for the daily use of just one family?  While works of art, these buildings are also evidence of unbounded self-centredness.  In the Soviet Union, they are today admittedly converted into museums, accessible to every citizen, though they are not daily at anyone’s disposal.  The only true palace built for millions of people is the Moscow metro.  Every citizen in this capital of several million feels at home in this palace; not a day goes by when he does not spend a few moments in it and can rejoice at will in its splendour.

Zdumiewamy się tym w pierwszym momencie.  Przyzwyczajenia nasze i wspomnienia z innych miast Europy każą nam przecież kojarzyć pojęcia stacji kolei podziemnej z jakąś olbrzymią, brudnawą łazienką.  Zdumienie nasze ustępuje jednak po chwili zastanowienia.  Metro jest przecież urządzeniem dla milionów ludzi, cóż więc dziwnego, że w jego budowę włożono tu tyle pracy i artystycznego wykończenia?  Czyż nie bardziej zdumiewającym – w ujemnym sensie tego słowa – jest fakt, że w minionych czasach budowano pałace, mające na co dzień służyć zaledwie jednej rodzinie?  Będąc dziełami sztuki, były te budowle jednocześnie świadectwem bezgranicznego egocentryzmu.  W Związku Radzieckim są dziś one wprawdzie zamienione na muzea, są dostępne każdemu obywatelowi, nikomu jednak na co dzień nie służą.  Prawdziwym pałacem zbudowanym dla milionów ludzi jest dopiero metro moskiewskie.  Każdy obywatel kilkumilionowej stolicy czuje się w tym pałacu u siebie, nie ma dnia, aby nie spędził w nim kilku chwil, może do woli radować się jego wspaniałością.

*

The Moscow Conservatoire, named after Tchaikovsky, is an academy of great, universal traditions.  Its founder was Anton Rubinstein, one of its professors Tchaikovsky.  From the walls of this academy have come great artists, whose names belong to the first rank in the world.  Today, the Moscow Conservatoire is the leading music academy in the Soviet Union.  Young people from the many nations of the USSR are educated there.  The great traditions are alive in every sense and year on year are enriched by new talents and new pedagogical achievements at the highest level.

Konserwatorium moskiewskie imienia Czajkowskiego jest uczelnią o wielkich, światowych tradycjach.  Założycielem jego był Antoni Rubinstein, jednym z profesorów – Czajkowski.  Z murów tej uczelni wyszło wielu artystów, których nazwiska należą do pierwszych w świecie.  Dziś konserwatorium moskiewskie jest przodującą uczelnią muzyczną Związku Radzieckiego.  Kształci się w nim młodzież wielu narodów ZSRR.  Wielkie tradycje żyją w całej pełni i są z roku na rok wzbogacane nowymi talentami i nowymi osiągnięciami pedagogicznymi na najwyższym poziomie.

We were at the Conservatoire to become acquainted with the work of students in the composition class.  For this unique opportunity we are indebted to the exceptional kindness of the director of the conservatoire, [Alexandra] Sveshnikova, as well as Professors [Yuri] Shaporin and [Anatoly] Bogatyrev, who at our request specially organised a little compositional event.  With passionate interest we hear this improvised concert.  Before us a group of students, composers and performers, representatives of various nationalities: besides the Russians there are also citizens of Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and the Mari El Republic.

Znaleźliśmy się w konserwatorium, aby zapoznać się z twórczością studentów klas kompozycji.  Wyjątkową tę okazję mamy do zawdzięczenia niezwykłej uprzejmości dyrektora konserwatorium Swiesznikowa, jak również profesorów Szaporina i Bogatyriowa, którzy na naszą prośbę specjalnie zorganizowali małą produkcję kompozytorską.  Z żarliwym zainteresowaniem słuchamy tego zaimprowizowanego koncertu.  Przed nami grupa studentów, kompozytorów i wykonawców, przedstawicieli różnych narodowości: oprócz Rosjan są to obywatele Gruzji, Armenii, Kazachstanu, Republiki Maryjskiej.

We will try to sketch the common features of the pieces being performed.  The words that immediately suggest themselves are clarity of thought, simplicity and melodiousness.  A lack of any excesses or technical displays. Compositional technique is used here as a means of expression.  None of the young composers has given in to the temptation to show first and foremost what he knows.  He always shows what he has to say.  This displays great maturity, a developed sense of responsibility.  Tremendous maturity is also met in the instrumental aspects of the works.  Each of the compositions that we hear sounds instrumentally accurate and idiomatic, and not infrequently is a testament to real artistry in its field (e.g. the Piano Toccata by [Andrei] Eshpai or the Cello Suite by [Sulkhan] Tsintsadze).  The performing side of the event we heard was of the highest level.  Some students are fully mature, first-rate artists.  Among them, a star of the first magnitude: the cellist [Daniil] Shafran.

Spróbujemy naszkicować wspólne cechy wykonanych utworów. Słowa, które od razu same się narzucają, to jasność myśli, prostota, melodyjność.  Brak wszelkich przerostów i popisów technicznych.  Technika kompozytorska służy tu jako środek wyrazu.  Żaden z młodych kompozytorów nie ulega pokusie, aby pokazywać przede wszystkim to, co umie.  Zawsze pokazuje to, co ma do powiedzenia.  W tym widać dużą dojrzałość, rozwinięte poczucie odpowiedzialność.  Ogromną dojrzałość widzi się również w stronie instrumentalnej utworów.  Każda z usłyszanych kompozycji uderza trafnością i swobodą w użyciu instrumentu, nierzadko zaś jest świadectwem prawdziwego kunsztu w tej dziedzinie (np. Toccata fortepianowa Eszpaja czy Suita wiolonczelowa Cyncadze).  Strona wykonawcza usłyszanej produkcji stała na najwyższym poziomie.  Niektórzy studenci to zupełnie dojrzali, świetni artyści.  Wśród nich – gwiazda pierwszej wielkości: wiolonczelista Szafran.

*

Ruza is a village 120 kilometres distant from Moscow.  The location of the village is exceptionally beautiful: mixed forest, traversed by narrow paths, on the upper Moscow River, a small bathing area, a landing stage.  In the woods, at a few hundred metres, are one-, two- and three-room cottages, wooden or brick, fully furnished, with a piano.  In these cottages work Soviet composers.  Each a member of the Composers’ Union, and if he has a plan to devote several months to working on his own composition, he is directed to one such artistic colony.  He finds everything here that is essential for work: peace, quiet, delightful nature, without all the troubles of everyday life.  After work he can relax in the fresh air, play sports like tennis, volleyball, swimming, rowing, skiing in winter, skating, etc..  If he wants, he can spend time in Ruza with his family.

Ruza jest to miejscowość odległa o 120 kilometrów od Moskwy.  Położenie miejscowości jest wyjątkowo piękne: las mieszany, poprzecinany wąskimi dróżkami, niżej rzeka Moskwa, małe kąpielisko, przystań.  W lesie, co paręset metrów domek jedno-, dwu- lub trzypokojowy, drewniany lub murowany, kompletnie urządzony, z fortepianem.  W tych domkach pracują kompozytorzy radzieccy.  Każdy członek Związku Kompozytorów, jeśli ma zamiar poświęcić kilkumiesięczny okres wyłącznie na pracę nad swym dziełem, skierowywany jest do jednej z podobnych kolonii twórczych.  Znajduje tam wszystko, co mu jest niezbędne do pracy: spokój, ciszę, uroczą przyrodę, brak wszelkich kłopotów dnia codziennego.  Po pracy może wypocząć w zdrowym powietrzu, używać sportów, jak tenis, siatkówka, pływanie, wiosłowanie, zimą narty, ślizgawka itd.  Jeśli chce, może przebywać w Ruzie z rodziną.

We go to Ruza with the General Secretary of the Composers’ Union, [Tikhon] Khrennikov.  While taking a walk in the grounds, we visit composers at work in their cottages.  [Marian] Koval, busy with the instrumentation of a children’s opera [probably the second version of The Wolf and the Seven Kids (1951)], then [Aram] Khachaturian, working on his ballet Spartacus [(1954)].  We ate lunch together with all the residents of the colony.  We are welcomed in an atmosphere of uncommon sincerity and comradeship.  In conversations with Russian colleagues we have the chance to see that they are all full of enthusiasm for Ruza and the excellent conditions that are found there for their work.  From the examples of Ruza we are able to determine with our own eyes how much importance the Soviet authorities attach to art and how admirably they protect the creative endeavours of artists.

Do Ruzy jedziemy z sekretarzem generalnym Związku Kompozytorów Chrennikowem.  Odbywszy przechadzkę po terenie, odwiedzamy kompozytorów w ich domkach przy pracy.  Kowala, zajętego instrumentacją opery dla dzieci, następnie Chaczaturiana, pracującego nad baletem Spartakus.  Spożywamy wspólny obiad z wszystkimi mieszkańcami kolonii.  Jesteśmy przyjęci w atmosferze niezwykłej serdeczności i koleżeństwa.  W rozmowach z kolegami radzieckimi mamy możność przekonać się, że wszyscy oni są pełni entuzjazmu dla Ruzy i znakomitych warunków, jakie tam znajdują dla swej pracy.  Na przykładzie Ruzy i my mamy możność stwierdzić naocznie, jak wielką wagę przywiązuje władza radziecka do sztuki i jak wspaniałą opieką otacza twórczy wysiłek artystów.

• WL100/58: ‘old’ Derwid CDs

It’s all happening at once for Derwid, or so it seems.  Polskie Nagrania has announced a new CD of original recordings of Lutosławski’s pseudonymous popular songs from 1957-63, just as Agata Zubel’s CD of modern interpretations has arrived in the shops (see yesterday’s post WL100/57).  Yet PN’s new CD is, apart from two of its 14 tracks, a reissue of another CD that was produced in 2010 and which can be listened to online for free. Confused?  Here’s a run-down of the Derwid discography so far.

ap01342005: Derwid. Lutosławski’s Concealed Portrait (Acte Prealable, APO134).  New arrangements of twelve songs, sung by Mariusz Klimek and an instrumental quartet (keyboards, tenor sax, bass guitar, percussion).

Derwid_L2010: Piosenki Derwida (Studio MTS).  Remastering of twelve recordings published in the 1950s and 1960s on the Muza and Pronit labels.  It somewhat bizarrely includes a bonus track, Le fiacre de Varsovie, a French-language version of Warszawski dorożkarz, sung by the Greek singer Yovanna at the 1962 Sopot Festival in northern Poland.

image_gallery-1

2013 (PNCD): Piosenki Derwida / Witolda Lutosławskiego. Warszawski Dorożkarz (Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 1503).  A reissue of Studio MTS’s remastering (2010), plus two other period tracks.

Derwid-obwoluta

2013 (ACD): el Derwid (CD Accord, ACD 192).  New arrangements of eleven songs, sung by Agata Zubel, with Andrzej Bauer (cello) and Cezary Duchnowski (keyboards, computer).

According to the Studio MTS website, its set of twelve period recordings was issued, though I can find no record of its CD number.  In fact, it was never issued commercially, but was available for educational purposes only.  So it is very good that it has now resurfaced – in a different track order – under the PN label.  At the time of writing, the Studio MTS recordings are still available to listen for free online: http://studiomts.pl/NewFiles/Opisy_plyt/Derwid.html.

Here’s an alphabetical list of which tracks you can find on which CDs.  These 20 songs represent just over half of Derwid’s output and there remain some gems yet to be recorded (for a full list of songs and English translations of the titles, see WL100/42: 33 ‘Derwid’ songs published).  I know that in the mid-1990s there still were tapes in Polish Radio of period broadcasts of many of these songs, some in different versions, and also of others not in this list, so perhaps some day they too will be aired again.

Cyrk jedzie: 2005, 2010 + 2013 (PNCD), 2013 (ACD)
Czarownica: 2005, 2010 + 2013 (PNCD), 2013 (ACD)
Daleka podróż: 2010 + 2013 (PNCD), 2013 (ACD)
Filipince nudno: 2013 (PNCD)
Jak zdobywać serduszka: 2010 + 2013 (PNCD
Jeden przystanek dalej: 2005, 2013 (ACD)
Kapitańska ballada: 2013 (PNCD)
Milczące serce: 2005 (twice), 2010 + 2013 (PNCD)
Miłość i świat: 2005, 2013 (ACD)
Nie oczekuję dziś nikogo: 2005, 2010 + 2013 (PNCD), 2013 (ACD)
Plamy na słońcu: 2010 + 2013 (PNCD), 2013 (ACD)
Po co śpiewać piosenki: 2005
Tabu: 2010 + 2013 (PNCD)
Tylko to słowo: 2010 + 2013 (PNCD)
W lunaparku: 2005, 2013 (ACD)
W naszym pustym pokoju hula wiatr: 2010 + 2013 (PNCD)
Warszawski dorożkarz: 2005, 2010 + 2013 (PNCD)
(Le fiacre de Varsovie): 2010 + 2013 (PNCD)
Z lat dziecinnych: 2005, 2013 (ACD)
Złote pantofelki: 2013 (ACD)
Znajdziesz mnie wszędzie: 2005, 2013 (ACD)

• WL100/57: ‘el Derwid’ CD

It’s out!  Here’s something special for the Lutosławski centenary: a CD of eleven of his popular songs written under the pseudonym ‘Derwid’ in 1957-63.  Expect to be intrigued (the ‘el’ dimension) and blown away!  It’s just been released on CD Accord (ACD1922).  Here’s the track list, plus a little background in earlier posts: Zubel Zings! and WL100/42: 33 ‘Derwid’ songs published.

Derwid-obwoluta

• WL100/56: Los Angeles (1985)

First posted on 2 September 2011.

Two years ago today, there appeared on YouTube four uploads that together formed a 33’ documentary film on Witold Lutosławski.  I was alerted to the uploads last year and thought it might be useful to repost them, with a brief commentary and selected timelines for anyone unfamiliar with the music.

Open Rehearsals with Witold Lutosławski records the composer’s visit to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, 21-29 January 1985, during which time he celebrated his 72nd birthday (25 January), although that event is not mentioned in the film.  For some reason, the uploads have been dated 1984.  The film was made by the Polish documentary and feature director, Paweł Kuczyński (left), and it appears to have been his first film (he uploaded it himself).  Further details on Kuczyński may be found on his website <http://www.directing.com/index.html> and blog <http://deafearsmadness.blogspot.com>.

The occasion for the visit of Lutosławski and his wife Danuta was the official opening on 23 January of what was then known as the Polish Music Reference Center (PMRC) and is now known as the Polish Music Center (PMC).  The PMRC had been the brainchild and passion of a Polish-American couple, Stefan and Wanda Wilk, whom I had the privilege and joy to get to know during a year’s research leave I had at the University of California, San Diego, in 1983-84.  I spent many happy days in their company (and that of their dog) at their home in Los Angeles (the domestic interior, garden and dog are seen in the film) and it was thanks to their enthusiasm that I wrote a small monograph Grażyna Bacewicz: Chamber and Orchestral Music that was published by PMRC in 1985.

Wanda Wilk was the practical and tenacious driving force behind the PMRC project and had the bold idea at an early stage of asking Polish composers if they would be willing to donate manuscript scores to the library.  Penderecki declined, but Lutosławski could see the huge potential of the Center and made an astonishing offer.  He was prepared to donate not one but five music manuscripts.  And these included some of his most significant scores from the preceding 20 years.  It’s worth highlighting them here, because in the film all that is shown is a large black portfolio holding the manuscripts:

• Paroles tissées (1965)
• Preludes and Fugue (1972)
• Mi-parti (1976)
• Novelette (1979)
• Mini-Overture (1982)

No donation since has matched Lutosławski’s generosity.

Lutosławski had just flown in from St Paul, Minnesota, where he’d attended the world premiere on 18 January of Partita for violin and piano (1984), given by Pinchas Zukerman and Marc Neikrug.  An important element of his visit to Los Angeles was spending several days observing and conducting rehearsals of his music by students and staff at the School of Music at USC, as well as looking over student scores, giving interviews and attending concerts of his music.  He also conducted the West Coast premiere of Chain 1 (1983).  Kronos Quartet played the String Quartet (1964) and the British composer John Casken contributed a talk on Lutosławski.  This was evidently a major Lutosławski residency and one to be treasured by those fortunate enough to have been present.  Its success led 12 years later to a similar profiling of his younger compatriot, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (‘Górecki Autumn’, 1-5 October, 1997).

Kuczyński intercuts and overlays film of Lutosławski at different rehearsals with the composer speaking about his musical aesthetics.  If you are familiar with how Lutosławski discussed music in printed interviews you will find many typical tropes here, but they are no less interesting for actually seeing him speak about music and its contexts.  There are occasional surprises, too.  It would be fascinating to see the footage that was not included in the film.

It is particularly interesting to witness Lutosławski rehearsing with students, primarily on Mi-parti (which the students were preparing for a concert a few weeks later) and on Chain 1.  There is also a delightful vignette of him conducting a student choir on the word ‘Fouille‘ from the second movement of Trois poèmes d’Henri Michaux (1963).  The works heard in the film, in order of first appearance, are:

Part I: Mi-partiTrois poèmes
Part II: Trois poèmesGrave for cello and piano (1981), Chain 1, String Quartet
Part III: Mi-partiChain 1, String Quartet, Melodie Ludowe/1 (1945), Paganini Variations for two pianos (1941)
Part IV: Chain 1Mi-parti.

In the following commentaries, I’ve posted the four YouTube sections of the film as well as their urls if you want to have them in a separate window while reading the commentary.  My observations are not comprehensive and the timings are approximate, but I hope that they add something to your enjoyment of Kuczyński’s valuable film.

Part I            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVlq6zihyjg    9’27”

0’00”    [over] Mi-parti (3 before Fig.41)
Witold and Danuta Lutosławscy arrive at Los Angeles airport.  On the walk out, Danuta is centre front row, with Wanda Wilk on the right.  Witold is in the second row, with Stefan Wilk on the right.
1’00”    First rehearsal with students on Mi-parti
[intercut with]
1’30”    John Casken
4’56”    Ceremonial donation of scores to PMRC
6’16”    Wanda Wilk on Lutosławski
6’39”    [home interview] Lutosławski on the Wilks; he later comments that life is still very difficult in Poland (he was speaking barely three years after martial law had been imposed in December 1981) and refers to ‘the Festival’, meaning the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ International Festival of Contemporary Music.
7’39”    Open interview
8’16”    Rehearsing ‘Fouille’, from Trois poèmes
8’47”    on audiences

Part II           http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTUUt9NzTLM    7’21”

0’00”    on audiences and listeners
0’35”    Meeting with student composers including a somewhat unexpected and frank statement on Berg: “I’m always very impressed by some works of Alban Berg in spite of the very fact that I hate his sound language … his works had a tremendous impact on me”.
1’10”    Rehearsing Trois poèmes/II
1’30”    [garden interview] on themes, literary programmes: “Music is music for me.  It’s just the free expression of human soul by means of acoustical phenomena”.
2’08”    Rehearsal of Grave
3’55”    Lutosławski suggestion to the cellist: “If you make the fortes attacking, aggressive, and the pianos without tension, like that – ‘pierced balloon’!” (laughs).
4’42”    Rehearsal of Chain 1
5’16”    [garden interview] on ‘key ideas’ and form in composing
[intercut with]
6’07”    Kronos playing through the String Quartet.  At that point – 26 years ago already! – Joan Jeanrenaud was the cellist in Kronos.

Part III         http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzRVtKYO0vU    9’12”

0’00”    Kronos playing through the String Quartet
0’53”    [open inteview] “Constant revolution – I think it’s over.”
1’25”    Rehearsal of Mi-parti
1’58”    Rehearsal of Chain 1
2’41”    Lutosławski playing bb. 9-15 of ‘Ach, mój Jasieńko’, the first of Melodie ludowe, at the Wilks’s piano during photo shoot.
3’10”    Mi-parti
3’45”    [open interview] “I think there is a strong need of substance in music.”
3’55”    Kronos playing the ‘Funèbre’ section of the String Quartet.  Lutosławski looks particularly focused.
[over]
4’35”    visual recap of handing-over ceremony
5’21”    on the circumstances of the survival in 1944 of the score of the Paganini Variations, talking to the pianists Jean Barr and Armen Guzelimian; he does not mention his piano-duo partner, the composer Andrzej Panufnik, by name (their relationship was frosty after Panufnik left Poland in 1954 – I witnessed this personal distance first-hand at a rehearsal in Dublin in 1979).
6’02”    Edited play-through of Paganini Variations (Theme, Vars 1, 9 and start of 10)
6’58”    Seminar on his music: “Some irrational moments should be in music.”
7’25”    [home interview]: on chance, but not in the way “my personal friend John Cage represents” and on rhythm.
8’51”    Mi-parti

Part IV          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOB3gvB6bcA    7’07”

0’00”    Rehearsal of Mi-parti
[intercut with]
[home interview] on the limits of chance procedures
1’34”    Seminar on his music: about Chain 1, Fig. 47, percussion: “a little as if it were a person, a character in a play, you know, interrupting something, saying, “Shut up!” “.
2’18”    Rehearsal of Chain 1
2’38”    Seminar on his music
2’59”    [garden interview] on not teaching, on focussing on his own techniques
[over and leading into]
3’50”    Meeting with student composers; a rare recorded example of Lutosławski giving compositional advice!
4’50”    [garden interview] on creative integrity [over visuals of rehearsal for Chain 1]
5’52”    End of Mi-parti rehearsal

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