|Polish Music Newsletter|
The spring concert organized by the Polish Music Center at USC’s Thornton School of Music on April 2 was devoted exclusively to works by Roman Ryterband (1914-1979). An expectant crowd filled USC’s Alfred Newman Recital Hall to hear music by this lesser-known Polish composer, who spent the last twelve years of his life in Palm Springs, California.
The program of works featuring a broad selection of Ryterband’s music was chosen from an extensive collection of materials—including music manuscripts, concert programs, posters, photographs, correspondence and other memorabilia—that were donated to the PMC by the Ryterband family over the past year. In addition to the evening’s concert program booklet, a special brochure produced by the PMC highlighted Ryterband’s life and accomplishments with a catalogue of compositions and illustrations from the Ryterband Collection archive. The composer’s widow, Clarissa, and two daughters—Astrid Ryterband and Diana Eisele—were on hand with their families for this festive occasion.
New York-based pianist Tadeusz Domanowski (left) began the recital with Ryterband’s Three Piano Preludes (1945). Dedicated to Rachmaninov, these works explore different pianistic textures, operating within a cautiously modernist harmonic language. Domanowski’s sensitive reading allowed the Preludes to glow with an unpretentious charm. Remaining at the piano, Domanowski then presented a selection of six dances from a ten-movement Suite polonaise (1944), showing Ryterband’s creative explorations of such staples of Polish folklore as the Polonaise, Kujawiak, Mazur, or Oberek. The audience responded enthusiastically to the music and gave a standing ovation to Mr. Domanowski at the conclusion of his segment of the program.
Polish guitarist Tomasz Fechner (right), a Fulbright Fellow at the Thornton School of Music, next presented the 3-movement Sonatina for Guitar (1978). This works, which was studiously pieced back together by Fechner from the manuscript and various published versions, had been performed only once before this concert. The outer movements of this lively and compact piece gave Mr. Fechner a chance to shine, eliciting warm applause from the crowd.
After intermission, harpist Ko Ni Choi and flutist Yoon Hee Jung of the duoKYaria presented Ryterband’s Two Desert Scenes (1975). Based on indigenous music of the Cahuilla Indian tribe from the Palm Springs area, this sensuous and unusual work clearly demonstrated Ryterband’s deep and lifelong interest in folk music of various regions of the world. Idiomatic and original, the second movement of the Two Desert Scenes includes the Pay-il, an Indian rattle, and a specimen of such an instrument from the composer’s collection was put to use by the versatile Mr. Fechner who assisted the flute and harp performers on this occasion.
Ms. Choi returned to the stage to present Two Images for solo harp, a work dating from 1943 and written by Ryterband during his years of living in Switzerland. Written idiomatically for the harp and quite effective musically, the Two Images found a sympathetic interpreter in Ms. Choi’s skilled hands and the audience responded in kind at the conclusion of the piece.
Piece sans titre—also known as Dialogue for Two Flutes—also dates from Ryterband’s Swiss period. By placing the second flutist off stage, the work relies on an effect of repeated musical statements echoing each other. Leading the spellbinding musical dialogue from center stage, Yong-mi Choi was occasion by Yoon Hee Jung offstage. This work was recognized with the First Prize at the International Society for Contemporary Music meeting in Chicago in 1961.
The “Tribute to Ryterband” evening concluded with the world premiere of his Double Flute Quintet (above), an ambitious and strongly atonal work from 1961, where the composer successfully explored a great variety of unusual textures in an ensemble composed of two flutes, viola, cello and harpsichord. The intensity and drive of this composition were convincingly delivered by flutists Yoon Hee Jung and Yong-mi Choi together with violist Dan Fellows, cellist Coleman Itzkoff and harpsichordist Hee-Seung Lee (above). Whether in lyrical passages or inter-instrumental exchanges, the ensemble acquitted themselves superbly, nimbly navigating the thicket of densely interwoven lines and abstract harmonies. Even though the work ends somewhat abruptly and quietly, the energy of the performance inspired the listeners to give a standing ovation to all performers called on stage at the end of the concert, and marvel at the great variety of music by Roman Ryterband heard that evening.
[Photos above by Charles Bragg, Krysta Close and Diana Eisele. Used by permission]
KUPIŃSKI GUITAR DUO AT USC
On March 21, Ewa and Dariusz Kupiński of the internationally acclaimed Kupiński Guitar Duo dropped by the Polish Music Center for tea. During the visit, the pair shared their new CD (QBK 016), which features music by Rossini, Chopin, Bogdanovic, Piazzolla, Gershwin, and Granados. This is their second classical album release.
The Kupiński Guitar Duo is showcasing their arrangements of classical guitar music while in California during March and April. On March 22, the duo gave a Classical Guitar Masterclass at Simon Ramo Recital Hall at USC at noon. Both guitarists have previously shared their knowledge with young aspiring guitarists in Poland, where Ewa currently is a professor at the Institute of Music at Jan Długosz University in Częstochowa. On April 16, the two will take the stage in San Jose at the Trianon Theatre as part of a South Bay Guitar Society concert. The program will begin with Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra – Overture followed by compositions by Chopin, Astor Piazzolla, Dusan Bogdanovic, Enrique Granados, and George Gershwin.
DONATIONS TO PMC
From Mieczysław Kominek, President of the Polish Composers Union (ZKP), and our friends at the Polish Music Information Centre in Warsaw we received a program and CD box set from the 2015 Warszawska Jesień [Warsaw Autumn] Festival. The program is an incredibly detailed source, containing information about composers, program notes and other details of the 2015 edition of this prestigious contemporary music festival. The accompanying 6-CD box set sound chronicle of the 2015 Festival is one of the most precious annual additions to our sound library, and is something that performers and scholars who patronize our center are always keen to use as reference material. We’re very grateful to receive these invaluable resources from the Composers’ Union and POLMIC each year!
From Margaret Genovese in Toronto, Canada, we received two CDs featuring music by Tansman and Santor:
Ms. Genovese also included a beautifully-produced booklet, NFM-National Forum of Music Wrocław, detailing the newly-opened concert hall and providing descriptions (in English, German, French and Russian) of the facilities and ensembles that will perform there. This publication also includes a CD with excerpts of music by Lutosławski, Haydn, Shostakovich, Paderewski, Niewiadomski, Moszkowski, and others.
From bass player and USC Thornton School of Music faculty member Darek Oleszkiewicz, we received his latest CD: Blues for Charlie. Featuring three tracks composed by Oleszkiewicz (Blues for Charlie, Solid Jackson! and Modlitwa), the album also highlights Charlie Haden’s compositions (First Song, Silence, Pocket Full of Cherry) and serves as a tribute to Oleszkiewicz’s teacher and mentor. Tracks by Ornette Coleman (Law Years, Lonely Woman) and Johnny Green’s Body and Soul complete this attractive solo recording.
From Marta Close, we received two scores and two books:
Finally, pianist Tadeusz Domanowski, who performed piano music by Roman Ryterband for the Polish Music Center’s April 2 concert, also generously donated a CD simply titled “Piano” featuring his interpretations of compositions by Franz Liszt, Domenico Scarlatti, Robert Schumann, Sergei Prokofiev and Georges Bizet. This Pomaton/EMI Records album is distributed by Warner Music Poland and it showcases Domanowski’s interest in a piano virtuoso repertoire. With the celebrated Bizet/Horowitz Carmen Variations leading the selection, this album also features such hits as Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15, Schumann’s Toccata, transcriptions of Prokofiev’s ballet music and Liszt’s take on Mendelssohn’s celebrated Wedding March with a few extra sparkles added to it by Horowitz as well.
Dziękujemy! Thank you!
MYKIETYN WORLD PREMIERE
On March 10, the premiere of Paweł Mykietyn’s String Quartet No. 3 took place at the National Music Forum in Wrocław, Poland. The piece was composed for the Lutosławski Quartet (Bartosz Woroch and Marcin Markowicz, violins; Artur Rozmysłowicz, viola; Maciej Młodawski, cello), who have successfully performed and recorded Mykietyn’s previous string quartet. The ensemble presented Mykietyn’s latest piece, noting the subtle intricacies of its dynamic components, such as the constant changes in tempo and the articulation of percussive elements. Also on the program were Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 33 No. 6 Hob. III:42 and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C minor Op. 110.
Mykietyn says the following about this collaboration:
PTASZYŃSKA WORLD PREMIERE
On March 16, the world premiere of Missa Solemnis ad Honorem Sancti Joannis Pauli II by Marta Ptaszyńska took place in Warsaw, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Warsaw University (now called the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music). The composition, as indicated in the title, was inspired by Pope John Paul II’s book entitled Meditations. Ptaszyńska masterfully incorporated specific texts in particular movements of the piece to augment the meaning of liturgical texts in a recitative manner as well as a rhythmical and fresh fashion. The large construction is written for two choirs, chamber orchestra, and soloists, and was performed by Marta Boberska, Anna Radziejewska, Jarosław Bręk and the UMFC Mixed Choir and Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ryszard Zimak.
Below are excerpts from an interview with the composer regarding her new work, as conducted by PWM Editor-in-Chief Daniel Cichy in January 2016.
BAŁDYCH PREMIERE IN BERLIN
On March 24, the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra presented an evening of Polish music entitled “Mosaic – Impressions – Poland” including works by such renowned Polish composers as Grażyna Bacewicz, Krzysztof Penderecki, Andrzej Panufnik, Wojciech Kilar and Paweł Łukaszewski at Radialsystem V in Berlin. This “Long Night of Polish Concerts” was split into three parts, of which the premiere performance of young Polish jazz violinist Adam Bałdych’s Mosaic – Impressions was the conclusion. Bałdych himself performed this piece alongside pianist Paweł Tomaszewski, double bassist Michał Kapczuk, percussionist Paweł Dobrowolski, vocalists Karina Srock and Luke Reks, and the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra.
The program also featured the winners of the 1st International Beethoven Chamber Music Competition in Lusławice, singers Marta Kowalczyk and Lukasz Chrzeszyk, and the ORBIS Quartet, as well as soloists from the Deutsche Oper Berlin including concertmaster Tomasz Tomaszewski. The concert was organized by the International Beethoven Association, Institute of Music and Dance, Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music in Lusławice, and Polish Music European Forum, under the patronage of Krzysztof Penderecki and Jerzy Margański.
Organized by the Association of Polish Arts and Musicians, the world premiere of Piano Quintet by Stanisław Bromboszcz was presented at the Ignacy Jan Paderewski State Music School in Białystok on March 31. Also featured on this program of Polish composers of the younger generation was Prisma by Bartosz Kowalski and Piano Quintet by Paweł Łukaszewski. This free concert was performed by pianist Wojciech Świętoński and the Nostadema Quartet, comprised of Kamil Staniczek, Marta Oyrzanowska, Aleksandra Demowska-Madejska, and Joanna Citkowicz-Włodarczyk.
NEW PENDERECKI PRODUCTIONS AT BALTIC & SILESIAN OPERAS
Theatre and opera director Mark Weiss stages his final production of Krzysztof Penderecki's Czarnamaska (Black Mask) for the Baltic Opera on March 20 in Warsaw. Czarnamaska is hailed as one of the greatest masterpieces of the contemporary opera as well as the most difficult opera Weiss has directed thus far. Weiss collaborated with musical director Szymon Morus to overcome this challenge of capturing the precise elements in Penderecki’s apocalyptic composition. The Baltic Opera creators have carefully selected and interpreted works for the repertoire with the conviction that a course of events is related to human acts of good and ill will rather than blind fortune.
On April 3, a new production of Penderecki's Ubu Król (King Ubu), directed by Waldemar Zawodzinski, will be premiered at the Silesian Opera in Bytom. The world premiere of this opera, whose libretto is based on the play by French playwright Alfred Jarry, took place 25 years ago (1991) at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. The show involves 40 soloists, choir, ballet, and orchestra under the musical direction of Jurek Dybal and choreography of Janina Niesobska.
SZYMANOWSKI LETTERS IN ENGLISH
Karol Szymanowski: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1902-1919 - the first volume of a series devoted to the composer’s letters in English translation - has been published. Edited by Dr. Alistair Wightman, there are 401 letters in the first volume, which is currently only available in electronic form. This first volume covers the earliest letters dating from the composer’s student years in Warsaw. The collection goes on to cover his attempts to establish a place for himself in Polish, German and Austrian musical circles in the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War. It also provides a record of his travels in Europe and North Africa, his experiences during the First World War, during which time Szymanowski was confined to Russian territories, and finally the turmoil of the Bolshevik Revolution, the ensuing civil war, and his desperate attempts to find a way to the newly independent Poland, a goal only realized in the final days of 1919. It is a compelling narrative which throws invaluable light on this epic phase of European history, as well as affording insights into the maturation of one of the most significant composers of the first half of the twentieth century.
NOMINATIONS FOR NORWID AWARDS
The Norwid Awards were established by the Mazovia Voivodeship in 2001 for outstanding works associated with the region, and has been presented annually in four categories: music, visual arts, literature and theater. The “Life’s Work” Award was established in 2005 by the Regional Government of Mazovia, as a special prize for an individual’s exceptional works, performances, or achievements. An open call for nominations has been announced by the Office of Marshal of the Mazovia Voivodeship for the 15th edition of the Norwid Awards and the 12th edition of the Life’s Work Award. Winners will receive a commemorative statue, a diploma, and 20,000 PLN or 25,000 PLN, respectively.
[Source: polmic.pl ]
FROM PADEREWSKI TO PENDERECKI
The extraordinary stories and accomplishments of 170 Polish musicians whose presence in Philadelphia influenced music in America have been published in a new book From Paderewski to Penderecki: The Polish Musician in Philadelphia by Paul Krzywicki. Paul Krzywicki, a native of Philadelphia, was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra for thirty-three years, performing in over four thousand concerts, more than 60 recordings and presenting master classes throughout the world. He is currently on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music.
From Paderewski to Penderecki: The Polish Musician in Philadelphia by Paul Krzywicki is available in paperback (ISBN 9781483442679) via www.lulu.com.
[Source: press release]
POLISH MUSIC SEASON IN CHINA CONTINUES
After the huge success of the Polish cultural program in China organized last year by Culture.pl and the Polish Institute in Beijing, in 2016 the groups are focused on presenting Polish theatre, dance and opera productions as well as early, classical and contemporary music. This time the Chinese audiences will have a chance to see some of the most recent and representative Polish creativity, not only in Beijing, Tianjin and Wuzhen, but also in Harbin.
2016 will bring a series of concerts as part of the Early Music Season run by the Forbidden City Concert Hall, another tour of Sinfonia Varsovia in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Changsha, as well as numerous tours of Polish jazz and post-rock bands. This time the organizers of the Early Music Season invited several Polish programs: ‘Tre Donne’ of the soprano Olga Pasiecznik and ensemble, the ‘Bach & Sons’ project of harpsichordist Marcin Świątkiewicz and his international ensemble, as well as lute recitals of Michał Gondko. During its second visit to China in November, by the invitation of the Poly Entertainment Group, Sinfonia Varsovia will perform under the baton of the great composer Krzysztof Penderecki, with the exceptional piano soloist Jan Lisiecki. Also this year, the organizers of the Sounds of the Xity and the Strawberry festivals have invited, for the first time, a Polish post-rock band the ‘Tides From Nebula’ to perform in Beijing and Shanghai. 2016 will also see another presentation of JAZZ PO POLSKU ON TOUR in China, a project promoting Polish jazz music abroad, with concerts of several jazz bands all around China.
One of the highlights of the Culture.pl program will be Mieczysław Weinberg's opera The Passenger directed by Sir David Pountney and presented at the Tianjin Grand Theatre in mid-December. The production, based on a radio novel by Zofia Posmysz and drawn from her personal, traumatic experience of the Second World War, has already won the hearts of theatre fans in Bregenz Festival in Austria, Warsaw and New York.
SILESIAN FOLK MUSIC HIGHLIGHTED
Songlines, one of the most important magazines devoted to world music, will showcase the rich Silesian music scene in its April 2016 edition. The included Silesian Roots sampler was created as part of a program promoting artists associated with Katowice, named a UNESCO City of Music in December 2015.
The 15-track sampler ‘Silesian Roots: Best Living Folk/World/Fusion 2016’ will be distributed as a free bonus CD with the 116th edition of Songlines. The magazine, available in 65 countries worldwide, enjoys a readership of more than 35,000 people and is considered the most influential magazine devoted to world music. The albums distributed with the magazine typically end up inspiring various directors of distinguished festivals, and are broadcasted on prestigious radio channels such as BBC Radio 3, WDR, RNE and Radio France International. They also awaken the imagination of thousands of listeners all over the world.
The song selection was made by Mateusz Dobrowolski, manager and promoter of ethnic music, and director of the Transetnika Association. The sampler presents the rich abundance in the Silesian folk scene, which includes distinguished artists such as Gooral or Foliba and new groups such as Blokowioska, which is yet to launch its first LP. The sampler includes representatives of all the significant musical traditions of Silesia: the authentic folklore of the Beskids is represented by Kapela Byrtków, and the miners' orchestra Mysłowice-Wesoła Orchestra. There are also elements of jazz in the compositions by Adam Oleś and Garbowski-Cruz Quartet.
POLISH FOLKLORE AT KRAKÓW PHIL
The Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Kamil Skicki conducted by Mateusz Czech will perform a concert Though the Mirror of Music - Kaleidoscope of Folklore which will be held on April 14 and 15, 2016 at the Krakow Philharmonic as a part of the "Musica - Ars Amanda" cycle.
"Musica – Ars Amanda" is a series of symphony concerts directed at college youth. Each season, there is a main theme connecting all evenings. Orchestral programs that present a given tendency in the history of music or a particular section of instruments are preceded by a lecture that renders easy the perception and situates a piece in a broader context.
The program of the April concerts features works by 19th- and 20th-century composers, who were inspired by folklore of various cultures (including Polish, Czech, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, English and Jewish culture): Harnasie, Op. 55 by Karol Szymanowski (excerpts); Slavonic Dances No. 1, Op. 46 and No. 2, Op. 72 by Antonin Dvořák; Final Dance from the ballet The Three-Cornered Hat by Manuel de Falla; Csardas by Vittorio Monti; Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major, Op. 11 by George Enescu; Suite from the film Fiddler on the Roof by Jerry Bock (arr. John Williams); Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood (excerpts).
MUZYKA POD LIBERATOREM – LUTOSŁAWSKI
In the next installment in the “Muzyka pod Liberatorem” concert series at the Warsaw Rising Museum, soprano Olga Pasiecznik and her sister, pianist Natalia Pasiecznik, will perform compositions for children by Witold Lutosławski on April 14, 2016. The event will again be hosted by Polish Radio 2’s Barbara Schabowska, who will sit down with Elżbieta Markowska, president of the Witold Lutosławski Society.
The artists will present songs for children, the lesser-known part of Lutosławski’s output, which he composed to the texts of the most respected Polish poets writing for children. Lutosławski composed over 40 songs for children (most of them were published during his lifetime), however they never constituted a separate stream in his oeuvre and usually were commissioned by the Polish Radio and TV. Some of the compositions gained significant popularity and were introduced to the curriculum of Polish schools.
The concert is organized by the Warsaw Rising Museum, PWM Edition and Polish Radio Program 2. Admission free.
IN MEMORY OF KAROL MIKULI
On April 13, the Austrian Cultural Forum will host a program dedicated to Karol Mikuli, a student of Frederic Chopin. The concert, entitled Karol Mikuli – Forgotten Student of Chopin, a Deserving Citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, will feature Mikuli’s own compositions, including Op. 16, 17 and 27, and Serenade in A flat major, Op. 22 for clarinet and piano, performed by Gabriela Machowska-Kopietz (piano), Witold Żołądkiewicz (baritone) and Anna Gut (clarinet). Mikuli studied composition with Anton Reicha and produced mainly piano works while touring as a concert pianist. He was a past director of the Lviv Conservatory as well as the Galician Music Society in Vienna.
ADAM GOLKA IN CONCERT
Pianist Adam Golka has a busy and exciting performance schedule around the US during the month of April. Several concerts will feature other Polish musicians as well, and the month will end on a high note with a performance in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. See details below.
Polish-American pianist Adam Golka was recently selected by Sir András Schiff to perform recitals at the Klavier-Festival Ruhr in Germany, Tonhalle Zürich, as well as in Berlin and New York (organized by the 92nd Street Y). Adam has been regularly on the concert stage since the age of sixteen, when he won first prize at the 2nd China Shanghai International Piano Competition. He has also received the Gilmore Young Artist Award and the Max I. Allen Classical Fellowship Award from the American Pianists Association.
With his extensive concerto repertoire, Golka has appeared as a soloist with dozens of orchestras, among those the BBC Scottish, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Indianapolis, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Phoenix, San Diego, Fort Worth, Vancouver, Seattle, and Jacksonville symphonies, Grand Teton Festival Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra of Ottawa, the Sinfonia Varsovia, the Shanghai Philharmonic, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. Adam made his Carnegie Hall Isaac Stern Auditorium Debut in 2010, performing Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto with the New York Youth Symphony, and also performed a cycle of all five Beethoven concerti in 2011 with the Lubbock Symphony, under the baton of his brother, Tomasz Golka.
[Sources: press release, adamgolka.com]
PRIX DES MUSES FOR PAWEL GANCARCZYK
On March 31, Pawel Gancarczyk received the 23rd edition of the Prix des Muses award in Paris. The honor is given annually by the Foundation Singer-Polignac, distinguishing the best French-language books on jazz, and classical and traditional music. His book, La musique et la révolution de l’imprimerie, was published in September 2015 and was translated into French by Wojciech Bonkowski. It explores the impact of invention of printing in the 16th century on musical culture and production as a new medium. Gancarczyk is currently a professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences and is a musicologist specializing in early music.
SADEJ WINS VOCAL COMPETITION
Polish-Canadian mezzo-soprano Katarzyna Sądej is the first prize winner in the Susan and Virginia Hawk Vocal Competition. The memorial scholarship was established in 1979 by Virginia Fletcher Hawk, in memory of her daughter Susan, and has been awarded annually to outstanding vocalists. Sądej will select two pieces from her extensive repertoire to perform during the Awards Concert on April 10. In the past, she has appeared onstage performing a number of world premieres and special compositions, singing in concerts, operas, oratorios and chamber recitals. The concert is open to the public and the Music Scholarship Fund will also be holding a reception in honor of the winners.
[Source: press release]
MUSICA POLONICA NOVA
The 30th anniversary edition of Musica Polonica Nova will be held between April 8 and 16, 2016 at the National Forum of Music in Wrocław. Its main theme was taken from The Romantic by Adam Mickiewicz: "Faith and love are more discerning than lenses or learning.”
The festival consists of 11 concerts, meetings with composers, journalists and music critics. The program was intended to answer the eternal question of whether expressing feelings and emotions, and sense-based reception or rather logical structure, form, and usage of the newest technology are more important, meaningful, and essential to music.
The program includes premiere performances of new compositions by Zygmunt Krauze, Tadeusz Wielecki, Agata Zubel, Dariusz Przybylski, as well as Cezary Duchnowski's and Paweł Hendrich's opera Fables for Robots based on short stories by Stanisław Lem. The works will be presented by New Music Orchestra, Cellonet, Kwartludium, LUX:NM, Finland-based defunensemble, Andrzej Bauer, Rafał Łuc, Maciej Frąckiewicz, Leszek Lorent, Kuba Badach, Joanna Freszel, Adam Bałdych, Wojciech Błażejczyk and others.
GDAŃSK MUSIC FESTIVAL
The 9th Gdańsk Music Festival will be held between April 8 and 15, 2016. The theme of the 2016 edition is "Polish Concert," reflecting the focus not only on Polish composers of all eras, but also Polish performers, both established and up-and-coming, and ensembles.
This year, the festival’s artist-in-residence will be legendary Maxim Vengerov, who will give violin masterclass and present concerts by Henryk Wieniawski and Karol Szymanowski at the final gala. The program also includes performances by Nelson Goerner with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Wojciech Rajski, pianist Georgijs Osokins (finalist of the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition), cellist Maciej Kułakowski (winner of the 10th Witold Lutosławski International Cello Competition) with AMADEUS Polish Radio Chamber Orchestra under Agnieszka Duczmal, Sinfonietta Pomerania under Tadeusz Dixa, Polish Chamber Choir under Jan Łukaszewski, Cappella Gedanensis (which celebrates its 35th anniversary) led by English conductor, and countertenor Paul Esswood, as well as several other chamber concerts and workshops.
20TH LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN EASTER FESTIVAL
Themed “Beethoven and New Directions,” the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival (March 12-25) celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. This momentous event, organized since 1997, included performances by several orchestras, ensembles, and soloists from Poland and abroad. The festival began on March 12, inaugurated by a concert featuring several soloists, like pianist Yeol Eum Son and tenor Michael Schade, along the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra at the Warsaw Philharmonic. Throughout the festival, audiences were able to enjoy selected repertoire from Beethoven and 19th century composers, such as Shubert, Dvorak, Shostakovich, and Gershwin. The festival concluded on Good Friday with the 50th anniversary of the first performance of Krzysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion.
BEETHOVEN BY THE BALTIC
The Philharmonic Society of Orange County presented the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa on March 15. This concert marked one of the last stops on Baltic Phil’s extensive tour of the U.S. that began on the East Coast in early January.
For the southern California program, the orchestra presented an all-Beethoven program, beginning with the Egmont Overture that amply displayed the richness of Baltic’s strings and prowess of its gleaming brass section. Young Polish pianist Marcin Koziak joined the orchestra in performance of the “Emperor” Piano Concerto and, after the intermission, the evening concluded with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
Throughout the well-attended concert, the orchestra steadily shone with a full, masculine sound; the winds and brass more than passed the test in several exposed solos throughout, and the double basses proved their agility by keeping apace in their celebrated third movement solos of Beethoven’s Fifth.
Agility could also be a byword for the pianist’s approach to the Emperor Concerto, for his fingers were more than able to negotiate the passagework in the first and last movements. However, Marcin Koziak’s interpretation was curiously withdrawn and emotionally sterile, robbing this exceptional work of its grandeur and scope, and turning it into something that might have been written by the lesser-known lightweights of the Classical era.
The pianist’s uncertain approach to the Concerto might have been caused by maestro Bogusław Dawidow, whose leadership of the orchestra in the “Emperor” and throughout the entire program left much to be desired. The dangerous lack of coordination (especially in the magical moments of the “Emperor” where timpanist and pianist engage in an unprecedented duet), the carelessly fast tempo of the Concerto’s slow movement (marked, after all, Adagio poco moto), as well as in several other instances, precluded the magnificence and splendor of the music from rising to the occasion. The public might have sensed the soloist’s dilemma and applauded him heartily, which elicited from Mr. Koziak a quick encore of Chopin’s C minor Etude from Opus 25.
The iconic opening of Fifth Symphony verged on a false start with Meastro Dawidow failing to provide a decisive gesture to his orchestra. Here, as elsewhere, the orchestra sensibly kept their eyes on the concertmaster, Robert Kwiatkowski, who did his very best to keep the ensemble together. Musically, there was very little insight, drive and poetry that Maestro Dawidow could have demonstrated to the audience in all four movements of the Symphony. Thus, the heartfelt triumph of victory over fate in the climactic moments of the final Allegro rang hollow (in spite of the excellent brass fanfares), dramatically reducing the impact of this great orchestral masterpiece.
It would have been apt to program at least one work by a Polish composer on the Baltic Philharmonic’s program, especially since the interpretation of Beethoven throughout the concert fell so short of expectations. Nonetheless, the audience very generously rose to thank the performers at the end of the concert. At this point—here came another surprise—Maestro Dawidow sprang to action and delivered a spirited and heartfelt reading of Khachaturian’s famous Valse from the Masquerade Suite. Music was able to speak, briefly, at last.
SZYMANOWSKI QTET IN BEVERLY HILLS
The chic Ace Gallery on Wilshire Blvd. just east of Beverly Dr. played host to the Szymanowski Quartet on Saturday evening, February 20—the Polish ensemble’s only Los Angeles appearance in their 8-concert California tour this February. The gallery offers infrequent but fantastic concerts of chamber music, regular guests in recent seasons being the Takács and Emerson String Quartets. Founded in Warsaw in 1995, the Szymanowski Quartet boasts an impressive resume of recordings, awards, and concert appearances—and their performance did not disappoint.
The evening began with Four Polish Renaissance Chorales by Wacław of Szamotuły (1520-1560), in a simple and tasteful arrangement by the Szymanowski Quartet. The chorales served as a fine aperitif, played with sparse vibrato, light bow strokes and a certain period consciousness. The quartet assumed its proper attire for the rest of the program, presenting string quartets by Haydn, Bacewicz, and Dvořák. The violinists in the group alternated playing first or second violin, and the cellist sat on the inside of the semicircle with the violist sitting on the outside. The Szymanowski Quartet’s performance was fantastic. Led by cellist Marcin Sienawski and violinist Grzegorz Kotow, the group played with daring abandon and freedom, never losing sight the of the music’s character or intent. Unlike so many American string quartets who focus first on technical perfection and beauty of tone, leaving exploration of musical character a distant second, the Szymanowski Quartet went straight to the heart of the works, especially in the case of the Bacewicz (String Quartet No. 4) and Dvořák (String Quartet in A-flat, opus 105). The performers’ old-world understanding brought these works to life for the posh and trendy Beverly Hills audience, an unlikely but not unprecedented meeting of Central Europe’s musical soul with the extravagant glitz of la la land…
There is something truly special about the string quartet. Solidified and guaranteed posterity by Haydn, the genre quickly became an indispensible province on the map of classical music. As with any performing art, written music expires quietly without a willing and capable medium to realize it, and this is especially the case with the string quartet. Luckily Dvořák and Bacewicz, for the time being, have nothing to worry about—their art finds the highest representation in the coordinated hands of the Szymanowski Quartet.
LUTOSŁAWSKI AT CSO
Twenty-three years after its world premiere, Witold Lutoslawski’s “Symphony No. 3” was once again performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to whom the work was dedicated along with then Artistic Director Sir Georg Solti. The performance was conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who himself knew the composer well and has conducted much of his music (pictured at right).
The concert opened with Beethoven’s Overture to “King Stephen” preceding Lutoslawski’s composition. Salonen’s own orchestral work Foreign Bodies, which featured exceptional cellist Yo-Yo Ma, was performed during the second half of the program, along with Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. The performance took place at the Orchestra Hall on February 25 and was repeated on February 26, 27, and March 1.
MACIEJEWSKI AT THE WARSAW RISING MUSEUM
The music of 20th century Polish composer Roman Maciejewski was showcased at the Warsaw Rising Museum on March 30. Organized by the Warsaw Rising Museum, PWM Edition and Polish Radio Program 2, the concert included various piano, orchestral and chamber works performed by the Chopin Piano Duo. The program emphasized the composer’s modern style, as influenced by his teacher Karol Szymanowski, blended with neoclassicism. The highlight was Maciejewski’s crowning achievement, the rarely heard Requiem, which was dedicated to war victims.
The concert was attended by the composer’s brother and champion of his music, Wojciech Maciejewski, and was moderated by Barbara Schabowska of Polish Radio Program 2, who was joined by prof. Anna Brożek, a pianist and philosopher.
To see a photo gallery of the concert, visit: www.polskieradio.pl
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Sources of information: Polish Cultural Institute (NY & UK), Adam Mickiewicz Institute, PWM,
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Published by Krysta Close, April 14, 2016
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