|Polish Music Newsletter
August 2005, Vol. 11, No. 8. ISSN 1098-9188. Published monthly.
Los Angeles: Polish Music Center, University of Southern California
Early Polish Music concert
As a part of the USC Music at Noon concert Series, the Polish Music Center presents a talented array of Thornton School of Music students performing little-known music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
The Szymanowski Project: Songs of the Mad Muezzin
/ a theatrical multimedia fantasy /
The Polish Music Center is sponsoring a new project by USC Vocal Arts graduate student Timur Bekbosunov in which he explores the dangerous and esoteric world of mystical-erotic desire found in the songs and writings of Karol Szymanowski. See www.madmuezzinproject.org for more information on this interesting multimedia event.
Annual Paderewski Lecture-Recital
The Paderewski Lecture-Recital is an annual event which honors the achievements of the great statesman and musician, I. J. Paderewski (pictured at left) , by bringing great modern Polish musicians to USC. This year's event features composer and percussionist Marta Ptaszyńska, who will be in residence on the USC campus for a week, working with students. Prof. Ptaszyńska will share her views about composing as well as personal annecdotes about Paderewski. The musical program will feature her newest piece, Pianophonia, as well as the American premiere of Elegia for solo viola, performed by some of the finest musicians in the Los Angeles and San Diego area.
Henry Vars Gala Concert
Celebrating the recent donation of the Henry Vars Manuscript collection to the Polish Music Center as well as Polish Independence Day. The PMC and the USC Big Band, led by Shelley Berg, will join forces to present a program of Vars's catchiest tunes from the 20's and 30's.
Vars with his big band in Lwów, 1941, courtesy of the Vars Family archives
Some of the oldest and best known Polish folk melodies have acquired a new life. Six young performers (who sing and play a variety of instruments) found a new and exciting way to update the music of Polish countryside. By exploring the rich legacy of Polish folklore and combining ancient instruments with techno-modern sound generation techniques, the Warsaw Village Band hit the jackpot of appreciation among the audiences all around the world. Since their inception in 1997, the Warsaw Village Band's repertoire consists of folk dance melodies, popular ballads and rustic songs. The instrumentation (drums and fiddles, including the 16th century traditional Polish suka, whose strings are stopped, lyra-like, by the fingernails of its player) and the exuberant voices combine to produce a unique experience of sheer joy and spontaneity.
Members of the Warsaw Villiage Band from the cover of their new CD, Uprooting
L to R: (top) Piotr Gliński, Maciej Szajkowski, Wojciech Krzak,
(bottom) Maja Kleszcz, Sylwia Swiatkowska, Magdalena Sobczak
Photo by Maryna Bulyah
Stéphane Fougčre, a reviewer for the French magazine Ethnotempos, had summed it best: "Warsaw Village Band has such vitality and freshness that it would be stupid not to be seduced by it," and the Rheinische Post/Germany in a January 2004 review praised the artistic approach of this uniquely talented group: "The success of the WARSAW VILLAGE BAND stems from its musicians' great love for their national musical heritage and their will to preserve the old musical traditions. For these musicians, however, preservation does not mean restoration but. . . the transportation of the old songs spirit into the here and now. Polka gets a shot of Techno, and despite the acoustic instruments, the band conjures up sounds that have electronic impact."
Seasoned veterans of many concert stages and featured performers on a variety of television broadcasts, the Warsaw Village Band are also have a series of CD recordings, including Kapela ze wsi Warszawa [The Band from the Village of Warsaw], People's Spring, and Uprooting. With tracks such as Polka from Sieradz Region, Lament, When Johnny went to Fight the War, and their artistic homage to Józef Lipiński or Kapela Mariana Pelki, the Warsaw Village Band have conquered the public with their imaginative music making and garnered many prestigious awards, including the BBC3 World Music Award in 2004.
The musicians say that "Our activity not only concentrates on music, but also focuses on everything which is associated with Polish roots, especially what is condemned to be forgotten, and yet can inspire and enrich contemporary culture. Our passion is traveling to small villages and visiting old musicians who tell us about their tradition, customs and ancient habits which are passing away. They hand down to us the part of this tradition in form of music, which is the base and main inspiration for our further works."
The Los Angeles area premiere of Warsaw Village Band will take place on August 18th at 8:00 PM at the Skirball Cultural Center, as part of the Sunset Concert Series. Further information on the concert can be obtained by calling Skirball at (310)440-4500, ext: 4976, or e-mailing email@example.com. The Polish Music Center is organizing a group to attend this concert, and as a group we will receive free parking for up to 10 cars (carpooling is preferred) - please let us know if you would like to join us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The WVB will also play two shows on August 19th at the California Plaza in Downtown LA at noon and 8:00 pm, as a part of the Grand Performances series. All concerts are offered with free admission.
Marta Ptaszyńska (pictued above) has been appointed to the Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger endowed Professorship at the University of Chicago. Ms. Ptaszyńska has been on the faculty at Chicago since 1998. Also an active composer and performer, she has continued to create beautiful new works during her time at Chicago, several of which will be performed at the PMC's Paderewski Lecture on 14 October 2005. Ms. Ptaszyńska will be the honored guest lecturer for this event.
Polish Minister of Culture, Waldemar Dąbrowski, has extended the appointment of Antoni Wit (pictured at left) as a director of the Warsaw National Philharmonic until 2010. Anotni Wit, one of the greatest Polish conductors, was first appointed as the director in 2002. Before that time, he was the director of Pomeranian Philharmonic in Bydgoszcz (1974-1977), Orchestra and Choir of the Polish Radio in Kraków (1977-1983), Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra (1983-2000) and Orquesta Filarmonica de Gran Canaria (in Las Palmas). Wit has recorded over 100 albums. In 2004 his rendition of Penderecki's St. Luke's Passion was awarded the Classical Internet Award and was nominated for a Grammy.
Monsieur Chopin, a new play featuring the romantic story and music of the Polish pianist-composer Frédéric Chopin, will have its world preview premiere at Chicago's Royal George Theatre on August 30, 2005. Monsieur Chopin marks the second in a trilogy about composers and their music, which was preceded by George Gershwin Alone and will culminate with Beethoven. George Gershwin Alone will have its final performance on Sunday, July 31, 2005, following a year-long residency at the same theatre.
Created by the same team that brought George Gershwin Alone to life, (Hershey Felder, author and Joel Zwick, director) Monsieur Chopin begins at Frédéric Chopin's salon at 9 Square d'Orléans in Paris. Monsieur Chopin will teach a piano lesson that actually took place on 4 March, 1848, just days after the February 1848 revolution. As Monsieur Chopin's piano lesson unfolds, he reveals secrets about the art of the piano and composition, as well as secrets about himself. Considered by his contemporaries, and now by history, as the true "Poet of the Piano," Monsieur Chopin features some of the pianist-composer's most beautiful and enduring music.
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) was born in Żelazowa-Wola just outside of Warsaw, Poland to a French father and Polish mother. At the age of two, the family took up residence in Warsaw and by the age of seven, the young master had his first composition published. He played regularly for royalty and was feted as one of Poland's true geniuses. He began musical travels through Europe in 1829 and by 1831, he arrived in Paris where he became the most sought after piano teacher and salon pianist of his day. In 1836, at Paris' Hotel de France, he met the country's most famous novelist, the authoress George Sand. Six years older than Chopin, Sand was the sensitive, elegant and reserved artist's opposite in every possible way. However, it was only a matter of time before a romance blossomed and Sand became the most loving and giving partner that Chopin would ever have. Chopin died of a long-term illness on October 17, 1849 in Paris at the age of 39. Frédéric Chopin's incalculable contribution to the world of music will forever be a life-long study for anyone who comes in contact with the most beautiful music which he gave the world.
Hershey Felder is an actor and Steinway Concert Artist and former Scholar in Residence at Harvard University's Department of Music, as well as composer. Mr. Felder comes from a traditionally classical musical and theatrical background, appearing in stage roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway and regionally. His studies on Chopin have taken him across the world and include studying the composer's history, period history, manuscripts and living in Chopin's still existing residences. Included in the creative process, is a scholarly relationship with the United States' foremost author and professor of Chopin Studies, Jeffrey Kallberg. Mr. Kallberg is both a Professor of Music and Chairman of the Music Department at the University of Pennsylvania.
Janczak's idea for the symphony was approved by the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising, which commissioned the piece. The musician said, "I do not imagine any form of compensation for the composition - creation of this symphony was a matter of principal for me". "Symphony of the Heroes of the Warsaw Uprising is," according to he composer "a tribute to an older generation. The creation of the work was inspired by my grandmother's stories. She was a liaison officer during the Uprising. In preparation for the writing process, I spent many hours in the museum; I read a lot of books and memoirs of the participants." The work is in four movements. "The sound of the symphony is a combination of European classical music of the 20th century and film music that also fascinates me."
Warsaw Uprising monument in Krasiński Square, Warsaw
Krzysztof Aleksander Janczak was born in 1983 in Warsaw and currently is a student of Musicology at the Warsaw University. He is an author of music to Polish and international short films presented in Cannes, Taipei and Los Angeles. He is also a co-creator of the Teges Tanges Quartet, which specializes in the tango compositions of Astor Piazzola.
Kazimierz Kord (pictured above) has been appointed as the new musical director of the Warsaw's Grand Theater-National Opera by the Polish Minister of Culture. Kord's operatic experience includes working with the New York Metropolitan Opera in San Francisco, London's Covent Garden and Munich's Staatsoper. At the Warsaw National Opera last year he prepared Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame [Queen of Spades]. During the 1960's he was the artistic director of the City Music Theater in Kraków, then he became the director of the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, and from 1977 to 2001 he was the artistic director of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw. His debut as the new musical director of the National Opera will be a performance of Moniuszko's opera Halka on 25 September 2005.
The City Board of Słupsk has agreed to change the name of the orchestra from State Chamber Orchestra to Synfonia Baltica Philharmonic. The orchestra has met the criteria for some time now, having all of the requisite instrumental sections and over 50 instrumentalist members. The Słupsk State Chamber Orchestra was created in 1976 and four years later the current director, Bohdan Jarmołowicz, was appointed. The biggest success of the orchestra was a Grammy award nomination for a recording with saxophone player Greg Banaszak. Synfonia Baltica Philharmonic in Słupsk is the 14th philharmonic orchestra in Poland.
Between the 6th and 9th of July, English film composer Michael Nyman was in Poland recording the music to a Polish movie entitled Jestem [I am], directed by Dorota Kędzierzawska. He personally conducted the 30-person Sinfonia Varsovia as well as recorded the piano tracks for the score.
Michael Nyman is regarded as one of the greatest film composers in the world. He is most famous for his score to Jane Campion's The Piano, but also for his cooperation with Peter Greenaway. Dorota Kędzierzawska admited before the visit, "We didn't have high hopes but we decided to show Jestem to Michael Nyman. I still can't believe that very soon this extraordinary composer will come to Warsaw to record music to my movie. Sometimes even the biggest dreams come true." The film will premiere at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia.
The legendary Ensemble of the Marinski Theater in St. Petersburg, under the direction of Walery Giergiew, will be hosted by the F. Chopin Baltic Philharmonic at their Baltic Festival in Gdańsk. The Ensemble will perform Musorgski's Khovanschtchysna overture, Borodin's 2nd Symphony and Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony. The concert will take place on 11 August 2005 at 7:00 pm in the Arch Cathedral in Gdańsk-Oliwa.
Walery Gergiew, Russian Maestro and artistic director of the Marinski Theater in St. Petersburg, is considered to be one of the greatest living conductors. He is admired around the world for the incredible art, energy and passion of his conducting. From the opera house instrumental ensemble of the Marinski Theater he created the best Symphony Orchestra in Russia. Just like Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is considered one of the best in USA, the Marinski Theater Orchestra has no rival in Russia.
Saturday, August 6th at 8 pm
Internationally renowned Polish cellist Jakub Jerzy Omsky, Professor of Cello at the Beverly Hills International Festival and Masterclasses and accepting position of Professor of Cello and Chamber Music at the Wichita State University will perform Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme" for cello and orchestra at the Beverly Hills International Music Festival. The great Rococo Variations, a staple of cello repertoire since it was first performed in 1877, is one of the most difficult virtuoso pieces ever written for cello. Last time Omsky played this piece it was at a sold out performance at the famous Chautauqua Festival with maestro Uriel Segal. Limited space, reserve your ticket early!
Beverly Hills International Music Festival
Two ensembles of artists from the Silesian Opera have started their summer tournée around Europe. It will include 80 performances of Nabucco and Aida by Giuseppe Verdi in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Denmark.
The Ochlewski Composition Competition is sponsored by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM), Poland's largest music publisher. On June 6th, the jury of the competition (Alina Mleczko - saxophone player; Krzysztof Meyer - composer; Andrzej Kosowski - chairman of PWM) reviewed all 13 entries in this year's 3rd edition of the competition, which was for compositions written for alto saxophone. The first prize was given to Konstrukcja by Dariusz Przybylski and special mention to Psikus by Robert Koska. According to competition's regulations, the two honored compositions will be published by PWM in the series Contemporary Music Anthology.
According to a recent review from the Chicago Daily Herald regarding master violinist Vincent P. Skowronski's new release, AVEC et SANS, "The artist's technical mastery of the violin along with his often mystical ability to communicate" enables AVEC et SANS to provide "an aura of musical magic."
In the following observations of AVEC et SANS, found in the July/August 2005 edition of American Record Guide, a consensus emerges. According to ARG reviewer Joseph A. Magil, in regards to the technical presentation and interpretation of the extremely difficult Sonata No.1 in G Minor by Eugène Ysaÿe, "Skowronski has a firmer grasp of Ysaÿe's elusive idiom than most violinists I have heard perform this work." In reference to the execution of Sergei Prokofieff's Solo Sonata in D Major, the same Magil proclaims that, "Skowronski's performance is revelatory." To complete the disc, Ms. Saori Chiba, the magnificent Japanese pianist, joins Mr. Skowronski for renditions of Sergei Prokofieff's March from his opera, The Love of Three Oranges; Maurice Ravel's Pavane for Deceased Princess; Erik Satie's Choses Vues à Droite et à Gauche; and Robert Schumann's Sonata No.1 in A Minor which beautifully conclude the program. SaysAmerican Record Guide, "This is a very fine recital."
AVEC et SANS is the seventh in a continuing series of SKOWRONSKI PLAYS! Recordings, available at www.skowronskiplays.com.
SZYMANOWSKI & ANDERSZEWSKIOn August 2nd, a Virgin Classics recording of Karol Szymanowski's Piano Sonata No. 3; Métopes; and Masques, will be released in the United States. This recording features Piotr Anderszewski on piano.
Buy this CD or listen to track excerpts at www.amazon.com.
NEW RECORDINGS ON ACTE PRÉALABLEMarian Sawa (1937-2005) - Missa Claromontana
Missa Claromontana is the last work of Marian Sawa, the great composer and organist who died on Apr 27 2005. This CD also features other works by Sawa, such as Regina caeli for mixed choir and organ, Partitę Wielkanocną-Zwycięzca śmierci, Fantazję Śląską "Te Deum", Fantazję "Święty Boże" and Fantazję Jasnogórską. These last four pieces for solo organ were performed by Marietta Kruzel-Sosnowska, whose abilities with Sawa's works are unparalled. Many of Sawa's compositions are dedicated to her. She also premiered many of the pieces. The remaining 3 organ works on the CD (Passacaglię, Gaude Polonia and Modlitwę Łomżyńską) are performed by Leszek Mateusz Gorecki.
This recording is perfectly crafted, from point of view performance, sound engineering (by Piotr Grinholc) and preparation of liner notes. It should also be mentioned that Acte Préalable has 11 titles with Sawa's works in its catalogue, 5 of which were recorded by the composer himself.
Marian Sawa (1937-2005) - Dzieła organowe - Special Edition
This is a 4 CD collection of 30 works with organ accompaniment by Marian Sawa, released to commemorate the recent death of Sawa, composer and organist. All of the works are performed by Warsaw musicians known for music promotion.
Claribel - Dwa Światy [Two Worlds]
It is in the spirit of this age of ever-popular re-arrangements of classical works that this album of the excellent Polish clarinet quartet, Claribel, was released. The arrangements, some completed by the members of the ensemble, as well as the performances are both tastefully executed, making this a perfect recording for lovers of crossover music.
Barbara Kaszuba (1984) - My Music
A review of compositions by the young, talented, and award-winning composer/pianist/violinist Barbara Kaszuba. The performers of her chamber pieces on this recording are equally talented musicians from the young generation of Polish artists, such as Stanisław Drzewiecki, piano. The last piece, Na wierchowej polanie, is an exceptional performance by Agnieszka Duczmal's orchestra, Polish Radio Chamber Orchestra "Amadeus".
To purchase these and other great recordings of Polish music, visit www.kki.net.pl/~acteprealable.
CHOPIN DVDA unique double-DVD entitled Frederic Chopin, A Life to Remember is now available, presented and performed by the internationally renowned pianist and Chopin authority Alan Kogosowski. Entertaining, educational and absorbing, this stunning production also benefits from the addition of beautiful and historically authentic images, which add yet another dimension, making this a unique 'Chopin Experience'.
This ground-breaking series was recently broadcast over six weeks on television in New York, and was highlighted as 'outstanding' by the New York Times. The production provides illuminating introductions about each work given by the performer himself, showing what to listen for, musically and technically, as well as revealing the context of the piece in the composer's life.
Filmed live in concert at London's Gibson Hall, Kogosowski performs over thirty of Chopin's most beloved and key works. Chopin's music is one of the high points in the history of human endeavour. It is an enduring legacy, as relevant today as ever, demonstrating the nobility of the human spirit, of what we are capable, and the kind of expression to which we should strive.
For more information about this double-DVD set, please see www.kogosowski.com.