Polish Music Center Newsletter Vol. 11, no. 7

PMC News

Recent Donations

Thanks to the generosity of friends abroad and here at home, this has been a prolific time for donations to the Polish Music Center’s recording collection. Program Director Marek Żebrowski was given many quality recordings for our CD collection during his time in Poland, thanks to:

Tomasz Gołębiewski of the Rubinstein Quartet

Roman Strembicki of the Mały Chór Wielkich Serc

Krzesimir Dębski, composer

Włodzimierz Sołtysik of Triangel Music Publishers (1 CD)

Krzysztof Kamiński, bassonist

  • 2 CDs of prominent Polish musicians

Małgorzata Polańska of DUX Recording

Another recent donation:

from Mrs. Eva Damski-Muchnick of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

  • Tance Ludowe z Polski records
  • Treasured Polish Songs collection

Wars Collection

The Polish Music Center is pleased to announce a major donation of manuscripts by Henryk Wars (1902-1977). Born Henryk Warszawski, he was a prominent Polish composer of film music and countless show tunes and, from his youth, had exhibited a prodigious talent for music. After brief studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, he was offered a scholarship at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music, and graduated in 1925.

Interested in American jazz, he began to compose show tunes, working with a variety of performers, at first in a cabaret setting. By the very end of the 1920s he scored the first Polish “talkie,” Na Sybir [To Siberia] and became instantly popular under his stage name “Wars” that he later changed in America to the phonetically equivalent “Vars.” Well over a third of all Polish films made in the 1920s and 1930s were scored by Wars, and most of his screen melodies ended up on the singles’ hit lists. In fact, numerous songs written by him in the 1930s still enjoy the timeless popularity accorded to the show tunes of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin in America.

Henryk Wars, army portrait, 1946. Photo courtesy of the Vars Family Archive.

With the fall of Poland in 1939, Wars was taken prisoner but managed to escape and reach the eastern Polish city of Lwów (then under Soviet occupation) in 1940. There he gathered other refugee musicians, organizing a musical theatre performing group that became known later as the “Polish Parade.” After Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Wars and his musicians joined the Polish Second Corps under the command of General Anders and eventually left Russia, joining the Allied troops in Persia, and participated in military campaigns in the Middle East and Italy. For his long service as Music Director of the Polish Second Corps attached to General Montogomery’s 8th Army, Wars was awarded the highest military honor, Cavaliere della Croce d’Italia, by the last King of Italy.

After the war, Henryk Wars left for America in 1947, helped by a letter of sponsorship written on his behalf by Artur Rubinstein. He settled in Los Angeles in 1947, changing his name to Henry Vars, and initially worked as arranger, copyist, conductor and anonymous composer for numerous film cues. Later he became a celebrated composer of many film scores, including several Westerns produced by, among others, John Wayne’s production company. His most famous achievement was the soundtrack for the feature film Flipper as well as music for the follow-up television series based on the same story. More recently, two of his most memorable songs were used in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and Polanski’s The Pianist, as well as in the 1984 Australian feature, Silver City.

With his trademark gift for melody, in addition to his film scoring assignments, Vars continued to compose show tunes, working in the 1950s and 1960s as a composer and arranger for Ice Capades and Ice Follies. His songs were performed to great popular and artistic acclaim by Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Brenda Lee, Margaret Whiting, Jimmy Rogers, and Mel Torme.

Vars was also a classically trained composer, who left a substantial legacy of finely crafted large-scale symphonic compositions. During his early years in America, he wrote a full-length symphony, a three-movement symphonic suite, piano concerto and numerous other orchestral works and arrangements. These manuscripts were discovered a few years ago by the composer’s widow, Elizabeth, and are now being donated to the Polish Music Center at USC. This extraordinary find in the history of Polish music of the 20th century was celebrated in June 2005 in Łódź, Poland, during the annual Film Music Festival, where Henry Vars’s symphonic masterpieces were given a world premiere. At a special concert, the Łódź Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Maestro Krzesimir Dębski, performed Henry Vars’s Maalot for Orchestra, his three-movement symphonic suite, City Sketches, the Symphony No. 1, and the Piano Concerto, with soloist Marek Żebrowski. More information on the Łódź concert can be found belowAll of our readers and supporters are also cordially invited to a special gala event, celebrating the Vars Manuscript donation, scheduled for Friday, November 11th 2005 at Bovard Auditorium on the USC campus. We are deeply honored and grateful to Elizabeth Vars, and Henry’s children—Diana Mitchell and Robert Vars—for their wonderfully generous gesture, honoring Henry Vars’s achievement and entrusting his musical legacy to the Polish Music Center 28 years after the composer’s death.



Another Polish Composer Hits Hollywood

Krzesimir Dębski, the famous crossover composer of classical, film, jazz and pop music, recently won and signed a contract with Limelight Films in Hollywood to write the music for 16 films by Charlie Chaplin which will be newly and completely restored as well as digitally reproduced during the next two years. All the films, produced and directed by Chaplin himself, were made in 1916-1918. Eight films will be released to the end of this year. Starting with The Immigrant and then The Adventurer, the other films include Easy Street, Shanghaid, The Bank, The Count, Tillie’s Punctured Romance and The Fireman.

Dębski, who will follow in the footsteps of Polish-Hollywood composers Bronisław Kaper, Henryk Wars and, more recently, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, will divide his time in half between working in the United States and Poland. The film music will be scored for symphonic orchestra and chorus, and will include the coloristic use of such instruments as the hurdy-gurdy, calliope and prepared “honky-tonk” piano. Since the original films were silent movies and thus have no spoken dialogue, the restored versions will make use of non-stop music from beginning to end. Some of the movies are up to 55 minutes in length.

In addition to having written over 50 major compositions for symphonic or chamber music ensembles, Dębski is also the author for the musical sound tracks to over 60 Polish feature films, including the music for the television soap operas Klan and Złotopolscy which have already surpassed 1,800 episodes. The composer has been the recipient of many awards for his cinematic output and includes the following: The International Music Academy’s Arthur Prize (2000), the International Film Festival of Pirgos, Greece (2002), and the Polish awards of Fryderyka (2003) and Złota Kaczka (2003).


Pre-WWII Scores Found

Fourteen pre-war scores belonging to the Polish Radio collection have been found in Berlin and returned to the rightful owner. Nine of the recovered scores, including pieces by Tadeusz Sygietyński and Michał Hertz, are currently available for viewing in Warsaw to small groups with reservations. On 18 September 2005, there will be an exhibition of this collection for the public, entitled “Open Day of the Polish Radio”.

During the war years the Polish Radio Library was plundered by the German army and the collections were taken to Germany. These scores were found by Michał Runowski, a young musicologist and organist who has been living in Berlin since he was 4. The scores were found in one of Berlin’s antiques shops. Of particular value are the scores of unknown pieces by Sygietyński and Michał Swierzyński. Also, a manuscript of Divertissment by Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun was also among the items found. It is considered to be the first Turkish composition given its world premiere in Poland.

Kaczmarek Commemoration Cantata

Oscar-winning Polish composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek will write a cantata dedicated to the recently deceased Pope John Paul II, commemorating the 25th anniversary of establishing “Solidarność”. The work will be premiered on 31 August 2005 in Gdańsk, at the Statue of the Fallen Harbor Workers on the Solidarność Square. The cantata does not have a title yet, but we know that it is going to be at least 20 minutes in length. It will be performed by choirs from Pozńan and Gdańsk along with the Baltic Philharmonic.

New Books In Ethnomusicology: Tune in to the Tatras!

Timothy Cooley, Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara has written a fascinating book on folk music culture of the Polish Highlands. Making Music in the Polish Tatras (published on June 10th by Indiana University Press) challenges the prevailing opinion that mountain isolation produced a highly localized musical culture. Highlighting the cultural scene of Zakopane, a popular all-season resort town in the heart of the Tatra Mountains, Professor Cooley argues that the Highlanders’ contacts with tourists and numerous ethnographers and researchers actually helped to shape and define the artistic identity of the local folk, known as Górale. Richly illustrated with musical examples, historic photographs and a 46-track CD recording, this volume is an attractive introduction to the art scene of the Polish Highlands and should serve as valuable reference for all interested in the music of the Podhale region.

For ordering information, visit www.indiana.edu/~iupress/books/0-253-34489-1.shtml.

On The Meaning Of Music

The Department of Musicology at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań recently issued the fourth volume in the series of publications entitled Interdisciplinary Studies in Musicology. Included are articles by Michael Klein (Philadelphia), Armin Brinzing (Munich), Wolfgang Auhagen (Halle), Helen Geyer (Weimar-Jena), Regine Allgayer-Kaufmann (Vienna) and Klaus-Peter Brenner (Goettingen). The aims of Maciej Jabłoński and Jan Stęszewski—the editors of the series at the Mickiewicz University in Poznań that organized and hosted conferences on the subject since 1991—include taking up important musicological questions and subjecting them to the interdisciplinary analysis, transcending the limits of traditional musicological thought. Subsequent volumes in the series will include the examination of the nature of the phenomenon covered by such terms as “music” and “musical work” presented by distinguished scholars from around the world that participated in the Poznań conferences.

For ordering information, visit www.kapitalka.pl/ksiazki/90476.htm.



15th Mozart Festival in Warsaw

When: June 15 – July 26
Where: Concert spaces all around Warsaw

The first Mozart Festival took place in 1991 to honor the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. It was organized by the Warsaw Chamber Opera and the program included performances of all 26 stage works of Mozart. The event was unprecedented and the national and international interest resulted in a continuing tradition of annual festivals. Every year from June 15 until July 26 the audience have a chance to see all the stage works of Mozart as well as changing every year selection of his concert repertoire. The concert pieces are performed on the period instruments and this year they include his piano and violin concertos, symphonies, string quartets and oratorios. For a detailed program of the festival please visit: www.polmic.pl.

The International Organ Music Festival

When: June 24 – August 23
Where: Oliwa

Up for hearing the best solo organ players in the world playing the great Oliwa Cathedral Organ? Concerts take place every Tuesday and Friday at 8:00 pm.

9th “Opera Viva” Festival

When: June 24 – August 10
Where: Kraków Opera

The festival is focused on opera repertoire and events vary from performances of full operas to concerts of selections of famous arias from well know works. Detailed program of the festival: www.polmic.pl.

5th Summer Festival of Polish Composers’s Songs

When: June 25 – July 31
Where: Łazienki Królewskie and the Orangery at the Museum Palace in Wilanów, Warsaw

Concerts in this Festival are free and are held every Saturday and Sunday. For a detailed program of the festival please visit: www.fit.waw.pl.

9th International Summer Festival “Toruń – Music and Architecture”

When: June 26 – August 28
Where: Old Town Toruń

Every Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 pm, audiences will be able to hear concerts in the beautiful spaces of the buildings of Old Town Toruń. The music selection will span from the Renaissance to Contemporary. Detailed program of the festival: www.polmic.pl.

9th Chamber Music Festival “Music in the Arsenal”

When: July 1-17
Where: Wrocław Arsenal

Throughout the 8 concert days, audiences at “Music in the Arsenal” will have a chance to hear the best Polish soloists and orchestras performing classics of the chamber repertoire, both instrumental and vocal. For detailed program visit: www.polmic.pl.

Summer Concerts in Łazienki Królewskie

When: July 2 – August 27
Where: Łazienki Królewskie, Warsaw

Every Saturday at 5:00 pm, artists present many chamber and solo works from the broad range of music literature. Recently, emphasis has been put on presenting pieces by Polish composers. Featuring young and talented Polish musicians and ensembles. Concerts take place and are presented by the Warsaw Music Society. For detailed program visit:www.polmic.pl.

Chopin concerts in Łazienki Królewskie

When: May – September
Where: Łazienki Królewskie, at the Chopin statue, Warsaw

These concerts have been organized by “Stoleczna Estrada” and the F. Chopin Music Society since 1959. The Chopin recitals, performed by Polish as well as international artists, are presented every Sunday at 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm by the statue of Frederic Chopin in Łazienki Królewskie beginning May and ending September. For July’s schedule please visit: www.polmic.pl.

12th International Festival Of Organ Music: “Organ of the Arch-Cathedral”

When: July 3 – September 18.
Where: John the Baptist Arch-Cathedral in Warsaw

The festival is organized by the foundation “Festival of Sacred Music”. The artists participating in the event this year include many virtuosos of international organ arts such as: Daniel Zaretsky (Russia), Rudolf Scheidegger (Switzerland), Emmanuele Cardi (Italy), Adriano Falcioni. For the calendar of the concerts go to: www.polmic.pl.

“The Festival of Three Baroques”

When and Where: July 11-14, Kliczków Castle; July 15-24, Wrocław

This year it is a second edition of the festival organized by the Foundation of the Early Music “Canor”. The events in Kliczków Castle are open rehearsal venues, free to the interested public. The events in Wroclaw consist of 19 concerts in the beautiful interiors of Wrocław’s old buildings and architectural landmarks, and also at the Wrocław University.

The main idea behind the festival is to present the music of Baroque through three representative styles of the XVII-XVIII period in Europe: German, French and Italian. For more information go to: www.3baroki-wroclaw.pl.


When: July 24-30
Where: Łazienki Królewskie, Nuns of the Visitation Church, The Holy Trinity Evangelical-Augsburg Church, and Belvedere Palace – Warsaw

Organized by the Mazovian Culture and Arts Centre, Chopiniana is a series of events celebrating the music of Chopin and other composers in an unconventional manner. The festival includes chamber, symphonic and jazz concerts, exhibitions and ballet performances. For a full schedule, visit www.infochopin.pl.

The most interesting events of this year’s Chopiniana are Adam Makowicz’s recital, a concert featuring pianist Kevin Kenner, a piano marathon of candidates for the 15th International F. Chopin Piano Competition, a concert entitled “Polish Mass” which will present music of composers from Chopin’s “circle,” and a special performance for children entitled “Was Chopin a Wizard?”. All of the events take place in the beautiful Royal Łazienki Park, the Belvedere residence and Warsaw churches.

Chopin In France

The 22nd Chopin Festival in Paris starts on June 18th and ends on July 14th. This year it is devoted to etude, a musical composition which was originally intended merely as an exercise and which was turned into a pianistic poem by Chopin. It was thanks to Chopin that etude became a highly valued genre, willingly employed by other composers. During the 22nd Chopin Festival in Paris fifteen pianists—both well-known and aspiring artists—present a panorama of the etude. The program includes works by not only Chopin but also by such composers as Hummel, Rachmaninov, Moscheles, Ohana and Ligeti.

For more information, visit infochopin.pl or email contact@frederic-chopin.com.

The Rencontres Internationales Frédéric Chopin Festival was first organized in 1997 to pay homage to the composer, whose name is intertwined with the house of George Sand, located in Nohant, France. The festival is held each year and lasts for eight days in the second half of July. Festival events include concerts, master classes and conferences conducted by experts from all over the world. The Festival always begins with a concert-lecture in the house of George Sand. Young soloists from fine French and foreign musical schools participate in master classes during the week and give a closing concert at the end of the Festival. Classes and conferences are held at the Théâtre de la Châtre, concerts are held in Nohant.

For more information, visit infochopin.pl or email nohant.festivals@wanadoo.fr.

Cracow Jazz Festival

10 July – 7 August, 2005

Piwnica pod Baranami [The Cellar under the Rams] is one of the birthplaces of Polish jazz. This famous cabaret was founded in 1956, during the post-Stalin political relaxation, and it became a meeting place for Cracow’s top jazz performers. Jerzy “Duduś” Matuszkiewicz, Andrzej Trzaskowski, Andrzej Kurylewicz, Wanda Warska were the founding personalities. They were joined by such musicians as Wojciech Karolak, Zbigniew Namysłowski, Andrzej Dąbrowski and many others; together, they formed the artistic atmosphere of the Piwnica in the late 1950’s. Last, but certainly not least in the creation of the legendary Piwnica, was a group of jazz aficionados and promoters of particular importance, comprised of such famous Cracovians as Jerzy Skarzyński, Marian Elie, Leopold Tyrmand and the Ferster brothers.

Jazz has always been vivid at the Piwnica. In the sixties, musicians like Tomasz Stańko, Zbigniew Seifert, Janusz Muniak, Jan Jarczyk, Janusz Stefański were playing there, and in the seventies and eighties the next generation appeared, with Jarek ˙mietana, Krzysztof Scierański, Andrzej Cudzich, Marek Bałata, and JBBO. Each concert was important and had specific atmosphere.

The Summer Jazz Festival at Piwnica Pod Baranami was organized in 1996. It is a developed continuation and culmination of 50 years of jazz at the Piwnica. The current director of the festival is Witold Wnuk.

Contact information:

tel. (48)12-4234016
fax (48)12-6341016
e-mail: biuro@cracjazz.com
website: www.cracjazz.com
18 Warszawska st.
PL 31-155, Krakow, Poland

Music In Busko Zdrój

1 – 9 July 2005
Busko Zdrój – Sanatorium Marconi, Poland

The eleventh edition of the International Krystyna Jamroz Festival of Music in Busko Zdrój in Poland starts on July 1st. World-renowned pianist Marc Laforet and violinist Konstanty Andrzej Kulka will add splendor to this year’s festivities.

For more information on these and other summer festivals, visit www.polmic.pl orwww.culture.pl.


ZKP Awards

2005 is the 60th Anniversary year of the Związku Kompozytorów Polskich (ZKP) (Polish Composers’ Union). They have honored the following members of the music community with the 2005 ZKP Award: Alicja Matracka-Kościelny, Irina Nikolska, Rafał Augustyn, Wojciech Michniewski, Marek Moś and Adam Sławiński. ZKP has also given honorary membership to Teresa Chylińska, Elżbieta Dziębowska and Stanisław Skrowaczewski this year.

Top 10 at UNESCO

Polish composer Krzysztof Knittel was ranked in the Top 10 of composers at this year’s 52nd UNESCO Awards in Vienna. His composition, Concerto for harpsichord, orchestra and tape, was nominated by Polish Radio 2, one of 29 radio stations chosen to participate. Knittel’s Concerto for harpsichord, orchestra and tape was recorded El?bieta Chojnacka and the Warsaw Philharmonic, Antoni Wit conductor.

Swedish Honors

The Swedish-born champion of Polish music, Peter Jablonski, has been awarded the ‘Litteris et Artibus’ Medal for pre-eminent achievement as a pianist. This award, one of the highest honors in Sweden was presented by the King of Sweden at a ceremony in Stockholm on 9th June. Peter Jablonski currently records for the Altara Music label, of which he is Artistic Director.

Szymanowski Foundation Award

The Szymanowski Foundation award is given annually to honor exceptional achievements in the interpretation of the music of Karol Szymanowski and exceptional efforts in promoting Szymanowski’s music on stages around the world. The award for the year 2004 was awarded to the Karol Szymanowski Quartet during a concert on 22 June 2005. The members of the Szymanowski Quartet are: Marek Dumicz – violin, Grzegorz Kotow – violin, Vladymir Mykytka – viola, Marcin Sieniawski – cello. Zbigniew Pawlicki served as chairman of the jury.

Calendar of Events

JULY 3: Prince’s Musical Nights series. Kalisz Philharmonic Trio; Joanna Kurkowicz, violin; Marcin Sikorski, piano. Program: Szymanowski, Wieniawski, Brahms, Mozart, Bartók, Mussorgski, and Strawinski. 7 pm. Radziwiłł Hunting Palace, Antonin, Poland.www.chopin_antonin.osw.pl, (0 62) 734-81-14.

JULY 6: “In Tribute to Frederick Chopin and Henryk Wieniawski” – one of the Summer Town Hall Concerts of the I. J. Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań. Laura Sobolewska, piano; Dagny Musielak, cello; Anna Ziółkowska, violin. 5:00 pm, Sala Odrodzenia, Poznań, Poland.

JULY 9: Songs by F. Chopin – part of the 5th Summer Festival of Polish Composers’s Songs. Marta Boberska, soprano; Artur Ruciński, baritone; Beata Szebesczyk, piano. Orangery at the Museum Palace in Wilanów, ul. S.K. Potockiego 10/16, Warsaw, Poland. 3 pm. www.infochopin.pl.

JULY 10: Prince’s Musical Nights series. Dariusz Samól, saxophone; Robert Matuszewski, saxophone; Robert Adamczak, piano. Program: Ibert, Koch, Chopin, Ituralde. 7 pm. Radziwiłł Hunting Palace, Antonin, Polandwww.chopin_antonin.osw.pl, (0 62) 734-81-14.

JULY 15-17: Piotr Anderszewski, piano, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 with the SWR Sinfonieorkester in Eastern Europe, Sylvian Cambreling, cond.. Riga, Latvia(7 pm), Pärnu, Estonia (8 pm), and Tallinn, Estonia (7 pm) respectively. www.anderszewski.net.

JULY 20: “Before the Competition…” As a part of the Summer Town Hall Concert series, the I. J. Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań presents a concert of the students of that school that will be going to the International F. Chopin Piano Competition. All-Chopin program. 5:00 pm, Sala Odrodzenia, Poznań, Poland.

JULY 24, 26-31: 8th Annual International Laureates Festival 2005, showcasing the I Palpiti Orchestral Ensemble of International Laureates. I Palpiti features 2 artists from Poland this year: Maria Machowska and Robert Kowalski, violin. The Festival features different programs in different venues around Los Angeles and Beverly Hills: see the calander of events for details.

JULY 24: Prince’s Musical Nights series. Agata Musioł, violin and Szymon Musioł, piano. Program: Szymanowski, Prokofiev, Chausson. 7 pm. Radziwiłł Hunting Palace, Antonin, Polandwww.chopin_antonin.osw.pl, (0 62) 734-81-14.

JULY 30: Songs by F. Chopin – part of the 5th Summer Festival of Polish Composers’s Songs. Marta Boberska, soprano; Artur Ruciński, baritone; Beata Szebesczyk, piano. Orangery at the Museum Palace in Wilanów, ul. S.K. Potockiego 10/16, Warsaw, Poland. 1 pm. www.infochopin.pl.

JULY 27: Yuko Kawai, piano, will perform Nocturnes and Etudes by Chopin. Suganami-Gakki, Machida City, Japan.

JULY 31: Prince’s Musical Nights series. Joanna Marcinkowska, piano and Jacek Kortus, piano. Program: Chopin, Beethoven . 7 pm. Radziwiłł Hunting Palace, Antonin, Polandwww.chopin_antonin.osw.pl, (0 62) 734-81-14.


Lutosławski Festival

“Chain 2,” a Festival celebrating the works of Witold Lutosławski, took place in Warsaw at the end of June. Andrzej Bauer, the Artistic Director of the Festival, described it as “a chain of events, concerts and meetings of musicians of different generations from all over Europe.”

The program of the Festival was organized by the Witold Lutosławski Society. It included two concerts of chamber music and a symphonic concert, as well as a concert entitled “We told Looptosławski” —as part of the series of events performed by improvising musicians called “Djazzpora”—and a “retro” concert of songs composed by Lutosławski under the pseudonym Derwid in 1950s.

This year’s Festival featured an important event: the inaugural concert of the Lutosławski Youth Orchestra, an ensemble made up of young musicians from France, Spain, Holland, Switzerland, Ukraine, Great Britain and Poland. The intention of the organizers in establishing this orchestra was to help to pass down the performance tradition which comes directly from the composer to young people, through conductors and soloists who had contact with the Master. The concert took place at the National Philharmonic on the 30th of June.

The program of the Festival can be viewed at www.lutoslawski.org.pl/info.html.

Information for this article was taken from PWM website: www.pwm.com.pl.

Children’s Day

On 1 June 2005, in honor of International Children’s Day, Warsaw’s National Opera presented Pan Marimba by Marta Ptaszyńska. In 1987, Ptaszyńska developed an idea to create a children’s opera to be performed by children, having in mind the members of the choir Alla Polacca. From the very beginning she considered stories and fairy tales from around the world as the most appealing subject for her opera. In 1993, on the basis of her story and musical sketches, Agnieszka Osiecka, a famous Polish lyricist, wrote the opera, entitled in English Mister Marimba. The full score of the opera was completed in 1996. In 1997, Ptaszynska made an instrumental (chamber) reduction for 2 pianos and 4 percussionists. The chamber version the opera was premiered by the National Opera on September 27, 1998. Since that time, the opera has remained of the Warsaw Opera for seven consecutive seasons and has had over 110 performances, enjoying phenomenal success with sold-out performances.


The Genius Of Komeda

Krzysztof Komeda-Trzciński (known as Krzysztof Komeda, 1931-1969) was an extraordinarytalented self-taught composer and pianist, and after his tragic, untimely death, he became a legend and a cult hero of Polish jazz. His role in Polish jazz cannot be explained in merely a few simple words. The genius, the composer, the visionary, the collaborator and the leader – all these words cannot fully describe his phenomena. His music reflects not only the growth of jazz in the U.S. in the ’60s, but echoes the big influences: Bill Evan’s refinement, Eric Dolphy’s freedom and even John Coltrane’s abandon.

This exclusive box-set from PowerBros Records presents the most comprehensive selection of Komeda’s work including his most famous motion pictures scores. All tracks were personally selected by Komeda’s wife, Zofia.

To buy this CD, visit www.polishjazz.com.

Tribute To Bruno Schulz

The Cracow Klezmer Band (pictured above) is one of the most passionate, virtuosic and creative bands in the New Jewish Renaissance and with each new release they just keep getting better and better. For their fourth CD on Tzadik records they collaborate with John Zorn to paint a surreal vision of the work of Polish/Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, whose art and stories continue to fascinate and perplex the world. Blending a nostalgia for the past with a twisted view of the present, Zorn’s evocative and lyrical compositions and Jarek Bester’s sparkling arrangements blend perfectly, capturing the bizarre sensuality of Schulz’s fantastical stories. Featuring the beautiful vocalist Grażyna Auguścik on two tracks, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglassis a CD of driving rhythms, soaring lyricism, textures, moods and amazing colors, and pays tribute to one of the world’s most enigmatic and under appreciated geniuses.

Websites for the band and the label: www.Tzadik.comwww.ckb.cracow.pl 

Email for the band: ckb@ckb.cracow.pl

Wars Festival In Łódź

By Joseph A. Herter

Henryk Wars (1902-1977)—A Composer Of Serious Music

Cover art from the Festival program, detail.

This year’s eighth annual Festival of Film Music in Łódź was devoted to the music of Henryk Wars. Each day of the three-day festival (June 3-5) included screenings of films for which Wars wrote the music, including one of his American films, Flipper. The first and third days of the festival, which featured the composer’s Polish pop songs from the 1920s and 30s as well as some of his American pop songs of the 50s and 60s, encircled the second day’s concert which was completely devoted to the composer’s symphonic music, including the world premiere of the 1974 revised version of Wars’s First Symphony. The remainder of the program consisted of the composer’s Piano Concerto, an orchestral suite entitled City Sketches, and at the beginning of the concert, the first performance in Poland of Maalot—Elegy for Orchestra.

The featured soloists for the concert included soprano Anna Cymmerman and pianist Marek Żebrowski who performed with the Łódź Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of conductor/composer Krzesimir Dębski. The festival’s honored guests, coming from as far as London and Los Angeles, included Irena Bogdańska-Andersowa (the widow of General Władysław Anders, leader of the Polish Second Corps during World War II) and several members of Wars’s immediate family: his daughter Danuta Wars-Mitchell (Myśliborski) with her son Dennis and Wars’s son Robert Vars with his daughter Dina. Unfortunately, the composer’s widow Elżbieta Warsowa was unable to attend.

The festival’s chief organizer Elżbieta Czarnecka titled this program of War’s serious music as “Miłość”. Following her introductory welcoming remarks, the audience first heard a rendition of the famous song Miłość Ci wszystko wybaczy, sung by Anna Cymmerman to an orchestral arrangement by Zdzisław Szostak as homage to Hanka Ordonówna. Although the arrangement was well written for the orchestra, its placement at the beginning of the concert was unfortunate. Ms Cymmerman, who has a beautiful voice, presented the song’s two verses as a vocalise, singing it on one vowel sound throughout. Needless to say, the performance was very uninteresting and its programming at the outset of the evening was simply too trite for a concert of classical music.

The exploration of Wars’s “classical side” began with one of the last works he wrote, Maalot-Elegy for Orchestra. Dating from 1974, the work had its first performance under Zubin Mehta conducting an “ad hoc” orchestra made up of members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The title is derived from the tragedy which took place in 1974 in Maalot, Israel, where 27 Jewish children were murdered by Arab terrorists. Wars, deeply distraught by the event, beautifully captured the anguish of the moment in his orchestral elegy. The composition’s sweeping hymn-like melody begins quietly in the lower strings and is passed onto the other instruments in a slow, staggering crescendo of sound until the entire orchestra is at prayer. The work was beautifully played by the orchestra, whose outpouring of religious fervor was effectively drawn out by conductor Krzesimir Dębski.

In complete stylistic contrast to Maalot were the following two works: City Sketches and the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. These two works, as well as the First Symphony heard after the intermission, were written when the composer first arrived to Los Angeles in 1948, before he began to work in Hollywood. When Wars visited Warsaw in 1967—his first and last trip to Poland following World War II—he conducted archival recordings of these pieces with the Polish Radio Orchestra in Warsaw. Wars’s music is eclectic in style in these pieces. In the suite’s first movement, “High-rise,” there are influences of impressionism, in the second movement, “Downtown Blues,” jazz and Gershwin dominate, while the last movement, “Freeway Scherzo,” sounds like programmatic background music for the silver screen, depicting swift moving city traffic.

In the Piano Concerto, Krzesimir Dębski joined forces with his former classmate from his freshman year at the Poznań Higher School of Music, pianist Marek Żebrowski. Since 1973, Mr. Żebrowski has been living in the United States, where he completed his musical studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, studying piano with Russell Sherman. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles where he is the director of the University of Southern California’s Polish Music Center. Mr. Żebrowski gave a superb performance of the Wars concerto. The most outstanding part of this one-movement concerto in sonata allegro form is the second theme which is based on Wars’s pop song Po mlecznej drodze. It was the festival’s honored guest Rena Anders who frequently sang this song, while Wars directed his “Polish Parade” during his service in the Second Corps under General Anders. In this section, Żebrowski’s musicality shined and his expressiveness captured the listener’s heart.

It is Wars’s First Symphony, though, that demonstrates his mettle as a composer of serious music. This piece is post-romantic in style. Thematic material is fragmented and developed, such as the motifs in the symphony’s first movement. Wars uses no key signatures in this work, and although the symphony begins and ends in C, the music strays far away from having a tonal center. The symphony is long and demanding for the orchestra. Although the sailing could have been smoother and more certain during the symphony’s first three movements, the last movement was performed brilliantly. Conductor Dębski once more succeeded in providing an emotionally charged performance which was acknowledged by a grateful audience with a standing ovation.

Hopefully, other orchestras in Poland will repeat these works in future concerts. In addition to the works played, there are also several other “classical” works by Wars (including a Sonatina for Orchestra) all of which are available from the Henryk Wars Archive at the University of Southern California’s Polish Music Center.

[This article will also appear in the September issue of Muzyka 21.]

Interview With Danuta Wars-Mitchell

The children of the famous composer of Polish film music and popular songs in the 1920s and 30s—Henryk Wars—Mrs. Danuta Wars-Mitchell and her brother Robert Vars were in Poland this past June. They were here attending the Eighth Film Music Festival in Łódź which was dedicated to the music of their father. Both Danuta and Robert left Warsaw in 1941, first going to Lwów and then spending five years traveling throughout the Middle East before finally moving to the United States in 1947. Three of those “traveling” years were spent while their father served in the Polish Second Corps under General Władysław Anders during World War II. Following the festival, both Wars children visited Cracow, and then Danuta Wars continued with her son to Warsaw where Joseph A. Herter held this interview with her.

Mrs. Wars, how does it feel to be back in Warsaw for the first time in over 60 years? Is there anything here at all that you recognize from your childhood? 

Just walking down Nowy Świat yesterday evening gave me this great feeling of being back home. So far, there hasn’t been anything which I remember from 64 years ago. However, I haven’t been to Łazienki and Ujazdowskie Parks or the Saxon Gardens yet.

I also plan to see what now stands at Al. Jerozolimskie 23, the place where my family lived. I still remember the apartment number, m. 20, and the telephone number too: 99521.

You are still fluent in Polish. After you left Poland did you continue to study Polish? 

I attended schools in Poland until I was ten. Once we got to Palestine, I and about 5,000 other girls attended the Szkoła Młodszej Ochotniczek (SMO) and while in Tel Aviv, thanks to my father who helped prepare me for the entrance placement exams, I studied at the Polish Junior High School (gimnazjum) for one year. When we got to California, I was also able to borrow books in Polish from the Los Angeles Public Library at their branch near the Biltmore Hotel. Polish, of course, was the language spoken at home and I also spoke Polish with my husband. By the way, when I leave Warsaw I will be going to London and meeting with several other “girls” who were former students of SOM—my first such meeting since the Second World War.

When you settled in Los Angeles, did your father have any contact with the local Polonia or associate with other Poles in California? 

Although my father was Jewish, he frequently attended the cultural events at the Jasna Góra Catholic Church in Los Angeles. He was always made to feel welcome there and he was always on their invitation list. Of course, my father kept contacts with other Poles living in Los Angeles such as composer Bronisław Kaper and actress Pola Negri.

Did your or your brother have any musical talent? 

My brother plays the piano by ear and I am able to read music. I took piano lessons for a while in Nazareth. We are both able to play some dance melodies—a mazurka and czardas—that our father taught us to play by ear. These were dances that he wrote for a Polish Army dance troupe while he served in the Polish Second Corps under General Anders.

What about your father’s relationship to classical music? 

Well, my father was trained at the Warsaw Conservatory as a classical musician. He often mentioned that he took several lessons from Szymanowski, so he must have been at the Conservatory when Szymanowski was named director in 1926. My father would have been 24 years old then. Szymanowski was my father’s hero and he loved his music. In fact, my father died while listening to Szymanowski. In California, my father never listened to popular music on the radio. If the radio was playing, it was always tuned in to a classical radio station.

Did your father have any students of his own? 

Yes, he had several, the most famous of which was Harry Sukman, a pianist and composer. Sukman once performed my father’s piano concerto with one of the orchestras in the San Fernando Valley. He also won an Oscar for the best musical score in 1960 (Song without End). Although not a student of my father’s, there was also Henry Mancini who was known to consult my father for advice on writing background music.

Do you know of any future performances of your father’s symphonic works? 

Several conductors in both Poland and the United States have expressed interest in seeing the scores to the compositions that were played at the Łódź Film Festival. We’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of that. In Los Angeles, however, on November 11—Polish Independence Day—there will be a special concert marking the acceptance of the Henry Vars Archive by the University of Southern California’s Polish Music Center. The concert will feature my father’s pop songs from the 1920s and 30’s, including an early foxtrot The New York Times, whose success began his road to stardom. The concert will be played by USC Thornton School of Music’s Jazz Ensemble and conducted by Sheldon Berg.

[This article will also appear in the September issue of Muzyka 21.]


Born This Month

  • July 04, 1904 – Artur MALAWSKI, composer (d. 1957)
  • July 06, 1837 – Władysław ŻELEŃSKI, composer (with a doctorate in philosophy, d.1921)
  • July 09, 1931 – Eugeniusz KNAPIK, composer
  • July 10, 1936 – Jan Wincenty HAWEL, composer and conductor
  • July 10, 1835 – Henryk WIENIAWSKI, violin virtuoso & composer (d. 1880, Moscow)
  • July 10, 1929 – Tadeusz STRUMIŁŁO, musicologist (d. 1956)
  • July 13, 1775 – Antoni Henryk RADZIWIŁŁ, composer, cellist, patron of arts (d. 1833)
  • July 14, 1926 – Jan KRENZ, conductor & composer
  • July 16, 1947 – Grażyna PSTROKONSKA-NAWRATIL, composer
  • July 17, 1932 – Wojciech KILAR, composer
  • July 22, 1930 – Leoncjusz CIUCIURA, composer
  • July 23, 1884 – Apolinary SZELUTO, composer (Young Poland group, d. 1966)
  • July 26, 1928 – Tadeusz BAIRD, composer (d. 1982)
  • July 26, 1922 – Andrzej KOSZEWSKI, composer (choral music)
  • July 29, 1943 – Marta PTASZYŃSKA, composer & percussionist


Died This Month

  • July 1, 2001 – Halina CZERNY-STEFANSKA (b. 1922), pianist
  • July 6, 1911 – Kazimierz HOFMANN (b. 1842), pianist, composer, father of the renowned virtuoso and director of Curtis Institute, Józef Hofmann
  • July 8, 1906 – Franciszek BORNIK (b. 1870), priest, conductor, writer
  • July 21, 1964 – Zygmunt SITOWSKI (b. 1906), musicologist
  • July 23, 1829 – Wojciech BOGUSŁAWSKI (b. 1757), the first theatre director in Poland, the author of several opera libretti (set by J. Stefani and J. Elsner)
  • July 25, 1831 – Maria SZYMANOWSKA(b. 1789), pianist & composer