POLMIC’s Easter Surprise 

Together with the director Mieczysław Kominek, our friends at the Polish Music Information Centre in Warsaw (POLMIC) once again came through for us with a most thoughtful and timely gift. For many years already, we have been on the receiving end of POLMIC’s largesse and have happily accepted sets of unique recordings made during the annual Warsaw Autumn festivals of contemporary music. Thanks to their generosity, our sound library is one of very few in the western hemisphere to have these recordings available to students, faculty and researchers interested in the latest musical trends in Poland.

‘Seven Currents’ recordings 

The latest treasure trove of CDs we received from POLMIC is a 7-CD box of live recordings made during the Festiwal “Siedmiu Nurtów,” or Seven Currents Festival, that took place in June of 2016. The recordings were compiled and issued by POLMIC in 2019. Starting with then-ZKP President Jerzy Kornowicz’s idea of celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Polish Composers’ Union (ZKP), this uniquely designed Festival focused on a retrospective of Polish contemporary music based on seven broad themes: Intuition, Construction, Lyricism, Meta-stylistics, Sound, Reduction, and Energy, with each CD in the collection devoted to one of these themes.

The Intuition CD features works by Agata Zubel, Szabolcs Esztényi, Anna Zaradny and Cezary Dmochowski. The Construction CD contains music by Zbigniew Bargielski, Krzysztof Meyer and Aleksander Lasoń. Compositions by Aleksander Nowak, Grażyna Pstrokońska-Nawratil, Marek Stachowski, Eugeniusz Knapik and Andrzej Krzanowski are on the Lyricism CD. Ont he Meta-stylistics CD we find music by Paweł Szymański, Jacek Grudzień, Stanisław Krupowicz, Adam Falkiewicz and Marcin Bortnowski. Works by Sławomir Wojciechowski, Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar, Witold Szalonek, Marcin Stańczyk, Jagoda Szmytka and Dobromiła Jaskot have been compiled on the Sound CD. The rather fascinating category on the Reduction CD is represented by music of such composers as Tomasz Sikorski, Zygmunt Krauze, Magdalena Długosz, Zygmunt Konieczny, Zbigniew Rudziński, Weronika Ratusińska and Tadeusz Wielecki. Finally, on the Energy CD we can listen to works by Hanna Kulenty, Jarosław Siwiński, Jerzy Kornowicz, Marcin Błażewicz, Tomasz Jakub Opałka and Bartosz Kowalski.

This well-curated selection representing the last 70 years of Polish music is an excellent educational and research tool. A pair of booklets in Polish and English that accompany the music will be especially appreciated for their thorough, richly illustrated and illuminating descriptions of works presented on this 7-box set of CDs (shown at center in image below).

‘Polish Music Today’ recordings 

Amazingly, this rich compilation of Polish music from the Seven Currents Festival isn’t the only Easter surprise from POLMIC! Someone there must have decided that all good things come in groups of several recordings, and so we also received eight more CD albums (shown at R and L in image below). Each of these are dedicated to a specific composer’s musical portrait, as a part of the POLMIC series entitled Muzyka polska dzisiaj—portrety współczesnych kompozytorów polskich [Polish music today—portraits of contemporary Polish composers]. Created in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and Institute of Music and Dance, this series spotlights many leading figures in contemporary music in Poland in the post-World War II era as follows.

Roman Berger (1930-2020) was a Polish-Slovak composer and an honorary member of the Polish Composer’s Union. Theoretician, philosopher and educator, Berger’s music is featured on a variety of labels. The POLMIC’s release of Berger’s extensive Missa pro nobis, completed in 2010, adds to the discography of this fascinating composer.

Jerzy Kornowicz (b. 1959) served as president of the Polish Composers’ Union for many years and has been director of the Warsaw Autumn Festival since 2017. His POLMIC CD features such works as Extremes, Frayed Figures, The Incessant Spinning of Things, Epigrams and Heaps.

Internationally recognized as an outstanding conductor, Jan Krenz (1926-2020) actually studied piano and composition and has quite a catalogue of large-scale works to his credit. This POLMIC CD presents Krenz’s Musica da camera per quartetto d’archi as well as his Symphony No. 2 (Quasi una fantasia) and Symphony No. 3.

Although Roman Maciejewski (1910-1998) is primarily remembered these days for his monumental Requiem, the list of his piano works is equally impressive and diverse. POLMIC’s CD portrait of Maciejewski features his music for two pianos, including Oberek, Negro Spirituals, Mazurek, Lullaby, Tarantella and a set of Swedish Dances.

Jerzy Maksymiuk (b. 1936) is another prominent Polish conductor with an international career who is also a noted composer. Featured on the POLMIC CD, his Alexandrian Variations, Leaves Falling Somewhere, Adagio, Heart Lamentation, and Lost in Thought represent some of Maksymiuk’s orchestral catalogue.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Roman Palester (1907-1989) was one the leading Polish composers, alongside Grażyna Bacewicz, Krzysztof Penderecki, Witold Lutosławski and Andrzej Panufnik. Alas, Palester’s strongly anti-communist views and his work in Munich for Radio Free Europe made him persona non grata in Poland and his music was banned in Poland until the late 1970s. The POLMIC CD presents Palester’s early Requiem for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1949), Metamorphoses for Symphony Orchestra (1968) and his late Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1978).

Grażyna Pstrokońska-Nawratil (b. 1947) enjoys a distinguished career as a composer and educator, serving as professor of composition at the Music Academies in Wrocław and Poznań. Her POLMIC CD portrait contains such works as Lydian Music, ICE-LAND, Palm Sunday in Nazareth, Bis*Joke, and Icarus.

Konstanty Regamey (1907-1982) was a composer, pianist, music critic, philosopher, and writer who graduated with diploma in Oriental studies from the Warsaw University. After playing a significant role in Polish resistance during World War II, Regamey was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps near Gdańsk and Hamburg, before being released thanks to his Swiss citizenship. Settling in Lausanne after the war, where he was professor of linguistics, Regamey continued to compose, lecture and write on a variety of subjects. POLMIC’s 2-CD set is a world premiere recording of Regamey’s Early Songs for Voice and Piano, Romances for High Voice and Piano as well as selected solo piano works.

POLMIC’s partners on this series of Polish composers’ portraits also include PWM Editions, Warsaw University Library and Dwójka—Polish Radio’s Program II. Thanks to all for these wonderful gifts to the Polish Music Center’s sound recording library!

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Tansman by Frémaux

An accomplished orchestral conductor, professor and writer on French music residing in Portland, Oregon, Sylvain Frémaux is already well known to the Polish Music Center. Decades ago, he and Jill Timons were recipients of the PMC’s Wilk Essay Prize. Their essay Alexandre Tansman. Diary of a 20th-Century Composer, was published in the first volume of our online Polish Music Journal.

Last March—just as the pandemic brought widespread closures all around us—Professor Frémaux sent us several books on Tansman from his library. We wrote about this gift in the April edition of the PMC Newsletter.

Now, exactly a year later, we received another tranche of exciting research materials from Professor Frémaux. Arriving in three separate and rather hefty parcels that arrived at the end of March, these materials represent Prof. Frémaux’s lifelong research into the composer Alexandre Tansman. They will serve as a veritable goldmine of fascinating source material gathered over the decades by this patient and detailed author. The breadth of the compiled materials is truly impressive, roughly spanning the years immediately following World War I to the present. They include copies of correspondence, press articles, reviews, interviews, as well as original concert programs and photographs and other great biographical material.

Treasure Trove of Tansman

One thick ring binder is filled with scrapbook materials, arranged chronologically from 1924 to the mid-1990s. Copies of concert programs from all across Europe and the U.S. as well as numerous letters from and to Tansman by Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, Serge Koussevitzky, Darius Milhaud, Pierre Monteux, and Artur Rubinstein, among others, make for a fascinating lecture and paint a great portrait of Tansman at the height of his international fame. There are also copies of speeches and lectures Tansman gave on his own music, as well as on the contemporary music, in English and French. There are also quite a few fascinating articles written by Tansman on several interesting subjects. They include a piece on Szymanowski (published in La Revue Musicale on 1 May 1922) and on Chopin (on the occasion of the centenary of Chopin’s death in 1949), as well as Reflections on Jazz and George Gershwin and a 1978 essay on Vladimir Jankélévitch, a close friend and a noted French philosopher and musicologist.

The second, equally immense binder features copies of articles, essays, doctoral theses and other longer texts about Tansman. These include Alexandre Tansman and the Golden Era of Paris and An Investigation of Rhythm in the Piano Mazurkas of Alexandre Tansman by Lorraine Lingle Butterfield, Zofia Helman’s In Memory of Aleksander Tansman, Tadeusz Kaczyński’s essay on Tansman’s 80th birthday, and Susan Marie Tusing’s dissertation on Didactic Solo Piano Works by Alexander Tansman, among others.

Finally, there is a fascinating stack of folders gather by Sylvain Frémaux with such titles as Bibliographies, Tansman Programs (including several originals and photos), Interviews, Film Music (with quite a collection of articles on Tansman and his Hollywood connections), and Tansman-Works with lists of compositions and copies of some of his scores.

Thank you for this incredible contribution to the PMC research library!

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Ryterband Recorded 

For the past few years, music by Roman Ryterband began to surface in concert programs and recordings, especially in his native Poland. During the early years of Ryterband’s internment in Switzerland during World War II, he managed to compose three substantial cycles of solo piano works, including the 24 Variations on a Folk Song Theme (1942), Suite Polonaise (1944) and Three Preludes (1944-1945). Undoubtedly the most ambitious and monumental in scope is the set of 24 Variations, based on a popular Yiddish melody and composed in Berne during the summer of 1942. Ryterband, who was also a concert pianist, incorporated a variety of challenging textures and brilliant passagework into this opus and considered it one of his best.

Pianist Julia Samojło has been a dedicated champion of the 24 Variations for quite a few years. She performed the abbreviated version of the cycle—something that the composer sanctioned by self-publishing and performing it in public—at a concert in Warsaw in December of 2016. Late last year, Ms. Samojło had a chance to perform it again, this time in the complete version, in Kraków and at the Otwock Wielki palace, a suburban branch of the National Museum that also houses Paderewski’s old concert grand Steinway in its ballroom.

The recording of Ms. Samojło’s November 22, 2020 concert in Otwock (that also included performance of Ryterbands Three Preludes) has just reached the PMC courtesy of Diana Eisele, Roman Ryterband’s daughter and champion of his music. Diana and Bob Eisele, alongside the composer’s widow, Clarissa and his other daughter, Astrid, has been greatly generous to the PMC’s archives, donating many manuscripts and other rich source material that have been amassed in the Roman Ryterband Collection. Adding this live CD recording to the collection certainly enriches it and will certainly be an item of interest to piano students, faculty and researchers working on discovering this still little-known composer.

The Arpa-Chitarra Duo—or harpist Noemi Hańczyk and guitarist Aleksander Pankowski-Jankowski—came out with a very interesting chamber music album titled Alla polacca (QBK 035/smallgreatmusic.com) featuring works by Aleksander Tansman, Grzegorz Jurczyk, Roman Ryterband and Fryderyk Chopin. Leading with Tansman’s nine-movement Suite in modo polonico pour guitare et harpe (1976), this attractive CD album also includes the Fogbound Mountains, a 2013 solo guitar work by Grzegorz Jurczyk (b. 1991). Roman Ryterband is represented on this disc by his 1943 Deux Images for solo harp, a two-movement suite based on the Middle-Eastern motifs. Two arrangements by the Arpa-Chitarra Duo of popular piano pieces by Chopin (Prelude Op. 28 no. 15 and Waltz Op. 64 no. 2) complete this harp and guitar presentation. Just like the recording of Ryterband’s 24 Variations and Three Preludes, this disc was also donated to us by the composer’s family.

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Lisa Cooper Vest, Awangarda

In February, we received our much-anticipated copy of the newest research effort by Lisa Cooper Vest—assistant professor of musicology in the Thornton School of Music, and great friend to the Polish Music Center. In her latest book, Awangarda: Tradition and Modernity in Postwar Polish Music, Dr. Vest explores how the Polish postwar musical avant-garde framed itself in contrast to its Western European counterparts. Rather than a rejection of the past, the Polish avant-garde movement emerged as a manifestation of national cultural traditions stretching back into the interwar years and even earlier into the nineteenth century. Polish composers, scholars, and political leaders wielded the promise of national progress to broker consensus across generational and ideological divides. Dr. Vest’s research provides an innovative new lens through which to view Polish music and nationalism in the postwar era, moving beyond a simple Cold War dichotomy to examine the multi-faceted intricacies of Polish musical tradition and innovation.

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New Kinga Augustyn Recording 

Long a friend and musical collaborator of the PMC, violinist Kinga Augustyn has recently provided us with a copy of her newest recording adventure: Turning in Time. Based in New York, this deeply dedicated and talented violinist always brings a flavor of her Polish birth to the many recordings in her expansive discography. Her latest, a solo violin album released on Centaur Records, is no different. It features world premieres by Krzysztof Penderecki and Debra Kaye, as well as other works by Elliott Carter, Luciano Berio, Isang Yun, and Grażyna Bacewicz. Turning in Time is available on Amazon (CD), Amazon (MP3), HPDirect, and all other platforms.

Thank you to all! Dziękujemy!