EDA Records and Polish Music

Frank Harders-Wuthenow, the executive producer for Berlin-based EDA Records, has successfully completed yet another fascinating recording project that features music by Polish composers.

The first of the two CDs that we received from Mr. Harders-Wuthenow, is a monographic presentation of music for violin and piano by Krzysztof Meyer, issued in conjunction with celebrations of the composer’s eightieth birthday last year. Featuring Meyer’s works written between 1975 and 2018, EDA 49 opens with the Capriccio interrotto for violin and piano, Op. 93 (2000) and follows it with the 1994 Misterioso, Op. 83 for the same ensemble. The other two works on this disc are Meyer’s solo violin sonatas—No. 1, Op. 36, a two-movement work dating from 1975 and No. 2, Op. 133, a three-movement work dedicated to the violinist Kolja Lessing who is the featured soloist on this CD. Rainer Maria Klaas is the pianist for two of Meyer’s violin and piano compositions. Meyer’s Op. 133 receives here its world premiere recording along with one of the few works by Meyer for younger performers, Geigen-Krämchen—Seven Pieces for Children for Violin and Piano, Op. 55, written in 1981. The richly illustrated CD booklet in German and English features an extensive and insightful interview with the composer as well as information about the performers.

The second CD—EDA 48, with music by George Antheil, Jaques Ibert, Marcel Mihalovici, Szymon Laks and Igor Stravinsky—is far broader and more ambitious in terms of repertoire. With its gutsy title, “Écoles de Paris—Paris pour École,” this disc expands the rather narrow definition of Paris-based composers in the 1920s and 1930s who were associated with the so-called “Paris School.” This expansive take includes such names Antheil, Mihalovici, Laks and even Stravinsky, composers who are rarely mentioned as creative companions-in-arms alongside the famed “Les Six” on the Parisian music scene. The other half of this CD title cleverly refers to the visual arts and the 2021 exhibit of works by Chagall, Modiglianni, and Soutine who—alongside names like Picasso, Mondrian, Bonnard, and Matisse—represented the visual revolution taking place during the heady 1930s in the city of light. 

Although relatively rarely-heard, the music this album features is well worth a chance as it centers on attractive concertante works—Ibert’s Concerto pour violoncelle et instruments à vent, Mihalovici’s Etude en deux parts pour piano concertant, Antheil’s Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, Laks’s Concerto da camera pour piano, and Stravinsky’s Octet. The co-producers on this project included Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Deutschlandfunk Kultur, and this selection of works was presented in a live broadcast at the Haus des Rundfunks Berlin on 3 April 2021. The soloists included Adele Bitter and Holger Grosschopp, both ably led by conductor Johannes Zurl. Detailed liner notes in German and English will certainly add to the positive experience of every listener interested in this fascinating period and the music that was strongly influenced by the artistic atmosphere of Paris, a city that served as cultural hub of the universe before World War II.

Picture Perfect!

Thanks to Jolanta Miśkowiec, the intrepid director of the Department for Cultural Heritage Abroad at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, we received a beautiful and huge 2024 wall calendar highlighting recently recovered works of art. Produced by the Department for Restitution of Cultural Heritage, each month of the new year features one extraordinary painting that has been returned to various museums and public institutions in Poland.

For the month of January there is the oil painting, “Hut in the Snow” by Michał Gorstkin-Wywiórski. Teodor Axentowicz’s delicate pastel, “Lady in Peacock Feathers” is featured for the month of February. The month of March highlights two early sixteenth century artworks: “Mater Dolorosa” and “Ecce Homo” attributed to the workshop of Dieric Bouts, a Netherlands-based artist. 

Moving on to April, we find a large tempera on board from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder, entitled “The Mourning of Christ.” The month of May sends us—in the Ministry’s calendar—to and early twentieth century maritime scene on the Baltic coast, with “Canal in New Port” by Arthur Bendrat. In turn, the image for June is a sylvan scene from Victorian era Scandinavia, “Children in the Birch Forest by Haiko Fjord,” painted by the Finnish master Albert Edelfelt

“Buckwheat” by Stanisław Masłowski, a delicate watercolor from 1924, is featured for the month of July and the August artwork chosen for the Ministry’s 2024 calendar is “Cossack” by Józef Brandt, dating from the late 1880s. A fascinating architectural detail portrayed in the “Interior of the Milan Cathedral” can be glimpsed from the 1834 large oil on canvas painting by Marcin Zaleski, an image to keep us company during the month of September. 

A palette of muted browns and sepia tones—appropriate for the month of October and the proverbial “golden Polish autumn”—are beautifully conveyed by Leon Wyczółkowski’s pastel on paper, “Country Girl in a Yellow Shawl.” Jacek Malczewski’s 1877 oil on canvas, entitled “At the Piano,” was chosen for the month of November. The final 2024 image for December features, quite appropriately, the early seventeenth century oil on canvass “Madonna and Child” by an anonymous author.

For each painting, a detailed history of its provenance and eventual recovery is given in Polish and English. This exceptional calendar is an excellent resource for all art lovers and history buffs who will gain many fascinating insights into the peripeties of these masterpieces over the turbulent decades of the twentieth century. 

Dębicz on Discs

Following a recent visit at the PMC (pictured above viewing the Manuscript Collection with Director Marek Zebrowski), pianist and composer Aleksander Dębicz presented us with two of his CDs, both issued by Warners Classics label. 

Recorded in 2014, Dębicz’s Cinematic Piano album pays homage to such noted film composers (and Oscar winners) as Alexandre Desplat and Thomas Newman and features inventive, improvisation-fueled takes on the emotions of music that accompanies the moving image. In his liner notes Dębicz stated that, “I wanted to translate cinematic, emotional drama into the emotionally gripping language of piano music … I made references to … composers who inspire me most … Bach, Mozart, and Scriabin. The album Cinematic Piano is also the result of my experiments in the field of improvisation, often closely connected with the artform of film and narration.” Throughout the album’s twelve tracks, the vitality and originality of approach that draws on many strands of film music that embrace the gamut of genres from the romantic tradition to jazz and overtones of pop impresses by its red-hot virtuosity and palpable excitement of this young and dynamic artist.

Aleksander Dębicz’s second album, Sideways, was recorded in 2022. Unlike the Cinematic Piano, it is a collaborative effort that involves a variety of ensembles. The opening track, The Portals, showcases the Kraków-based Golden Quintet, a woodwind group. This original work is immediately followed by Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F minor, allowing Dębicz to shine as soloist and interpreter of one of his favorite composers. Changing gears, the next track called PasaCatedral, is a kind of concerto grosso (another nod to Bach) scored for solo guitar with chamber string orchestra, oboe and piano with one of Poland’s greatest guitarists, Łukasz Kuropaczewski, as the soloist. Positioned in the middle of this CD is the title track, Sideways. Its attractive neoclassical guise is full of manic energy and occasionally predatory spirit that is attractively offset by more lyrical (Chopinesque and more cinematic) episodes. Two more selections complete this musically beguiling album—Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (another Dębicz favorite) performed here in an arrangement for piano and winds, and an improvisation on the song Cold Little Heart from the comedy-drama TV series, Big Little Lies. Summing it all up, the PMC sound library is now richer with these two fascinating recordings.