Polish Strings

20th Century Orchestral Classics


Saturday, March 31, 2001 | 7:00 p.m.
United University Church, USC (see UUC on campus map)
817 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA
Reception following the concert

Admission is FREE and open to the public

From March 2001 PMC Newsletter

Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles presents: Polish Strings: 20th Century Orchestra Classics, featuring: Jan Jakub Bokun, conductor, with soloists Radoslaw Materka, piano and Adrianna Lis, flute, and USC Strings.

The concert will take place on Saturday, March 31, 2001, 7:00 p.m., at the United University Church; Los Angeles, USC Campus, 817 W.34th St.tel:213-740-9369 (free admission).

The program includes the following works:

Romuald Twardowski: “Triptych of the Virgin Mary”
Henryk Gorecki: “Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra”
Tadeusz Baird: “Colas Breugnon”
Rafal Augustyn: “Stela”
Wojciech Kilar: “Orawa”

Bokun And American Premieres

From April 2001 PMC Newsletter
By Wanda Wilk

“Rare and exhilarating” best describes “Polish Strings: 20th Century Orchestral Classics,” the program conceived and directed by Jan Jakub (“Kuba”) Bokun, a young musician from Poland working on his Master’s Degree in Music at USC. Rare, because it was probably the first time these musical works by four Polish composers (Twardowski, Gorecki, Baird and Kilar) were heard in a “live performance” here in California. Of these four, I doubt that any music by Twardowski had ever been performed in California. Yes, Gorecki was here in 1997 leading the USC student symphony orchestra in the historic rendition of his world famous Third Symphony, but this was “Three Pieces in the Old Style” inspired by early and Renaissance Polish music. Tadeusz Baird’s “Divertimento” had been performed by the USC Contemporary Music Ensemble in 1997, but this time it was “Colas Breugnon” with a flute solo. Kilar’s “Krzesany” had been performed at the Ambassador College Auditorium a few years ago, but I had never heard his “Orawa.”

All four of these works were new and unknown works heard for the first time by the audience, who much to their surprise, not only “liked” but “enjoyed” what they heard; as was evidenced by the long and enthusiastic applause after each work; ending in a standing ovation for the young conductor and his talented string ensemble.

It was refreshing for me to witness this event. So different from the Polish orchestras and artists who come to the U.S. to perform the usual Schubert-Tchaikovsky repertoire, which prompted a headline in Chicago a few years ago: “Polish Orchestra Very Polished, Not Very Polish!”

In the opening work, “Triptych of the Virgin Mary” by Romuald Twardowski, the wonderful acoustics of the United University Church on the USC campus definitely showed off the mature and professional playing of the sixteen hand-picked players. Written in 1973 the composition is made up of five parts: Manger in Bethlehem, Dance I, The Entombment, Dance II and Resurrection and its music reverberated in a profoundly spiritual manner. This continued in the second number by Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, “Three Pieces in the Old Style,” which according to the excellent program notes written by Maja Trochimczyk (formerly Maria Anna Harley) and Kuba Bokun was composed in 1963 before the famous Third Symphony and had been inspired by Gorecki’s studies of medieval and renaissance Polish music.

The beauty of sound was continued in Tadeusz Baird’s “Colas Breugnon” a splendid example of the “musical lyricism” of which he was the “most typical proponent after Chopin and Karlowicz.” Baird was one of the founders of the “Warsaw Autumn” International Contemporary Music Festival and was widely known as a “twentieth-century romantic.” The “melodic lines are played by the more expressive solo instruments in an emotionally moving way” and this was the case in this work which featured Adrianna Lis on the flute.

The concert was particularly exhilarating in the last number, “Orawa” by Wojciech Kilar (known in Poland for his many beautiful film scores and in Hollywood as the composer for Coppola’s film, “Dracula”). The title “Orawa” “refers to the Podhale sub-region in southern Poland. Orawa is musical painting of the sheer forces of nature and human reflection on it. The wide melodic phrases contrast with short, repeated motives of folk origin (dances of the Tatra highlanders).” As I listened to the music I could clearly see in my mind the dancing figure of the late Zbigniew Szumanski when he was in his hey-day with our local Krakusy group of which he was a founder.

Kuba Bokun has learned his lessons well from his teachers at USC, Larry Livingston and John Barnett. He led the Polish Strings in a professional manner and they followed his beat precisely, resulting in a solid ensemble tone. His posture and gestures reminded me a little of the L.A. Philharmonic’s young director Esa Pekka Salonen. In addition to his conducting, Bokun is also an incredible clarinet player and has already made a recording that features contemporary clarinet pieces, which he selected and I am happy to say that he included Polish composers in this disc. This Koch Classic CD was released in 1999 and was greeted with critical acclaim from the American Clarinet Society and others. He has a second album, “Duo Guitarinet” which has been nominated for the Polish Music Industry Award 2000. I would say this young man is on the right track.

The program was made possible through financial help from the Polish Consulate in Los Angeles, Ars Musica Poloniae, the Polish University Club and the Helena Modjeska Polish Arts & Cultural Club. Seen in the audience: the Honorable Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk, Consul Boleslaw Meluch with his wife; Ms. Jolanta Zych, president of the Modjeska Club; Diane Wilk Burch, president of Ars Musica Poloniae; Prof. & Mrs. Paul Knoll (Dr. Knoll is on the board of the Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences in New York); Prof. & Mrs. Kazimierz Kowalski; Prof. Krzysztof Pilch and Dr. Marianna Chodorowska, Dr. Barbara Zakrzewska and Dr. Kleo Rundzio; artist Andrzej Kolodziej and charming wife; Mr. Demidedzki; Dr. Olgierd Klejnot, past president of the Polish University Club, Hanka Gutkowska and Christine Hertzlich; and presidential florist, Stanley Kersten who brought and donated two beautiful bouquets of red roses for the conductor and soloist.

This concert will long remain in my memory and I believe everyone in the Polish American community and especially the younger generation, should hear and see this program.

We will have a chance to hear it, since it was recorded to represent the Polish Music Center at the Streaming Media Lab web-site of the USC Thornton School of Music and will be issued as a limited-edition CD. Please call in your reservations for a copy to Maja Trochimczyk at 213-740-9369 or by e-mail to polmusic@rcf.usc.edu. I truly believe this program should be repeated as soon as possible, so that a larger part of Polonia could come and enjoy it. It will be an awakening!