Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 5, no. 6
Kurt Masur’s Doctorate In Wrocław
The distinguished conductor Kurt Masur has received Honorary Doctorate from Music Academy in Wroclaw, Poland. During the ceremonies Masur received also the highest Polish order that could be presented to a foreigner, “Krzyz Komandorski” (The Commander’s Cross). In addition a specially commissioned work composed by a Wroclaw composer, Miroslaw Gasieniec with text by Janusz Telejko was performed. The subject was suggested by Masur and the work was entitled “Silesian Cantata – I Was Born Here.” The conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra was born in Lower Silesia, Poland and has paid several visits to Poland recently.
110th Anniversary Of The Polish Singers Alliance
The Polish Singers Alliance of America celebrated its 110th anniversary on May 13th. The Polish American Journal of Buffalo, NY gave first page coverage to this event, providing a brief history. The “idea of forming an organization to unite the Polish choirs in the U.S. so that Polish language, music, and song would be preserved and passed down to future generations” was conceived by the Mallek brothers of Chicago in 1988. “This movement was later expanded to include Polish Canadian choruses.”
The first convention was held in 1889. Originally headquartered in Chicago, it moved to New york City in 1944. Throughout its 110 years more than 330 choruses had been members. Presently there are 44 adult and 3 junior choruses active today in the U.S. and Canada; found in the major cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Syracuse, NY City, Buffalo and Toronto. The honor of being the oldest goes to “Harmonia-Chopin” #38 of Cleveland and the youngest is the “Quo Vadis Female Chorus” #330 of Cheektowaga, NY joined in 1988.
A history of the PSAA’s first century is being prepared by Prof. Stanislaw Blejwas of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CN.
Dębski’s Misterium Premiered
A new three-movement choral work entitled Misterium by Krzesimir Dębski (b. 1953) was premiered during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Archdiocese of Warsaw’s Temple of Providence in the capital’s Wilanów District on Sunday evening, May 2, 1999. Scored for solo voices, mixed chorus, trombone choir, percussion and organ, the text of Misterium is drawn from Old Testament sources in a Polish libretto by Ernst Bryl.The outdoor premiere included the following performers: soprano Izabela Kłosińska, tenor Zdzisław Kordialik, baritone Witold Żołšdkiewicz, the Archdiocesan Cathedral Boychoir Cantores Minores (Joseph A. Herter, conductor), the Warsaw Chamber Opera Chorus (Ryszard Zimak, conductor) and organist Stanisław Malanowicz under the direction of the composer. Misterium was performed in the presence of an estimated 15,000 – 20,000 people which included the Mayor of Warsaw and the Primate of Poland.
On Penderecki’s Credo
Dr. Magen Solomon, conductor of the Oakland Symphony Chorus, San Francisco Choral Artists, and faculty member of the Santa Clara University wrote a feature article in The Voice of Chorus America’s Spring 1999 issue. Titled “Report from Oregon. World Premiere of Penderecki’s `Credo’.”The program notes written by Ray Robinson said that this work “may well be the first American premiere of a large work for chorus and orchestra by a major European composer since December 1930, when Igor Stravinsky’s `Symphony of Psalms’ was performed by the Boston Symphony” Dr. Solomon ended her 2-page report with “the most powerful and unforgettable response was not in the joyous, explosive standing ovation of a capacity crowd, but in what came right before it. The music still hanging in the air, it was the long minutes of pin-drop silence that were truly the most eloquent and moving.”
Premiere Of Grella-Mozejko’s Quartet
Penderecki Quartet, Canada’s foremost chamber ensemble, has premiered Euphonia by Piotr Grella-Mozejko at the Open Ears Festival in Kitchener, Ontario. The Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound, founded in 1998 by the distinguished composer Peter Hatch (who is also its Artistic Director), is one of the most unusual and original events of that sort in North America. Its programs feature contemporary classical music as well as a variety of experimental activities generally referred to as sound art (sound poetry, sound sculpture, environmental sound installations etc.).On May 19, this year’s festival started with the extremely well-received concert by the Penderecki String Quartet, Canada’s leading chamber music group. The concert featured works by Tim Brady, John Cage, Henryk Mikolaj Górecki, and the world premiere of Piotr Grella-Mozejko’s “Euphonia.”
Says the composer: “The main idea behind the piece was to write music which would, oddly enough, harness dodecaphony and serialism, and turn them into something aurally pleasant, stylistically familiar, and emotionally appealing (although not necessarily simplistic). After having written a great deal of dark, complex and intense pieces, I wanted to try my hand at music which would combine an extreme structural ‘elegance’ and sophistication with elements of intelligent, unconstrained enjoyment. In other words – a clever, late twentieth century divertimento.”
In her review of the concert, Colleen Johnston wrote: “Euphonia (…) is a boldly textured work reminiscent of both Beethoven and Bartok. The Penderecki Quartet captured Mozejko’s keen concept of sonic possibility for strings, squandering creaminess of sound on the chordal parts, and a furious exactitude on the turbo motives.”
The Chopin Year
A Chopin Conference and Concerts will take place on 17-19 September at the Polish Studies Center, Indiana U. School of Music. The conference is entitled “The Age of Chopin: The Chopin Sesquicentennial Symposium” and is being organized by Visiting Professor of Music, Halina Goldberg (assisted by faculty and staff of Indiana University). Noted musical analysts and cultural historians from the U.S. and Poland will join local specialists in exploring themes of interdisciplinary panels which will include studies of Chopin, literature and fine arts; issues of political appropriation and reception of Chopin’s music; dance forms in Chopin’s music and their social meaning (mazurka, polonaise, waltz); Chopin, politics and history in the Romantic Era and the Age of Revolutions, and other topics. Leading IU music faculty and their students will perform in concerts of both solo piano and ensemble form, including a re-creation of a “salon concert” typical of Chopin’s time.
16-year-old pianist, Berenika Zakrzewski, performed Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor) on 27 March 1999. Ms. Zakrzewski, who won her first piano competition at the age of five and is surrently studying at the Julliard School of Music in New York (with Herbert Stessin). In 1998 she won the Nakamichi Piano Concerto Competition at the Aspen Festival – as the youngest participant. She received numerous awards and grants. Her upcoming concerts include appearances at the Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, and with Sinfonia Varsovia in Warsaw (where she will be the guest of Mrs. and Mr. Penderecki).
The Chopin Foundation Council of New York is continuing its monthly series of music by Chopin. President of the organization, Prof. Jan Gorbaty, was the featured piano soloist on May 28th. The Polish Consulate headquarters, NY city.
The Polish Singers Alliance of America, Circuit 7 Choirs presented a gala concert, “Homage to Chopin,” at which Polish film composer, Wojciech Kilar, was present (16 May). Music of Chopin and Kilar presented by the Hofstra University Orchestra with Janusz Sporek, Dayle Vander Sande, and Jeannine Wagar, conductors. Soloists: Tiffani Casa Sante, Jacek Zganiacz, piano. Hofstra U. Long Island.
Yehudi Menuhin In Memoriam
The “Yehudi Menuhin in Memoriam Concert” was performed at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall by Sinfonia Varsovia, the chamber ensemble founded by the violinist-conductor. Led by Kazimierz Kord the chamber orchestra performed Lutoslawski’s “Music Funebre,” Penderecki’s “De profundis” and the “Eroica Symphony by Beethoven.
Piatkowski On Polish Jazz
Dionizy Piatkowski, a specialist in jazz in Poland, and who gave a lecture at UCLA, “Is there such a thing as Polish jazz?” in 1985 has reported on the internet on the 70th anniversary of Jazz in Poznan. A tribute to the swing era was given on May 15 & 16th with the Grapellin Trio and the Guitar Birel Lagrene Quartet in Poznan.
Piatkowski reports that jazz made its initial debut as concertizing music in May, 1929 in Poland featuring Szymon Kataszek’s and Zygmunt Karenski’s jazz orchestra. Jazz was just appearing and it was mainly for listening and not for dancing. Events, mail order house for CDs and other information can be found at the Era Jazzu website: www.jazz.pl.
Youth Conference In Washington
The American Council of Polish Culture is sponsoring a Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. from June 20-26. Dr. Maria Chrypinska is in charge and has planned a “Noc Swietojanska” (St. John’s Eve or Midsummer’s Night) when flowers are thrown into the water at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. This is a version of an old tradition – on that night Polish peasants have traditionally put small votive wreaths with lit candles to float on the surface of the river or the lake. The candle that lasted for the longest time had a special meaning – the custom served for divination of the future.
Gorecki In Washington Post
We find Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s chamber trio “Recitatives and Ariosos ‘Lerchenmusik'” among the 20 favorite composers of the 20th century listed by theWashington Post on Tim Page. The trio, scored for clarinet, cello and piano (op 53, composed in 1984-86) was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, Danish Countess Louise Lerche-Lerchenborg. The first performance of the piece took place on 28 July 1984 at the Lerchenborg Music Days; its completed version was premiered by the Danish Trio during the 1985 Warsaw Autumn Festival. The piece consists of three movements and may be described as being built around a quotation from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 4 (the opening sequence of repeated chords in the solo piano part).
Teaching Polish Piano Music In California
Róza Kostrzewska-Yoder, a Polish pianist and piano teacher who settled in California, regularly includes pieces by Polish composers in repertoire assigned to her young charges – by Lutosławski, Szeligowski, Malawski, Serocki, Paderewski, Ptaszynska, Chopin, Szymanowski, and others. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s death, Ms. Kostrzewska gave a lecture/recital on “Beauty and Character in Chopin’s Music” for the National Convention of Music Teachers National Association (held in Los Angeles in March 1999). Ms. Kostrzewska’s students have received numerous awards at piano youth competitions:
- Jonathan Tosetti won the first prize at the Bartok Competition in L.A., playing Folk Melodies by Lutosławski, and represented L.A. at the California meeting in San Francisco where he received the 2nd prize;
- Daniel Lee received First Prize in an advanced category at the Bartok Competition, including among other works Two Preludes by Kazimierz Serocki;
- Tenoch Esparza received the first prize during Honor Auditions in Los Angeles, performing Scherzo in B flat minor by Chopin. He also performed Malawski’s “Mountain Triptych” during lecture-recitals an concerts.
Dracula And Music
It seems there are at least two versions of the film music to Dracula. The 1931 Universal Studios film classic was composed by American Philip Glass, while Coppola’s latest film has music composed by the Polish composer Wojciech Kilar. Philip Glass’s version is scheduled for a live performance by the Kronos quartet with the composer on October 30th this year, while the Kilar version is available on CD. More Dracula music is on a Silva Treasury label (distributed by Silva Screen/Koch SLTR 5013. “Horror!: Monsters, Witches & Vampires.”
Polish Cultural News Reports
A full report on the VII Annual Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, written by Los Angeles music-afficionado Stanley Stankiewicz (who travelled to Detroit to see Szymanowski’s opera “King Roger” a few years ago), can be found in the quarterly Polish Cultural News of the Polish American Cultural Network Spring issue. It also includes the post- festival tour and concert at the PMRC at USC. Editor Art Zygmunt also related on the “Heritage of Chopin” series organized by Dr. Harley at USC.Zygmont also reports on the May issue of Opera News, published by the Metropolitan Opera of NY, which features an article on the Polish singer Ewa Podles calling her “unqestionably the most gifted contralto in the world today.” and “one of a handful of truly great talents singing in the world today.” Ms. Podles is married to Polish pianist Marchwinski and their daughter, also a pianist, is presently living and performing in New York. Her latest CD is “Orfeo ed Euridice” by Gluck released on the Spanish label Arts 47536-2.
If you would be interested in subscribing to this very informative and interesting newsletter of events in and around greater Los Angeles, reviews of books and a hodge- podge of news relating to anything with a Polish connection (which the editor calls “Bigos,” the Polish name for hunter’s stew, a recipe that calls for everything except the kitchen sink) write to PACN P.O. Box 10173, Torrance, CA 90505 or Fax him at 310-375-8471.
Fanfare Reports On Selene
Fanfare introduced a new classical label to the U.S. from Poland: SELENE. This is the same label that released the Complete Piano Works of Paderewski by Karol Radziwonowicz. The Polish pianist has also just completed the first volume of Zarebski’s Complete Piano Works.The new company based in Warsaw was founded in 1991. It is dedicated to bring tyhe finest and rare Polish music. Thus, many world premiere recrodings are to be found in their catalog. For instance, they have released frou volumes [980137-980743] of the music of pianist and composer Raoul Koczalski (1885- 1948) who studied with Mikuli. The composer plays Chopin’s works while pianists Jerzy Sterczynski, Andrzej Tatarski play Koczalski’s preludes, impressions, ballet music and songs.
There are recordings of the famed teacher Aleksander Michalowski, who studied with Liszt and Mikuli (a pupil of Chopin). It has been said that Michalowski produced more great artists than any other teacher, including Wanda Landowska. In one of the recordings the pianist himself performs Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Liszt. In the other two we can hear the performances of his students, Jerzy Zurawlew (who initiated the Chopin Int’l Competitions in Warsaw in 1926); Szpilman, Smidowicz, Hepner, Barowna, Sofronicki, and Robert Marat.
They also have produced The Complete Works for cello and piano by Chopin, including the rarely heard Sonata in G minor and transcriptions. Performed by stanislaw Firlej.
Szymanowski And Lutoslawski Noted
Commentary: It was interesting to note in a featured interview of Irish pianist Miceal O’Rourke with Martin Anderson that he is interested in the music of Szymanowski and Lutoslawski. He performs their concertos often in Russia and elsewhere and he visits Poland where he plays and gives courses in Warsaw, Bialystok and Krakow. He has considerable recordings to his name, including the complete concertos of Field, Schumann, Chopin and Debussy. He records exclusively for Chandos and his newest CD is devoted to the music of Michele Esposito (1855-1929). He would like to record the Polish masters, but said he needs time to prepare. [WW]
Slavic Music Site
There is a new internet resource on Slavic music, SLAVOPHILIA MUSIC LINKS: www.slavophilia.net/music.htm. Syeng-Mann Yoo is the author/owner of the site that is planned to contribute to the field by providing comprehensive Slavic music listings, information databases, etc. The site already has a quite extensive list of music sites from Russia and Eastern Europe. If you know or own site(s) related to Slavic or East European music, please let the editor/owner know about them.
Kisielewski Site In The UK
Mr. Marek Soszynski of Birmingham, UK, has recently opened a website on the Polish composer Stefan Kisielewski (1911-1991). The site is available at: ww.brum2000.swinternet.co.uk/kisiel/ Mr. Soszynski has previously translated some of Kisielewski’s essays into English. His site is a welcome addition to online resources.
Calendar Of Events
JUNE 1: Karol Radziwonowicz. Music of Chopin and Paderewski. Sponsored by the Polish Arts & Cultural Foundation. Mother Olson Inn. 72 N. Fifth St., San Jose. 408-324-0543.
JUNE 5: Vistula Dance Company. 10th Anniversary Celebration. Nativity Church and Hall, San Francisco. Mass, dinner, program and dancing. $45. 650-355-6474.
JUNE 5/6: Polish Wedding Celebration Music. Jan Lewan & his Orchestra; Polka Family, Ania Piwowarczyk, Polish American String Band and the Polish American Dance Company. Trum Taj Mahal Casino, Atlantic City, NJ. Shows 12:00 – 8:00 p.m. Free.
JUNE 6: Fourth Annual San Francisco Chopin Piano Competition for Young Pianists (ages 8-15). San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Sponsored by the San Francisco Council of the Chopin Foundation. Free.
JUNE 11: Karol Radziwonowicz, piano. Music of Chopin and Paderewski. Century Club of California, San Francisco. Sponsored by the Polish Arts & Culture Foundation.
JUNE 13: Laureates of the Chopin Piano Competition (see 6 June). San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Donation: $5.
JUNE 19: Winners of the Stryjniak Music School Competition in Concert. Cami Hall, 165 W. 576h St., 212-717-9590; 718-271- 7745.
JUNE 27: Concert honoring Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Sponsored by the Copernicus Foundation and the Polish Museum of America. Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL. 773- 777-8898.
Future Performances: Year 2000
The Los Angeles Philharmonic has scheduled:
- The Szymanowski Violin Concerto No. 1 with Alexander Treger, violin with Zubin Mehta, cond. 31Mar, 1 & 2 April.
- Lutoslawski Cello concerto, Lynn Harrell, cello, David Robertson, cond. 3,4,5 December.
- Mikhail Pletnev playing Chopin’s four Scherzos and 2 Beethoven sonatas. Celebrity Series at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 17 Feb.
Pianist Karol Radziwonowicz has been busy since his appearance at the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles in March. He performed in Canada and Poland and returned to give concerts of Polish Romantic Music in May in Oakland and Martinez as part of the Festival of Polish Culture organized by the Polish Arts & Cultural Foundation of San Francisco. He was heard on KDFC 102.1 FM and also on the 8 p.m. radio show “Bay Area Preview.” His San Jose recital of 31 May was changed to June 1st (see above).
The afore-mentioned organization also celebrated their 33rd anniversary at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon with a luncheon and recital of Chopin’s music by pianist Ewa Szalek from Lublin, Poland. Congratulations to founder and president Wanda Tomczykowska!
The III Witold Lutoslawski Forum of Contemporary Arts in Lublin, whose goal is to present and promote artists of the 20th c. opened with Lutoslawski’s Piano concerto and “Meridionale- hommage Witold Lutoslawski” by Lithuanian composer Oswaldas Balakauskas.
Grammy Award winning pianist Richard Goode and a leading interpreter of the music of Beethoven (having performed the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas) performed at UCLA in Los Angeles last March in a recital of music by Bach, Chopin and Schubert.
“Polish Stars of Tomorrow.” Seven young laurates of various competitions and/or grants from the Kosciuszko Foundation performed on 21 May at the Foundation house in New York City.
22 May “Gaude Mater Polonia,” a musical evening in celebration of Poland’s entry into NATO was held at St. Bartholomew church at Park Ave & 5th, NY. Gorecki’s famous Third Symphony and Kilar’s “Angelus” was performed by the Festival Symphony Orchestra, Andrzej Rozbicki, conducting and the “Angelus” choir with sopranos Zofia Kilanowicz and Kinga Mitroska and Izabella Kobus-Salkin, mezzo.
The Stryjniak Music School held its III Piano Competition at Steinway Hall in New York on May 22 & 23rd.
Metropolitan opera star Teresa Kubiak performed the music of Chopin, Wieniawski, Moniuszko and Rubinstein at the Polish Cultural Foundation in Clark, NJ on 24 May.
The music of Chopin, Szymanowski and Bach was presented by soprano Monika Krajewska; Slavomir Dobrzanski, piano and Jaroslaw Lisa, violin at the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut 22 May.
A concert version of Moniuszko’s most popular opera, “Halka” was given at the Liederkranz Club in Manhattan with Robin Rubendunst and Gregorio Randel in the title roles (May 12/14). Produced by Nina Polan with Pablo Ringer, pianist.
The Cathedral Choral Society of Washington, D.C. performed a Gorecki choral work in a program entitled “Mystics Ancient & Modern.” It also featured works of Hildegard, Ademar de Chabannes, Tavener and Part. J. Reilly Lewis, director. 7 May.
Student Reports On Lutosławski
by Maria Anna Harley and her USC Students
One of the assignments in my undergraduate music history class (20th century music; first year students) is a concert review. Students are required to go to a concert that includes at least one post 1945 work on the program and write a review of this event, based on the concert-going experience and additional comparisons with other performances of the same work.
Ethan Schreiber and Nathan Breitling, both majoring in composition, selected the same concert given at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as part of the Monday Evening Concerts Series (25th January 1999). The program, given by PARISII QUARTET included string quartets by Schnittke, Dutilleux, Scelsi and Witold Lutosławski. I found the two reports (written independently) so interesting that I decided to share excerpts from them with our readers.
From the Report by Ethan Schreiber
I have never heard of Lutosławski before this concert, much less his music. I walked away from the flawless and intense performance of his only string quartet with myideas about music and its composition forever changed. The idea of composing within the musical ‘cell’ was something that I had never before been exposed to. Hearing how effective and fresh this method sounds, gave me a new picture of how harmony and rhythm could function within a group of instruments. While I have previously encountered the idea of chance in music, particularly allowing performers a certain amount of flexibility within a perfomrance, I had never seen it used in this manner. The idea of allowing the performers to cue one another as to when they should start or stop within a section of a piece is far different from allowing a performer to improvise a solo over a specified number of bars or allowing an individual performer to decide when a section of a piece should begin. In Lutosławski’s String Quartet, the idea of the performers participating equally in the decision making process of the ‘open-cell-form’ gave me an insight into an aspect of chance music that I had never explored before.
Referring to his String Quartet, Lutosławski writes:
If I did write a normal score, superimposing the parts mechanically, it would be false, misleading, and it would represent a different work. This would suggest e.g. that the notes placed on the same vertical line should be always played at the same moment, which is contrary to my intention. Further, it would prefent each performer from being free enough in his rubatos, ritenutos, accelerandos, pauses and above all in his own tempos. That would deprive the piece of its ‘mobile’ character which is one of its most important features…” (in the score published by Chester in 1970, 2nd ed).
The idea of freedom is central to the structure of Lutosławski’s String Quartet. The PARISII Quartet had an amazing ability to function independently while still maintaining ensemble characteristics such as listening intently to one another. They each made eye contact with the others, and all of the cues that were meant to be played together were perfectly timed. […] I was amazed that each member of the quartet had the focus and concerntration to play his part freely from the others and yet have the ability to watch the first violinist for a signal to move on to the next section.
THe PARISII Quartet showed the ability to maintain an ensemble setting while playing independently; moreover, the Quartet exploited their innate musical sensibilities with astounding technique. Each abstract musical phrase seemed to carry profound meaning because each pizzicato and glissando was played with confidence. The tone of all the instruments was either warm and full, or glassy and dry, whichever the score indicated. For example, the recurring theme in the first movement was played with a sharp attack, and yet each time it returned the articulation was changed just slightly to fit the mood of the musical cells that it was placed between. […]
Overall, I felt that a work so incomparable in its originality and expressive power was given a stunning performance. Lutosławski’s String Quartet is a piece that moves through several sections tahta are about as different from one another as music can possibly be, and yet it still maintains an organic unity that binds every section of the work to every other section. The amount of diversity and freedom found within this piece demands focus, technical ability, and demands from the performer the originality and imagination to improvise within this unique context. I felt that the PARISII Quartet lived up to these demands on every level and left no room for disappointment whatsoever. Lutosławski’s String Quartet not only left me with a feeling of satisfaction that I had received more than my money’s worth when I left LACMA, but I also left with a broadened approach to music and its construction that has forever changed me.
From the Report by Nathan Breitling
[…] The last work on the program was Lutosławski’s String Quartet. Having already been familiar with this piece, I was able to listen at a deeper level than before, and was able to more fully discern many of the beautiful patterns and cell relationships that exist within the piece, as well as absorb more of the formal aspects of the piece.
There are some important aspects of this work that deserve an overview: for one, there is no score for this piece; only parts (each player has a distinct part). The idea here is that the players are not concerned with events that line up vertically. Written in each part are many cues and instructions for when and what to play; i.e. “when the violin I plays [quarter and two eightones pattern] enter here.” There is no standard time signature throughout the piece – events are generally only approximately measured in seconds or relatively measured by what other players are doing. Each performer should play ad libitum, as if a solosit, witout regard as to what the rest of the ensemble is playing except for cues, etc.
It is by these quasi-aleatoric methods that Lutosławski achieves a sort of breathing in his music. Events in time become measures entirely relative to each other – with no relation to the sort of incessant ‘ticking away’ of the Western concept of time. But these elements of chance are not in a Cageian sense [i.e. as practiced by John Cage, inventor of ‘chance music]; a close examination of the score reveals that Lutosławski is not open to letting simply ‘anything’ happen. He controls the elements quite closely, in fact, thus creating probable ‘force fields’ for events to happen. This more controlled method of construction also allows Lutosławski to control a number of musical domains more tightly: his pitch material (effectively creating sets which move betwenn the blurred lines of tension and release); his rhythmic material (introducing shared motives in each part); and the texture (this also contributes to the ‘breathing’ and the tension-release aspect of the piece, as well as formal aspects).
The String Quartet is in a two-movement form, consisting of an introductory movement and a main movement (indeed, much of Lutosławski’s work adheres to this form, e.g. Symphony no. 2, Symphony no. 3, Piano Concerto). The two movements are played attacca, and while each certainly retains its own character, dramatic shape depends on both working together. One glance at the study score will reveal the tremendous degree of concentration required by the performers in order to play this piece. Indeed, each musician must be continuously aware of what everyone else is doing (looking for cues, giving cues, etc.) – all the while playing ad libitum to the ensemble. Having already known the piece, and owning the Kronos Quartet recording of it, I was perfectly prepared to evaluate the PARISII Quartet’s performance; the first live performance of the Lutosławski String Quartet that I have heard.
While I already knew the piece to a certain degree, witnessing a live performance made me understand it to a much more profound depth. To actually witness the performers’ awareness and communication with each other was absolutely incredible. Hearing the Quartet on recording gives it a more static, fixed quality; it is exactly the same each time it is heard. While this is still effective, the piece simply becomes more alive in live performance: it is a living, breathing, organic creature. In all actuality the PARISII’s live performance and the Kronos’s recording were strikingly similar in interpretation . This speaks to many interesting points: that Lutosławski does control the events quite closely; that there is perhaps a performance tradition of the piece being born; and/or that both quartets are made of brilliant, insightful, and communicative performers..
One finds it difficult to criticize two brilliant performances on the pettiness of differences. Perhaps the Kronos Quartet has more of a bright tone, whereas the PARISII tends to have darker, richer tone (this, of course, could be a difference of the recording studio vs. the recital hall). The former would lend itself to the pointillistic textures of (often) the introductory movement, while the latter would lend itself to the layered glissanid of sections in the main movement. Also, the recital hall – while not affecting the sound too much – seemed to hid a bit of the articulation and dynamic nuances which are so present in the Kronos recording.
NAXOS 8.553625. LUTOSLAWSKI. Orchestral Works, Vol. 4. Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Antoni Wit. This CD was one of three finalists in the 1999 Cannes Classical Awards in the category of Orchestral: 20th century music. The winner was Blacher: Orchestral Works. The other nominee was Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.
ATH CD 19. SZYMANOWSKI. Piano Sonatas No. 1, 2 & 3. Prelude & Fugue in C# minor. Raymond Clarke, pianist. Athene Records is a British firm.
Reviewed in American Record Guide
Czeslaw Marek’s Orchestral Music
KOCH SCHWANN 3-6441-2. Three volumes of composer Czeslaw Marek’s orchestral works under the baton of Gary Brain have been released by Koch Schwann.This series is favorably reviewed in ARG by Mark I. Lehman, who said that he reviewed a “program of “Modern Swiss Music” in the Mar/Apr 1996 issue, singling out for special praise an orchestral song cycle by an ‘obscure’ composer named Czeslaw Marek. He was a new name to me and surely also to almost all of ARG’s readers. A year or so later, Koch began issuing a series of discs devoted to Marek’s music that has drawn well- deserved worldwide attention to this Polish-born musician who spent much of his very long life (1891-1985) in Switzerland.
In reviewing the third of this series (KOCH 6441) Lehman asks the readers to “imagine a cross between Bartok’s “Village Scenes” and Canteloube’s “Songs of the Auvergne” to get an idea of their sound-world. The disc is filled out with four short a cappella choral pieces, but the song cycles are the reason to buy this disc….Volumes 1 and 2 of the series (Koch 6439 and 6440) offer first recordings of six of marek’s orchestral compositions…Marek isn’t, I suppose, a great original, but he isn’t a mere imitator either. And at his best- as in the song cycles on Volume 3 – he is pure fjoy. We’ve reason to be grateful to Koch for this series devoted to his music.”
The series was also reviewed in Fanfare by Martin Anderson who reports that this is “the third and final volume of Gary Brain’s exploration of the orchestral music of the Polish- Swiss composer Czeslaw Marek…the remaining four discs to appear in Koch’s complete Marek edition will now move on to piano music, songs, and chamber music.” Anderson also singles out the song cycles for soprano and orchestra and concludes that they “should appeal to a very wide listenership indeed – they have just the right blend of craftsmanship and direct popular appeal. The melodic lines are bright-eyed and bouncy or long and languorous as the text demands, set off by Marek’s orchestrations like jewels in a tiara…could well prove popular hits, not just with classical buffs…but also with middle audiences all around the world…the performances are of the first order. You couldn’t imagine a voice better suited to these songs than Elzbieta Szmytka’s.”
The reviewer criticizes the lack of Polish texts of all the songs. There are German translations and occasionally English ones; otherwise the English is confined to a summary. This unforgivable omission extends to having no biographical note for Szmytka.
Ax’s Chopin Recording
SONY 60771. Chopin. Piano Concerto No. 1, La ci Darem, Variations & Waltz in a minor. Emanuel Ax, piano. Charles Mackerras, cond.
Author and critic Harold C. Schonberg reviews the disc favorably as far as Ax’s playing is concerned. However, he questions the recording being “presented as a `period performance'” since “this disc uses a restored 1851 London Erard piano. that’s kind of funny. Chopin died in 1849 , before this Erard was built; and in any case Chopin never played an Erard. His instrument was always a delicate Pleyel. It was Liszt who used the heavier, more resonant Erard. So much for period ‘authenticity.'”
Two Lutosławski Recordings
Two Lutosławski recordings are reviewed and compared by Arved Ashby: NMC 98 (QUALITON) and ASV 1046 (KOCH).
“The NMC disc, recorded in Toront in October 1993, documents the final public performances Lutosławski conducted of his own music. And this seems the only he made of the 1991 song cycle Chantefleurs et Chantefables.” [There are 2 others conducted by Tadaaki Otaka and Esa-Pekka Salonen. The first one recorded in Wales in 1995 and the latter in Los Angeles in Nov. 1994 along with the Fanfare that was commissioned for the LA Philharmonic’s 75th anniversary).
“On the ASV, Ann Martin-Davis essays Lutosławski’s complete piano opus and fills the disc out with various smaller pieces for piano with voice, clarinet, and oboe…The recording jobs on ASV are a very mixed bag, the piano pieces muffled, the accompaniment in the songs bottom-heavy, the Dance Preludes bright and clattery. Even if it’s not a mandatory purchase, then, this disc does fill out some interesting corners of the Lutosławski discography.”
Ashby also reviews Penderecki’s “Credo” premiered at the Oregon Bach Festival under Helmuth Rilling. HANSSLER 98311 (Collegium). The critic did not like it much. It is a completely different reaction to Dr. Magen Solomon who reported on the live performance for “The Voice of Chorus America” (see News section above).
Skrowaczewski’s Triple Concerto
CRYSTAL 749. Skrowaczewski. Triple Concerto. Paired with works by Thomas Christian David.
Another favorable review for Stnaislaw Skrowaczewski’s latest work. Last month I reported on Robert Cowan’s review in the British journal “Gramophone.” This time Allen Gimbel at American Record Guide echoes the first review that “Skrowaczewski is a towering musical shrine next to Mr. David’s amateurish Sinfonia concertante.” The reviewer states that “Skrowaczewski, primarily known for his 19-year stint as conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra (to 1979)” has not changed his style very much “in 30 years: a lush, often Bergian expressionism with a conductor’s sense of effective instrumental writing and orchestral color.” He also refers to Skrowaczewski’s earlier CD of the English Horn Concerto of 1969, commissioned and recorded by the great Thomas Stacy and now available on CD as PHOENIX 120. (The PMRC has a video of the premiere in Milwaukee in its archives).
Reviewed In Fanfare
HYPERION CDA 67056. Paderewski. Symphony in B, “Polonia.” BBC Scottish SO, Jerzy Maksymiuk, cond.
Reviewed by Martin Anderson: “Paderewski wrote this massive “Polonia” Symphony No. 24, between 1904 and 1909). It’s an important nbridge between the 19th c. world of Moniuszko, Zelenski, and Noskowski and the more forward-looking sound worlds of Karlowicz and Szymanowski, and on then to Czeslaw Marek, and from him to Lutoslawski.”
Anderson had previously heard the symphony about 20 years ago “in a recording by the Pomeranian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of Bydgoszcz on (I think) Polskie Nagrania; the performance resurfaced 11 years ago on an Olympia CD (OCD 305) coupled with the Polish Fantasy for piano and orchestra. The music was heavily cut, and the performance was hardly of a quality to establish the work in the memory as a neglected masterpiece. So I sat down to this first complete recording with considerable interest. I’ve listened to it several times now, and I’m still not sure what to make of it.”
He continues to use “That’s powerful stuff” to some passages ….there are, at least, some wonderfully dark orchestral sounds to be heard here and Paderewski can whip up a mean storm…” All in all he enjoyed it despite its length. However, the critic was not sure he could sit through it in a concert hall. He praised the helpful and informative program notes by British musicologist Adrian Thomas, who is one of the authors of our Polish Music History Series (no. 3 Grazyna Bacewicz. Orchestral and Chamber Music).
Various Works by Lutosławski
ASV CD DCA 1046. Lutosławski. Miscellaneous Pieces. Ann Martin-Davis, p. Susan Legg, mezzo & piano; Duncan Prescott, cl., Melanie Ragge, ob.
In his review Peter Burwasser erroneously places the death of Witold Lutoslawski in 1992. The correct year is 1994 (when the composer was 81). In his commentary the critic states that “Nearly all of the music on this CD falls within the realm of the folklorist Lutoslawski…the wonderful vocal material is all folk based…performances here are terrific..in all, this is a splendid and deeply gratifying collection of the conservative side of a late-20th-century master.”
Paul Sacher Remembered
by Maria Anna Harley
The Saturday issue of the Los Angeles Times published the obituary for Paul Sacher, the renowned Swiss philantropist and conductor, who died on May 28, 1999 at the age of 93 (born April 28, 1906). Sacher was one of the world’s richest people and was uniquely dedicated to promoting new music, early music and stimulate Swiss musical culture. He founded Paul Sacher Foundation in his home town of Basel to gather and preserve composers’ manuscripts, including the heritage of Witold Lutosławski.
Following the death of the Polish composer in 1994, all of his remaining papers, sketches, letters and manuscripts were transfered to the Sacher Foundation; the few items outside its holdings include 5 original manuscripts held at the PMRC and the score of Jeux venitiens in the collection of the Northwestern University, Evanston [a photo of this score, taken in November 1998, is enclosed].
The obituary did not mention Lutoslawski’s name and this ommission gave us an idea of publishing a report and an interview, originally written during my encounter with Mr. Sacher – during his visit to McGill University in Montreal in 1994. The report previously appeared in print in McGill News. In 1993 I have met Mr. Sacher in Basel during a visit to the Sacher Foundation sponsored by the Gesellschaft fur Musikforschung that organized international conference on the topic of “Musik als Text” in Freiburg, Germany. Again, I had an occasion of seeing him during my 1996 week-long research visit to the foundation (to search through Lutosławski sketches for material for two papers). But it is the short interview that he granted me (and that was constantly interrupted by a journalist from the CBC) that I remember him most fondly – as a charming, generous, and distinguished man.
Sacher At McGill
During the Fall Convocation, on 2 November 1994, Paul Sacher, a renowned musician, conductor and patron of the arts, received a doctorate honoris causa from the Faculty of Music. The ceremony was particularly memorable because it took place just after the Installation of the new Principal of the University, Dr. Bernard J. Shapiro, in the presence of His Excellency, the Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn (the Governor General of Canada and the Visitor of McGill University). In an address introducing Dr. Sacher to this distinguished audience, Prof. John Grew described the Swiss conductor as “one of the legendary musicians of our century.” It is easy to agree with this statement, especially when remembering that Paul Sacher’s conducting career spanned almost 70 years (since 1926!), and that in a lifetime devoted to music he commissioned and premiered numerous compositions, established two important performing groups (Basle Chamber Orchestra and Schola Cantorum Basiliensis), and a world-renown documentation centre for 20th-century music (Paul Sacher Stiftung).
Dr. Sacher’s visit to McGill was marked by two events: on 1 November he gave the 1994 Beatty Lecture, and the next day he conducted a concert of works by Arthur Honegger at the Notre Dame Basilica (the program is on the left, with Honegger and the young Sacher on the photo). Both events were very well attended and the concert concluded with a standing ovation (it was recorded and broadcast at the CBC Stereo “Music from Montreal” program; production by Kelly Rice). The lecture, entitled “Paul Sacher remembers Béla Bartók,” was filled with personal recollections and with facts about the genesis of Bartók’s works, bringing to life a seminal figure in the history of the 20th-century music. It was easy to forget about Sacher himself, sitting in the shade while a series of enormous portraits of Bartók looked upon the listeners from the centre of the stage (slide projections). This setup highlighted Sacher’s generosity and lack of self-centeredness: at an occasion celebrating his doctorate, he chose to talk about a friend, rather than speak about his own achievements.
The program of the concert, held on 2 November 1994 (All Souls Day in the Catholic liturgy) included Symphony No. 3 (Liturgique) and the cantata La Danse des morts by Arthur Honegger, performed by Marc Belleau (baritone), Michčle Gagné (soprano), Maria Popescu (mezzo-soprano), Albert Millaire (narrator), McGill Chamber Singers and University Choir, and McGill Symphony Orchestra, with solo violin (Marie Lacasse) and organ (Eric Reinhart). The choirs were prepared by Prof. Iwan Edwards, the orchestra by Prof. Timothy Vernon; both conductors actively participated in the rehearsals with Paul Sacher, coaching and coaxing the young musicians into a still greater effort, still more enthusiastic response to the demands of the distinguished guest conductor. At the end of the dress rehearsal the president of Music Undergraduate Society presented Dr. Sacher with a MUS T-shirt–a touchingly useless gift (imagine 88-year old Sacher jogging in his McGill outfit through the midst of Basel!), yet symbolic in making the Swiss “living legend” a part of the McGill family.
What is the meaning of a honorary doctorate, though? According to Prof. Bengt Hambraeus, “it is a beginning of a relationship: we give you this prize because we want you to feel at home chez nous, to feel connected to us.” Paul Sacher’s visit to McGill left some permanent traces of this connection: a gift of over thirty books and catalogues donated to the Marvin Duchow Music Library. These beautifully published volumes include books about Balser Kammerorchester, sketch studies and facsimiles from Paul Sacher Stiftung (e.g. Stravinsky’s Symphony of Wind Instruments), a collection of Sacher’s speeches and articles, and other publications from Switzerland. The bestowal of the honorary doctorate upon Dr. Paul Sacher, an event through which “we become integrated into the living history of music” (Bengt Hambraeus), marks an important moment in the history of the University–the 250th anniversary of James McGill’s birth.
Six Questions to Dr. Paul Sacher
Maria Anna Harley: My first question relates to the program of the concert that celebrates your presence at McGill. You have chosen two extraordinary works by Paul Honegger and I would like to know the rationale for this choice. . .
Paul Sacher: It is quite simple, really. The Liturgical Symphony is one of the great works by Honegger and La Danse des morts is not known here. I think that it has never been played in Montreal and I think that it has to be played.
MAH: During the Beatty Lecture you spoke about the life and ideas of Bčla Bartók. In 1937, Bartók said that music of the future should adhere to the principle of “inspired simplicity.” This was his message for the musicians of his time; what would you like to tell the musicians and composers of our time, what is your message for the future?
PS: I think it is important that music is not only an intellectual pleasure, but that it means something. The two works by Honegger make it clear that there is a mission for his music. He wants to tell the listeners something important for himself; he wants to share his beliefs with the listeners. I think that everybody understands it because the music is not complicated–it is easy and understandable for everybody. MAH: My third question relates to the Paul Sacher Stiftung, a very important and unique collection of manuscripts. What are the criteria for including composers in this collection? Whom do you invite to deposit their works in the Archives?
PS: No, we are not inviting people. We are choosing from the offers we get. Sometimes we are very glad, but we cannot accept all offers. It is not possible–we do not have enough space. We are very happy with what we have now, and the collection will certainly grow… Sometimes we get what we want, sometimes we are not lucky.
MAH: But you have accepted everything by Lutosławski…
PS: Oh, yes, of course.
MAH: Why did he find a place in the Sacher Stiftung while other people did not?
PS: Listen, don’t you think that there are great composers living now and there are less great composers? We have to make a choice!
MAH: Lutosławski was very close to you personally. Can you say something about your friendship?
PS: Lutosławski was an extraordinary person, he was a great gentleman, he was a very noble man. I think that he was one of the leading composers of our time. I liked him very much and I have always admired his work, ever since I came across the Funeral Music dedicated to Bartók. This is all I can say. I was a great friend of Lutos awski, because I think that he was an extremely fine and noble person.
MAH: We had a chance of learning about this last year, when Lutos awski came to McGill for his honorary doctorate. We could experience the nobility of his personality, the loftiness of his ideals. My next question, though, moves home, to McGill. What is your impression of the McGill Faculty of Music that has just awarded you with a doctorate honoris causa?
PS: It is an extraordinary university. McGill is one of the leading universities of our time and I have a great admiration for the work done here. I think that everybody who knows McGill should be enthusiastic about it.
MAH: True. . . Personally, I feel greatly honored that I received my doctorate in music at the Fall Convocation with you. Thank you very much for your presence here and for taking the time to answer my questions.
Born This Month
- June 1, 1909 – Maria Dziewulska, composer and theoretician
- June 4, 1845 – Aleksander Poliński, music historian (d. 1916)
- June 4, 1784 – Adam Czarnocki, music etnographer (d. 1825)
- June 5, 1865 – Felicjan Szopski, composer and music critic (d.1939)
- June 6, 1929 – Bogusław Schaeffer, composer, writer
- June 12, 1897 – Aleksander Tansman, composer and pianist, bio on PMRC Composers’ Site
- June 16, 1923 – Henryk Czyż, conductor and composer
- June 17, 1930 – Romuald Twardowski, composer
- June 28, 1895 – Kazimierz Sikorski, composer and teacher
- June 28, 1904 – Włodzimierz Poźniak, musicologist
Died This Month
- June 4, 1872 – Stanisław Moniuszko (“father” of Polish national opera), bio on PMRC Composers’ Site
- June 5, 1964 – Henryk Sztompka, pianist, Chopin specialist, teacher
- June 30, 1957 – Michał Świerzyński, composer and choral conductor