Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 5, no. 5
Chopin Piano Competition Winners
- I Prize: Michael NAMIEROWSKI
- II Prize: Dawn CHAN
- III Prize: Mimi SOLOMON
The first prize consists of a $2,500 cash scholarship and invitations to perform at the Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój, Poland and other locations (chapters of the Kościuszko Foundation in New York and other cities). Second prize is a cash scholarship of $1,500 and the third a scholarship of $1,000.
The Kościuszko Foundation Chopin Competition was established in 1949 in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the death of Frederic Chopin. Over the years, many outstanding musicians have won prizes in the Competition, including Van Cliburn, Ian Hobson, and Murray Perahia. Today the Kościuszko Foundation Chopin Competition continues to encourage gifted young pianists to further their studies. Along with the Sembrich Voice Competition, first held in 1968, it promotes study and performance of Poland’s rich musical heritage. This year’s Competition celebrates its own fiftieth birthday as the world marks the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s death.
Chopin Auction In Paris, 25 May 1999
A public auction will take place in Paris for 6 handwritten letters by Fryderyk Chopin and twenty-three “first edition” scores dedicated by Chopin to his friend, Franchomme. The auction will take place on 25 May 1999 at Drouot-Richelieu in Paris. If you would like to receive a catalog of all items for sale please contact the organizers at the following e-mail address: email@example.com.
The catalog may also be viewed online at www.auctionconsult.com/beaussant. The items include four personal and affectionate letters from Chopin to his close friend, cellist, Auguste Franchomme. Three letters were written in Nohant between September 1844 and September 1846. The fourth letter from Chopin to Mademoiselle de Rosičres was written less than three months before Chopin’s death.
Of the twenty-three scores dedicated to Auguste Franchomme, one bears a double dedication in Chopin’s hand: on the cover “A mon ami chéri Au. Franchomme F. CHOPIN” and on the title page “Au plus grimacieux et gracieux Franchomme. Le plus attaché F. CHOPIN. Le 6/6 33”. These items rested until this day in the possession of descendants of Auguste Franchomme.
For a calendar of Chopin Year events in France and Poland for the month of May go to the site at the following address: www.chopin1999.org. Events throughout the world are listed through February 2000. The listings include:
MAY 6-9: Chopin Competition for Young Pianists in Bulgaria.
MAY 8-15: Recital of Chopin Songs by Zofia Kilanowicz, sop. and Katarzyna Jankowska, piano at the Ada Sari Days in Nowy Sacz.
Ballet spectacle to Chopin’s music with Mikhail Fokin’s choreography arranged by Emil Wesołowski. Ongoing in Łazienki Park, Warsaw May through September.
Meeting of people with the surname “Chopin” from France and other French-speaking countries, May 13-16.
In addition, several Chopin Anniversary Tours are being offered. The Kosciuszko Foundation tour is scheduled for October, while the one in August is organized by the Chopin Society of France and the Chopin Foundation of San Francisco by pianists Adam Wibrowski and Dr. William Wellborn.
“Hommage To Chopin” Gala Concert On Long Island
On Sunday, May 16, 1999, 3:00 p.m., Polish Singers Alliance of America District Seven will offer a special concert dedicated to Chopin. 10 Polish-American choruses from the New York Metropolitan Area convene to honor Poland’s most beloved composer on the 150th anniversary of his death. Works by Chopin include the Polonaise in A-major for chorus and orchestra, new arrangements of selected songs for chorus and orchestra, and Krakowiak from the Piano Concerto in E-minor with guest pianist Jacek Zganiacz. Also featured will be Angelus by Wojciech Kilar with soprano soloist Tiffany CasaSante.
The concert will take place at Hofstra University, John Cranford Adams Playhouse, 1000 Fulton Avenue, Hempstead, Long Island. Admission: $15; children 12 and under free (acc. by an adult); students and faculty of Hofstra free. For more info: 718-720-6089; 516-822-0358; 201-935-2807. Actress Elżbieta Czyżewska, host. Janusz Sporek and Dayle Vander Sande, conductors.
New Recording Of Bacewicz
A small Polish recording company called Acte Prealable has issued the first recording in a series of Grażyna Bacewicz’s complete works for string quartet. The recording features String Quartets no. 4 and 7 as well as Piano Quintet no. 1, performed by Amar Corde String Quartet and Waldemar Malicki, piano. The recording bears the issue number AP0019. The producers acknowledge the assistance of Wanda Bacewicz, the composer’s sister in obtaining the composer’s photographs used in cover art (reproduced here).
Volume 2 of the series features String Quartets no. 2, 3, and 6, while Volume 3 includes String Quartets no. 1 and 5 as well as Piano Quintet no. 2. The Amar Corde Quartet consists of four female performers: Barbara Stuhr (1st violin), Bogusława Ziegelheim (2nd violin), Beata Płoska (viola), and Agata Zając (cello). The group is based in Krakow and their existence was brought to our attention by the CD donated to our collection by Wanda Bacewicz.
The 90th anniversary of Grażyna Bacewicz’s birth is celebrated in May. The composer’s presence in the repertoire of orchestras, chamber ensembles and soloists is steadily increasing. Violinists and string players in general are particularly partial to her music, though she has, by now, a few dedicated conductors. In February her music was heard at a Polish Radio festival, called The Bacewicz Days. At present a TV documentary is being made about this wonderfully talented woman – who was a composer, virtuosa violinist, pianist, writer, and a wife and mother.
Anderszewski Issues A New CD
A former USC student, Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski, has a new CD on Harmonia Mundi: Part of the Les Nouveaux Interpretes Series, it features the music of Bach. The disc 911679 includes Suite francaise no. 5 BWV 816 and Ouverture dans le style francais BWV 831. His first solo recording devoted to the music of Bach, Beethoven and Webern received the Polish Critics’ Award in 1996. He has also made two recordings with violinist Viktoria Mullova. BBC Music Magazinewrote, “His performances of the most complex Bach and Beethoven have a white-hot dog conviction…among younger pianists he seems most likely to join the greats.” Anderszewski also studied at the Conservatoires of Lyon and Strasbourg and the Chopin Academy in Warsaw.
Polish Composers On A Canadian CD
Thanks to the efforts of Piotr Grella-Mozejko, Polish composer based in Edmonton, Alberta, a new CD was issued with chamber music by three Polish composers: Mr. Grella-Mozejko (dreamtide for clarinet, violin and marimba, 1996), Krzysztof Baculewski (A View from the Veranda on a Warm, Rainy Night for violin solo, 1986), Lidia Zielińska (Glossa for violin solo, 1986). The CD is named after Zielinska’s piece, and was issed by CLEF Records 99003-2.
Penderecki’s Honorary Doctorate
World-renowned Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki received an Honorary Doctorate from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 27th. The official ceremony was followed by a concert of Penderecki’s music and a reception for the special guest and other invitees. PMRC was invited to this event but we were not able to attend due to other commitments. Congratulations to the composer, whose portfolio now includes 22 honorary doctorates from an international array of institutions!
Composer and conductor, Stanisław Skrowaczewski was a finalist in the 1999 Pulitzer Prizes for his composition “Concerto for Orchestra,” together with David Rakowski for “Persistent Memory.” The Music Prize went to an American woman composer.
New Books and Scores
Chopin: A Guide To Research
A new book on Chopin, Chopin: A Guide to Research, will be available in July. Written by Dr. William Smialek, professor of music at Jarvis Christian College in Texas, it lists all important books, articles, reviews and theses in western European languages and in Polish, as well as selected references in Russian, Czech and Japanese. The book may be ordered from Garland Publishing Co. (1-800-821-8312). Previously, the same author has written a book about Polish symphonies.
Polish Scores By Mail Order
Patti Music Company located in Wisconsin offers discounts of up to 30% from its mail-order catalog. The piano catalog lists more than 190 publishers from all over the world (1-800-77-2884). Among the music of Polish works available here are:
- BACEWICZ, Grazyna: Little Triptych, Rondino and Sonatina.
- CHOPIN, Fryderyk: Probably all editions are available [Paderewski (PWM) ed.; Ekier Urtext ed. (PWM); Mikuli; Joseffy; various easy arrangements, as well as the two Piano Concertos in a 2 piano arr.]
- GODOVSKY, Leopold: Polonaise
- LUTOSLAWSKI, Witold: Folk Melodies, Paganini Variations for 2 pianos.
- MOSZKOWSKI, Moritz: 15 Etudes, 13 Romantic Pieces, Music for Piano, Spanish Dances, Works for 2 pianos.
- PADEREWSKI, Ignacy Jan: Album for Piano (PWM) and Album from the Tatra Mountains.
- PANUFNIK, Andrzej: 12 Miniature Studies, Reflections.
- STACHOWSKI, Marek: Odysseus Amidst the White Keys.
- SZYMANOWSKI, Karol: Etudes, Op. 4 & Op. 33, Masques, Metopes, Preludes, Szymanowski collection, Variations on a Polish folk Theme, (Universal Edition and PWM).
- TANSMAN, Alexander: Quatre Nocturnes, Sonata Rustica, 20 Easy Pieces on Polish Folksongs; 7 Preludes.
- Organ Music of the 19th c. Book 12: Polish Composers.
- A book by Josef Hofmann on “Piano Playing with Piano Questions Answered.”
Klasyka, a monthly Polish music journal, which had been published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Naukowe (Polish Scientific Publishers) is looking for a new publisher, according to the established bi-weekly music journal, Ruch Muzyczny. However, it can be found very easily on the internet at: www.klasyka.com.pl with issues going back to January 1998.
The April issue features British violinist Daniel Hope. Although the journal is primarily in Polish you can read “Brief Encounters with Alfred Schnittke” by Daniel Hope. One of the main features of this site is a calendarium of all classical events for the month in each city in Poland. They also rate new CDs.
Polonaise is a magazine issued twice a year by the Chopin Foundation of the United States in Florida. It can now be viewed on the internet:www.chopin.org/polonaise.html. You may read about ways of performing Chopin’s music in an article by Regina Smendzianka and look up a very interesting text, “And if Chopin had not been Polish?” by Grenville Powney.
West Coast Theory Conference
The program of this event included a paper on “Metrical Dissonance in the Music of Chopin” by Canadian scholar, Harald Krebs, based at the University of Victoria. Prof. Krebs discussed a specific case of rhythmic structuring in Chopin’s Mazurkas, mentioning earlier research on this topic by Jeffrey Kresky and John Rink. His own paper was designed to demonstrate that metrical conflict is an important component of Chopin’s style; and to show how Chopin coordinates metrical conflict with other aspects of the music. A number of brief and familiar examples gave an indication of the prevalence of metrical conflict in Chopin’s works. In particular Chopin’s figuration owes much of its sparkling charm to grouping dissonance. In the Second Scherzo, for example, most of the ornamented arpeggio figures that cascade up and down the keyboard are based on the metrical dissonance (six against four eight-notes, mm. 49-52, 307-309, 358-64, and 540-43).
Chopin’s metrical dissonances are by no means restricted to his figuration. His dance pieces are rich in brief, yet striking examples that do not involve figuration. The earliest mazurkas contain much displacement dissonance produced by dynamic accentuation of metrically weak beats, sometimes the second beat (as in op. 6 no.2, mm. 1-4), sometimes the third (for example, in op. 6 no.1, mm. 4-7). A particularly interesting example of grouping dissonance occurs in the B section of the Mazurka op. 17 no.1 which demonstrates Chopin’s skill at coordinating metrical conflict and its resolution with another aspect of the music (here, phrase structure). The paper was interpersed with live performances in order to demonstrate vividly the significant contribution of metrical conflict to the beauty and drama of Chopin’s music. [Account based on the author’s abstract].
Joint Meeting Of The AMS Chapters
The North/Central and Pacific/Southwest Chapters of the American Musicological Society held their joint meeting at USC on April 24-25, 1999. The meeting took place in the Arnold Schoenberg Institute on USC campus and was hosted by the Chair of the Music History and Literature Department at the Thornton School of Music, Prof. Bruce Brown, assisted by Prof. Maria Anna Harley, serving as the USC representative to the Pacific Chapter of the AMS.
The program included one presentation on Polish music: “Composing in Color” – Marta Ptaszyńska’s Liquid Light” – given by Maria Anna Harley. The talk discussed the role of synaesthetic (or color-hearing) experiences of the composer in the creation of the song cycle for mezzosoprano, piano and percussion (1994-95). Marta Ptaszyńska (composer-percussionist; b. 1943) wrote over twenty pieces using percussion in solo and chamber settings. Here, I examined her song cycle to the poetry of Modene Duffy, which was inspired by the art of Paul Gauguin and the poet’s own painting of the Caribbean (less important for the composer than Gauguin).
Ptaszyńska unusual ability of hearing harmonic elements of the music (e.g. perfect fifths are “blue-green”) and percussive timbres (e.g. the triangle sounds “sky-blue”) differs from her precedessors described in literature of the subject (Skryabin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Messiaen). While experiencing an idiosyncratic set of harmonic colors she also hears/sees percussive textures and timbres as different hues seen “inwardly” upon hearing the sounds.
The paper explored the range of color references in the poetic cycle which consists of four visions, each in a different color palette, from dark blue-greens of the sea (with scattered golden splashes of the setting sun), through “pale lavender glow” of the moonlight (song no. 2), and the pink smoothness of a conch shell on the beach (song no. 3), to an outburst of redness of flowers depicted at the beginning of the last poem, entitled “Exponential Red” and a gradual return to cool tranquility of the green in the cycle’s closure.
The colors mentioned in the poems are confronted with the hues explicitly mentioned by the composer. Her synaesthetic experiences influence the translation of the poetic inspiration into the music, but the connections are not always straightforward. The first movement’s colors include blue and turquoise of the sea (chords of superimposed fourths and fifths; blue-green timbres of the glockenspiel and mark tree). The mixture of a “timbral” color (marimba – pink) and a “harmonic” color (blue-green of chords built from fourths and fifths) leads to the creation of the “pale lavender” of the second song. The third movement evokes visual/tactile stimuli by articulation, dynamics, texture and timbre (with a prominent marimba ending which illustrates the pink coloration of the shell). The final song is, according to the composer, “in dark green and red.” The “Red Sea” of flowers is reflected by a saturated, tertian harmony and rich percussive colors; the following greenness of the “wildwood pool” is evoked by the fourths and fifths in the piano part. The color structure of the song cycle – from cold shades, through gradually warmer hues leading to a climax of redness and a return to colder green – stems from poetic imagery but leads to the presence of musical elements that may be misunderstood without knowing the underlying color scheme. Nonetheless, the piece is very enjoyable in purely musical terms and for “color-challenged” listeners (such as myself) provides a variety of timbral colors and rich range of vocal expressions that may be enjoyed for their own sake.
Web Site Of The Chopin Foundation In Miami
The site contains useful information about Chopin as well as about concert and publication activities of the Chopin Foundation in Miami. For the fall of 1999, the Foundation plans a “Chopin Festival” to be held at Hollywood, Miami and Fort Lauresdale (check it) with pianists travelling from one location to the next. The web pages about these events present the profiles of the pianists and encourage the viewers to get their tickets for these events. A survey of articles from the semi-annual magazine Polonaise is also a welcome addition to the limited online literature on Polish music.
However, in order to be more comprehensive, the Foundation added sites about contemporary composers and these are filled with factual errors that diminish their usefulness to net surfers. For instance, there are no dates of death for such composers as Tadeusz Baird (d. 1981), Andrzej Dobrowolski (d. 1990), Kazimierz Serocki (d. 1981), Tomasz Sikorski (d.1988) or Bolesław Szabelski (d. 1979). In addition, Witold Lutosławski is listed as having died in 1996 – the correct date is 1994. The site features photographs that look at least 30 years old and does not include references to more recent pieces by such composers as Penderecki, Lutosławski or Kotoński whose artistic development did not end in the 1970s. Perhaps, an old reference source was used for obtaining the information. Hopefully, these errors will be corrected soon as the site continues to grow and feature new names. There is an “early music” portion of the site, with four names to date – Gomółka, Moniuszko, Ogiński, and Wieniawski.
New Mailing List About Polish History
The list is run by Markus Krzoska and offers an ongoing discussion of all aspects of Polish history. You may send your questions and remarks in German, Polish, or English. You can join this list by going to the following web page: www.onelist.com/subscribe.cgi/polhist.
New Composers at the PMRC Site
Thanks to the efforts of USC graduate students, Jan Jakub Bokun and Brian Harlan, supervised by Maria Anna Harley, the PMRC site now features four new composers’ sites. The newly created sites are dedicated to: Tadeusz Baird, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Wojciech Kilar and Aleksander Tansman. In addition, s sites about Kazimierz Serocki, Karol Szymanowski, Roman Maciejewski and Józef Koffler are being prepared by these two young men and other USC graduate students who attended a seminar on Polish identity in music given by Prof. Harley (Neil Galanter, Radosław Materka).
Calendar Of Events
MAY 1-15: “ProBaltica ’99” VI Festival of Art & Music from Baltic countries. In Torun, Grudziadz, Gdansk & Warsaw. Organized by MultiCamerata of Torun, Poland (the city of Copernicus’ birth). Soloists and ensembles from Lithuania, Denmark, Latvia, Russia, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Poland, including Krzysztof Penderecki, Sinfonia Varsovia, National Philharmonic Choir & Cappella Gedanensis.
2 MAY: Mexican-Polish Concert. The Lira Ensemble. Holy Name Cathedral. N. State St. @ Chicago Ave. 3:00 p.m.
3 MAY: The Celebration of May 3rd Constitution. Poland’s National Holiday. For an essay about Polish national anthems see May 1997 issue of our Newsletter.
3 MAY Chopin’s Piano concerto in e minor performed as a Piano Quintet by the Pomeranian Quartet and Pawel Kowalski. Bydgoszcz, Poland.
4 MAY: Repeat of above. Vittum Theatre, Northwestern U. Settlement. $5 @ door/$4 pre-sale. 7:30 p.m. Parking at the Polish Museum of America, which will be open from 6:30 for an exhibit.
11 MAY Chopin Recital. Jeffrey Swan at the National Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw. Mr. Swan also performing in Bydgoszcz & Krakow.
16 MAY Laurel Trio. Music of Haydn, Brahms & Twardowski. Kosciuszko Foundation Chamber Music Series. 3:00 p.m. 15 E. 65th St. NY. 212-734-2130.
21 MAY Polish Stars of Tomorrow. Showcase Concert of Kosciuszko Foundation Grantees and Scholarship Winners. Friday, 8:00 p.m.
23 MAY Jan Gorbaty, pianist. Sponsored by the Greater New York Council of the Chopin Foundation. Tel: 718-793-2625.
The Warsaw Wind Quintet repeated their April 18th recital at the Kosciuszko Foundation with pianist Michido Otaki of music by Tansman and Szalowski on April 20th at Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Chopin Year Recitals in April:
- Pianist Jerzy Godziszewski in Vancouver, Canada.
- Aleksey Sultanow in Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw and Bielsko Biala.
- Waldemar Malicki at the Philharmonic Hall in Krakow.
- Marek Drewnowski in Tanzania.
- Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman performed at the Los Angeles Music Center on April 13th. The enthusiastic audience did not wait until the end of the recital to show their appreciation. They gave the artist a standing ovation right after the first half of the program which was devoted to Chopin. The second half consisted of the physically taxing Grand Sonata no. 1 by Robert Schumann and was followed by several standing ovations and curtain calls.
The Holocaust And Polish Music
by Maria Anna Harley
I. Szymon Laks
Springtime in Poland is the time to remember all the victims of the Nazi regime, especially those who suffered and perished in concentration camps. Polish composers of art music dedicated many works to this cause and I would like to review some examples of their creativity that immortalize the memory of the innocent and the inhumanity of their persecutors. The names of the composers range from such well-known artists as Górecki or Penderecki to nearly forgotten ones, like Szymon Laks, a Holocaust survivor. Laks created a unique group of pieces, mostly songs expressing his thoughts and reflections about his experience. Born in 1901 in Warsaw (died in Paris in 1985), Laks was a neoclassical composer and violinist of Polish-Jewish origin who settled in Paris after the war that he had spent in Auschwitz and Dachau. Music literally saved his life there – as he became a member of the camp orchestra, performing for the prisoners and guards, and having more food than those designated for an earlier death.
Incidentally, Laks’s Auschwitz memoirs are now published in English and are available from Northwestern University Press (1989). His songs for voice and piano, written soon after the war to poignant texts by Polish poets (Tuwim, Jastrun) deal with the emotional and social consequences of the destruction of Polish Jewry. An expressive “Elegia for Jewish Villages” is a good example of trying to preserve the memory of the lost culture; the “Funeral” is more direct in describing the disappearance of Laks’s compatriots into “thin air” – the poem describes the sky that the smoke “wrote inscriptions onto” as the Jewish cemetery, with each cloud as a tombstone. Many of Laks’s manuscripts were lost during the war; what is left is certainly worthy of performance and study.
II. Krzysztof Penderecki
Auschwitz is the symbolic site of the Holocaust and a site of a museum and monuments to the memory of the victims. In 1967 a large monument was unveiled by the Polish government and the ceremony of its dedication included a world premiere of a work by Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933), Poland’s best known radical, avant-garde composer, famous for his large-scale “Passion.” Penderecki, commissioned by the Auschwitz Museum, wrote a dramatic oratorio called “Dies Irae” and using texts from many European classics – ancient Greeks, the Bible, medieval liturgy.
The title itself comes from a religious chant associated with funeral masses and lenten services; this chant, the title of which means – “The Day of Wrath” describes God’s anger at sinners and the horrors of the Last Judgement. Penderecki’s critics were upset with this choice – since it somewhat implied that the Nazi terror was an expression of God’s Day of Wrath and judgement, as if the victims were guilty of anything but being alive. Other critics pointed out the superficiality of grandiose gestures of this work, bordering on the bombastic and seeming irreverent to the suffering of those killed at Auschwitz. Penderecki’s choirs shouted and screamed – imitating the cries of pain of a million victims? This could not be done and the work, after serving its purpose at the ceremony, fell into oblivion.
It is one of the rarer recorded and performed of Penderecki’s pieces. In contrast, Penderecki’s “Passion according to St. Luke” and “Utrenja” (a particularly impressive artistic interpretation of Orthodox Easter rituals) continue attracting attention of scholars and performers while the composer’s Violin Concerto No. 2, performed by Anne Sophie Mutter has just received a double Grammy award for best contemporary music composition and best performance of a solo piece with orchestra.
III. Henryk Górecki
Not many people knew in 1967, and this knowledge did not become public until the 1990s, that the first person to be commissioned to write a piece of music for the unveiling of the Auschwitz Monument was not Penderecki, but his exact contemporary, Henryk Górecki (also born in 1933). Górecki lived in Silesia all his life and was strongly affected by the Auschwitz tragedy that took place so close to his home. In one interview, he described the lifelong impression left on him by an awareness that the ground on which the group of students walked was made of human bones – scattered on the field, not buried. Having suffered a lot as a child (his mother died when he was only 2, he was seriously ill during his childhood and many times later), the composer was very sensitive to the issue of suffering, especially unjustly inflicted upon innocent victims. He was a frequent visitor to the Auschwitz Museum, poring over its documents, reading testimonials. But the topic overwhelmed him and, deciding that he was not ready, he asked the Museum’s director, to offer the commission to Penderecki – who could write fast and deliver impressive works of monumental scope.
Nonetheless, Górecki’s long preoccupation with the topic of suffering and the Holocaust resulted in a work that, paradoxically, uses a very short war-related text: an inscription on the Gestapo prison wall in Zakopane, engraved by an 18-year-old Wanda Błazusiak. The text reads: “Mother, don’t cry. Most chaste Queen of Heaven, support me always. Hail Mary, full of grace.” The work is, for those who did not guess it, Gorecki’s Symphony no. 3, subtitled “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” (1976). Paradoxically, this slow and sad composition has become an international “hit” – its recordings conducted by David Zinman (with Dawn Upshaw as the soloist) sold millions of copies (the mark passed 1.5 mln) and brought the composer a fame and recognition that he deserves.
The Symphony is destined to become a classic of 20th century repertoire and will immortalize Górecki’s response to suffering and grief. The three movements of the work present, in turn, the pain of a mother when her child dies (Mary at the bottom of the Cross), the compassion of a child who is about to be senslessly killed but who is thinking not about revenge and hating her oppressors, but about ways to relieve her mothers pain, and the road to peace of a mother whose son disappeared and who is learning to leave in tranquility after the sorrow, while not forgetting her pain. The “emotional course” of this work outlines a trajectory from grief to consolation, from drama to peacefullness – and perhaps this, “psychological” aspect of the piece accounted for its popularity with tired executives and overstressed teenagers who did not understand a word of its text and did not know why they enjoyed so much the enchanting melodies, and trance-inducing repeated chords of this work. How does the girl’s prayer relate to the Holocaust? Gorecki believed that the inscription by the Polish girl was a testimony of the best possible personal response to immense and undeserved suffering. He admired her maturity, her concern for others that contrasted with so many other inscriptions calling for revenge, expressing immense hatred and a thirst for violence. The key to a peaceful future is, Gorecki’s Third Symphony tells us, not to forget, not to hate, but to embrace one’s lot with patience and with love and compassion for the whole world. If only more people knew that – one is inclined to think after reading about the daily dose of killings and murders.
IV. Marta Ptaszynska
“Not to forget” – this idea appears in a fragment of a text from yet another Holocaust-related composition, Marta Ptaszyńska’s “Holocaust Memorial Cantata” (1992).
“Not to forget not to ever forget so long as you live so long as you love so long as you breathe eat wash walk think see feel read touch laugh not to forget not to ever forget so long as you know the meaning of freedom of what lonely nights are to torn lovers so long as you retain the soul heart of a man…”
These words were written by American poet, Leslie Woolf Hedley, whose “Chant for all the People on Earth” was translated into Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew to be used in Marta Ptaszyńska’s monumental composition, Holocaust Memorial Cantata (1991-3). The work, commissioned by the Lira Singers, appeared in the programs of many concerts around the world celebrating the 50th anniversary of events from World War II, beginning with “A Concert to Remember the Victims of the Holocaust and Those Who Tried to Help Them and Became Victims Themselves” (April 5, 1992, Chicago) and including commemorations of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (16 August 1993 in Germany and 8 September 1993 in Poland). Hedley’s ardent plea for remembering the Jews whose memory should never be obliterated ended with a self-curse: “If they are forgotten forget me also destroy me also burn my books my memory and may everything I have ever said or done or written may it be destroyed to nothing may I become less than nothing for then I do not want even one memory of me left alive on cold killing earth…”
As if this message was not powerful enough, an expanded version of Ptaszyńska’s Cantata includes additional text by Sir Yehudi Menuhin (a violinist, conductor and humanitarian – d. 1999) who extends the plea for rememberance to all victims of persecutions: “what happened to ten million kulaks, Armenians, Bosnians, Kurds, Vietnamese, Africans, could happen to you, could happen to me!” Menuhin warns of the danger of “perpetuating revenge” and of the inevitability of suffering that will continue “unless we all learn to resist the temptation of power and respect even the lives of the weaker.” Thus, Holocaust Memorial Cantata acquires an universality that reaches beyond the significance of its title.
The text becomes even more dramatic and poignant when rendered in Ptaszyńska’s musical setting that draws elements from her vocabulary of modernist and sonoristic gestures, connected with stylizations of synagogue singing and topical expressions of suffering and grief, such as exclamations, chromaticism, slow tempi. This work crowns Ptaszyńska’s output in the domain of public, monumental music devoted to events and causes that Ptaszynska deeply cares about. Interestingly, her first setting of Hedley’s text dates back to 1969 (Chant for All People on Earth) when she just started her studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris (continued till 1970). This persistence of themes that keep recurring throughout her career seems a characteristic feature of Ptaszyńska’s music. She has composed, for instance, a series of pieces on Polish themes: Conductus- A Ceremonial for Winds (1982), a cantata Polish Letters (1988), and a Fanfare for Peacecommissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1993). These three works, written during the composer’s American years, celebrate her Polish heritage by quoting the most ancient and revered Polish anthem, Bogurodzica (“The Mother of God,” dating from the 13th c.), in compositions connected to Polish-American patriotic celebrations. The majority of her works, however, are “abstract” or self-standing compositions, often with a prominent role of percussion, elements of poetry, inspirations from painting, vivid colors that result from Ptaszyńska’s unique ability of “color hearing” and other features that should be discussed on another occasion.
My short overview of selected pieces by four Polish composers writing music inspired by and reflecting upon, the horrors of the Holocaust and the suffering of all its victims (including the forgotten ones), presents just a handful of artistic solutions and personal testimonials to this cause. There are many others who reacted in some way to the unbearable experiences and tried to immortalize what should not be forgotten, for instance Roman Maciejewski whose monumental Requiem is dedicated to all the victims of the war. The lessons to be learned from the bitter experiences, the composer tell us, are to remember the terrible past and to go on living, basing the paths of the future on the repudiation of violence and hatred, the refusal to be involved in things leading to death, and the ideals of compassion and peaceful coexistence. It seems nowadays, that generations of American teenagers and the world’s political rulers should be sent to this school – perhaps staffed by Gorecki, Ptaszynska and their colleagues. Polish music critic Jerzy Waldorff used to say “music makes us kinder” (Muzyka łagodzi obyczaje). It does if and when, people want it to do so…
Newest Releases Reviewed In Ruch Muzyczny
KRAJOWE BIURO KONCERTOWE [National Concert Bureau] KBK 005. Violin music of Paderewski, Wieniawski and Lutoslawski. Patrycja Piekutowska, violin; Maria Szwajger-Kulakowska, piano. Reviewed by music critic Jozef Kanski, who was immensely impressed with the young 22-year old student of Tadeusz Gadzina of the Warsaw Academy of Music, citing the high degree of maturity, interpretation and performance of the Lutoslawski “Partita” and the Paderewski Sonata, counting the latter as among the best of this sonata. Only the Wieniawski Polonaise in A major needed, according to him, a more “brilliant” performance.
Two new releases of selected choral music by Poland’s premiere composer of choral music, Andrzej Koszewski. According to Antoni Biesiak the Schola Cantorum Gedanensis under the direction of Jan Lukaszewski easily and competentaly tackled the difficult modern choral pieces. He wished they would do record more of this composer’s works.
ACOUSTIC STUDIO ASCD 001. Kashubian Suite, Music fa-re-mi- do-si, Ballata, Tre pezzi, Krople teczy (rainbow drops), Ave Maria, Trittico di Messa. ACOUSTIC STUDIO ASPCD013. Greater Poland Triptych, Plays, two from Three Carols, Zdrowas Krolewno Wyborna (Hail Exquisite Mary), Angelus Domini, Miserere from Canti sacri, Campana, Nicolao Copernico Dedicatum, 2 of three Euphonic Chorales, Ad musicam.
DUX DUX0116. Nie moj ogrodusek [Not my garden]. Kurpian Songs by Szymanwoski, Maciejewski, Twardowski, Sikorski and Moryto. Warsaw chamber Choir, Ryszard Zimak, cond. Apolonia Nowak, folk artist from Kadzidlo, provides the solo voice. Maria Wacholc gives it an excellent review. Recorded in 1997 in St. Benon’s church in Warsaw. Program notes by Malgorzata Komorowski includes all song texts. Art work of wycinanki (paper cut-outs) by the soloist.
Reviewed In May 1999 Gramophone
CRYSAL RECODS CD 749. Skrowaczewski, Stanisław. Triple Concerto. Paired with Thomas Christian David’s “Sinfonia Concertante” and “Carmen Suite.” The Verdehr Trio and other artists.
Robert Cowan wrote, “The prize here is surely Skrowaczewski’s Bartokian Triple Concerto, a quick-witted, darkly shaded tour de force that supplements the Verdehr’s violin-clarinet-piano line-up with sundry instruments including harpsichord and percussion.”
SONY CLASSICAL SM 61705. Abba Pater. Pope John Paul II, speaker. Roman Academy Choir, Santa Caterina d’Alessandira from L’Aquila Orchestra. Rome Nuova Sinfonietta Orchestra. Music by Amicis and Mainetti.
This recording, which was released on March 23 debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover Chart, was reported on in our last month’s Newsletter.
The Pope receives high praise from Mary Berry in Gramophone: “Today’s Pope is a versatile linguist. He speaks with his own voice in many languages, with supremely persuasive powers of oratory. Moving easily from language to language….he is not afraid to listen to the voice of popular culture and even to sing his ‘Pater noster’ with an echo of its beat and lilt….he lays the emphasis on love and reconciliation, justice and peace, and we hear the whole of this message against a background of many cultures, an Eastern rite litany an African hymn, a Western chant….unmistakable note of conviction and calm authority.”
EMI CDC5 568052. Martha Argerich. Music of Chopin performed by the pianist after the Chopin Competition in 1965. David J. Fanning says “EMI has got some nerve issuing a mere 52 minutes of less than wonderful Argerich at full price.” This “legendary 1965 recording” never before issued does not show Argerich at her best, although “some male Argerich fans would probably pay full price just for the cover photo.”
EMI CDC5 56798-2. Chopin. Concertos for Piano and orchestra. Martha Argerich, piano. Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit, cond.
This Argerich recording fared better. It was selected “Recording of the Month” by James Jolly, editor of Gramophone in the April issue and received a half page review by Bryce Morrison, who compared it with two of her recordings on Deutsch Gramophone under Abbado and Rostropovich.
Other New Releases
MDG 603 0863-2. Wieniawski. “Polonaise brillante”. Virtuoso music for violin. Joanna Madroszkiewicz, violin and Manfred Wagner-Artzt, piano.
KOCH SCHWANN 36550-2. Paderewski. Piano Concerto and Fantaisie Polonaise. Ewa Kupiec, piano. Frankfurt RSO, Wolff, cond.
Vol. 6 of the Complete Josef Hofmann: The Casimir Hall Recital.
Kronos Quartet’s 25th anniversary recording consists of 10 discs. Includes Górecki’s 2 string quartets. On Nonesuch.
There are many new releases of Chopin’s music: by Pogorelich (Scherzos), by Moravec (Nocturnes), by Harasiewicz (Polonaises and Waltzes), and by Ax (Concerto no. 1).
Composer Of The Month
by Maria Anna Harley
What does composing mean for me? Very different things. It is a need to express myself, which sometimes comes with the strength that is almost physical. These moments are, perhaps, the best ones – times when one is capable of imagining, if only in the most general outlines, the new work. During such moments it seems that this music will be good and beautiful, during these moments one has a very strange feeling, a sensation that is almost supernatural, that one is capable of creating something from nothing. But composing also means months or even years of hard, arduous, annoying and exhausting work on the capturing and “materializing” – or embodying” of somehting what by its very nature is an opposition of the material – I mean here a fleeting impression, thought or idea.
I decided to begin this brief introduction to the life and music of Tadeusz Baird with his own words quoted from a statement published in 1979 in Polska no. 4, p. 43). Baird well understood the paradox of creativity – a brief moment of fulfillment and inspiration followed by long stretches of time filled with the most menial tasks of making the musical vision a reality.
The composer’s output is large and impressive, with many orchestral pieces, concerti and works for music theatre. Paradoxically, Baird taught composition at the Warsaw Higher School of Music (later renamed F. Chopin Academy of Music) at an institution from which he never formally graduated. Born in 1928 he studied composition in the underground during the war years (with Bolesław Woytowicz) and continued his studies in Warsaw (1947-1951) with Piotr Rytel and Piotr Perkowski. He also studied, but did not graduate from the course of musicology at the University of Warsaw (1948-1951).
Baird joined the Polish Composers’ Union in 1949 and formed a compositional group with Kazimierz Serocki and Jan Krenz in the same year (“Grupa 49). As a member of this group and of the Composers’ Union, Baird was one of the initiators of the Polish Music Festivals and International Festivals of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumnheld since 1956. He was active on the program committee of the Warsaw Autumn till 1969 and heard many of his works during its concerts.
Baird’s style evolved from its earlier neoclassicism which was apparent in the choice of genres (e.g.symphony, concerto, suite, overture) and references (e.g. Colas Breugnon Suite for string orchestra and flute, 1951 or Piesni Truwerow based on medieval songs, 1963) to a more modernist language of the 1960s and 1970s. Since 1956 Baird was interested in applying 12-tone techniques to composing, initially treating the 12-tone set as a theme (e.g. Cassazione per orchestra, 1956). In later years he was also interested in creating a unique sound world of sonoristic effects. Nonetheless, lyricism has remained an important aspect of his music and he was attracted to expressive texts for his music dramas (e.g. Tomorrow, 1966) or vocal-instrumental pieces (e.g. Goethe Briefe for baritone, choir and orchestra). In 1971, Baird stated:
At present the questions of technique and construction in music are of less interest to me, less than they have ever been. To be quite precise, everything I’m trying to do now is, or will be, subordinated to the problem of expression, and I am making use, or trying to make use, of such means which seem to me to be best for conveying the musical thought int he fullest and most precise manner.
This statement was quoted in Grzegorz Michalski’s chapter on “New Music” in Tadeusz Ochlewski, ed.:An Outline History of Polish Music (Warsaw: Interpress, 1979). Baird music, often described as neoromantic and lyrical, attracted international attention and was awarded a series of prizes – from the Kousevitzky Foundation (1968), Jurzykowski Foundation (1971), and Honegger Prize (1974).
He received the first prize at the international Rostrum of Composers UNESCO in Paris three times: in 1959 for Four Essays , in 1963 for Variations without a theme and in 1966 for Four Dialogues. Incidentally, the score for the second of these pieces may be found in the PMRC manuscript collection. It was donated by Alina Baird. The remainder of his music and manuscripts is included in the 20th Century Archives of Polish Music in the Library of the University of Warsaw. The Library of the Polish Composers’ Union has copies of all archival recordings and one copy of each score.
The composer’s distinguished career was cut short by premature death on 2 September 1981. His biographer, Krystyna Tarnawska -Kaczorowska published some of his texts, lectures and letters in a collection entitled Tadeusz Baird: Glosy do biografii (Kraków: Musica Iagellonica, 1997, the cover is reproduced above). There is a dearth of English-language material about this composer and we hope that, in time, the PMRC will be able to fill in that void. At present, a short site about Baird has been prepared by Jan Jakub Bokun and Brian Harlan (with a brief biography, list of works, discography, and bibliography). You may visit the site from the following link: Tadeusz Baird.
Born This Month
- 2 May 1846: Zygmunt NOSKOWSKI (Died 23 July 1909).
- 2 May 1913: Florian DĄBROWSKI, composer and teacher.
- 5 May 1819: Stanisław MONIUSZKO (Died 4 June 1872).
- 5 May 1909: Grażyna BACEWICZ (d. 17 January 1969), composer, violinist, and pianist.
- 12 May 1805: Jan Nepomucen BOBROWICZ (died 2 November 1881), guitarist and composer.
- 17 May 1943: Joanna BRUZDOWICZ, composer living in Belgium.
- 18 May 1905: Włodzimierz ORMICKI, composer, conductor, music theoretician.
- 20 May 1903: Jerzy FITELBERG (died 25 April 1951), composer, son of the famous conductor.
- 28 May 1836: Jan KARŁOWICZ (died 14 June 1903), father of composer Mieczysław.
- 31 May 1932: Bogusław MADEY, conductor and composer.
- 31 May 1913: Irena GARZTECKA (died 14 November 1963), composer and pianist.
Died This Month
- 4 May 1896: Józef SIKORSKI (b. 1813), composer and music theorist.
- 6 May 1892: Nikodem BIERNACKI (b. 1826), violinist and composer.
- 21 May 1848: Felix JANIEWICZ (b. 1762), violinist, conductor, and composer.
- 23 May 1957: Alicja SIMON (b.1879), musicologist.