A concert celebrating twenty years of performance by the Cracow Duo was held on 4 December 2021, at the elegant Florianka Hall in Kraków. Cellist Jan Kalinowski and pianist Marek Szlezer have known each other since childhood, and they entertained the audience—as they have successfully done for the past two decades—with a special program of works written especially for this duo.
Two world premieres were heard at this concert, including Marta Ptaszyńska’s The Gates of Light—Quasi una fantasia for Cello and Piano, completed in fall of 2021, and Maciej Zieliński’s Three Dreams and a Lullaby written in 2020. Another recently written work, Michał Dobrzyński’s Quasi una partita (ommaggio a Tansman), received its Polish premiere during the Cracow Duo’s anniversary evening.
The program opened with Zbigniew Bujarski’s 2010 composition, KalSzlez for cello and piano, another work written expressly for Cracow Duo. This ensemble was the dedicatee and the first performer of Marcel Chyrzyński’s Farewell (2013) and Tomasz Jakub Opałka’s The Glitch (2015), two selections that were also heard on December 4. The evening’s program was further enriched by Anna Zawadzka-Gołosz’s Esej o ziemi i niebie (2014) and closed with Wojciech Widłak’s Wszystkie złości moje (2013).
Music can connect people and this is especially true of chamber music. With Kalinowski and Szlezer working together for two decades and concertizing all over the world, they can now boast of a large number of fans practically on every continent. The Cracow Duo’s exceptional musicianship and high-octane virtuosity inspired many composers to write works for them that explore these qualities.
Asked to describe her composition, Gates of Light, Marta Ptaszyńska said, that “… sections that are deeply lyrical are interspersed by fragments filled with energy, and the final part basically spotlights the virtuosity and brilliance of the two instruments.”
In his comments, Maciej Zieliński described his Three Dreams as a “journey between reality and the world of dreams” and noted that since the work was originally to be world-premiered in Los Angeles in 2020, “I decided to link this work to film composition and use elements of acting in it.”
Anna Zawadzka-Gołosz noted Cracow Duo’s “outstanding technique, artistic imagination and the ensemble’s openness to new aesthetics and compositional methods” and with such creative guidelines provided a poetic title to her work, Esej o ziemi i niebie [An Essay of Earth and Heaven]. On the other hand, Michał Dobrzyński’s work (world-premiered in Moldova in November 2021 and given its Polish premiere in Kraków) was an homage to Aleksander Tansman’s Partita, a work that Cracow Duo performed on numerous occasions and recorded for DUX.
Tomasz Opałka’s composition was written to reflect his “wild circumstances of living in Los Angeles” while Marcel Chyrzyński’s opus sought to reflect the ruminative qualities of a Japanese poem. Finally, Wojciech Widłak confessed in his comments that the rather menacing title of his work, Wszystkie złości moje [All of my anger] referred only to a small portion of his (presumably artistic) fury.
[Photo credit: Piotr Markowski, Source: Cracow Duo]