October 2000

Polish Music Center Newsletter Vol. 6, no. 10

News Flash

Triumphs Of Warsaw Autumn, Part I

Among many music events held in September in Poland the 43rd International Festival of Contemporary Music “Warsaw Autumn” was the most impressive. The programs, the concerts, the performers, the organization, and the audiences did not leave any room for improvement. Under the skillful leadership of composer Tadeusz Wielecki, the Festival found a new audience among young students (estimated at 70% of the attendees), enticed to attend by an extended promotional campaign, masterminded and, in part, realized by Wielecki himself. For the first time this year, the festival did not cover the city with posters announcing its programs. Instead, a brochure popularizing and explaining contemporary music was produced and distributed among students of high schools and of universities and colleges. In addition, information about the concert was available via tourist offices, hotels, the press, radio and TV. This promotional strategy proved to be very effective since numerous concerts, often with very difficult program (and excellent performers) were sold out, including the final extravaganza in the courtyard of the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

In reaching out to new audiences and reformulating the framework of the festival, Wielecki (in charge of the Festival for the first time) drew from his experiences as artistic director of the World Music Days, organized in 1992 by the Polish Society for Contemporary Music. He also faced some unusual challenges – not only was the Warsaw’s National Philharmonic hall closed for renovations (to open only for the Chopin Competition in October). The second most important site for concert, i.e. the Chopin Academy of Music was also unavailable this year. But necessity is the mother of invention, and the Festival found new and exciting venues including the Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of the Polish Radio for many orchestral and chamber concerts, the Stefan Demby Auditorium at the National Library and the Collegium Nobilium Theatre of the Academy of Drama for recitals, the Grand Theatre for the opening night, and the Sport Hall of CWKS Legia for a spatial music extravaganza including the Polish premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gruppen.

The performance of Gruppen was one of the highlights of the festival and the unusual venue added to the appeal of the unusual music – one must say that some classic works of modernist tradition, including Gruppen, age extremely well and sound as fresh and exciting 50 years after being written as at the moment of their creation. I have some doubts about the historical durability of two other spatial works on the same program, the world premiere of a Warsaw Autumn commission from Martin Smolka and Diamonds by Alvin Lucier (with its unbearable low pitches, and slow glissandi, this piece tested the limits of the most sensitive listeners). By the time we had a chance of enjoying this concert, 8 other concerts already took place. The opening night at the National Opera hall inspired reflections about ways of promoting new music in Poland and the U.S. The auditorium was full; 1200 people raptly listened to the complexities and intricacies of Par Lingren’s OAIJE, Zygmunt Krauze’s Piece for Orchestra No. 1, Kazimerz Serocki’s Forte e piano, Pascal Dusapin’s WATT, and Iannis Xenakis’s Ata. Two of these works were written 30 years earlier – music by Krauze and Serocki appeared on the program as a sign of continuity of contemporary musical traditions and were, by their juxtaposition with music of the last few years, “tested” for artistic durability. Both passed the test with flying colors, but the highlight of the evening was Dusapin’s capriccious fantasy for trombone (the incomparable Alain Trudel) and orchestra. The next highlight was also provided by a French musician – Pierre Laurent Aimard performed the complete cycle of Ligeti’s Etudes (reversing book II and III to end with a virtuosic flourish). His encore from Vingt regards de’l Enfant Jesu by Olivier Messiaen left in tears some members of the rapt audience. An unforgettable event and a rendition of the Ligeti that would be difficult to surpass.

Aimard’s recital was held on Saturday evening (16 September); later that night another treat awaited the listeners at the Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio. The Vienna Saxophone Quartet presented piees by Olga Neuwirth, Aleksander Lasoń, Sofia Gubajdulina, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati and Steve Reich. The world premiere of Lasoń’s composition, Muzyka kameralna no. 6: Saxophonium for saxophone quartet and percussion was the highlight of the evening. With its textural contrasts, multi-cultural allusions, fluidity and sensuosity of the melodic lines and kaleidoscopic outbursts of percussion, the work is sure to find a place in the repertoire (“pass the test of durability”). After my first, and only hearing, I remember this music as enticingly sweet and expressive but far from sugary sentimentality – something to look forward to on future concert programs.

Lasoń (b. 1951), as well as Andrzej Krzanowski (1951-1990), and Eugeniusz Knapik (plus Rafał Augustyn from Wrocław) form a very strong group of Polish composers who had learnt their craft from Henryk Górecki in Katowice. If there is a new, notable compositional school coming out of Poland, it is a “Silesian School.” I think that this school of musical creativity is somewhat underrated, especially in comparison with the widespread popularity of the postmodernist school from the class of Włodzimierz Kotoński in Warsaw, represented by Paweł Szymański (b. 1954) and Paweł Mykietyn (who, however, did not yet complete his studies).

Lasoń and Krzanowski were linked on the program of Warsaw Autumn 2000 in one more way. Katowice-based ensemble Orkiestra Muzyki Nowej [Orchestra of New Music], founded by Lasoń in 1996, brought to the festival a monographic concert of Krzanowski’s compositions, including the world premiere of Krzanowski’s strangely forgotten Audycja III for actor, sopran0, 2 accordions, trumpet, saxophone, electric guitar, percussion and slides (1974). can do with such simple resources (20-25 spotlights of different shades and sizes).

For some strange reason, this magnificent work to poetry of Jacek Bieriezin has never been heard. What a loss it would have been if not for Lasoń’s ensemble and the program committee of the Warsaw Autumn. The Tuesday afternoon concert (19 September) did not include slides – since the event was held in the Lutosławski Studio which has a very interesting architecture, the slides were replaced by a sparse and expressive spectacle of colored lights, prepared by Małgorzata Dziewulska. At certain moments, precisely coordinated with the score, the colors changed from blue to orange, the highlights shifted from percussion to the voice, long shadows appeared and vanished – it is amazing how much one may do with such limited resources.

As a contemporary-music concert-goer of considerable practice and well over 20 years of experience in this difficult and sometimes daunting vocation, I found the Krzanowski program of Orkiestra Muzyki Nowej among my most favourite music events. The evening was perfect: the programming (Audycja I, II, III, IV interspersed with fanfare-like Three Pieces for Oboe and Trumpet), the performance, the staging, the poetry, and the music itself, which, after almost 30 years, did not lose any of its freshness and expressive power. Despite my great admiration for the diva of modern harpsichord, Elżbieta Chojnacka, I thought that the OMN and not the Polish-French virtuoso should have received the “Orpheus” award from Polish music critics, given during each of the festivals for the best performance of a Polish composition. OMN did not just give one performance but presented a new formula of a whole concert that was captivating and memorable in its entirety. For this reason, I decided to “vote” for Andrzej Krzanowski as our “Composer of the Month” and re-issue in our Newsletter the essay by Andrzej Chłopecki which I had the pleasure of translating for the program book of the Warsaw Autumn.

Silesian musicians had another artistic triumph during the choral music concert held on Sunday in the beautiful Gothic interior of the Church of the Visitation of the Holy Virgin Mary (Nowe Miasto district). Camerata Silesia and the Instrumental Ensemble of Silesian Philharmonic, conducted by the hauntingly musical and beautiful Anna Szostak, performed an evening of Miserere-themed compositions: a Miserereby Witold Szalonek (1997), the world premiere of Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, Lord… (Psalm for Choir) by Krzysztof Knittel (on commission from the Polish Radio), and the Polish premiere of Arvo Part’s Miserere. Of the three compositions, I was most impressed with the first one – Szalonek’s choral textures are complex and engaging for the mind to follow, while the means of expression remain both lyrical and captivating. For listeners seated far from the performers it was a hard piece to follow – since the intricacies of vocal lines were lost in the cavernous reverberation of the church. A similar fate was shared by Part’s Miserere, a work of great moments and flawed beauty – especially in its concept of form (or lack of it). Knittel’s minimal-electroacoustic-folkish and, at times, “Meredith-Monk-like” Psalm bewildered with its quick trajectory through an assortment of moods and states of mind associated with a range of greatest Psalm verses (from the most funereal to rejoicing). While the spiritual content and monumental form of this work guarantee it a very warm reception in modern-day religious Poland, I welcomed with great joy another production by Knittel, his appearance with Krzysztof Zarębski in a “performance art” spectacle at the Zachęta Gallery, called Weather Reports (and containing recordings of L.A. weather on its soundtrack). This however, was a fringe event in the program and will be discussed in greater detail in the second part of my report from the Festival which will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter. For now, let me close with congratulations to Tadeusz Wielecki, the program committee of the Festival, and the festival office, led by Grażyna Dziura: Well Done!!!


14th International Chopin Competition

The 14th international Chopin Competition will begin this year on 4 October 2000, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of death of Prof. Jerzy Zurawlew, an eminent pianist and piano teacher, who initiated the competition in 1925. Zurawlew, who died at the age of 93 (just before his planned participation in the Jury of the 10th Competition), began his piano studies in 1907. His teacher was Aleksander Michałowski, a great Chopin performer. Zurawlew soon joined the ranks of Chopin aficionados when he became a professor at the Chopin School of Music in Warsaw. The first competition was held in 1927, with 26 pianists from 8 countries. Since then the competition was held every 5 years, with an interruption caused by the war and the destruction that it wrought in Poland. Of symbolic importance was the 4th competition in October 1949 – held in a hall “Roma” where both the Warsaw Opera and Philharmonic were temporarily located. The competition, held in a city still in ruins, revealed the importance of culture for the war-ravaged country. Since 1955 the competition is held at the National Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw. Current information about the competition may be found on music news pages in Poland, especially www.meloman.intermedia.pl and www.klasyka.com.pl.

Its main organizer, F. Chopin Society in Warsaw, has a web page with information about its progress, at www.chopin.pl. The web-site (in Polish) shows the calendar of events for this year’s competition, a list of candidates and jury, about the competition, a history of the event, press releases and MP3, a new section where you can hear fragments of works (14 so far) performed by previous winners: Argerich, Bunin, Czerny-Stefanska, Davidovich, Giusiano, Harasiewicz, Kenner, Oborin, Ohlsson, Sultanov, Thai-Son, Uninsky, Zak and Zimerman. [MT and WW]

No “References” In The Polish Music Center

In September 2000, the Dean of the Thornton School of Music, Larry Livingston, and the Founder and Honorary Director of the Center, Ms. Wanda Wilk, agreed to introduce one change to the name of our center, i.e. to remove the word “reference” from its midst. The primary reasons are of convenience: the name of the Thornton School of Music has been extended after the recent “naming gift” by Flora L. Thornton and the whole name of the PMC became too long. In addition, the term “reference” was often confused with “research” or “resource” and, as it turned out during the Warsaw Autumn Festival 2000, was extremely difficult to translate into Polish without resulting in a monstrously long name.This official name change, effective immediately, and gradually added to all promotional material of the PMC, is accompanied with a private re-naming of Dr. Maria Anna Harley, who decided to honor her parents, victims of a horrible tragedy, by returning to her birth name “Maja Trochimczyk.”

Poland – U.S. Manuscript Donations

On 23 September 2000 at the Presidium Hall of the Polish Composers’ Union in Warsaw a ceremony of donating manuscripts to the Polish Music Collection took place. The date was set in collaboration with the office of the Warsaw Autumn Festival of Contemporary Music and this event was listed in the program book of the festival, as one of the fringe events.

Manuscript Exhibition Concert October 2000During the ceremony nearly 20 composers were present and gave over 40 manuscript scores, sketches, as well as publications, recordings and other material, to enrich our Manuscript Collection. The collection was initiated in 1985 with a very important gift from Witold Lutosławski.

Before this new “donation drive” which began in June 2000, the PMC Manuscript Collection included works by Lutosławski, Skrowaczewski, Baird, Bruzdowicz and Ptaszyńska (a total of 22 manuscripts). These manuscripts are held on deposit at the Special Collections department of the USC Libraries, in secure and properly airconditioned vaults.

In June the collection was expanded by two sets of manuscripts from Krzysztof Meyer (the opera Cyberiada in three volumes, and sketches for the 10th String Quartet), Wanda Bacewicz (sketches and manuscripts of six pieces by Grażyna Bacewicz), and Joanna Kaczyńska (letters from Aleksander Tansman to Tadeusz Kaczyński). (see the September newsletter for more details).

During the event, the attendees (composers, musicologists, music critics, journalists from two TV stations and the radio) were welcomed by Krzysztof Knittel, president of the Polish Composers’ Union, Tadeusz Wielecki, director of the Warsaw Autumn Festival (pictured speaking in the photo), Tania Chomiak-Salvi, cultural attache of the American Embassy in Warsaw, and Maja Trochimczyk (PMC Director).

The following composers or members of their families made gifts of manuscripts: Krzysztof Baculewski, Alina Baird-Sawicka (for her husband, Tadeusz Baird), Krzysztof Knittel, Hanna Kulenty, Zygmunt Krauze (represented by his wife), Wojciech Maciejewski (on behalf of his brother of composer Roman), Edward Sielicki (also donating material from his father, Ryszard), Jarosław Siwiński, Romuald Twardowski, Tadeusz Wielecki, Władysław Słowinski, Elżbieta Sikora, Jan Oleszkowicz, Zofia Serocka (for her husband, Kazimierz Serocki), Anna Zawadzka, and Lidia Zielińska.

Materials from Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar and from Zbigniew Bujarski were delivered to the meeting; numerous other composers made a pledge to donate later, including Eugeniusz Knapik and Rafał Augustyn present among the guests, as well as Prof. Włodzimierz Kotoński, Bogusław Schaeffer, Marek Stachowski, Grażyna Pstrokońska-Nawratil, Paweł Mykietyn, Jacek Grudzień, Witold Rudziński, and many others.

In April 2001 I will personally receive the materials from composers based in Kraków (Marek Stachowski), Wrocław (Rafał Augustyn, Grażyna Pstrokońska-Nawratil) and Poznań (Andrzej Koszewski). Prof. Koszewski’s sudden health problems did not allow him to travel to Warsaw at this time; his manuscript will arrive safely to take its place in the collection in the spring 2001.

All the composers received small gifts from PMC – an information package about the university, the Thornton School of Music and the PMC, and flowers to express my appreciation. The results of this ceremony may be seen during the PMC Manuscript Exhibition and Concert, held at USC on October 21, 2000.

Manuscript Exhibition, 21 October 2000

On Saturday, 21 October 2000, at the United University Church on the campus of the University of Southern California (817 W. 34th St. Los Angeles, Corner of Jefferson and Hoover), at 2 p.m. there will be an official ceremony of unveiling the exhibit of works by Polish composers, presented in manuscript, sketch, score, and recording.

Manuscript Exhibition Concert October 2000Over 30 composers will be featured (the list is included below) and the exhibition will be accompanied by a chamber music concert, organized under the artistic leadership of Jan Jakub Bokun, and featuring pieces by selected composers whose manuscripts may be found in the PMC collection. The concert starts at 3:00 p.m. and is followed by a reception organized by Friends of Polish Music, led by President Wanda Wilk.

The list of composers whose work will be presented in the exhibit includes:

  • Krzysztof Baculewski – 1 manuscript
  • Grażyna Bacewicz (d. 1969) – 5 manuscripts (not all shown)
  • Tadeusz Baird (d. 1981) – 3 manuscripts
  • Joanna Bruzdowicz – 2 manuscripts
  • Zbigniew Bujarski – 2 manuscripts
  • Krzysztof Knittel – 1 manuscript
  • Zygmunt Krauze – 1 manuscript
  • Hanna Kulenty – 3 manuscripts
  • Szymon Laks (d. 1980s) – 10 manuscripts (not all shown)
  • Witold Lutoslawski (d. 1994) – 5 manuscripts (not all shown)
  • Roman Maciejewski (d. 1998) – 1 manuscript
  • Bernadetta Matuszczak – 4 manuscripts
  • Krzysztof Meyer – 2 manuscripts
  • Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar – 2 manuscripts
  • Jan Oleszkowicz – 3 manuscripts
  • Roman Palester (d. 1980s) – copies made by the composer
  • Marta Ptaszyńska – 5 manuscripts (not all shown)
  • Kazimierz Serocki (d. 1981) – copies of 2 manuscripts
  • Edward Sielicki – 3 manuscripts
  • Ryszard Sielicki – 2 manuscripts
  • Elżbieta Sikora – 1 manuscript
  • Jarosław Siwiński – 1 manuscript
  • Władysław Słowiński – 1 manuscript
  • Stanisław Skrowaczewski – 3 manuscripts
  • Paweł Szymański – 1 manuscript
  • Aleksander Tansman (d. 1986) – 12 handwritten letters (not all shown)

    Edward Sielicki with Maja Trochimczyk, Warsaw, September 2000
  • Romuald Twardowski – 11 manuscripts (not all shown)
  • Tadeusz Wielecki – 1 manuscript
  • Henryk Vars – 1 manuscript
  • Barbara Zakrzewska – 4 manuscripts
  • Anna Zawadzka – 3 manuscripts
  • Lidia Zielińska – 3 manuscripts

The exhibit will present the largest selection of 20th-century Polish music ever displayed in the U.S. The collection will have a Californian component. To better inform our viewers about the music itself, several CD players with headphones will be made available and the visitors will be able to browse through scores and recordings of the composers. I hope that my Californian readers would be able to visit us, even if they don’t read music. It is an important milestone in the development of the PMC Collection, and an important event in the efforts to promote Polish music in the U.S. The event is free but donations at the door will be accepted for the “Polish Music Fund” (supporting the PMC operating budget), or “Friends of Polish Music” (our fundraising organization).

Rubinstein Monument In Łódz

A huge, new monument to the great pianist, Arthur Rubinstein was unveiled in September 2000 in Łódź at the main street of the city, Piotrkowska. The monument is structured as a “juke box” – if one puts a coin in it plays back music by Chopin or Tchaikovsky performed by Rubinstein. The sculpture consists of three parts: a piano with an open score of Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor (fragment is visible on the music stand) , the pianist of natural size and a decorative piano bench. The unveiling ceremony included a concert by the Łódź Philharmonics.


Winners Of Lipinski Violin Competition

The 8th International Competition of Young Violinists, named after Karol Lipiński and Henryk Wieniawski was completed in Lublin. In the younger group the prize winners are:

  • Kishima Mayu, Japan, 14 years old (second prize),
  • Ilian Garnet, Moldavia, 17 years old (third prize),
  • Young YeoYoon, South Korea, 15 years old (fourth prize),
  • Xi Cheng, China, 16 years old (fifth prize).

The first prize in this category was not awarded. In the senior group the prize winners include:

  • Jana Novakova, Czech Republic, 21 years old (first prize),
  • Mengla Huang (21 years old) and Wei Wen (19 years old), China, (second prize ex aequo),
  • Jaroslaw Nadrzycki, Poland 16 years old (fourth prize),
  • Alissa Margulis, Germany, 16 years old, (fifth prize).

The third prize was not awarded in the senior category – it was replaced by the two second prizes. Over 80 violinists from 30 countries participated in the competition; the jury consisted of 18 members, and was directed by Prof. Roman Lasocki of the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw.

Winners Of Penderecki Competition

The 4th International Competition of Contemporary Chamber Music named after Krzysztof Penderecki just completed its course in Cracow. The international jury, with the participation of Prof. Marek Stachowski, selected two ensembles for the Grand Prix: the Ensemble Motion Trio and the Witold Lutosławski String Quartet. In the division of soloists, the first prize went to the pianist Winston Choi, based in the U.S. and in the category of duets, the first prize was awarded to Fatima Aaziza (violin) and Tomasz Lupa (piano). A special prize for the best performance of a Polish composition was given to Joanna Strzelecka for her performance of Szymanowski’s Masques.

Calendar Of Events

OCT 13 & 14: Karłowicz’s Violin Concerto. Riverside Symphonia, Mariusz Smolij, cond. Lambertville, NJ.

OCT 14: Ptaszyńska’s “Winter Tale.” Memphis Symphony Orchestra. David Loebel, cond.

OCT 15: Stanienda-Urbaniak-Folkert Trio. Music by Panufnik, Brahms and David Diamond. Jan Stanienda, violin; Lidia Urbaniak, cello; Piotr Folkert, piano. Opening program of the 2000-2001 Kosciuszko Foundation Chamber Music Series. New York City. (212) 734-2130. 3:00 p.m. $25/$21 members.

OCT 4-22: XIVth Chopin International Piano Competition. Concerts and Exhibit (4-26), Warsaw.

OCT 19-30: Kosciuszko Foundation Jubilee Tour to Poland.

OCT 21: Open House, Concert & Exhibit of original manuscripts of Polish composers donated to the PMRC. United University Church 2nd floor. 2-7p.m. Free.

OCT 22: Music by Bridge, Piston, Suk and Alexandre Tansman. American Piano quartet. St. Paul Sunday. 10:00 a.m. KUSC 91.5 FM.

OCT 22: Music by Chopin, Mendelssohn, Strauss and Kreisler. Wladimir Jan Kochanski, piano. Ojai Presbyterian Church. 3:00 p.m. $12, 10, 8. (805) 649-4746.

OCT 29: Kosciuszko Foundation Diamond Jubilee Concert. Music by Gershwin. Adam Makowicz, piano. Sinfonia Varsovia. Warsaw.

OCT 29: “What Makes Polish Music Polish?” Lecture/performance by Professor Wojciech Kocyan, piano. L.A. Harbor College. 7:00 p.m. Donation $10.

Interview With Edward Auer

by Joseph Herter

Herter: Since becoming the first American to become a prizewinner at the Chopin competition 35 years ago, you have visited Poland many times and seen the drastic changes which this country has experienced. What was “The People’s Republic of Poland” like when you came as a contestant in 1965? Did the fact that you were a representative from an “imperialistic and capitalistic” country make you feel at anytime that the authorities were keeping special tabs on you?

Auer: What was it like? Wow! Now, if you consider that this was not only my first visit to Poland, but my first time out of North America, and that going to Europe had been my most passionate and persistent dream for fully ten years at that time, and also that this was my first international competition, you can have some idea of how excited I was! In this context, of course Poland was the most exotic place imaginable. It is true that Poland was also very gray and drab-and also very cold, as the competition was in February and March back then. It was remarkable to me how dark Warsaw was at night-the only neon lights in the city, almost, were those advertising the national lottery, “Toto-Lotto” atop some of the tallest buildings. All of us contestants stayed at the brand-new Dom Chłopa (ed. The former Peasants’ House Hotel, now known as the Gromada Hotel), and this was also an all-new and extraordinary experience. We all ate together, and while the meals were not wonderful, the companionship was, and it was a perfect way to help us get to know each other and develop friendship, unity, and you might almost say “team spirit.” I was trying to learn a little Polish, and to this day I can pronounce 154-my room number at Dom Chłopa-better and faster in Polish than most other numbers!

As for feeling “watched,” as a citizen of an “imperialist capitalist country,” I can say that even though I was on the lookout for such a thing, I never really felt that there was much surveillance. Indeed, it seemed that the Soviet competitors, who had their own special Russian translators if I remember correctly, were more watched by their own compatriots than we were by the Poles! Certainly a year later, when I went to the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the feeling was very different there. Everyone was under surveillance, Russians, French, Americans alike. It struck me that Poland seemed more like the US than like the Soviet Union. When I had some concerts in Polish cities right after the Competition, the state concert agency Pagart sent a translator with me, but only until I was comfortable enough getting around in Poland and Polish (or more often German at first); after that they were content to let me travel alone. That I was never allowed to do in the USSR.

Herter: This is the second time since winning that you have been back to serve on the Chopin Competition’s jury. What could you say about the current level of piano performance in general and Chopin interpretation in particular? Do you find a changing attitude towards performing Chopin’s works since you played in the Competition?

Auer: The population of the world is growing all the time-dangerously fast, too, but that’s another story-so not only are our teaching skills developing, but there are more and more talented musicians around because there is a larger and larger population pool for them to be drawn from. And advances in telecommunications, the explosion of available recordings, and ease of travel are all contributing to a rising average level of skill and understanding in the playing of classical music. All this means that there are fewer and fewer unworthy competitors in the big competitions. The trouble is that a high average level of skill and understanding is a completely different thing from artistry. The overall average certainly is improving, but it always seems as though there are just a few genuine artists who rise above mere excellence and guide us to new experiences and insights in this old music.

Herter: Coming from North America, can you help explain the phenomenon why all of this year’s contestants from Canada and the United States are of Asian descent?

Auer: I hesitate even to enter into a discussion of this difficult, important and even potentially inflammatory topic! Many possible questions-most of them uncomfortable ones-might be seen lurking behind the one you ask; for example, Are Asians more ambitious than we are? Are they less cynical about competitions? Or most touchy of all, of course: Are Asians more talented for music than we are? Are they better trained? These are general, sweeping questions, and any answers to them would be-generalizations. Even when generalizations are accurate they only represent a small statistical tendency, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that, accurate or otherwise, they are much more likely to lead to prejudice than to increased understanding.

There are also other factors: we have considerable continuing immigration from the Orient, and our Asian population is increasing all the time. Some Asian countries, notably Japan, have music schools that already rival the best in the US and Europe, and yet the belief that one needs to go to the West for the best musical education is still very prevalent. Also note that China, Korea and Japan are three separate (indeed some would say four!) nations; if we had eight American and Canadian entrants, seven of whom had English, French and German names, it certainly wouldn’t be very surprising! And I suspect that mere statistical accident probably is playing a part as well. I have had many outstanding Korean, Japanese and Chinese students, as well as esteemed and splendid colleague from these countries, and I just hope and intend that we can continue learning from each other.

Herter: As a young pianist in the USA, what was your first big break in America’s musical world?

Auer: Well, the USA is a big place. I grew up in Los Angeles, and until I went to New York to attend the Juilliard School, I had almost no musical contacts outside of the Southwest. I was helped very much during my LA years by the Young Musicians Foundation, an organization that took an interest in me almost from its inception. I received a lot of attention, publicity and financial aid from the YMF. When I was 14, I appeared on two famous television shows, the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts and the Liberace Show! While these did not do anything for my “career,” such as it was at that time, they were fun, and I still have the copy of the Chopin Scherzos (I played the B minor on both shows) that I was using at that time, autographed on the title page by Liberace, and I’m real glad to have it! Shortly before I went to the Competition, I made my New York début under the auspices of Young Concert Artists, which then became my concert manager for several years. Both YCA and YMF were new when I joined them, both are still in existence, and I owe a lot to them.

But in fact my “first big break in America’s musical world” was the VII International Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw! That did much more for my visibility on the American musical scene than anything I had done in the States, as well as helping me to feel like a musical grown-up for the first time.

Herter: Your responsibilities as a well-known professor of piano at Indiana University in Bloomington certainly must limit the time you have to perform as a concert pianist. Do you find much time to give concerts and tour during the academic year?

Auer: The amount of concert engagements that come to me usually doesn’t interfere substantially with my teaching schedule. The Indiana University School of Music is serious about each student receiving a proper number of lessons per semester, but faculty members (and students too) are liberally allowed to travel in order to fulfill their concert commitments. Some of my performances are during the summer (including quite a few appearances in Duszniki over the years) so those are not a problem. But besides Poland, during my employment at Indiana I’ve traveled to Turkey, Japan, Taiwan, Italy and quite a few other far-flung places, and of course to numerous places in the US and Canada.

Herter: Many of our readers may know that your last visit to Poland was this past February, when you gave concerts in Warsaw and Lublin. In fact, “Warsaw – What, When, Where” was one of the media sponsors for your Warsaw concert. Exactly how many times have you performed in Poland since 1965 and when can we hopefully expect to see you once more in Warsaw?

Auer: I’m hoping to come back soon for more concerts, but I can’t say yet just when-I’m working on it. “Exactly how many times have I performed in Poland since 1965?” I think there were some 20-25 tours altogether-I’ve lost count. I remember that I had a tour directly after the Competition (so I was in Poland from February till April) and then went back in 1967. I don’t think I was there in 1966. After that I went back sometimes every year, more usually every other year, for a long time. It was funny, in retrospect, that I always tried to bargain for more money for those concerts! I used to beg Pagart to try to find more funds for my concerts. Sometimes they could, sometimes they were not even able to arrange concerts for me at all (I remember the head of Pagart at the time, Pan Korczowski, singing to me once “I can’t give you anythi-i-ing but luv”!). I always received part of my fee-and sometimes all of it-in unconvertible Polish zlotys. I became quite skilled at shopping for nice things to buy in Poland to use the zlotys. It seemed to me much more prestigious when I received dollars, but I must admit that the dollar amounts were so small that I sometimes wondered why I campaigned so hard for the honor of a double fee, when Pagart was really quite generous with Polish currency, which always made me feel like a rich man in Poland!

NOTE: Edward Auer, one of the jurors at this year’s Frederic Chopin International Competition, was also the first American to become a laureate of the competition in 1965. While in Europe that year, he entered five international competitions, winning prizes in every one, including first in the Concours Marguerite Long in Paris. Mr. Auer presently makes his home in Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, daughter and Hungarian sheepdog. He is on the piano faculty of the Indiana University School of Music. This interview appears in an abridged version in October’s issue of “Warszawa – What, Where, When” and may be read at their Website http://www.inter.com.pl.

Recent Performances

Poznań Nightingales

More than 600 former choir members of the Poznań Nightingales came to Poznań to take part in a jubilee concert celebrating the 80th birthday of its founder and director of sixty years, Stefan Stuligrosz. “Laudate Dominum,” considered to be the choir’s hymn, concluded the three-day event on 14 Sep. with all choirs participating under the direction of the jubilant.

Meyer’s Oratiorio Premiered

The premiere of Krzysztof Meyer’s oratorio, “Schoepfung” took place at the SXPO 2000 World Festival in Hanover, Germany on 10 September. For a full account look up www.meloman.pl however, since it’s in Polish, here are some highlights. Soloists included Monika Borchfeldt, sop., Gehlrild Romberger, alt; Berthold Schmid, tenor; Andreas Scheibner, bass and the Orchestra of the Municipal Theatre of Braunschweig; choirs from two churches in Hildesheim (Saxony). The concert was held in the Romanesque church of St. Michael in Hildesheim. The event is part of the symposium dedicated to a dialogue on the theme of creation in the religions of the world. It will be repeated on 13 Sep.

Krzysztof Meyer composed music to a text by Evangelical pastor and poet, Gerhard Engelsberger. Prof. Meyer, who has been on the faculty of the Higher School of Music in Cologne since 1987, had formerly served as president of the Polish Composers’ Union and taught in Krakow. He has received many awards for his works which include 6 symphonies, 10 string quartets, several concertos and works for solo instrumental and voice.

Łowiczanie Anniversary In California

The Łowiczanie Polish Folk Ensemble of San Francisco (the group is afilliated with the Polish National Alliance Lodge #7) celebrated 25 years of its activities presenting Polish folk dances, music and songs. The event took place on Saturday, 30 Sep. with a Gala Silver Celebration honoring their founder Krystyna Chciuk. Congratulations to all dancers and their families!

The contact information for this group may be found on PMC Polish Dance page: www.usc.edu/go/polish_music/dance/california.html.

Lutosławski’s Music In Atlanta

The web site of “Symphony.org” reports about the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and their recent program, which included Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra. Pierre Ruhe of the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionnotes that with the Lutoslawski work, director-designate Robert Spano “won his first ASO triumph and sent a signal: We’re going to expand the repertoire into fascinating areas, and it won’t hurt.”

Gala Concert For PNA

A gala concert featuring music by Chopin, Karłowicz, Moniuszko and Wieniawski was held at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Illinois on Sunday 27 August 2000. It highlighted the 120th anniversary of the Polish National Alliance, the largest Polish-American fraternal organization headquartered in Chicago. The event attended by almost a thousand people was organized by Mariusz Smolij, who conducted the Symphony II Orchestra. The concert featured Polish- American artists like violinist Andrzej Grabiec, pianist Paweł Chęcinski, soprano Melanie Tomaszkiewicz, mezzo- soprano Edyta Kulczak, tenor Jozef Homik and the PNA Dance Ensemble “Wici,” under artistic direction of Magdalena Solarz. [Based on a report in Zgoda, the fraternal paper (1 Sep)].

Ruminski’s Recital in L.A.

The recent performance at Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles of the “up-and-coming bass” Valerian Ruminski brought out the “singer’s formidable talent” according to quotes by music critic Josef Woodard, in a special report to the Los Angeles Times. The audience was equally pleased with the Polish- American’s versatility, stage presence and above all, his rich, deep, resonant voice by enthusiastically applauding each song and giving him a standing ovation at the end.The artist sang music by composers Handel, Purcell, Schubert, Verdi, Puccini, Moniuszko and Gershwin in German, Italian, Russian, Polish and English, being equally at ease in whichever language he used. The Moniuszko aria, “Zanim utrodzone oczy” was from the opera “Verbum Nobile.” The highlight of the program was the premiere performance of six songs from a planned 18-song cycle to words by the late poet Charles Bukowski commissioned by the soloist. The composer, Persis Parshall Vehar, was present and acknowledged the approval of her contemporary work, which was described as “an impressive work in progress” by the music critic. The music clearly reflected the mood and character of the poetry and revealed the tender and humorous side of the famous poet.

Ruminski was accompanied on the piano by William Hicks, the very accomplished pianist and voice coach, who is assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. They made a great team. While still still on the roster of the New York City Opera company, the artist who hails from Buffalo, will be making his Metropolitan Opera debut as Zuniga in the opera, “Carmen” on 17 January 2001.

The audience included many members of the Loren Zachary Voice Society of Los Angeles, who were familiar with Valerian from their last year’s competition, where he won second prize. Members of the Polish-American community seen mingling with the soloist after the recital were Dr. Maria Łobodziński with her daughters and friends; Maria Suski, president of the Los Angeles branch of the Kosciuszko Foundation with two friends; Dr. Maria Anna Harley, director of the PMC with her daughter, Anna, and Dr. Marzena Grzegorczyk, a graduate student at the USC School of Cinema and Television. [ww]


by Wanda Wilk

Gramophone Awards

Sir Simon Rattle’s recording of Szymanowski’s “King Roger” and Marc Haemlin’s Chopin/Godowsky transcriptions made it to the Top Three List of the Second Round of nominations for the Gramophone 2000 Awards. The presentation ceremony will take place at London’s Royal Festival Hall on October 9th. If you can’t wait to find out who from next month’s newsletter who the winners will be, then log onto www.gramophone.co.uk!

Anderszewski For Virgin Classics

Pianist Piotr Anderszewski has just signed a recording agreement with Virgin Classics. The first planned release will be Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations” in the spring of 2001, at which time a documentary film by Bruno Monsaingeon will also be shown, revealing the artist’s thoughts on this particular work, which he performed at the 1990 International Leeds Piano Competition, which made such an impression on the audience and led one critic to remark that Anderszewski played as if he had received his inspiration from angels above. Read more about it in www.meloman.pl (in Polish)

H & B Direct Catalogue

You can order H&B’s new 750 page 2000/2001 catalog online at www.hbdirect.com or by telephone 1-800-222-6872. The catalogue costs $14 including shipping. Also available from the company is the video documentary “The Art of the Piano.” The VHS video “illustrates a broad mixture of interpretative styles” of 18 artists “from Ignace Jan Paderewski in 1936 to Claude Arrau in 1970” as displayed by “Horowitz, Rubinstein, Cortot, Gilels, Richter and others.” Commentaries by Daniel Barenboim, Sir colin Davis, Evgeny Kission, Zoltan Kocsis and others. NVC 29199.3, $27.72.Other Polish composers available from H&B:

  • Naxos budget release of Szymanowski’s Piano collection by Martin Roscoe, $5.98;
  • Chopin box-set by Naxos of Idel Biret, 10 CDs for $58.50.
  • In the 2 for 1 Price recordings by DG, Philips or Decca, I found several Chopin collections, the Essential Lutosławski and Szymanowski’s orchestral works.

EMI Classics Catalogue

You can order the EMI Classics 2001 Classical Catalogue of over 2000 titles for free by e-mailing them at: catalogue@emiclassics.com. Visit their web site: www.emiclassics.com

New Reissue Of Małcuzynski

PearL GEM 0095 is a release of Witold Małcużynski (recorded in 1946/7) playing Chopin’s and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Szymanowski’s “Theme and Variations.”

Penderecki’s Passion Reviewed

MD+G 337 0981 (Koch). Penderecki: St. Luke’s Passion. Franziska Hirzel, sop; Francois Le Roux, bar; Jean-Philippe Courtis, bar; Manfred Jung, narrator. German Radio Chorus, North German Radio Chorus, Mainz Cathedral Choir, Bonn Beethovenhalle Orchestra, Marc Soustro, cond.Allen Gimbel writes in The American Record Guide (September/October 2000) that “the piece is unquestionably rough going for the listener – relentless, dreary, and grey: qualities that will most likely keep the work at the fringes of the repertoire. But its historic importance is undeniable, and a great performance would invite the occasional hearing. This, alas, is not that.”

Chopin Flute Variations

Sweet music: 1800 for flute and piano. Eroica 3028. Music by Rossini, Chopin, Beethoven and Schubert. Michele Marasco, fl. Folco Vichi, piano.This recording features Chopin’s ‘Rossini Variations” for flute, which remains a perennial favorite in this repertoire. “Flutist Michele Marasco has brought together four of the most charming theme-and-variations pieces in the flute literature…Marasco and pianist Folco Vichi capture the charm of these pieces, tossing off the most densely written of the variations with a playful ease.” (Elaine Schmidt in the American Record Guide).

The Polish Violin

Gasparo 338 (Allegro) Lutoslawski: Partita; Bacewicz: Sonata no. 2; Szalonek: Chaconne-Fantasy; Szymanowski: Sonata in D minor. Veronica Kadlubkiewicz, violin, Elizabeth Wright, piano.Critic Joseph Magil wonders why “can’t a label like EMI promote an artist like Kadlubkiewicz.” He considers the artists here “equal to the many technical challenges. The composers throw nearly everything in the virtuoso’s arsenal at Kadlubkiewicz, and she catches them all handily. She shows herself to possess temperament, the ability to evoke many contrasting moods, and a wide range of tone colors.” I would say this is an excellent recommendation for getting the recording. The Szalonek piece was written in 1997 and the premiere was given by the violinist.

De Greef Plays Chopin And Moszkowski

Pearl 0080 (Koch). Piano music by Chopin, Grieg, Liszt, Moszkowski. Arthur De Greef, piano. Royal Albert Hall Orchestra, Landon Ronald, cond.Harold C. Schonberg identifies Belgian pianist De Greef (1862-1940) as one of Liszt’s pupils and considers him the “most elegant and sensitive of the pupils…De Greef did not make many recordings, but what he did leave us is pure gold. His performance here of the Chopin B-flat-minor sonata has temperament and a rather unusual finale.” He urges us to “listen to the once-popular Moszkowski Waltz in E, where he storms the keyboard or his high dive launching the finale of the Grieg.”

Composer Profile

Andrzej Krzanowski

by Andrzej Chłopecki

Until the end of his life Andrzej Krzanowski (1951-1990) was considered a young composer, a representative of a young generation. For better, for worse, his “extended” youth was probably influenced by the fact that after the eruption of the phenomenon known as “Generation of Stalowa Wola” (of which he was one of the main representatives) the cultural consciousness did not register the emergence of a similar phenomenon associated with the following generation of composers born in the 1960s.

This marker of “youth” applied in reference to a composer who was 39 years old at the time of his death is a consequence of a purely external matter. The Festival in Stalowa Wola (1975-1980), which was the location of debuts for the so-called “generation 51” or the new “Silesian School” (Eugeniusz Knapik – Andrzej Krzanowski – Aleksander Lasoń) was entitled “Young Musicians – For the Young City.” This title had wrong associations, because it fit perfectly the terminology used by the party apparatus of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL). It echoed the propaganda slogans used in the domain of cultural life. It carried the “retro” aura of the 1950s rather than 1970s; it belonged with the posters of the 1st May “Workers’ Parades,” with the archives of the futurists, or of the Soviet Proletkult. But the years 1975-1976 mark the start of cleansing of the “corrupted” language, the beginning of a slow and gradual recovery of the meanings of “demeaned” words. Krzysztof Droba, while thinking up the title of the festival that he programmed himself, took words seriously. To take words seriously at that time, when “the second domain” (cultural life beyond the reach of censorship) was only emerging, could lead to controversies – as was the case with this title-slogan.

In fact, only during the time of the Orange Alternative (dissident, anarchist student movement in Wrocław), one could fully appreciate the originality and novelty of Droba’s conception of Droba. It is from the programmatic point of view of the festival that Andrzej Krzanowski, (who was unquestionably young, only 24 year old), was officially proclaimed “young.” Yet, he was the first to appear at this festival with a monographic one-composer concert.

The terms “new romanticism” was used for the first time in Poland in reference to Krzanowski’s music (during the Musical Encounters in Baranow Sandomierski in 1976). Primarily romantic was Krzanowski’s accordion – a common, lowly, provincial instrument, with stronger links to small towns than to folk music of the villages. This instrument was an aesthetic provocation causing embarrassment in the realm of high culture. Its legitimacy may have been justified by the careers of such instruments as the bass clarinet of Harry Sparnay, the tuba of Zdzislaw Piernik, the double bass of Bertram Turetzky. Because of the virtuosity of the performers, sonoristic composers entrusted more and more responsibility to these instruments. In the second half of the 1970s Mogens Ellegaard’s accordion appeared in the domain of new music; his artistry on this instrument inspired dozens of composers. But the accordion-player Andrzej Krzanowski was a composer himself, a composer writing for his instrument – for his own instrument. This is the difference.

Therefore, it is difficult (though also both important and essential) to reduce Krzanowski’s act of raising the accordion to the ranks of respectable instruments, to an “innocent” penetration of the sonoristic potential of the instruments of the “second rank” – especially because this instruments embraces both a tonal world of thirds and sixths, and the distinctly provincial context. While Krzanowski penetrated, enriched, expanded, elevated, and produced new possibilities in the areas of timbre and articulation, the critics emphasized and discussed, all the while hoping to escape with this accordion they wrote about from the accordion itself, escape by – for instance – informing that Krzanowski used the accordion to portray or imitate the poetics of electronic music. But Krzanowski, instead of treating this instrument as a stage, an episode, a distinctive accent in his career (this would have been politically correct at that time), built his world from the accordion and around it (this could cause anxiety). Thus, he behaved in a completely romantic fashion.

In the mid-1970s, Andrzej Krzanowski created a completely new tone in his music; he did it purely intuitively in a human space-time which awaited him – more subconsciously than consciously. His phrases became overly “espressivo;” his emotionalism was too vivid – both were dangerously close to artistic exhibitionism. A poetic text recited amidst wailing sirens and the hysteria of the flexaton, opened up a path towards banality which waited at the threshold. The quotations from Bach and Szymanowski, introduced almost too easily, in gestures suspiciously full of acceptance and without the expected traces of distance, threatened him with accusations of gratuitous writing and kitsch. Nonetheless, everything that would not have been forgiven in Darmstadt, in Stalowa Wola made Andrzej Krzanowski the main representative of the new wave in Polish music. This also was – in this case – romantic.

The music of Andrzej Krzanowski is a distinguished and thoroughly original ingredient in the group phenomenon of a generation that also included Eugeniusz Knapik and Aleksander Lasoń. Three different personalities were placed under a common denominator by commentators of the same – more or less – generation, perhaps even somewhat against the intentions of the composers themselves, perhaps in a gesture of “over-interpretation.” Undoubtedly, this resulted from a hunger for new ideas, for new creative personalities who could become the voices of the generation that lived at a time of signing the Helsinki Agreement, at the time of emergence of the Worker’s Defense Committee (KOR – dissident organization in Poland). Before this common denomination was precisely defined it had become a myth, a symbol, a legend. In 1998, during a seminar dedicated to the creative output of Andrzej Krzanowski, which took place in the Cracow Academy of Music, Leszek Polony called Krzanowski the “bard” of our generation (by “our” read: born around 1950). Some of these bards had a guitar strung from their shoulder, this one had an accordion. So Krzanowski was our “bard.” He created a wondrous new art-form – the form of the “audition” (i.e. “audycja” – the same term as denoting a radio program) in which the poetry was an equally important partner of the music. Bieriezin, Dolecki, Mrożek… At a time when a certain generation wanted to have their own bard, Andrzej’s choices of both poets and the poetic content were quite peculiar. . .

It is worth emphasizing, though, that there is something that Krzanowski and his music undoubtedly deserve – regardless of the labels affixed to him. When in 1976 he was “sentenced” under the name of “new romanticism” this term did not yet designate something into which the whole stream of Polish composers fell (led by the so-called “generation 1933”). It had nothing in common not only with new simplicity, but also with new (?) banality, excitedly and hopefully responding to a pre-supposed Zeitgeist. Krzanowski’s scores – in spite of the label of “new romanticism” – belong among the most inventive, the most modern, and, at times, even the most “avant-garde” creations of Polish music of the late 1970s and the 1980s (it is exactly at that time that the third term, the “avant-garde” was losing its significance and value). Every two years since 1984, Krzanowski attended the Darmstadt Courses for New Music, where he taught modern accordion. There, his scores were greeted with suspicion; his instrument – with interest. Even though there is no causal relationship between the two phenomena, several months after the death of Andrzej, the “new complexity” was proclaimed during the 1991 Holland Festival. It was a response to a “new simplicity,” i.e. the final destination of everything that was defined as “new romanticism” in 1976 (defined in reference to Krzanowski’s music). In all that, his music remains innocent.

When one surveys Krzanowski’s list of works, the density and intensity of his compositional activities are quite striking. His symphonies, quartets, choral pieces, multimedia experiments, computer music are a proof of his multiple capabilities, but his works for accordion – solo and chamber music, presented in various sets and configurations, filling in the space from compositions destined solely for virtuosi to works for children – indicated the field that Andrzej Krzanowski selected for himself to cultivate. Such stubborn cultivation of the same field was a characteristic trait of the artisans (in the best meaning of this word), of, say, the Baroque era -artisans treating their craft as a task to be realized, as a service for those who needed their work. This was, in an obvious way, a romantic stance; it remained romantic despite the fact that Krzanowski was increasingly being bombarded by commissions for his accordion “auditions,” for what he did best. In 1980s he travelled widely: Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan. At the same time he constantly returned to “his” Czechowice. In this also – though it could seem a paradox – he was a romantic.

NOTE: The essay, translated by Maja Trochimczyk, first appeared in the program book of the 43rd International Festival of Contemporary Music “Warsaw Autumn” (edited by Michał Kubicki and Elżbieta Szczepańska-Lange, but not Maja Trochimczyk as erroneously printed in the book). Used by permission.


Born This Month

  • 3 October 1882 – Karol SZYMANOWSKI, composer, pianist, (d. 29 March 1937)
  • 3 October 1923 – Stanisław SKROWACZEWSKI, composer and conductor
  • 4 October 1910 – Eugenia UMIŃSKA, violinist
  • 9 October 1924 – Regina SMENDZIANKA, pianist
  • 10 October 1910 – Henryk SWOLKIEŃ, music critic, composer
  • 16 October 1867 – Ferdynand HOESICK, music critic, publisher (d. 13 April 1941)
  • 18 October 1879 – Grzegorz FITELBERG, conductor, violinist, composer (d. 10 June 1953)
  • 20 October 1819 – Karol MIKULI, pianist, composer, conductor, Chopin’s student (d. 21 May 1897)
  • 25 October 1868 – Michał ŚWIERZYŃSKI, composer, conductor (d. 30 June 1957)
  • 30 October 1904 – Alfred GRADSTEIN, composer, activist (d. 29 September 1954)


Died This Month

  • 1 October 1990 – Andrzej KRZANOWSKI (b. 1951, composer, accordion player)
  • 1 October 1861 – Tekla Justyna KRZYŻANOWSKA, pianist, Chopin’s mother (b. September 1780)
  • 7 October 1854 – Adolf CICHOWSKI, Chopin’s friend, officer and civil servant (b.1794)
  • 17 October 1849 – Fryderyk CHOPIN, composer and pianist (b. 1 March (also listed as February 22, 1810)
  • 17 October 1938 – Aleksander MICHAŁOWSKI, pianist, composer, Tausig’s student (b. 5 May 1851)
  • 18 October 1962 – Maria SZCZEPAŃSKA, musicologist (b. 13 May 1902)
  • 21 October 1837 – Michał Józef GUZIKOW, folk musician (b. 1806)
  • 27 October 1991 – Andrzej PANUFNIK, composer and conductor (b. 24 September 1914)
  • 30 October 1912 – Jan Karol GALL, composer and conductor (b. 18 August 1856)
  • 31 October 1952 – Adolf CHYBIŃSKI, musicologist (b. 29 April 1880)