Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 6, no. 9
Warsaw Autumn Festival
The program of the Warsaw Autumn Festival contains numerous international “attractions” guaranteed to bring audiences for the innovative programming, which includes performances of Stockhausen’s Gruppen (as well as spatial pieces by Alvin Lucier and Martin Smolka) at the Sports Hall of CWKS Legia, Bemowo, and Alexander Syrabin’s extravagant Promethee with light displays (as well as Andriessen’s De Materie – Part IV and Grisey’s Tempus ex machina) at the courtyard of the Royal Castle. Other concert venues include the Concert Studios of the Polish Radio, the halls in the National Library, Centre for Contemporary Art – Ujazdowski Theatre, Zachęta Gallery, Academy of Drama, and Grand Theatre – National Opera. The concert hall of the National Philharmonics in Warsaw, where the Warsaw Autumn began and where it was a fixture for many years is notably missing from this list.
There will be eight world premieres at the Festival, mostly by Polish composers: Aleksander Lasoń (16 September), Krzysztof Knittel (17 September), Paweł Mykietyn, Jakub Sarwas, and Włodzimierz Kotoński (20 September), Edward Sielicki, Jerzy Kornowicz, and Władysław Słowiński (21 September).
Among numerous first performances in Poland (the majority of pieces on the program) Polish works are represented by Enchaineby Roman Haubenstock-Ramati (16 September), Harmonium by Hanna Kulenty. However, there is more Polish music, especially by Andrzej Krzanowski (a monographic concert by Orkiestra Muzyki Nowej conducted by Aleksander Lasoń on 19 September), and Włodzimerz Kotoński (a monographic concert organized by PWM publishers).
We should add that the opening concert, given at the National Theatre – National Opera, by the National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio conducted by Arturo Tamayo, will feature the music of Zygmunt Krauze (Piece for Orchestra No. 1) and Kazimierz Serocki (Forte e Piano) among such daring classics of contemporary music as Par Lindgren, Pascal Dusapin, and Iannis Xenakis.
There will be a number of media arts, performances, and audiovisual installations, including a project by Jarosłsaw Kapuściński and Nick Haffner (Your’s), and musical performances in the art gallery Zachęta.
Tickets could be ordered from the Festival Office at e-mail: email@example.com The festival has a web page at: http://www.warsaw-autumn.art.pl. You may reach the office by calling 48-22–831-0607.
Manuscripts Travel: From Warsaw to L.A.
by Maria Anna Harley
If you are in Warsaw on September 23 and have time from 3 to 4:30 p.m., come to the Polish Composers’ Union in the Old Town Square to meet Polish composers and see their manuscripts being donated to the PMRC Manuscript Collection. If you are in Los Angeles on October 21 and have time from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., come to the Polish Music Reference Center in the United University Church building on USC campus and see the manuscripts that made it across the ocean. The Manuscript Exhibit will present the new donations and the music already in the PMRC Collection, including the five original manuscripts of Witold Lutoslawski donated in 1985. The L.A. event will include a concert of chamber music by composers featured in the exhibition; visitors will be able to listen to recordings of the music by these composers on small listening station. All adventurous music lovers are welcome.
I have already written about this project in the July issue of the Newsletter. Here is the account once again – to make sure that our readers mark their calendars and visit us on either continent. During my travel to Europe in June 2000 (for the 58th Annual Meeting of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America at Jagiellonian University), I had a series of conversations with Polish composers and members of their families. These conversations all had one topic in common: I was trying to persuade them to donate their manuscripts, sketches and scores of selected compositions to the PMRC Manuscript Collection. Most of the composers liked the idea of sending their music across the ocean, they only had a problem with the timing – it was very hard to do it right away, to part with these documents of their musical labor without preparation. They also wanted to retain copies for their archives, or to make the best possible selection.
As Zygmunt Krauze teasingly said while showing me his drawers of manuscripts: “What did you think? That you would just show up and take all this music away from me and be gone in a snap?” So I had to come back. Meanwhile, the number of positive responses grew in such a fashion that an idea of creating a “fringe event” in the program of the International Festival of Contemporary Music, Warsaw Autumn, came about. Krzysztof Meyer had the time to look through his archives and donated the manuscript of Cyberiada – his futuristic opera based on the stories by Poland’s leading science-fiction writer, Stanislaw Lem. I picked up these three heavy volumes (along with the sketches for Meyer’s String Quartet no. 10 and one manuscript by Szymon Laks) in the Polish residence of the composer, in Poznan. We had met two weeks earlier in Cologne so Meyer (who is a professor of composition at the Cologne University) already had the time to think about his choices and “mourn the loss” of his musical creations.
During the September 23 ceremony, held at the Polish Composers’ Union in Warsaw the gifts of their music will make in person: Krzysztof Baculewski, Krzysztof Knittel, Hanna Kulenty, Wlodzimierz Kotonski, Zygmunt Krauze, Edward Sielicki, Elzbieta Sikora, Tadeusz Wielecki, Anna Zawadzka, and others. Before the presentation of the gifts I will receive the materials from composers based in Krakow (Marek Stachowski, Zbigniew Bujarski, Krystyna Moszumanska-Nazar), Wroclaw (Grazyna Pstrokonska-Nawratil) and Poznan (Lidia Zielinska, Andrzej Koszewski). All these scores will also be available for viewing in Warsaw. A couple of donors will send their gifts by mail directly to the PMRC (here the courier service, with tracking numbers, seems the most secure way of transporting these unique materials).
The list of composers whose works will enrich our Manuscript Collection includes also those who are no longer with us, starting with Roman Maciejewski whose brother Wojciech confirmed his intention of donating a set of English Carols to the PMRC. This gift reminds me to ask our Californian readers for donations. If you have any memorabilia, photos, letters, from the Californian period of Maciejewski’s life, the PMRC will be grateful to receive these documents as well. I encourage you to look through some old boxes… The donations from family members will also include Szymon Laks whose son, Andre, a college professor in France (Laks remained in Paris after World War II and his son is a French citizen), has decided to enrich our Collection with no less than eleven original scores in his father’s hand. Wanda Bacewicz, the tireless, energetic and admirable sister of the composer Grażyna, will expand her gift of sketches. Finally, musicologist and eminent music critic Andrzej Chłopecki promised a score by Andrzej Krzanowski.
This is what the composers and donors are doing for us. What could we do for them? Few composers whose works are now to enrich our Manuscript Collection had had web pages; the first benefit will be their new presence on the Internet. Two Polish students of economics (with good English and computer skills) spent their summer vacation by typing in biographies and lists of works of Polish composers, scanning their photographs (as well as working on sites about festivals, competitions, anthems and dances). Thanks to the work of Blazej Wajszczuk and Ewa Grzegrzulka the PMRC is now able to unveil new additions to its list of composers, now expanded from 12 to over 40 names. We will continue this work through the year, hoping to have 100 composers listed by next summer. Our web site also grew by the creation of pages dedicated to “Polish Dance in Southern California” (but this is a subject for another report). In the future, the composers’ pages will contain essays about their music and samples of the music itself. At present, though, we have just began this exciting and necessary project.
The promotion of contemporary Polish composers in the U.S. should ideally take the form of concerts and festivals. Music needs to be heard not seen. Therefore, a small sample of pieces from our “new donation” list will be heard during a chamber music concert accompanying the “Exhibition of Manuscripts” on 21 October 2000, starting at 3 p.m. Nonetheless, the emphasis that day will rest on what could be “seen” – as we will present a largest selection of 20th-century Polish music manuscripts ever displayed in the U.S. The collection will have a Californian component that should, for now, remain a secret. In order 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. This event celebrates a milestone in the development of the PMRC Collection, and the Center’s efforts to promote Polish music in the U.S.
Górecki’s Totus Tuus In Warsaw
The European Choir of Medical Students will perform Henryk Górecki’s Totus Tuus under the direction of Jose Maria Florencio Junior, on Sunday, September 3, at 5:30 p.m. at the Music Theater ROMA in Warsaw. The choir will be rehearsed by Beata Herman, the conductor of the Warsaw Medical Academy Choir. The other highlights of the program will be Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and the last movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. In both pieces the choir will be joined by the Warsaw Polish Radio Symphonic Orchestra.[JH]
Vocal Recital In Katowice
Jolanta Wróżyna (soprano) presented her vocal talent in a recital which took place in July 2000 in Katowice (in the Silesian Library). The artist does not perform in Poland very often; her fascinating voice was last heard in November 1999 in Verdi’s Requiem at the National Opera in Warsaw. Wrozyn is a recipient of the first prize and the special prize for Verdi’s arias in the Belvedere competition in Viena. During her Katowice recital, she presented the full range of her vocal capabilities, in arias by Donizetti, Verdi, and Rossini, Mozart, as well as the last four songs of Richard Strauss. Leo Schlesinger accompanied on the piano. [MS]
Music Days In Mikołów
Between 27 May and 18 June 2000 the Tenth Mikołów Days of Music were held in this small Silesian town. Four churches, the Town Center of Culture and outdoor locations were transformed into music stages. The programm of festival juxtaposed Polish and international music and peformers, classic, romantic and contemporary composers. 20th-century Polish comoposers on the program included Andrzej Krzanowski, Aleksander Lason, Eugeniusz Knapik, and Jan Gawlas. The “classic” portion of the program reatures such perennial favourites as the Symphony no. 9 by Antonin Dvorak, a symphony by Mozart, and string quartets by Ludvig van Beethoven, Shostakovich, Mozart and Grieg. Performers included the Wilanow Quartet, the Silesian Quartet, the Mikolow Chamber Orchestra under Slawomir Chrzanowski and Miroslaw J. Blaszczyk, the Orchestra of New Music under Aleksander Lason, The Chamber Orchestra „Lwow virtuoso” under Sergij Burko, The Silesian Chamber Orchestra under Jan Wincenty Hawel, and, in the final concert, Sinfonia Varsovia under Brazilian conductor Jose Maria Florencio with Polish solists – father and son – Jerzy and Adam Klocek – who played Vivaldi’s concerto in G-minor for two cellos. The organizers cooperate with the neighbors from Czech Republic, so this year’s festival opened with a presentation of Filharmonic Orchestra from Brno under Tomas Koutnikwchich open this year’s festival. [MS]
Władysław Szpilman Missed And Remembered
The Polish music world noticed with sorrow the unexpected death of Polish-Jewish composer and pianist Władysław Szpilman in June 2000. Szpilman, born on 5 December 1911 in Sosnowiec, studied music in Warsaw (with Smidowicz) and Vienna (with Kreutzer, Schnabel and Schreker). In 1935-1963 (with a break for the war) he worked for the Polish Radio in Warsaw. In 1962 he cofounded the WArsaw Quintet with which he performed for many years. As a composer he focused on popular music: he penned over 400 songs, including some of the greatest hits of the post-World-War-II Poland, he also wrote film music for feature films and musical comedies. His output also includes classical works, little known in his home country.
Maureen Green, the manager of the Jewish Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles, was affected by the loss in an immediate fashion. She hoped to be able to bring the composer to L.A. for her premiere of his Concertino for piano and orchestra in April 2001. Now the guest of honor will be replaced by his son who lives in Germany and the concert will become a post-humous tribute to Szpilman.
Vladek Juszkiewicz, Los Angeles based music and film manager (as well as a singer), recalled his last visit to the pianist’s home, when he tried to persuade him to come to L.A. in 1998. The pianist, already too frail physically for such a long and stressfuly voyage, was very lively and friendly in conversation. His presence with us will be missed.
Conductor Joseph Herter was very impressed by reading Szpilman’s war-time memoirs, The Pianist. Herter described it as “a difficult book to get through. He writes so vividly about the gruesome events that took place in the Warsaw Ghetto that I could only take small bits at a time.” In his book Szpilman credits the composer Piotr Perkowski for helping him hide from the Germans at the outset of his escape from the Ghetto. Let us not forget that Perkowski’s birth centennial will be celebrated next year.
Winner of the Marcella Kochańska Sembrich vocal award sponsored by the American Council of Polish Clubs was baritone Joshua Sekovski, a student at Duke University.
Winner of the Chicago Chopin Competition last year was Adam Chlastawa, student of Professor Paweł Chęciński.
Michael Namirovsky won the 50th Chopin Piano Competition sponsored by the Kosciuszko Foundation of New York in June 2000. His recent performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra conducted by Steven Lipsitt received a spectacular review in the press.
Magin Competition: March 2001
Concours de Piano Milosz Magin (9th edition) will be held in Paris from the 15th to 20th of March 2001; at the C.E.A.A. – Pianos Yamaha, 17 rue Dumont d’Urville, at the Polish Institute, 31 rue Jean Goujon, and at the Maison de l’Unesco, 7 Place de Fontenoy. The competition has three levels: Elementary, Advanced and Concert Artists. The choice of repertoire includes Polish composers (F.Chopin, I.Paderewski, J.Zarembski, K.Szymanowski, M.Magin) and also French composers ( C.Debussy, F.Poulenc, G.Chabrier, G.Fauré, M.Ravel).
The mailing address for the competition has changed:
Concours de Piano – Milosz Magin31, rue David – d’Angers75019 Paris; FranceTel/Fax: 33 (0)1 42 08 40 61E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two web sites about this competition:
Cantores Minores At The Lakes
At the beginning of July The Cantores Minores Boys Choir of the Warsaw St. John the Baptist Cathedral, led by Joseph Herter gave four concerts in the Mazurian Lake District, including one as part of a festival in Pasym. They also hosted a fabulous children’s choir from Kyoto and gave a joint concert with them at the Chopin Academy. In the summer the young musicians participated in a five-day choir camp in Dobrowo, about 10 miles from Bialogard, in Pomerania and hosted a Russian choir. The fall schedule is full of new events while the choristers enjoy their musical engagements.
Mazowsze Video Online
The online store POLART – POLAND by MAIL – http://www.polart.com – made available a video of the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble Mazowsze on the website of “mailordercentral.com.” The video contains 85 minute-spectacle with some of Mazowsze favourite dance suites. You will find this video at: http://www.mailordercentral.com/polart/prodinfo.asp?number=V532&variation=&aitem=8&mitem=10 or by following this link.
Hanna Lachert, Polish-American violinist based in New York, has alerted us to a manifesto sponsored by UNESCO and promoting a culture of non-violence and peace. Over 100 million people signed it already and the numbers are growing daily. You might wish to join the crowd (the size of over two Polands or one-third of the U.S.) and sign at: MANIFESTO 2000 (www.unesco.org/manifesto2000).
Global Music Network
You may visit the Global Music Network at GMN.com to hear and read about Lutoslawski and his Funeral Music, which had been recorded last year at the Royal Festival Hall in London’s South Bank Center with Christoph von Dohnanyi conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in a live performance. On the web site you can also read and hear Chopin’s Variations for piano, Op. 2 and Introduction and Polonaise performed by Jon Kimura Parker and Desmond Hobig. You can even join the site’s discussion forums on classical music. [WW].
Bacewicz on MIDI
Przemek Znaniecki from Poznan informs us about his success in digitizing contemporary Polish music. He created MIDI files for a sonata by Grazyna Bacewicz, noticing in the process how important it is to recreate all the information from paper notation, all the articulation signs, dynamics, tempi. At present he is working on Witold Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations. For more information please contact the author, at his email address.
The October issue of the Gramophone reports that “if you are interested in Poland’s classical music scene and speak the language, wwww.meloman.pl is an informative and visually attractive port of call.” Tomasz Trzebiatowski, the editor, claims it “is the country’s most comprehensive online classical music centre – features daily classical music news, CD reviews, repertoire lists, and radio and TV listings.” [WW]
New Publications & Books
Polish American Folklore
A newly published book on Polish American Folklore by Deborah Anders Silverman provides information on “rituals of courtship, marriage, coming of age, funereal and rediscovered customs.” The book was issued by the University of Illinois Press, 264 pages, $29.95. For more information see www.press.uillinois.edu.
As a companion, you can get a set of 12 tapes of Polish Folk Music by the Mazowsze, Slask and other folk song and dance ensembles from E.A. Trading of Santa Barbara. The tapes are available at www.heartofpoland.com. [WW]
Szpilman’s “The Pianist”
The memoirs of Władysław Szpilman (1911-2000), a Polish pianist and composer published first by Victor Gollancz in London, have been reprinted in 2000 by Chivers Press (Bath, England) and Thorndike Press (U.S.), in collaboration with McArthur and Company (Toronto Canada). The book is entitled, The pianist: The Extraordinary Story of one Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45. A German translation appeared in 1998. Both editions are revised versions of Szpilman’s memoirs that were originally published in 1946, by Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza in Warsaw, with a different title, Śmierć miasta: Pamiętniki Władysława Szpilmana (1939-1945) [The Death of the City: Memoirs of W.S.]. The only other book-size publication by Szpilman that my Internet search discovered is his 1974 collection of 30 songs for voice and piano, W Domu Ojczystym [In the Fatherland Home], issued by Agencja Autorska in Warsaw.
Calendar Of Events
10 SEP: Valerian Ruminski, bass. Music by Handel, Moniuszko, Schubert, Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin and premiere of six songs to poems of Charles Bukowski by composer Persis Ann Vehar, who will be present. Zipper Hall, Colburn School of Performing Arts. 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Call Ticketmaster: 213-480-3232; 714-740-2000. $17.50. 4:00 p.m.
14 SEP: Lutosławski “Concerto for Orchestra.” Auckland Philharmonia, New Zealand. Daniel Hege, cond. Town Hall. 64-91-379-2020.
15-23 SEP: International Festival of Contemporary Music, Warsaw Autumn. For details about the program see “Flash News” above.
21,22,23 Sep: Lutosławski “Concerto for Orchestra.” Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano, cond. Symphony Hall. 404- 733-5000. www.atlantasymphony.org.
Polish Artists Performing in the Fall
Piotr Anderszewski, pianist, with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Grzegorz Nowak, conducting. 21 Sep.
Penderecki String Quartet at Kitchener, Canada. 16 Sep.
Ewa Podleś, alto, in Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi conducting. 21, 22, 23 Sep.
Leila Josefowicz, violin, in Indianapolis, Thomas Dausgaard, cond. 28,29,30 Sep.
55 Chopin Festival in Duszniki
In August, at the nine-day 55th Chopin Festival in Duszniki- Zdrój, twenty-three concerts and recitals were performed by seventeen pianists comprised of former laureates and jury members of the Chopin International Piano Competition. This year they were: Arnaldo Cohen, Hiriko Nakamura, Piotr Machnia, Joanna Marcinkowska, Malgorzata Sajna, Radoslaw Sobczak, Daniel Wnukowski, Philippe Guisiano, Andrej Gavrilov, Denis Matsujew, Louis Lortie, Cederic Tiberghien, Per Tengstrand, Gwyneth Chen and Jon Nakamatsu.
Lutosławski In Memoriam
by Wanda Wilk
Composer Maciej Zielinski wrote Lutosławski in memoriam for oboe and piano. It was performed for the first time during a joint artists and musicians forum called “Supermarket Sztuki” [Supermarket of Art] held in Warsaw in July.
by Wanda Wilk
Polish Nominees For Gramophone Awards
The second round of nominations for the annual Gramophone Award included three discs of Polish music:
- Szymanowski’s opera King Roger conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
- Krystian Zimerman’s interpretation of the Chopin Piano Concertos as a soloist and conductor, with the Polish Festival Orchestra.
- Chopin/Godowsky Piano Works performed by Canadian pianist Marc- Andre Hamelin.
Kiepura On Video
Bel Canto Society is having a special sale on their videos. Among them Video #534 of Jan Kiepura and Marta Eggerth in “The Charm of La Boheme.” English and German subtitles. Special price: $20. 1-800-347-5056 or visit www.belcantosociety.org.
Rubinstein On Video
Video VA1 69227. Arthur Rubinstein: A Tribute to Chopin.
John Beversluis reviews this “part 3 of the 88 minute black- and-white Kultur video is an all-Chopin recital: a prelude, a mazurka, a nocturne, Scherzo in C# minor and the A-flat Polonaise” in the last issue of American Record Guide. The video was filmed in 1950, during Rubinstein’s “middle period” and, according to the reviewer, shows the pianist “in the presence of his wife and small group of adoring friends.”
MDG 327 0973-2. Organ works of Felix Nowowiejski. It is being advertised as the first recording of this music.
EMI Classics ANGL 73830 Chopin. Nocturnes, Mazurkas & Waltzes. Alexis Weissenberg, piano.
ANGL 73833. Lutoslawski. Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2. Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra. Composer conducting.
Four Hands Music FHMD 9675. Discovery Records has just announced the release of Vol. 5 of Moszkowski’s World of the Piano Duo. New Spanish Dances, Op. 12 and Four Pieces, Op. 33. Isabel Beyer and Harvey Dagul, pianos.
Pearl Gemm CD 0095. Chopin Piano Concerto and Szymanowski’s theme and Variations (from recordings made in 1946-7). Witold Malcuzynski, piano. Paul Kletzki, cond. See www.pavilionrecords.co.uk
Naxos 8/554315. Naxos is continuing its survey of the complete works of Szymanowski with the String Quartets.
Sinfonia Varsovia Reviewed
CD Accord 11369. Polish 19th Century Music. Kurpinski, Dobrzynski, Moniuszko, Zelenski and Noskowski. Sinfonia Varsovia. Grzegorz Nowak, cond.
Critic Steven J. Haller describes this CD in the American Record Guide (July/August 2000 issue) as “Quiate simply one of the finest imports I’ve ever been fortunate to run across – wonderful music compellingly set forth and in many cases unavailable anywhere else: 67 minutes of pure gold you’ll be thrilled to have in your collection.”
Gorecki CD Reviewed
Koch Schwann 312012. Gorecki. Miserere, Choros l, Totus Tuus. Cracow Philharmonic & Chorus. Ronald Bader, cond.Philip Greenfield (of the American Record Guide) especially liked the Totus Tuus for being “glorious, broad, stately and solid as can be.” He compared this recording to King’s College for EMI and Robert Shaw for Telarc and preferred this rendition of Totus Tuus, but found the remaining works not nearly as interesting as the other recordings.
Chopin Like Mozart?
Pearl 0068. Casadesus: Early Recordings.
Alexander Morin, reviewer for The American Record Guide writes: “This release honors the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Casadesus, the last and greatest exponenet of the French piano style […] These performances were recorded between 1929 and 1935, and this is their first appearance on CD […] His Chopin is notable for its strength and clarity (he said Chopin should be played like Mozart, and that is apparent in what we hear) […] It is all just plain wonderful piano playing that should not be missed.”
Paderewski CD Disliked
Koch Schwann 3-1735-2. Paderewski. Orchestral Works. Cracow State Philharmonic Orchestra. Roland Bader, cond.
In the Fanfare (Sep/Oct issue) Peter J. Rabinowitz points to the misleading title of this CD. Only two works were actually written as orchestral works by Paderewski, the Overture and Fantasy from the opera Manru. The others are simply arrangements for the orchestra of several popular piano works. The critic gives this CD a thumbs down vote because he doesn’t feel “the musicians have done anything to support” the great Polish artist, and believes they should have used his best orchestral works like his Symphony and Piano Concerto instead of arrangements of his piano works.
Hamelin Knows Godowski
Hyperion CDA 67411/2 Godowsky. 53 Studies on Chopin’s Etudes. Marc-Andre Hamelin, piano.
In Jed Distler’s review in Gramophone (Sep 2000) a quotation from a previous critique by Bryce Morrison (Gramophone, May 2000) identifies these “controversial studies” as “the ne plus ultra of romantic intricacy.” Distler states with admiration that “there’s nothing remotely controversial about Hamelin’s jaw-dropping effortlessness […] Hamelin’s own descriptions of the etudes are lucid and insightful, and he touchingly dedicates the recording to his father’s memory.” Note that this CD is in the competition for the Gramophone Award. (see top of Discography section.)
Szymanowski’s Orchestral Classics
HMV Classics. HMV5 73860-2. Szymanowski. Symphony No. 3, Violin Concertos 1 & 2. Wieslaw Ochman, tenor. Konstanty Kulka, violin. Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Jerzy Semkov and Jerzy Maksymiuk, cond.
Ivan March (in Gramophone, September 2000) identifies this disc as a reissue from SLS 5242 (9/82) and C0065 05597 (11/8l) and favorably reviews this release, praising violinist Kulka as a “gleamingly, rich-timbred, idiomatically committed soloist.” March reserves for Semkow even more extravagant words of praise: “The Third Symphony […] under Semkow’s baton is even more puissant with its headily luxuriant obsessional intensity, the wordless chorus contributing to the rich sensuality of texture, but eventually leading to a more subdued closing epilogue (where the tenor soloist is excellent). In such brilliantly evocative performance all this music communicates very powerfully, richly projected by the vividly full-blooded yet atmospheric recording.”
Szymanowski’s Piano Music
Naxos 8.553867. Szymanowski. Piano Works Vol. 3. Martin Roscoe, piano.
Michael Oliver (in the October issue of the Gramophone) calls this “a warm welcome to the third installment of Martin Roscoe’s Szymanowski survey,” but regrets “that no more is to come” because he would like “to have heard Roscoe’s account of the Third Sonata and the remaining six mazurkas.” He gives this CD a warm recommendation. For Szymanowski afficionados who want to have the complete edition, he suggests Martin Jones’ Complete edition of Szymanowski’s piano music. However, it is more expensive and the critic prefers the Naxos piano sound. He also refers to Pawel Kamasa’s superb recording of the Complete Mazurkas on Koch Schwann and Raymond Clarke’s Third Sonata on Athene (9/99).
Harmonia Mundi France HMN 911701 Ravel, Schnittke and Szymanowski’s “Notturno e Tarantella.” Graf Mourja, violin. Elena Rozanova, piano.
David K. Nelson identifies this disc as part of Harmonia Mundi’s “Les Nouveaux Interpretes” series. The young artists are from Ukraine and Odessa and are described as “both solid players who can readily get into the spirit of the tasks at hand […] The Szymanowski functions as an encore, and a surefire one it is, although at over 10 minutes it is a substantial work, with the arid, listless heat of its Oriental/Iberian opening followed by about as ferocious a virtuoso showpiece as exists in the violin literature […] these musicians dive into this extended challenge with infectious enthusiasm.”
PIASA In Kraków, Roots In Poland
by Maria Anna Harley
What is PIASA? This abbreviation is not as well known to average Polish Americans as the PAC, or PNA, even though this Polonian organization has a long and distinguished history. Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America was founded in 1944 in New York by a group of Polish emigre scholars of international fame, including anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, historian Oskar Halecki, and others. The Institute went on to become one of the pillars of Polish cultural life in America. Membership is by invitation only: the Institute welcomes new members who either (1) hold a doctorate and are involved in university-level teaching or research (even though they might not be affiliated with an institution of higher learning), or (2) have achieved a level of national and international prominence due to their artistic talents or personal achievements (writers, artists, composers, musicians, TV personalities, celebrities, etc.). New members are usually recommended by their peers; after sending in their CV and letters of application are approved by the Institute’s Board of Directors.
The Institute publishes a scholarly journal, the Polish Review, which appears four times a year and brings articles from the domain of humanities and social studies, all about Poland. There is a library collection to use, lectures to attend, and various other activities that could be enjoyed only by the inhabitants of New York and its vicinities. For all others some information about PIASA could be found on the Institute’s web page, at www.piasa.org. An important and highly visible part of the Institute activities are its annual meetings, held in the middle of June, after the academic year is over and before all the scholars, presumably, go to Poland to work on their research projects.
On June 16-18, 2000 PIASA met at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. The conference was one of the events celebrating the 600th anniversary of the reestablishment of the University by Saint Jadwiga, the Queen of Poland (the university was founded in 1364, but by her time, it was in serious financial trouble; renewing the university is part of the young queen’s title to everlasting fame). This was truly a historic event: PIASA returned to its roots, i.e. to the site of the Polska Akademia Umiejetnosci (PAU, Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences) that provided a model for the emigre scholars during the war and to the University from which its founders graduated and where they had been teaching before being forced to flee the country. Everyone remembers what happened to university professors when the Nazi army came to Lwow: they were arrested and killed. The PIASA founders found their way out (their paths to America should be a subject for a separate story; and so should be the long and distinguished history of the organization, and its numerous achievements).
Let me, then, forward to 1990s: before coming to California in 1996 for three years I had been a member of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada, located in Montreal. I knew about PIASA’s existence since this was the PIASC’s parent organization – the Canadian branch became an independent Institute with its own sections in the whole country in 1960s. I also knew that it would be wonderful to join such an eminent group of scholars, specialists in Polish history and culture.My invitation for membership came from Prof. Paul Knoll who teaches history at the University of Southern California and is a board member of PIASA (he is American, but I would like to find some Poles able to recite dynasties of Polish kings, with their dates and lineages as well as he knows them!). A further incentive was my personal contact with two people without whose tireless activities the Institute would not grow and flourish as well as it does: its Executive Director, Dr. Thaddeus Gromada, and the Manager of the office, Jane Kedroń (Dr. Gromada’s sister). I had the pleasure to meet them in Poland, in Zakopane to be exact – in the hospitable home of the wonderful Polish singer, Andrzej Bachleda. At that time (July 1997), I came to meet Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and personally invite him to the School of Music at the University of Southern California. He wanted me to meet his friends, to see if I could pass the test before he would commit to visiting USC. What test it was I don’t know, but evidently I passed it since Mr. Górecki came to USC in the Fall of 1997, accompanied by Andrzej Bachleda and Mr. and Ms. Kedron. Gorecki had been the guest of the Kedrońs in New York; from his point of view, the USC “Górecki Autumn” was an extension of his trip to the 50th anniversary of the Tatra Eagle, a Podhalean publication (the Kedrons and the Gromadas are true “górale” of course; Górecki is from Silesia, but he settled in Podhale and is a “góral” in spirit).
So, here I was, with another session accepted into the PIASA program. As important as it was for me, of course, it was just one of the elements of the 58th Annual Meeting, a meeting of such scope and significance that it will be remembered for a long time. From the opening ceremony held in the aula of Collegium Novum at UJ where the Rector of the Jagiellonian University awarded honorary doctorates to Zbigniew Brzezinski and Prof. Piotr Wandycz (a distinguished historian), to the closing ceremony at the Polska Akademia Umiejetnosci where the recipients of the Cross of Merit awarded by the President of Poland included Dr. Gromada (Commandor), Ms. Kedron, Prof. Knoll, and many others, the Meeting was unlike any other.
I know it was unique – in my relatively brief academic career (10 years) I gave papers at about 40 conferences and attended a couple more as a participant. None other conference touched me as deeply. The reverence and awe felt within the walls of the Collegium Novum, decorated with paintings by Matejko, portraits of St. Jadwiga and Nicolaus Copernicus; the childish joy of parading in academic regalia through the Market Square in a procession of 200 scholars including a full range of professors from Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford, and academics representing all the states of the U.S. (these robes and hats are truly medieval!); the intellectual delight of conversing with and listening to some of our greatest minds – all this and more made the PIASA Meeting into a true Millennial celebration.I was delighted with the response of our American colleagues to our topics and discoveries, with the curiosity and encouragement that we received. These are not easy matters, given the history of Polish anti-Semitism which grew at the end of 19th century, peaked in 1930s, at the time of economic crisis, and survived the war to plague the airwaves of some radio stations and stain pages of books and newspapers freely published and distributed in the country (Poland has no “hate” laws like Canada; perhaps it should). But Polish American scholars are open-minded, they live in the U.S. and know that the stereotypical “Jew” who wants to take over the world (either as a communist or a capitalist, no matter which) does not exist. Instead they know a lot of different Jewish people, good and bad, brilliant and boring, just like everyone else.
With all the more zeal I will, then, work on this topic; perhaps organize another conference, perhaps just publish my own paper in more venues than one (I have received two invitations to submit it to scholarly journals), perhaps… There is only one way forward: openness. There is only one end to bigotry: freedom. PIASA embodies intellectual freedom, courage, independence of researchers from pressures, it cherishes academic virtues in the best meaning of the term.
I am happy that the Institute added my paper to its program. I’m also proud that I have been able to work with scholars of Polish Jewish descent, primarily Dr. Halina Goldberg who recently accepted a position at the University of Alabama. Afer the PIASA Meeting, Dr. Goldberg visited her elderly, ailing parents in the city of Lodz. They miraculously survived the war and refused to leave their beloved country (after the Kielce riots in 1946, the all-Poland persecutions in 1968, and any time in-between or after) but now are left only with some elderly friends who remained after all their children have emigrated, so there is no younger generation and no grandchildren to enjoy. The Jewish remnant of Lodz is dying out. I visited my hospitalized parents: my mother with her stories of picnics near Switez and parties in Baranowicze (as the cutest little girl in town, she once gave flowers to Pilsudski), and her nostalgia for the family’s way of life destroyed by the Soviets, and my father with his background of poverty and rejection (a half-orphan who started learning Polish at the age of 6 and owed his education to the benevolence of the socialist state, he could not reveal his Byelarussian roots and non-Catholic Christianity among the proud Poles, with their infinite contempt for all the “ruski”). I am proud of my parents, now even more than ever; Halina Goldberg is proud of hers. These “non-Catholic” Polish families belong to the social fabric of the country; they are its inseparable thread. PIASA scholars know and study the cultural mosaic that had made Poland a strong and tolerant country long ago; the Institute’s activities allow such minority voices to be heard.
Their reaction was, sadly, completely different from comments I received after the session (confidentially, no less) from some Polish scholars of older generation. I was told: “it is not good to present topics like yours. It is too dangerous. We should not say who was of Jewish background, we should not name them. Remember 1968? All this is not too far behind. What if someone like Hitler came to power? He would have it all done – these people and their families would be known, they could be in danger.” Here, I’m paraphrasing the words that sent a chill down my spine: so now, in 21st-century Poland, it is still dangerous to admit that one might be – pssst – Jewish? Amazing. This reaction is even more disturbing, when one recalls the anti-Semitism of past America and its gradual, though not-complete disappearance from public life (with an openly orthodox nominee for the VP of the country in 2000). Judging by the words of my older, distinguished colleague who spoke from his life-time experience, anti-Semitism is alive and well in the Old Country.
The sessions ranged widely in subjects, with many focusing on history, sociology (study of minorities and regional identities, e.g. from Silesia, is a new hot trend), literature, women’s issues. There was political science, of course, as well as medicine (not obvious -but many members are doctors and they want to discuss topics of interest to them). USC participation was small in number but strong in quality: Prof. Paul Knoll (historian) chaired one session and talked about his research at another, Prof. Diane Wilk (architect) attended meetings of the Advisory Board of PIASA (she is the Board’s youngest member), and yours truly talked about Polish -Jewish composers who immigrated to the U.S. and their shifting identities, their troubles with finding a place for themselves in the new society. Prof. Halina Goldberg greatly expanded her study of Jewish salons and musicians in 19th-century Poland during her archival studies in Warsaw – she focused on the contribution to Polish culture of the assimilated Jewish families who spoke Polish and published Polish books (as well as gave us such Polish composers as the Wieniawski brothers, from the Wolffs).
To return to the PIASA story: as a new member of the Institute, I was invited to contribute to the yearly meetings some scholarly sessions about music. The results: a 1999 Special Session on the Reception of Chopin (celebrating the Chopin Year) with three papers, and a 2000 Special Session on Polish -Jewish Music, again with three papers. The second session was an enlargement of some of the material previously presented at USC – during our ground-breaking International Conference on “Polish/Jewish/Music!” (November 1998). Topics from that conference continue to fascinate scholars in America and a book proposal is in the works. But more about it later.
Born This Month
- 19 September 1938 – Zygmunt KRAUZE, composer
- 5 September 1924 – Krystyna MOSZUMANSKA-NAZAR, composer
- 7 September 1943 – Elbieta STEFAŃSKA, harpsichordist
- 24 September 1914 – Andrzej PANUFNIK (died 27 October 1991), composer
- 18 September 1883 – Ludomir RÓŻYCKI (died 1 January 1953), composer
- 13 September 1896 – Tadeusz SZELIGOWSKI (died 10 January 1963), composer
Died This Month
- 13 September 1977 – Leopold STOKOWSKI (born 18 April 1882), American conductor and composer of Polish descent
- 29 September 1954 – Alfred GRADSTEIN (born 30 October 1904), composer, and social activist
- 27 September 1943 – Wacław GIEBUROWSKI (born 6 February 1878), priest, choral conductor and musicologist
- 28 September 1939 – Halina SZMOLC-FITELBERG (born 25 December 1892), dancer (Diaghilev ensemble, Grand Theatre)