June 2001

Polish Music Center Newsletter Vol. 7, no. 6

News Flash

Mykietyn’s Premiere In Warsaw

Paweł Mykietyn’s chamber opera, Ignorant i szaleniec [An ignoramus and a madman], based on a play by Thomas Bernhard received its premiere at the Teatr Wielki, Grand Theater – National Opera in Warsaw Poland (May 4-5, 2001). The opera, commissioned by the Theater from the young composer (b. 1971) was prepared by the conductor Wojciech Michniewski and the composer himself; the stage direction was realized by Krzysztof Warlikowski – a theater director with whom Mykietyn previously worked on many projects.

The subject of the opera is grisly and this is one reason for its reception that seems to split the audiences in half, between those who love and hate the work. The main character, The Queen of the Night, is lifted from Mozart’s Magic Flute. The Queen, performed by Olga Pasiecznik, even sings Mozart’s arias, cited along with musical commentaries by Mykietyn. This character is a operatic diva, identified with Mozart’s heroine; the diva’s father is an alcoholic – a spiritual drunk (sung by barytone Jerzy Artysz), the third character of the opera is a doctor who through its course presents a detailed description of an autopsy (a British countertenor Jonathan Peter Kenny, who especially for this role studied Polish).

According to the composer (interviewed in Przekroj in May 2000), the title of the opera describes the relationship between the father and the doctor, both of whom consider the other party to be both ignorant and mad. The opera’s chamber instrumentation engages 13 performers, with single winds and strings, plus harp, piano, percussion, and tape.


Krauze Praised In New York

A recital by composer/pianist Zygmunt Krauze on May 3rd at the Kosciuszko Foundation turned out to be an unusually interesting program according to Renata Pasternak-Mazur of the Nowy Dziennik [Polish Daily News] of New York. The first half was devoted to music by Chopin, Lutoslawski and Szymanowski to which a new element was added by the pianist. He made his own improvisations. The second half consisted of his own works, which he did not play from memory. In “Stone Music” he used a stone and metal pieces to bring out specific sounds from the sound board. In “Gloves Music” it seemed that no matter what color or how many gloves the pianist wore, none seemed to help. Krauze called his program, “The Last Recital.” The reviewer and audience hopefully wished it will not be his last. The composer-pianist presented similar programs in April at the University of Chicago and the University of California, Santa Barbara (see the previous issue of the Newsletter for a report).

Homage To Paderewski

The outstanding American pianist Frederick Weldy, a prizewinner of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and currently on the faculty of Stanford University, returns to Poland after a hiatus 15 years, to perform a recital on Wednesday, June 20, at 7:00 p.m. on the historic Steinway grand piano that once belonged to Ignacy Jan Paderewski at the Paderewski Museum located in Lazienki Park.

Listening to Mr. Weldy play, one has the opportunity to hear an American pianist, whose artistry overwhelms the listener with his exquisite musicality and brilliant virtuosity. Mr. Weldy’s program includes sonatas by Beethoven and Soler, an impromptu by Schubert, and the popular Gershwin Preludes. A unique aspect of this recital, though, will be the artist’s inclusion of five pieces from a piano anthology that was released in 1941, the year of Paderewski’s death, entitled Homage to Paderewski. The collection consists of 16 works commissioned by British publisher Boosey & Hawkes from world-famous composers who were living in the USA at that time. All are dedicated to the memory of the great Polish musician. The works from this compilation that will be heard are Homage a Paderewski by the Italian-Jewish composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), In Memoriam Paderewski by Cuban-American composer Joaquin Nin-Culmell (b. 1908), Aftermath by American composer Theodore Chanler (1902-1961), and two pieces by Polish composers who immigrated to the United States, Kujawik by Karol Rathaus (1895-1954) and Threnody by Felix Roderick Labunski (1892-1979).

For an inspiring evening of music during Poland’s Paderewski Year, don’t miss the opportunity of hearing this fine pianist perform. The concert is cosponsored by the American Embassy, British Airways and the Marriott Hotel. Admission is free.[JH]

XI Festival Of Vocal Arts – Ada Sari In Nowy Sacz

The eleventh edition of the Vocal Arts Festival in Nowy Sącz, named after the great singer Ada Sari, takes place from 26 May till 2 June. The main part of this event is the Ninth Competition in Vocal Arts, with the participation of 74 singers from 9 countries (including Andorra, Austria, Croatia, Spain, Yougoslavia, Korea, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.

This competition is designed as an introductory stage in the preparation of young singers for great international competitions and performances. The winners of earlier editions have confirmed its quality by receiving awards at numerous other events. The jury will include this year the Polish coloratura soprano Zdzislawa Donat, bass Bernard Ladysz and conductor-opera-house-director, Ewa Michnik. The festival takes place every two years and includes recitals and other concerts. This year, the Cracov Philharmonic Choir will appear conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki. An international “Parade of Tenors” will include Columbian Cesar Gutierrez, Mexican Hector Sandoval and Tomasz Krzysica, Tomasza Kuk and Pawel Sobierajski from Poland.

XX Festival Of Eastern Orthodox Music

Poland has become a world-center for Eastern Orthodox Music thanks to the yearly festival held in Hajnówka (Podlasie) and described as the largest musical event in the world inspired by Eastern Christianity. The festival is also a competition, this year featuring 30 choirs from many countries (including Poland, Byelaruss, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Lotva, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine). Poland will be represented by choirs from Gródek Białostocki, Białystok, Warsaw, and Hajnówka. In addition to choirs (professional, parish-based, and amateur) participating in the competition, the festival also includes performances by prize-winning ensembles from previous years.

Six years ago, in order to recognize the rank of this event the Polish Ministry of Arts and Culture awarded it the highest status among artistic events held in the country, on a par with Wieniawski or Chopin Competitons, Warsaw Autumn or Vratislavia Cantans. It is different, however, in that it gathers amateurs along with professionals and in that it is held in a small town in the eastern part of the country, its most neglected and poorest region. President Aleksander Kwasniewski serves as the honorary patron of the festival. [PAP]

Since the Festival’s inception, composer and musicologist Romuald Twardowski has served as the president of the jury. His credentials include numerous compositions for Eeastern Orthodox litugy, including the internationally acclaimed “Mała Liturgia Prawosławna.” I should remind our readers that in September 2000 Romuald Twardowski donated numerous manscripts of his compositions to the Polish Music Collection at PMC. In March 2001, his “Marian Triptych” for string orchestra was performed to great acclaim in Los Angeles and will soon be available on a promotional CD issued by the Polish Music Center.[MT]

Perkowski’s Centennial

The music of Polish composer, teacher and music activist, Piotr Perkowski (1901-1990) was celebrated during his centennial recently. On 25 March 2001, the Polish Radio presented a concert focussing on his music – with an Etude, Japanese Utas for soprano and orchestra, Nocturne, Towards Atma: In Memoriam Karol Szymanowski, and the Second Violin Concerto (works from 1972, 1975, 1955, 1978, and 1958 respectively). The program of the memorial concert also included works by Szymanowski and Albert Roussel, both personal teachers and friends of Perkowski.

The composer, educated in Warsaw (private student of Szymanowski) and Paris (Roussel), was one of the cofounders of the Association of Young Polish Musicians in Paris (in 1926) – a group that he directed for four years, before returning to Poland. Since 1936 he was the director of the Music Conservatory in Toruń.

During the war Perkowski was active in the resistance movement, as one of the four members of a special committee of the Secret Union of Musicians which – supported by the London government-in-exile – sponsored cultural events in order to prevent Poland from becoming a cultural desert. The organization presented secret concerts of Chopin’s music (that was banned by Germans) and recitals of works by Szymanowski and Panufnik. Among the beneficiaries of its activities was also pianist Władysław Szpilman.

Perkowski was active in reconstructing musical life after World War II – as a member of official communist organizations (this caused him to be perceived as an enemy of dissident artists). Regardless of his political mistakes after the war, his achievements for Polish musical culture are indisputable – as the first president and organizer of the Polish Composers’ Union, the director of the Cracow Philharmonic, or the Polish Radio Orchestra in Katowice. His own music bears traces of his life-long fascinations with the impressionistic colors of Szymanowski and the

Wilk Prizes: New Deadline In June!

The 2001 edition of the Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music will be held in the Essay categories. Professional prize will be given for the best paper on Polish music written by a scholar who completed his studies ($1000), while the prize of $500 will be given to a best paper by a student still enrolled at an accredited institution. Both scholars and students should be primarily based outside of Poland. More information about the rules and past winners of the competition may be found at the PMC web site: Wilk Prizes. The new deadline for submissions is June 30 and the competition will now be held and prizes awarded in the same year. The winners will be announced after October 30, 2001 and the prize winning papers published in the online Polish Music Journal, the Winter issue.

Polish Music Center On Jeopardy!

The May 21 issue of the USC Chronicle reported that on 18 March, Jeopardy, a “popular quiz show, hosted by Alex Trebek, featured ‘USC’ as a category.” One of the five questions was “Which North-American university has the only Polish Music Center in North America?” Of course, we all know what the answer is. So, we were on national TV. We made it! [WW]

Paderewski The Eccentric

by Joseph A. Herter

Igancy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) has always been spoken about in nothing but the most glowing superlative terms. He has been called a genius by many famous people, described artistically as the “Sirius of our skies” and praised for his incomparable altruistic philanthropy and remarkable magnanimity. This Polish patriot, who mesmerized both kings and common men with his playing of Chopin, was described by his former student Zygmunt Stojowski as being able ‘to forge a peaceful sword’ out of sounding beauty for his country’s salvation. For most Poles Paderewski was the epitome of Polish patriotic devotion, while for the rest of the world he served as the personification of civil righteousness and the champion for “the cause which is Right.” Paderewski wore the hats of hero, patriot, statesman, pianist, composer, artist and philanthropist.

Paderewski’s eccentric artistic quirks, which surfaced when performing solo recitals, however, are aspects of the artist’s life that are unfamiliar to most people. In the Paderewski Archive scrapbooks, which contain reviews and programs of concerts from every concert tour the Polish pianist played, I was able to find proof of strange (to put it mildly) concert behavior in cities from Detroit to Boston during the teens and twenties of the 20th century.

To start with, his recitals always started late. In fact, sometimes they began up to 45 minutes later than scheduled. In addition to that, Paderewski insisted on having the hall extremely dimly lit, which created a chiaroscuro effect, causing the piano to loom on stage as some sort of dark altar upon which a religious service would be celebrated. Finally, the pianist insisted that the temperature in the hall had to be kept at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and that no doors or windows could be open while he was playing.

Now, try to imagine being a victim locked up in a dark airtight room with 6,000 – 10,000 other people (sometimes 90% women) at 27 degrees Celsius for at least 45 minutes. That’s counting the time waiting for the show to begin and then going into the first half hour of the concert. Yes, it would be like going to concert in a Turkish bath accompanied by a stench, which was described in a January 22, 1916 letter to the editor of a Detroit newspaper, being “foul enough to sicken a goat.” Remember that these were days without “Sure,” “Arid” and “Right Guard.” The author of that letter goes on to say that “the air of our crowded street cars…is a rose geranium in comparison” to the stink in the hall. The letter is quite hilarious and further states that midway through the performance the audience was “ready to topple over in a state of toxic coma.”

But that was only Detroit, a headline of a review of a Paderewski recital in Boston during the 1920’s read, “Paderewski Screams at Audience.” It seems that during this concert a woman actually did pass out in a state of toxic coma while the artist played. When the commotion reached the pianist’s ears, he stopped playing and, oblivious to what was actually happening, shouted to the audience, “What is this, some kind of walking party? Well, I know how to walk too.” And he preceded to walk off the stage in anger. Rude and temperamental? You bet!

Paderewski was paranoid about catching a draft which would either cause stiffness in his arms, making it impossible for him to play, or let him catch cold and also put him out of commission. But why the managers of those concert venues would consent to inflict such unbearable conditions upon their audiences remains a mystery. Probably the fear of Paderewski refusing to perform, then the nightmare of having to cancel the concert and give ticket refunds to thousands of people were intimidating enough to let the pianist have his own way for. As the saying goes, Some Like It Hot.

Internet News

Dekameron Early Music Group

The e-mail and web site addresses for the Polish early music group, Dekameron, have changed. The new ones are as follows:

e-mail: dekameron8@poczta.onet.pl
web site : www.dekameron8.republika.pl

Fialkowska’s Web Site

Polish-Canadian Pianist, Janina Fialkowska now has a web site with current information about her concert activities and recordings. The site’s address is: http://www.janinafialkowska.com. For more information about her activities you might contact her personal representative, Harry Oesterle, email: harry.oesterle@gmx.de.

Chopin Society Of Houston

This society was established in 1999 to promote the music of Chopin and other Polish composers. You may visit its web site at: http://chopinsocietyofhouston.org.


Anderszewski’s the Best!

Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski received the Royal Philharmonic Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. He was named “Best Instrumentalist of the Year!” His long-awaited CD with Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations has just been released by Virgin Classics and has already received rave reviews in the Dialy Telegraph, London Times and the Guardian, which described him as a pianist of inspirational brilliance. BBC Music Magazine stated that among younger pianists he seems most likely to join the greats. It was wonderful to hear such praise of a pianist whom we know from his days at USC and who received the Szymanowski Award last year. Look for a whole page photo of Piotr and the CD ad in the Gramophone (June issue). [WW]

Moniuszko Competition Winners

Winners of the IV International Stanislaw Moniuszko International Vocal Competition founded by the undefatigable Maria Foltyn:

Female Category:

I Prize: Monika Walerowicz-Baranowska (Poland)
II Prize: Bixia Wu (China)
III Prize: Anna Kiknadze & Jekatiena Solowjowa (Russia) Tie

Male Category:

I Prize: Tomasz Kuk (Poland)
II Prize: Tomasz Krzysica (Poland)
III Prize: Daniel Sztoda (Russia)

A jury chaired by Teresa Kubiak decided not to give a Grand Prix. Out of 155 candidates from all over the world, 92 performed in the first Stage, 54 in the second and 14 made it to the finals.

IX Milosz Magin Piano Competition

The ninth edition of the international Piano Competition Milosz Magin was held between 15 and 20 March 2001 in Paris. It is for the first time that the competition was held without its founder, who was killed on 4 March 1999 while on a concert tour in Tahiti. The competition, held since 1985, is held in three different age categories – elementary, high school and concertizing. The purpose is to promote Polish music, pay homage to French music and discover young talents. Idalia Magin now continues the work of her husband and presided over the events this year that began with a recital by Janusz Olejniczak (pianist who specializes in Chopin and played the role of Chopin in Anrzej Zulawski’s film La Note Bleue.

The winners include:

Elementary Category:

1 Mention : Namuun Tsolmon (Mongolia)
2 Mention ex-aequo : Alexandra Girat (France) and Odtsetseg Khuagbaatar (Mongolia)
3 Mention ex-aequo : Alungoo Enkhbat (Mongolia) and Enkhjin Gansukh (Mongolia)

Higher Category:

1 Medal: Maďko Takamura (Japan)
2 Medal ex-aequo: Alisa Kupriyova (Ukraine) and Pawel Sobowiec (Poland)
3 Medal ex-aequo: Anna Filipczuk (Poland) and Ryan Mac Evoy (U.S.)

Concert-Pianist Category:

1 Grand Prix : Eri Iwamoto (Japan)
2 Prix : Matylda Rotkiewicz (Poland)
3 Prix : not given
Prix de la Sacem : Matylda Rotkiewicz (Poland)

The Tenth Competition will be held in March 2003. For more information contact the competition office:

Concours de Piano Milosz Magin
31, rue David – d’Angers 75019 Paris
Tél & Fax : 01 42 08 40 61 / 01 43 86 03 16
E-mail : margomagin@aol.com

Asturia Award For Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki received a special award from the Prince of Asturia for his achievements in arts. The Prince’s awards are given yearly in eight different categories, including arts, literature and sports. The awards are presented during a special ceremony by the heir to the Asturia’s throne, prince Philip.

New Publications & Books

Lutoslawski Bio-Bibliography

A team of a Polish musicologist, Stanisław Będkowski, and librarian, Stanisław Hrabia, prepared a 323-page bio-bibliograph of Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994), published as no. 83 in a series issued by Greenwood Press of Westport, Connecticut (dated 2001).

The hardcover book includes a 10-page biography of the composer followed by the fullest list of works, recordings and writings by and about Lutosławski seen anywhere. The list of works includes film music, incidental music for the theater, music for radio, and songs composed under pseudonyms of Derwid or Bardos. There is an extensive discography and a separate section of “Derwid”‘s recordings. the Bibliography includes his writings (187 entries), his interviews (174 entries), dissertations (over 60!), and other writings, including even obituaries (total of 2049 entries). An appendix of “alphabetical list of works and two indices complement this useful volume.

Krenz Interviews

Jan Krenz, a Polish conductor celebrating his 50th anniversary of work, gave a series of interviews to Elżbieta Markowska, a musicologist and director of classical programs at the Polish Radio. The book of interviews, a paperback of 210 pages, was issued by PWM Editions and is the first ever dedicated to this talented musician. In 2001, a selection of Krenz’s recordings appeared on a double-CD set issued by the Polish Radio. Krenz’s mastery could be heard recently, during the opening concert of the Lutoslawski Festival at the Polish Radio (19 May 2001), during which he led the Sinfonia Varsovia in an amazing version of Lutoslawski’s Symphony no. 3, followed by Haydn’s Oxford Symphony (the only work that Lutosławski conducted apart from his own music), and Rhapsodie espagnole by Maurice Ravel. The concert, conducted from memory, was a great testimony to the creative talent of Mr. Krenz. Pity that his words are only available in Polish.

New Volume Of RIPM

International biblography of music periodicals of the 19th century now received a new addition: Index of contents of three Polish publications, Tygodnik Muzyczny (1820-21); Pamiętnik Muzyczny Warszawski (1835-36) and Gazeta Muzyczna i Teatralna (1865-1866). The volume, edited by Dr. Barbara Zakrzewska-Nikiporczyk includes short introductions characterizing each of the periodicals, user’s guide the calendar and index to each of the periodicals. In accordance with the RIPM tradition, the volume is bi-lingual, in Polish and English. The Tygodnik Muzyczny  [Musical weekly], was Poland’s first musical periodical, published in Warsaw at a time of a great development of musical life in that city – featuring contributions of Fryderyk Chopin and Maria Szymanowska. The journal’s editor was also a composer – Karol Kurpiński (1785-1857). Like the remaining two publications, the Weekly did not live long; this transience and change characterized music periodicals in Poland through the 19th century.

The volume is handsomely bound and meticulously produced. RIPM also has a web site with information about some aspects of this work but – until now – the book format seems to serve it the best. Later on, the volumes will also be issued as CDROMs. Work on converting the data is in progress. [MT]

Rae’s Lutoslawski Praised

In the June 2001 issue of BBC Music Magazine Bayan Northcott reviews Charles Bodman Rae’s chronological study of “The Music of Lutoslawski,” which is already in its third edition. “And deservedly. Not only is the book full of musical information and personal insights…it strikes a skillful balance between the kind of technical detail that music students might be after and the broader aesthetic issues more likely to engage lay listeners.” Dr. Rae is professor of music at City of Leeds College.

Calendar Of Events

JUN 9 – Lutoslawski: Concerto for orchestra. Pasadena Symphony. Jorge Mester, cond. Pasadena Civic Auditorium. 8:00 p.m. 626- 793-7172 x10. www.pasadenasymphony.org

JUN 10 – New Generation’s Artists Day @ Wigmore Hall. All-Chopin program. Pianists: Alexander Melnikov, Ashley Wass & Francois- Frederic Guy. Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

JUN 11 – Godowsky: Java Suites, nos. 1, 6, 9 & 10. Krystian Zimmerman, p. SBC: Royal Festival Hall. London. Harrod’s Int’l Piano Series.

JUN 13 – Szymanowski: Narcisse. Tasmin Little, v., Piers Lane, p. New Generations Artists Day @ Wigmore Hall. London.

JUN 22-24 Polish Festival. Henry W. Maier Festival Park. Milwaukee, WI. 414-529-2140. www.polishfest.org

JUN 23 – Lutoslawski: Concerto for orchestra. Texas Festival Orchestra, Peter Bay, cond. 8:00 p.m. $20/10. Round Top, TX.

JUN 25 – Chopin: Ballade, 12 Etudes, Scherzo. Mozart & Schubert. Murray Perahia, p. SBC Royal Festival Hall.

JUN 29 – Chopin: Cello Sonata. Matthew Sharp, vc., Dominic Harlan, p. Wigmore Hall, London.

Recent Performances

Penderecki Quartet In New York

The Penderecki String Quartet (in residence @ Wilfred Laurier University, Ontario, Canada) presented an all-Polish program featuring the quartets of Penderecki and Szymanowski and joined by pianist Heather Toews for the Zarebski quintet. Kosciuszko Foundation. Radio broadcast aired 27 May @ 9:00 p.m. on WQXR.

Beyond The Iron Curtain

The New York Festival of Songs, Inc. presented “Beyond the Iron Curtain” at Weill Recital Hall on 26 April. Soprano Lisa Saffer and mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink and pianist Steve Blier presented a varied program of songs by Polish composers Moniuszko, Chopin and Paderewski, 19th century Czech composers Smetana, Asman, Novak, Bartok, Kodaly and Dvorak. According to reviewer Barbara Rzezwicka-Gajek both artists performed beautifully and moved easily between songs “in unknown literature and foreign language.” The concert was aired 16 May on radio station WQXR (96.3 FM).

Polish Artists At The Consulate

The latest recital (18 May) of the “Polish Artists @ the Consulate” series, sponsored by the Polish Consulate and the Polish American Foundation of Connecticut presented artistic families during a recital in New York. Sisters Anna and Catherine Karkowski performed both Wieniawski Violin Concertos in a piano arrangement. In addition paintings and photographs by sisters Anna and Susanne Baumiller and Agnes and Aleksandra Rysztof were exhibited.

Drewnowski Praised

Renata Pasternak-Mazur of the Nowy Dziennik [Polish Daily News] of New York wrote about pianist Marek Drewnowski. She described his 21 April recital as a “musical happening.” He charmed the audience with his tone and virtuosity, especially in Chopin and Liszt, whose “Six Polish Songs” completely won over the audience.

Lira Ensemble In Chicago

The Lira Ensemble of Chicago presented “Zapraszamy” [We invite you], a Broadway-type production of an American celebration of Polish song & dance with folk music, bit of Polish opera, lively polkas, Polish freedom songs and sensuous Polish tangos; all of which are part of the Polish cultural scene. May 11, 12 & 13.

Kafka’s Recital In Washington

“Springtime in Poland” was presented by soprano Laura Kafka, clarinetist Lynda Dembowski and pianist Michael Patterson, at the Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church. In addition to songs by Moniuszko, Chopin and Szymanowski a few folk-songs and a tango by Petersburski was heard, along with “Time Pieces” for cl/p. by Robert Muczynski, an American composer with a Polish name.

Chopin In Minnesota

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra gave a superb performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, soloist and Peter Oundjian conducting. Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul.

Polish Music in L.A.

The music of Chopin was included in programs given by Chisuko Asada at Cal State Long Beach (22 May) and by Mario Fenninger who played a Berceuse and 3 Etudes in a private concert at the home of Evan and Ronna Binn in Encino.

Polish Music In England

Piotr Anderszewski played Chopin Ballades Op. 47 and 52. Wigmore Hall, 4 May, whle Nikolai Demidenko played 4 Chopin Ballades and 4 Scherzi. The Concert Hall in Reading. 13 May.

The Vasari Singers sang Gorecki’s “Totus tuus” at St. John’s Smith Square. 5 May.

Mikhail Rudy played Chopin’s Piano Sonata at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 24 May.

Kathryn Price performed Lutoslawski’s “Grave” at Wigmore Hall on 11 May.

Polish Music In Poland

Penderecki’s “Te Deum” was heard twice recently in Poland. It concluded the Festival of Music and Art of the Baltic Countries with the composer conducting the Sinfonia Varsovia and National Philharmonic Choir in Torun, the city where Copernicu born. It also opened the XI International Sacred Music Festival in Czestochowa, the home of the Black Madonna shrine.


by Wanda Wilk

Wit’s Recording Of Gorecki’s Copernican

NAXOS 8555375 Gorecki: Symphony No. 2 “Copernican” and “Beatus Vir.” Polish Radio Choir, Silesian Philharmonic Choir, Polish National Radio Symphony. Antoni Wit, cond.

Reviewed in BBC Music Magazine‘s June 2001 edition. Nicholas Williams gives it 4 Stars for performance. He writes, “This, and the sonorous choral writing, beautifully realised, will pleasantly surprise any listener for whom Gorecki stubbornly remains a `one-work’ composer.” The “Copernican” symphony was written to mark the 500th anniversary of the great Polish astronomer Copernicus (Kopernik), while the “Beatus Vir” is a setting of appropriate texts from the psalms to celebrate the return of Pope John Paul on a pilgrimage to Krakow in 1979.

An ad for this CD in American Record Guide urges one to “Get this disc, turn out the lights, start listening and remember why you can’t live without music.”

Chopin By Angela Lear

LIBRA MNU 2052 Chopin: 24 Preludes, Waltzes, three Mazurkas plus illustrated talks by Guy Johnson & Angela Lear. Angela Lear, piano.

The British pianist has launched a series, “The Original Chopin,” an effort to present Chopin’s music the way the composer originally intended it to be played. Adrian Jack gives her only a 2-Star rating, because of it being so uneven. He isn’t in complete agreement with her whole concept, believing that “if music is worth repeated listening , then it is also worth renewed interpretation, and the idea that it should remain strictly within the composer’s expectations, so far as those can be assessed, is questionable.” He does, however, like her playing of the Barcarolle, “which she makes leisurely and grand with a real breath of authority.”

Szymanowski On Hyperion

HYPERION Helios CDH 55081 Szymanowski: Four Studies; Metopes; Fantasy in F minor, Masques. Dennis Lee, piano.

Reviewed by Adrian Jack, who gives it 4 Stars, but thinks that perhaps Szymanowski’s music “is too cool and sophisticated to become popular.” He believes the pianist here “clarifies the cascades of notes – rather sonorities, so that these complex pieces are understood more easily than usual.”

Rubinstein’s Chopin

NAXOS 8110656/7 & 8110659/60 Artur Rubinstein playing Chopin’s Mazurkas and Nocturnes.

This is the last of the bargain reissue of Rubinstein’s 1932- 39 HMV recordings. Bryce Morrison states in his review in the June 2001 Gramophone that these recordings show why Rubinstein was the most celebrated of Chopin pianists. A must for every Chopin lover.

Cherkassky’s Chopin

BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4057-2 Chopin: Nocturnes, Ballades, Waltzes, Scherzos, Etude, Op. 10. Shura Cherkassky, p.

Jeremy Siepmann gives a 5 star for performance by this legendary pianist, whose “performances were nearly always voyages of discovery, for himself almost as much as for his listeners.” The CD is an anthology of public performances ranging over 18 years and all the words used to describe Cherkassky – erratic, unpredictable, eccentric, engrossing – can be found here. [All reviews as published in the BBC Music Magazine, June 2001; WW].

Penderecki’s Chamber Works

CPO 999 730-2 Penderecki: Clarinet Quartet, String Trio, Per Slava, Violin Sonata, Cadenza, Prelude for solo clarinet. Eduard Brunner, cl., Patrick O’Byrne, p.; German String Trio.

Stephen Johnson gives it 5 stars for performance in the BBC Music Magazine, May 2001. Although he found the music to be a bit “claustrophobic” after a while despite Penderecki’s expressive directness which is impressive and the musical craft strong and idiosyncratic. He still thought the performances radiated conviction, even in the quietest, most inward-looking passages.

Opus 111 – Chopin

OPUS 111 OPS 30-289 Chopin: Etudes, Op. 25, Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35 Gregory Sokolov, piano.

Jeremy Siepmann rated this a 5-star performance. He thinks that Sokolov “establishes a new benchmark among modern recordings” with this CD, although he the Cortot 1942 is still his ultimate personal choice. He praises Sokolov’s tonal palette with technique to burn. “His accuracy, variety and insight in the poetic and hair-raising Etudes are positively brathtaking.”

Cohen’s Chopin

GLOSSA GCD 930507 Chopin: Mazurkas, vol. 2. Patrick Cohen, p.

This is a recording of the Mazurkas on a 1855 Erard and Siepmann also reviews this new disc. He only gives it 3 stars. He finds “these generally excellent performances” lacking in the proper rhythmic buoyancy and flexibility that is the most challenging in playing these uniquely Polish dances.

Botstein’s Szymanowski

TELARC CD 80567 Szymanowski: Symphony No. 2, Concert Overture, Muezzin Songs, Slopiewnie. Zofia Kilanowicz, sop. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Leon Botstein, cond.

Matthew Rye only gives a 3 star rating for performance. He praises the music selection, which gives an excellent example “of the composer’s multifarious styles and genre’s, all the while showing a consistency of harmonic adventurousness, textural voluptuousness and the sense of being the product of a single mind.” He compares the disk with a Chandos recording of the Second symphony with Sinaisky. Although the “LPO plays marvellously for Leon Botstein, there’s an emotional detachment just where you don’t want it, in the more romantic episodes of the Symphony and Overture.”

I, personally, am grateful to Botstein for being such a champion of Szymanowski’s music. He is one of a few American conductors (Dorati being the other) who first included the music of this Polish composer in his concerts. I do hope he continues.

No Recordings? A Reply

by Wanda Wilk

In our April Newsletter we printed a message from Keyvan Rafii, a music lover, who was puzzled about the lack of interest “among musicians and scholars in Poland in the symphonies of Noskowski and Zelenski or for that matter, other Polish composers of the 19th century.” He had come in contact with the music of the two Polish composers when he was in college in the late 1970s and discovered an old MUZA recording (SXL 0259) which really entranced him. He has been waiting all these years for more recordings to no avail, until recently he finally found an excellent new CD with Grzegorz Nowak conducting “Polish Symphonic Music of the 19th Century.” This CD was released on the Polish label Accord (ACD 019) and received a Bronze Bell Award in 1996.

His question intrigued me and I decided to look into it. Off hand, I didn’t know the reason for this drought of recordings. I was familiar with the names of the two composers in question because Polish music historians consider both of these composers as the “most eminent composers in the second half of the 19th century and at the turn of the century before the composers of the Young Poland group (Karlowicz, Szymanowski) appeared.

I looked into three source books: Muzyka Polska. Informator by Stefan Sledzinski; An Outline History of Polish Music, Tadeusz Ochlewski, editor and Music in Poland by Ludwik Erhardt. I soon learned that political history played a great part in the plight of symphonic music. Poland had been partitioned in the 18th century by its neighbors, Russia, Prussia and Austria. The political situation was not at all favorable to national art. “In 19th century partitioned Poland there were no philharmonic halls, no concert rooms and no support for Polish operas in opera theatres, the composers were not in a position to create great symphonic works.” The reason this was done was to prevent the risk of having people gather in large places. The Conservatory of Music, where Chopin had studied, was closed after the November 1830 uprising. “The government authorities tolerated only the activities of musical societies.” As a result amateur singing groups and musical societies flourished. Consequently, “there was nothing strange in the fact that Polish music at that time was mainly concerned with the small forms of piano and vocal music and that music listeners in Poland, just like in other countries, had to be taught to get used to symphonic music.”

All three authors noted the negligible amount of symphonic music production in 19th c. Poland and explained it by a lack of symphonic orchestras, which in turn resulted in music limited to certain forms, like the overture, concerto or sometimes, a suite.

The 19th century was known in Poland as a century of songs. This was the time of Chopin, Moniuszko (Poland’s Schubert who wrote more than 300 songs), the Wieniawski brothers, Feliks Janiewicz and a multitude of great pianists. It was a time when recitals by Hummel, Paganini, Liszt and Maria Szymanowska were popular in Warsaw.

It was a time when “opera was considered the supreme musical form and highest expression of any composer’s ability and skill. Two of the most prominent operatic composers at the beginning of the 19th c. were Jozef Elsner (1769-1854), Chopin’s teacher, and Karol Kurpinski (1785-1857).There was some symphonic music written, but how much? Zygmunt Noskowski composed 3 symphonies, a Concert Overture (“Morskie Oko”), 3 operas, choral and chamber music and many songs which are still popular today: “Skowroneczek Spiewa” (The Skylark Sings) which he composed in ten minutes, and a Songbook for Children. His Polonaise Elegiaque was recorded on MUZA SX 0786. Some of his songs are on the Polish label Polskie Nagrania PNCD 223; his Second Symphony is on Olympia OCD 389 along with the symphonic overture “Morskie Oko” and “Steppe,” which is considered the first Polish symphonic poem along side Moniuszko’s “The Tale.” Unfortunately it is not in Olympia’s online catalog anymore. It may be possible to obtain it as a used CD online at www.amazon.com. The Accord CD that Mr. Rafii just bought also includes the “Steppe” and is still available. A cantata in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of King Jan III Sobieski’s victory in Vienna was recorded by Veriton SXV 909/910 and not available.

Wladyslaw Zelenski wrote 2 symphonies, 7 cantatas, 4 operas, a piano concerto, 2 string quartets, choral music, organ music and over a hundred songs. He also wrote for the orchestra: a Gavotte, Polish Dance Suite, 2 Polish Dances, the Tatra Overture, Trauerklanze and Romance for cello and orchestra. The only music I found on the old Polish LPs was SX 2510 of his piano music and SX 1170 with an operatic aria. Some of his organ music, piano quartets and some vocal music has been recorded on Olympia 314, 381 and on Symposium SYM 117 (vocal operatic arias), but most of CDs are out of stock. It does not appear that his Polish Dances for orchestra Op. 37 and 47 have ever been recorded. Only his Tatra Mountains Overture is available on the recent Accord label.

Who else wrote symphonic music? The only other important symphonic composer is Ignacy Dobrzynski (1807-1867). His Symphony in C minor won honorable mention at a contest in Vienna in which fifty symphonies were entered, while Berlioz’s Fantastic symphony passed unnoticed at the same contest. I don’t believe it has ever been recorded. He wrote two symphonies and his Second Symphony Op. 15 has been published by PWM. His Quartets have been recorded on Ricercar RIC 245812, his Piano Concerto on Selene 9405.21, along with some of his piano works “Sterczynski performs Chopin, etc… but it is out of stock. An Andante for chamber orchestra is included in the Olympia 382 CD. An Overture to Monbare is on the Accord ACD 00019.

Other Polish composers of the 19th c. are Chopin, Elsner, Kurpinski, Lessel, Lipinski, Moniuszko, Stojowski, Wieniawski, Zarzycki and Zarebski. Chopin (1810-1849) wrote primarily for the piano and his two piano concertos have been documented many times with the most recent excellent CD recorded by Krystian Zimerman. Jozef Elsner (1769-1854) wrote Symfonia Op. 11 in 1805, five operatic overtures, some of which had been recorded on the old Polish LPs (SX 1333, SX 0384), but I have not seen the symphony in any of my record catalogs. A religious work “Passio Domini Nostrii,” Op. 65 was recorded on an old LP SX 2934/35 and then reissued as a CD as PNCD 078. Tower Records and Amazon.com have it listed in their online catalog as out of stock.

Karol Kurpinski (1785-1857) primarily wrote operas. Eight Overtures have been published along with a Concerto for clarinet & orchestra from 1823, but only one of his overtures has been recorded on Olympia 389. The Clarinet Concerto was recorded by MUZA as SX 0231. Franciszek Lessel (1780-1835) wrote a Piano Concerto and Variations for Flute and Orchestra (1807). No evidence of these being recorded, to my knowledge. Karol Lipinski (1790-1861) was a great violin virtuoso, a rival to Paganini. His Violin Overture can be heard on Olympia OCD