October 2002

Polish Music Center Newsletter Vol. 8, no. 10


The Warsaw Autumn Festival 2002

The 45th Warsaw Autumn Festival of Contemporary Music began on Friday September 20, 2002 with a concert by the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Antoni Wit. The inaugural concert, which took place in the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw, included solo appearances by clarinetist Eduard Brunner and organist Jaros≥aw Ma≥anowicz. Three works received their Polish premieres during this concert – For the Time Being by Brian Current, the Clarinet Concerto by Krzysztof Meyer, and Arvo Paert’s Cecilia, Vergine Romana. The concert also marked the world premiere of Maciej Jab≥onski’s IV Symphony. There were a total of 22 world premieres of works by Polish and international composers, as well as many European and Polish premieres.

Krzysztof Penderecki’s newest work, the Resurrection Piano Concerto received its European premiere during the “Warsaw Autumn.” The work had already been premiered in New York, and was gloriously received at this Festival. This performance featured pianist Barry Douglas and the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Gabriel Chmura. The festival program also included works by Wojciech Kilar – Riff 62 – as well as Per Norgard’s VI Symphony.

The main event of the festival, however, was the première of the chamber opera La Lointaine by Osvaldas Balakauskas, which is one part of the triptych Ziemia Ulro, based on a treatise of the same title by Czes≥aw Mi≥osz. Performances of La Lointaine took place on Sunday and Monday in the Chamber Opera Theatre in Warsaw.

An important theme of the festival was a solo recital series that made use of electronic music. Experimental Music was also represented during the Warsaw Autumn. The group “Freight Train” – Piotr Bikont, Marek Cho≥oniewski, W≥odziemierz Kiniorski, and Krzysztof Knittel – played music to the silent film “Aelita”, a Soviet Science Fiction production from 1924. The Warsaw Autumn Festival wrapped up on Saturday, September 28 with another performance by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Click here for Roman Berger’s Exodus released on CD and performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival.

The 37th Annual “Wratislavia Cantans” Festival

The first part of this year’s “Wratislavia Cantans” Choral Music Festival in Wroc≥aw took place between June 15 and June 28. There were 24 concerts and recitals in total in June, and these were presented in conjunction with the opening of a new visual arts exposition. Two days of the festival were dedicated to the artistic legacies of Wojciech Kilar (who is 65 this year), and Wies≥aw Ochman (who is 60). Works by Kilar were presented by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Antoni Wit, and Wies≥aw Ochman presented a master recital during the festival. The Leipzig Synagogue Choir performed a concert of their music, and the Orchestra and Choir of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw under Kaziemierz Kord played Krzysztof Penderecki’s Seven Gates of Jerusalem with soloists Boøena Harasimowicz, Izabela K≥osinska, Ewa Podle∂, Wies≥aw Ochman, Piotr Nowacki, and Gustaw Holoubek. A concert in Brzeg at the Piast Princes Castle featured Paul Eastwood. The Orchestra and Choir of the KrakÛw Philharmonic under Jerzy Katlewicz also presented an all – Szymanowski performance, and two concerts were played by the BBC Philharmonic from Manchester, England under the direction of Vassily Sinaisky. Tadeusz Struga≥a also conducted the Radiophilharmonie from Hannover. The soprano Gundula Janowitz presented a master recital. The Gabrieli Consort and Players from London under Paul Mc Creesh was also present, and the festival ended with a concert by the famous La Chapelle Royale under Philippe Herreweghe.

There were five concerts during the second part of the festival (September 5 – 7), and four additional art expositions were opened. Krzysztof Penderecki led the Mitteldeutscher Rudfunk from Leipzig and the Choir of the National Philharmonic in a performance of his Jutrznia I, II. Jan Jrenz conducted the Wroc≥aw Philharmonic and the Krakòw Philharmonic Choir in the Missa Breve and Ein Deutches Requiem of Johannes Brahms. The Kammerphilharmonie from Leipzig also performed under the baton of Tadeusz Struga≥a. The second part of the Festival finally ended with a concert of the Netherlands Chamber Choir under the direction of Tonu Kaljuste.
Click here for a report on Kilar’s Missa Pro Pace performed at the Wratislavia Cantans

Jacek Kaspszyk In The News

Jacek Kaspszyk has been named both General Director and Music Director of the National Opera – Grand Theatre. He was nominated by Poland’s Minister of Culture Waldemar D±browski. Both a conductor and a composer, Kaspszyk has been Music Director of the Grand Theatre since 1998. “The theatre will be in good hands. The future shape of our National Opera will lie with an extraordinary artist, a man who has achieved much at the pinnacle of European culture. This nomination, therefore, causes me great pleasure.” – said minister D±browski during the nomination. The minister added that there was very little question about the appropriate choice for Director of the National Opera, even bearing in mind the amount of responsibility inherent in the decision.Now that he is the General Director, Kaspszyk does not plan to introduce great changes to the way the theatre has been run so far. “The tradition of programming and everything we have done so far will be continued. We have no need of a revolution here, and I see no need to change the language of what we have been doing so far.” He also added that, despite financial difficulties, he will try to maintain or raise the level of all subsequent productions. He expressed his hope that the government, fully realizing the status and prestige of the National Opera, will also not neglect to fund it. When asked whether he will now spend more time on administration, he replied: “My decision to accept both positions was a momentous one, and I realize that I will have to sacrifice much more of my time to the Theatre. Assisting me, however, I have an excellent team with whom I have worked for 4 years, and I am certain that everything will be run smoothly”. Kaspszyk has so far refused to reveal his repertoire plans for next year.

The 36th Festival Of Polish Piano Music In Slupsk

The Festival of Polish Piano Music began in Slupsk for the 36th time on Saturday, September 7th. Marking the 120th anniversary of the birth and the 65th anniversary of the death of Karol Szymanowski, the festival was dedicated to him and his works. “The driving theme of the festival is the creative life of Karol Szymanowski. From what I know, the only statue of Szymanowski in Poland is right here in Slupsk” – said Stanis≥aw Turczyk, president of the S≥upsk Social and Cultural society and the festival’s organizer. The festival lasted until Friday, Sept 13. Festival Concerts took place at the Castle of the Pomeranian Princes, and on the stages of the Polish Chamber Orchestra and the Impressario Theatre. “The main attraction of the opening concert is the première of the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Norbert Mateusz Kuºnik. We have also foreseen room for a jazz concert in the festival.” – said Turczyk. “Young performers will be able to display their abilities during Young Artists concerts”.

Angela Lear At South Carolina

British pianist Angela Lear’s upcoming Lecture – Recital at the University of South Carolina School of Music on Tuesday, October 8, 2002 will feature live performances of several selected works and discussions of various aspects of Fryderyk Chopin’s piano compositions.

This Lecture – Recital is free and open to the public. It will take place at 7:30 P.M. in the Recital Hall of the School of Music, located adjacent to the Koger Center for the Arts on Assembly Street in Columbia, SC. Seating is limited; so please arrive early for an assured seat. For more information contact Prof. Charles Kenneth Moss at (803) 773 – 3684; Charles K. Moss Home Page or e-mail 1: ckmoss@earthlink.net or e-mail 2: charles.moss@saintleo.edu.

Pianist Vlado Perlemuter Is Dead

The family of Vlado Perlemuter announced that the French pianist of Polish origin died in Paris on Wednesday. He was 98. Born in Kowno on May 26 1904, Perlemuter left for France as a child. At the age of 15, he graduated from the Paris Conservatoire, where he received First Prize. In 1925, he met the great French composer Maurice Ravel, and became one of the leading interpreters of his music. His career spanned the entire globe. He recorded the complete Mozart sonatas, the entire piano works of Ravel, as well as works by Chopin, Beethoven and Faure. Students from around the world were also attracted by his fame as a pedagogue. He gave his final concerts at the age of 85, signing off with an all-Ravel recital at the Victoria hall in Geneva.

Paderewski at USC: September 17

Paderewski receives honorary doctorate from USC, 1923

“Paderewski: Portrait of a Musician” Exhibition will be on display at Alfred Newman Recital Hall Gallery, USC, Los Angeles, from 17 September 2002 to 10 January 2003. Culled from the extensive collection of materials held at the Polish Music Center at the USC Thornton School of Music, this exhibition chronicles the life and career of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the musician – statesman who received an honorary doctorate from USC in 1923. Throughout his musical career Paderewski was actively lobbying for Polish independence; he collected funds to benefit the country, its soldiers and the victims of the war. His campaign resulted in Poland returning to the map of Europe; he then became the first Prime Minister of Poland and the first Polish delegate to the League of Nations. Paderewski’s compositions include songs, and piano pieces, an opera, Manru (1901), and a Symphony in B minor Polonia (1907). He also edited a 20 volume anthology of music by other composers, and Chopin’s complete works. However, his main title to fame was his talent as a virtuoso pianist; his music was partly preserved on piano rolls and transferred to CDs.

The exhibition presents the composer’s historical photographs from 1890 – 1930s, manuscripts, piano – roll recordings from 1910s, early editions of his music, samples of his editorial work (Chopin, Century Library), concert programs from American tours in 1920 – 24, advertisements for Steinway, Victor – Victrola, and the Aeolian Co., as well as books and recordings on LP and CD. Californian material linked to Paderewski includes documentation about his honorary doctorate from USC (1923), programs from his Los Angeles performances, and the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles. The Exhibition is illustrated with excerpts from Paderewski’s speeches and period writings (poetry and music criticism). It is curated by Dr. Maja Trochimczyk (PMC Director) and Dr. Ljiljana Grubisic (Director of Communications at the Thornton School of Music, with a Ph.D. in Russian literature and ample music background). The Exhibition is free, hours vary.

The “Chopin In Autumn Colors” Festival In Antonin

The 21st International “Chopin in Autumn Colors” Festival drew to a close on Sunday, September 15th in Antonin with a concert by the outstanding French Pianist Philippe Giusiano. This year’s concert scene held at the Radziwi≥≥ Princes’ Hunting Lodge was dominated by young but already established artists. The star of the inaugural concert was the internationally acclaimed young ‘cellist Adam Klocek, who guest conducted the Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra. The first evening’s soloists were Rafa≥ £uszczewski and Wojciech ¶wita≥a. This year’s festival saw the first performance in twenty years of the opera version of Goethe’s Faust, the music for which was composed by Prince Antoni Henryk Radziwi≥≥. “At the time, it was the only musical version accepted by Goethe. In 1829, the Prince showed the score to Fryderyk Chopin, and agreed with the young composer’s comments,” said the festival director, Andrzej Leraczyk. Radziwi≥≥ composed music for Goethe’s drama between the years 1810 – 1830. During this time, Chopin stayed with him at least twice.The festival’s second day saw an exhausting performance by the acclaimed seventeen year old Russian pianist Juliana Awdiejewa, who has already made a name for herself at international competitions. “Poland is my second homeland, and Chopin is my favorite composer,” she said. That same evening, professor Barbara Hesse-Bukowska led a concert of her pupils – Sviese Cepliauskaite (Lithuania), and Mariusz Dropek. The scene at Antonin was also home to Alberto Nose (Italy), Tatiana Szebanowa, her son Stanis≥aw Drzewiecki, and her husband Jaros≥aw Drzewiecki. At a special concert entitled “Chopin in the velvet of the night,” the audience heard from all of the festival’s performers, as well as from singers Tatiana Hempel, Dorota Lachowicz, Jerzy Knetiga, and Jòzef Franksteln.

The Festival at Antonin was accompanied by a number of traditional events – among them the tenth International Exposition of Musical Book – Plates. Also, over a dozen paintings sharing the title “Magical Theatre” were also shown by Tomasz Setowski – a young surrealist widely acclaimed in the West, and the author of this year’s festival poster. The Festival was organized thanks to financial backing by the Ministry of Culture, the International Fryderyk Chopin foundation in Warsaw, as well as local self-governing groups and private sponsorship. The program of the final concert consisted of works by Schumann and Chopin.

Krakusy Dance Ensemble At USC

The Krakusy Polish Folk Dance Ensemble will present its traditional dances as part of the LA Arts Open House on October 5, 2002 between 3:00 and 5:00pm. The lecture-recital will take place in Room 106 of the Flora L. Thornton School of Music (Raubenheimer Building) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. For more information, please contact:

LA Arts Open House or by phone: 213 972 3099
You can also read background information about the Krakusy Dance Ensemble:
Krakusy Dance Ensemble
Krakusy in Krakow, 1996.

Chopin Series at Southern Illinois U., Edwardsville

Pianist Ian Hobson has scheduled to perform the “Complete Chopin” in nine concerts on campus at Dunham Hall Theatre: Sep 8, 9; Nov 18; Jan 22, 23; Mar 19, 20; April 1 & 2.

A New Recording Of Roman Berger

The Acte Préalable label has issued its first in a series of releases with works from Roman Berger’s “Exodus” cycle (AP0091). The launch of this label took place as part of this year’s Warsaw Autumn Festival on September 26 before a concert dedicated to Roman Berger (6pm) and on the 27th during a meeting with the composer (12 noon). The new recording includes the first part of the remarkeable work for organ Exodus as well as the Adagio II for violin and organ dedicated to Krystyna and Bohdan Pociej. These pieces are performed by top musicians from Slovakia. Roman Berger is an outstanding Polish composer, born 1930 in Zaolzie into the family of an evangelical pastor. He currently resides in Bratislava. He has been a jury member at the Lutos≥awski Composers Competition and the H. Wieniawski Competition. He is a laureate of many prestigious awards from such organizations as: The Slovak Composers Union (for the work Exodus, a prize he refused to accept), The Czech and Slovak Critics Prize for the work Adagio II – Repentance.Some of Berger’s more important works are: a Sonata based on a theme by Szymanowski for violin and piano, Copernican Epitaph for tape, a setting of H. Jasiczek’s Litany to the Trees for male choir, De Profundis for baritone, piano, violoncello, and live electronics, and Exodus for organ.

“Exodus for organ is a unique work in the context of the history of organ music, not only in its dimensions, but also because of the originality of its form. Never has a composer who was not an organist created something so monumental (…). Berger explored the musical possibilities of the organ without ever being professionally immersed in the instrument’s masterpieces in his youth, and yet has created a fascinating work. Exodus is also unique in a different way because to this date, Ján Vladimír Michalko, the dedicatee, is it’s only performer. The title Exodus is a metaphor, the Exodus being from everything in the world (especially in the Western world) that enslaves us and is deceptive.” – wrote Jerzy Kuk≥a.

“(…) I would like to point out the remarkeable phenomenon of Roman Berger’s Adagio II” – writes Bohdan Pociej. “The music oscillates between (romantic) contemplation and expressionistic explosiveness. Originating in a contemplative chorale, melodically capable of further development, change, and confrontation, it goes through various phases, and in the epilogue, it reduces its musical language (in the violin and piano) to a single formula, an elementary motif. It submerges into mystic solitude, in an complete rejection of the world around it.”

Calendar Of Events

OCT 2: Chopin. Polonaise-fantaisie, Op. 61. Peter Katin, piano. Brighton College, England. 7:45 p.m. 01273 709209

OCT 2: BBC Radio 3: Lunchtime Concert. Szymanowski: String Quartet No. 1 90-93 FM, London.

OCT 3/4: Wieniawski, Szymanowski concert. Bin Huang, violin. Matthew Bengston, piano. Embassy of the Republic of Poland. Washington, D.C. 8:00 p.m.

OCT 5,6,7: Skrowaczewski: Concerto for Orchestra. Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1. Janina Fialkowska, piano. Houston Symphony, Stanis≥aw Skrowaczewski, cond. Jones Hall, Houston, TX 713-224-7575

OCT 6: Szymanowski: String Quartet No. 2, also Brahms & Haydn. Szymanowski String Quartet. Kosciuszko Foundation Chamber Music Series. 15 E. 65th St. New York City. 3:00 p.m. $25 Reception follows.

OCT 10: Szymanowski: String Quartet No. 2. Karol Szymanowski Quartet. Carnegie Hall, 8:00 p.m. 212-247-7800. www.carnegiehall.org.

OCT 11/12: Szymanowski: Stabat Mater. Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra celebrates Music and Culture of Poland. Marcus Center for the Arts, Uihlein Hall. 11:15 a.m. & 8:00 p.m. Tickets: 800-291-7655.

OCT 17: Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1. Christian Tetzlaff, v., London Symphony Orchestra, Pierre boulez, cond. Barbican Hall, London. www.barbican.org.uk.

OCT 18/19: Lutos≥awski: Concerto for Orchestra. National Chamber Orchestra. Piotr Gajewski, cond. Rockville, MD. 301-762-8580.

OCT 19: Chopin: Nocturne in D flat. Jonathon Scott, piano. Heritage Center, Macclesfield, England. 222.musicsociety.silktown.co.uk

OCT 20: Tadeusz Majewski, piano. Minneapolis, MN. 763-788- 0924.

OCT 22: Szymanowski: Songs of the Fairy Princess, Love Songs of Hafiz. Natalie Dessay, sop. Katerina Karnius, mezzo. City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle, cond. Birmingham Symphony Hall.

OCT 22: Chopin: Garrick Ohlsson, piano. Pabst Concert Series. 7:30 p.m. 414-273-8777.

OCT 24: Skrowaczewski: Concerto for Orchestra. Minnesota Orchestra, S. Skrowaczewski, cond. Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. 651-224-4222. www.ordway.org.

OCT 24: BBC Radio 3. Broadcast of OCT 22 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra concert of Szymanowski’s songs. Simon Rattle, cond.

OCT 25, 26: Chopin: Grande polonaise brillante. Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Patrick Summers, cond. Hilbert Circle Theatre. 317-639-4300. www.indyorch.org.

OCT 26/27: Chopin Festival, Florida. Slavomir Dobrzanski, piano.

OCT 27: Chopin Society Concert. Garrick Ohlsson, piano. St. Paul, MN. 612-822-0123.

OCT 27: Chopin Concert. San Francisco Symphony. Davis Hall. 7:30 p.m. 415-864-6000.

OCT 28: Skrowaczewski: Concerto for Orchestra. Minnesota Orchestra, S. Skrowaczewski, cond. Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN. 612-371-5656. www.mnorch.org.

OCT 31: Chopin: Souvenir de Paganini. Marc-Andre Hamelin, p. Liszt & Schubert. Wigmore Hall, London. www.wigmore-hall.org.uk.

OCT 31: Lutos≥awski: Concerto for Orchestra. Cleveland Orchetra. Steven Smith, cond. Severance Hall, Cleveland. www.clevelandorch.com

Note: October is Polish Heritage Month in the United States, so numerous festivals of Polish music and dance will take place in various local communities. Throughout October, two special family weekends of music and dance performances, films, Polish arts and crafts, including workshops on “wycinanki” (cut-outs), Palm crosses and “wianki” (wreaths) will be held at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, 3900 Harewood Road, NE, Washington, D.C. 20017, 202-635-5440.

Marcella Sembrich-Kocha—SKA: A Profile

by Stephen Herx

Portrait of Marcellina Sembrich. MET Collection.
The celebrated soprano Marcella Sembrich-KochaÒska (1858 – 1935) performed at the major musical capitals of Europe and the United States. Her influence on the evolving musical culture of America was quite profound. The three major areas of her influence are:

  1. Performance
  2. Development of the Song Recital
  3. Legacy Through Recordings and Students

1. Performance

Sembrich appeared during the inaugural season of the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York in 1883/84. She created a furore that season with her singing, piano and violin playing. Through eleven seasons she performed 27 roles in 27 operas in 457 performances. Additionally, she toured with the Met and with her own opera company throughout the United States. Her concert tours, until 1917, allowed smaller venues to experience her art. Towns as small as Valley City, ND; Roswell, NM; Beaumont, TX; and Muskogee, OK all had the opportunity to hear the diva’s art.Today, it is easy to forget the incredible success and prestige that Sembrich achieved at the Met. She was certainly the company’s leading Bel Canto soprano. She kept many of the “old and time worn” operas of Donizetti and Rossini in the repertory. During the Met’s first quarter century, Il Barbiere di Siviglia was produced sixty-eight times. It is astonishing that Sembrich sang Rosina in sixty-five of them – a record still unmatched by any soprano at the house.

At the gala party for her Met Farewell in 1909 musicians, statesmen and businessmen all praised her incomparable art. One of these was Paderewski whose tribute included a good dose of humor as well as a discerning assessment of the singer.

“I do not find it so very nice that you call on a poor piano playing immigrant and make him speak in a language which is almost unknown to him. (laughter) I tell you frankly I was under a wrong impression. I have heard my good friend Herr Stengel-Sembrich (the singer’s husband and manager) speak so much about singing and having sung and being about to sing that I though all this was in his honor. (laughter). I though it was he who was so great. But I am wrong. I see it now. It is not Prof. Stengel who has grown tired of the footlights and the drama, but his very much better half. (aaughter and applause) My fiends, it is she who is the incomparable interpreter of the immortal masters. (applause) She is the most musical singer I have ever known. (applause) With her voice fresher than ever she retires in her golden glory after having written a wonderful chapter in the book of art.”

2. The development of the Song Recital

Singers have been appearing in recital or concert since the earliest days. Pre-Civil war, Jenny Lind toured the country in concerts, making a fortune for herself and P.T. Barnum. These concerts consisted of her singing arias and concert war-horses as well as the occasional popular song or ballad. Many guest artists also appeared which allowed the singer to save her resources. These concert were in the Grand Miscellany Format.In the 1850’s Fanny Ritter presented a series of Historic Recitals in New York. She and a pianist performed masterpieces of the repertory from early French Chanson to the current songs of Schumann, Cornelius and Brahms. Later Emma Thursby also appeared in a “Cyclus” of song in the 1870’s. At each of the concerts by Ritter and Thursby there were piano solos breaking up the “monotony” of song.

In Europe, at the same time, singers were presenting Liederbend. These concerts typically had one artist performing the great German lied. Baritone Julius Stockhausen was among the first. Even the Germans were slow to warm to the idea of an evening devoted to one singer only. However, they did grow in popularity and soon became commonplace.

In America, the Grand Miscellany concert continued to hold sway. Even the occasional appearances of Liederbend luminaries found opera arias on the program.

That all changed when Marcella Sembrich presented her first song recital at Carnegie Hall on March 13 1900. The importance of this concert on the development of the song recital cannot be overstated. Marcella Sembrich was the first singer of international repute to give a solo recital in the modern fashion – that is, in chronological sequence, in at least three languages, with no concert war-horse pieces or assisting artists. This format became the standard for all song recitals. Of this concert the trenchent NY Sun critic William Henderson wrote: “Madame Sembrich is known here in opera but yesterday afternoon’s recital showed a new phase of her talents and one that seemed almost more remarkeable in its revelation of her virtuosity.”

Afterwards, song recitals became so popular that a new category of singer was created: the concert singer or recitalist. Julia Culp, Elena Gerhardt, Karel Erb and others would maintain successful careers mostly away from the opera house.

Sembrich continued to branch out and explore the recital format by giving a concert comprised entirely of folksongs. In early 1917 the soprano was planning to appear in four historic song recitals (reminiscent of the Ritter and Thursby recitals) but her health failed and she would never again appear in public.

3. Legacy

In 1903 Columbia Records launched their Grand Opera Series. The most preeminent artists of the day were encouraged to record. Sembrich was among them She was paid $3,000 for three recordings. The series was ill-fated and soon defunct. However, Victor Records then contracted Sembrich and she recorded a couple dozen sides. Her recordings sold well and she received substantial royalties. Thousands of listeners had the opportunity to hear the singer without having to attend a performance. These, and a few other private recordings, are the aural legacy of the singer. Unfortunately they are mostly very disappointing. The early acoustic process was very unkind to high voices. Overtones were lost and the voice often sounded shrill. What is important in these recordings is the technique of the voice: the trill, the runs, the mechanics of singing.Sembrich’s students are the other tangible legacy left by the great artists. The students can be broken down into two groups: the performers and the teachers. Among the great performers that Sembrich helped or taught are: Alma Gluck, Maria Jeritza, Queena Mario, Hulda Lashanska, Dusolina Giannini, Josephine Antoine, Polyna Stoska and Jane Pickens. Each of these students had substantial careers and influenced another generation of the music going public.

In 1924 the forces of money and nationalistic musical interest had come together to create the great conservatories of America. Among them the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY; the Juilliard School in New York; and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Sembrich was invited to head up the graduate vocal departments at Juilliard and Curtis. Through these two institutions she influenced the vocal curriculum that thousands would follow. Additionally, in 1935 and 1936, the depression and dark forces gathering in Europe provided an opportunity for many young American singers to fill the roster at the Met. A glance at the female singers in the Met in 1936 and 1937 reveals more than a handful of sopranos and mezzos on the roster, leading and secondary, who were Sembrich students. These young American singers helped open the door for the future

The second group of singers became well-known teachers in their own right. Of special note are: Anna Hamlin, Smith College, soprano teacher Judith Raskin; Eufemia Gregory, Curtis, teacher of Frank Guarrera, Anna Moffo and Ellen Faull; Queena Mario, Curtis and Juilliard, teacher of Rose Bampton and Karen Jepson; Edith Piper, Juilliard; and Florence Page Kimball; Juilliard, teacher of Leontyne Price.

Through her students’ careers on the stage or the teaching of a new generation of artists, Marcella Sembrich-Kochanska’s influence and art live on.

The great pianist Joseph Hoffman summed up Sembrich’s artistry in a letter he wrote in 1956:

“I have heard them all, Adelina Patti, as well as Masini. Great vocalists they were, but they lacked the warmth and heart which the incomparable Marcella possessed. At the turn of the century I heard her sing Mozart’s ‘Das Veilchen’ in Berlin, and after over half century I have not forgotten the tenderness and love (Hofmann’s underlining) Marcella imbued into this simple song! This was beauty in its highest potency!”

NOTE: This paper was first presented at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, held at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., in June 2002, as a part of a session on Paderewski and Sembrich, organized by Maja Trochimczyk and chaired by Prof. Anna Ciencia≥a.


by Wanda Wilk

Reviewed in Gramophone

“Skrowaczewski’s World: Chamber Music of Stanis≥aw Skrowaczewski.” Musica a Quattro, String Trio, Fantaisie per Sei. Ensemble Capriccio.

Ken Smith notes that “on this recording, Skrowaczewski has the benefit of the Minnesota-based ensemble Caprricio, a trio of string players (with some added musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra) who have had both a longstanding familiarity with his world and the musicianship necessary to bring it to life.” Smith notes that Skrowaczewski is much better known as a conductor (of both the Minneapolis Symphony, now the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Halle Orchestra) and as such, “would be known more for his symphonic than his chamber works” but comments on his “excellent craftsmanship where each player is highlighted as soloist as well as an ensemble player.” He describes it as “chamber music blending epic Brucknerian scope and post-war European modernism.” Recommended.

Karlowicz: Eternal Songs, Op. 10, Lithuanian Rhapsody, Op. 11, Stanis≥aw and Anna of O∂wiÍcim, Op. 12. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Jan Pascal Tortelier.
Chandos CHAN 9986

David Fanning writes a featured review in Gramophone Oct ’02 issue about the symphonic poems of Mieczys≥aw Kar≥owicz (1876-1909): “A Lush Style That Promised so Much from a Life Cut Tragically Short. What a fine composer M. K. might have become, had he not died at the age of 32 in an avalanche in the Tatra mountains… these luxuriant works set him broadly beside such near-contemporaries as Rachmaninov, Zemlinsky or Suk… an individuality that might one day have become as powerful as Janacek’s.” He concludes with, “Tortelier’s 10-year reign has just concluded. But is it too much to hope that the remaining Kar≥owicz tone poems might follow from this team?

Reviewed in the American Record Guide

Chopin: 19 Nocturnes, 14 Waltzes. Mour Lympany, piano.
DUTTON 9715 (2 CDs)

Issued in tribute to the pianist on her 85th birthday, the Nocturnes were originally recorded in London in 1960 and the Waltzes in New York city in 1958. Reviewer David Mulbury praised the release and wrote, “only Rubinstein’s recordings of theNocturnes are more inspired and refined among the complete sets.” He concludes with “Altogether, a recording that will generously reward the listener and, at the same time, a document of a wonderful artist.”

Virgin 45504

Although this recording is not of a Polish composer, it does deal with a Polish artist, Piotr Anderszewski. His latest recording of Mozart’s Piano Concertos 21 & 24 has brought out amazement again. However, this time the reviewer in ARG, Margaret M. Barela, speaks of the “unexpected treasures” that this release holds – “secrets to the unusual empathy and cohesiveness here seem to lie in the hands of Sinfonia Varsovia’s leadership.” She asks, “Is Dorota Anderszewski the pianist’s wife or sister? Is she conducting? Or is she leading the ensemble as concermaster? In any case, the chemistry is extraordinary.” Well, I can answer the question about who Dorota is. She is the pianist’s sister and probably was concermaster, as she is with the Bordeaux Symphony Orchestra. That there is an extraordinary chemistry when the brother and sister team perform can be ascertained by many music lovers who witnessed their performances in Los Angeles when both were students at USC. And especially unforgettable, when they played Hungarian music together. They have a Hungarian mother and Polish father. This would be another sensational winner. Virgin Records, take notice! By the way, this recording has just been nominated for the Gramophone 2002 Awards in the Concerto category.

Polish Music Recordings: Hyperion Records

My selection this month is Hyperion Records, founded in 1980. According to their web-site, it is an “independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the 12th to the 20th century. We have been described as ‘Britain’s brighest record label.” In 1996 it received the “Best Label Award” from MIDEM’s Cannes Classiques Awards.

In reviewing their catalogue I did not find too many Polish composers: Chopin, Godowsky, Moszkowski, Paderewski, Panufnik, Scharwenka, Stojowski and Szymanowski. However, what they have is noteworthy.

Chopin’s piano music is presented in four CDs, featuring Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko and all have received excellent reviews. There is also a “very welcome reissue of Livia Rev, playing all 21 Nocturnes, which was selected as a first choice in “Building a Library” by BBC this year. Another outstanding disc of Chopin’s music is Songs, Op. 74 with Polish mezzo Urszula Kryger. I was very impressed with this artist when I served on the jury of the First International Moniuszko Vocal Competition, where she was one of the winners. See Hyperion Records for a review of CDA 67125.

The second composer, Leopold Godowsky, was born in Vilno in 1870. He was a child prodigy and studied and later taught in Berlin and Vienna. He toured the U.S. in 1884 and 1890, became a teacher in Philadelphia and in 1894 became director of the piano department at Chicago Conservatory. He became a U.S. citizen in 1891 and died in the U.S. in 1938. According to Harold Schonberg in his book The Great Pianist, Godowsky was called the “pianist’s pianist… to connoiseurs he was the ultimate phenomenon… the superman of piano playing” – all other pianists conceded that his was the most perfect pianistic mechanism of the period and very likely of all time.” He continues to describe his compositional skills: “he composed and transcribed a great deal… [What he wrote] is of such complexity, burdened with such elaboration of detail, crossed with so many inner voices, that none but he could play it. Most of his music has vanished, though big technicians will occasionally attempt his paraphrase on [Strauss’] Fliedermaus. In his day it was said that he was composing for a future generation of pianists. If so, that generation has not yet arrived.” Well, it finally has – in the form of one artist, Marc Andre Hamlin and Hyperion has recorded this for posterity in three discs: Piano Music by Leopold Godowsky, Sonata and Passacaglia, and the famous and practically unplayable Complete Studies on Chopin’s Etudes. The latter disc won huge acclaim with eight different commendations for the artist.

Hyperion is also recording the complete piano works of Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925) and Xavier Scharwenka (1850-1924), featuring pianist Seta Tanyel, a pianist of Armenian descent born in Istanbul and winner of the 1973 Int’l Beethoven Competition in Vienna and the Arthur Rubinstein Competition in 1974.

Hyperion is also pursuing a Romantic Piano Concerto series, which includes Moszkowski’s and Paderewski’s Concerti with pianist Piers Lane and the BBC Scottish S0 led by Jerzy Maksymiuk, and the outstanding release of Stojowski’s two Piano Concertos played by Jonathon Plowright, which also garnered accolades. See my earlier discography columns.

Paderewski (1860-1941) is additionally represented by his Symphony in B minor (Polonia). Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991), who emigrated to England after the war, was commissioned to write a symphony for the Centennial celebration of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and this, his Eighth symphony (Votiva), was recorded with Seiji Ozawa leading the BSO.

They also have one CD of Szymanowski’s Piano Works (4 Studies, Metopes, Masques and Fantasy in F minor) featuring Maylasian-born pianist, Dennis Lee. Penguin Guide to Compact Discs called it the “finest record of Szymanowski’s piano music to have appeared to date” and BBC wrote that “Dennis Lee clarifies the cascades of notes – or rather sonorities… so that these complex pieces are understood more easily than usual”.

Although so few Polish composers are in the Hyperion catalog, each recording has a special quality and value – you might even say that each is a special gem of Polish music. I wish that Hyperion would devote their attention to recording some of Poland’s early music treasures, which are just waiting to be discovered.

Recent Performances

World Première Of Maksymiuk’s Arbor Vitae

The World Premiere of the symphonic work Arbor Vitae (Tree of Life) by the outstanding Polish conductor Jerzy Maksymiuk took place on Saturday, September 28th at the Bia≥ystok Philharmonic. The concert was the main event during the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Radio Bia≥ystok SA [Bia≥ystok Radio]. In honor of the same anniversary, Polskie Radio SA [Polish Radio] in Warsaw issued a two-CD recording with the cantata “Arbor” performed by the Bia≥ystok Philharmonic, as well as with works of Bach, Beethoven, and Wojciech Kilar, performed by the Sinfonia Varsovia, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, and the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, under Jerzy Maksymiuk. (The recording is part of the “Polish Conductors” series.) “Arbor was commissioned by the Bia≥ystok Radio with their 50th Anniversary in mind,” said the radio’s president Jerzy MuszyÒski at a press conference. “We wanted our jubilee celebrations to also serve our national culture,” he added. The work was written in April of this year, and was recorded in May.

Arbor is 45 minutes long. It consists of 24 musical images, scored for 4 solo voices, choir, 2 accordions, and orchestra. A 19 minute reduction also exists. The recording’s soloists are Iwona Hossa (soprano), Marta Romanczuk (mezzo soprano), Piotr Rafa≥ko (tenor), Artur M±dry (bass), accordionists Jacek Grekòw and Piotr LeszczyÒski, Lidia Øabka (oboe), as well as Kaziemierz Milewski and Dariusz WybraÒczyk (clarinets). The Choir on this recording is the Cantica Cantamus from Bia≥ystok under Violetta Bielecka.

Jerzy Maksymiuk said he sees a living tree as a perfected composition, and tried to write this work in its image, so that the composition brings out the essence of his own forested Podlasie region. “The roots that support the entire structure are the basic structure of the work. The trunk is the main theme and its counterpoint. The branches and leaves are the auxiliary themes and their ornaments. A living tree is itself the most perfect composition” – wrote Maksymiuk in the liner notes. He also added that, in his work, he wanted to pay homage to the world’s trees. The choir sings the Latin names of several different trees at the beginning of the of the composition.

Though Born in Grodno, Maksymiuk has had ties to Bia≥ystok for many years, and has become an Honorary Citizen of the city. He declares that he decided to dedicate this work to his first teacher, the Bia≥ystok composer Jan Tarasiewicz: “If he hadn’t helped my years ago, I wouldn’t have become a musician. Wherever he is, I hope that he will hear the choir that begins this work”. Because of a limited number of seats at the Philharmonic Hall in Bia≥ystok, the concert on Saturday was also shown on a large screen in the Planty park, set up especially for this occasion.

Kilar’s Missa Pro Pace At Wratislava Cantans

Wojciech Kilar’s Missa pro pace – [A Mass for Peace] was performed on Saturday evening in Wroc≥aw at the Wratislavia Cantans festival. The piece was written to honor the one hundredth anniversary of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw. “It’s true that Kazimierz Kord commissioned and obliged me to write this work. Its commission, however, should bot be understood in financial terms. What is most important to me is that someone wants to listen to my music, is interested in my artistic creativity, and hopes that I am able to write something unique” – said Wojciech Kilar during a meeting with a concert audience. The composer pointed out that very few Masses are written today, and that the ones that are written are predominantly short works of a religious nature. “The Mass that I have written is quite long; it’s over an hour in length. Writing a Mass is also difficult because so many have been written over the ages, and so much has already been said in this genre.” – pointed out the artist. Kilar also recalled the incredible experience of performing this work for Pope John Paul II in Pope Paul IV’s hall. Music lovers in Wroc≥aw heard the Mass performed by Zofia Kilanowicz (soprano), Jadwiga Rappe (alto), Charles Daniels (tenor), Piotr Nowacki (bass), the Orchestra of the Wroc≥aw Philharmonic Society, and the Lower Silesia Opera Chorus. Marek Pijarowski conducted the performance. Missa pro Pace was also performed on Wednesday, September 11 by the National Philharmonic in Warsaw to commemorate the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States.


Born This Month

  • 3 October 1882 – Karol SZYMANOWSKI, composer, pianist, (d. 29 March 1937)
  • 3 October 1923 – Stanis≥aw SKROWACZEWSKI, composer and conductor
  • 4 October 1910 – Eugenia UMI—SKA, violinist
  • 9 October 1924 – Regina SMENDZIANKA, pianist
  • 10 October 1910 – Henryk SWOLKIE—, 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 – Micha≥ ¶WIERZY—SKI, 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 KRZYØANOWSKA, 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 MICHA£OWSKI, pianist, composer, Tausig’s student (b. 5 May 1851)
  • 18 October 1962 – Maria SZCZEPA—SKA, musicologist (b. 13 May 1902)
  • 21 October 1837 – Micha≥ JÛzef 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 CHYBI—SKI, musicologist (b. 29 April 1880)