Contemporary Poland Under The Green Umbrella
The Green Umbrella series featuring concerts of contemporary music is one of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s most attractive calling cards. John Adams, a distinguished composer and creative chair for the series, described the Green Umbrella Series as “… the longest running contemporary music series of any symphony orchestra in the country and, quite possibly, of any [other] organization.”
The January 19 program—supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of their “Polska Music” initiative—featured a fascinating cross section of styles and genres, ranging from Krzysztof Penderecki’s Sinfonietta No. 2 for clarinet and strings to the premiere of Agata Zubel’s Chapter 13 for soprano and instrumental ensemble. Spanning the works of the octogenerian Penderecki and the 37 year-old Zubel, the evening’s offerings also included Musique scintillante by Krzysztof Meyer (b. 1943), Quasi una sinfonietta by Paweł Szymański (b. 1954), and 3 for 13 by Paweł Mykietyn (b. 1971).
Meyer’s Musique scintillante provided a very energetic and festive opening for the concert. Scored for an ensemble of 14 players (single strings, winds, piano and percussion), its toccata-like, strongly driven sections alternated with sensuously bluesy brass interludes. Symphonic in scope in spite of relatively modest performing forces, Musique scintillante indeed proved dazzling in its refined sound textures and solid formal construction, delivering a powerful experience for the Disney Hall audience on this work’s U.S. premiere.
Paweł Mykietyn’s 3 for 3 was next in the line-up. It provided lots of contrast with Meyer’s distinctive take on contemporary musical language. Written in 1994 and premiered by Sinfonia Varsovia in 1995, Mykietyn’s three-movement work is scored for almost the same ensemble as Meyer’s piece. Yet, in Mykietyn’s 3 for 3 orchestral textures and color palette were much more diffuse and, as a result, the composer’s approach to atomizing musical thoughts into fleeting fragments (often recalling Bach, whether in spirit or literally) alternated between mesmerizing and commonplace, much to the audience’s amusement.
The LA Philharmonic’s Associate Principal Burt Hara was the soloist in Penderecki’s Sinfonietta No. 2 for clarinet and strings, the work that closed the first half of the concert. Hara’s virtuosity and heartfelt musicianship were on display in abundance, lending much substance to the otherwise rather conventional work from an acknowledged master of the Polish avant-garde in the 1960s and 1970s.
Agata Zubel—both the composer and soloist in Chapter 13, a work commissioned by the LA Philharmonic and world-premiered on this occasion—brought lots of energy interspersed with a strong dose of levity in her playful take on a chapter from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s celebrated book, Le Petit Prince. Translated into the English with texts projected overhead, Zubel’s spirited take on the Prince’s chat with a businessman counting the stars in the sky can be safely counted among many strong points of this composition.
Paweł Szymański’s Quasi una sinfonietta closed the January 19 concert. This work—a precursor and very likely a model for Mykietyn’s 3 for 3heard earlier in the evening—inhabits the same world of musical quotations which are re-examined by restatements of well-worn musical mannerisms. The overwhelmingly bleak world of Szymański’s music has a peculiar attraction that, alas, also has a tendency to fade with repeated exposure. Nonetheless, the Disney Hall audience gave a very enthusiastic response, clearly demonstrating approval and gratitude for the presentation of music that too infrequently reaches California’s shores. A prolonged standing ovation for the music and the performers—led by the truly excellent and musically unassailable Maestro Łukasz Borowicz—engenders hope that similar concerts will be staged by Los Angeles Philharmonic and other orchestras and ensembles in this part of the world in the near future.
400 Years of Violin Music
On January 29, distinguished violinist Stefan Plewniak presented a program entitled 400 Years of Violin Music, outlining the history and development of violin music, at the National Museum in Szczecin. The program was commissioned by the Academy of Early Music Foundation, for whom Plewniak is serving as artist-in-residence for the 2015-16 season. Plewniak has collaborated in many ensembles, such as Le Concert des Nations in Barcelona, Les Arts Florissants in Paris, and Marguerite Louise France Ensemble, and has performed as a soloist in many festivals across Europe, the United States, and Canada. The concert showcased not only his talents but was also a tribute to violin works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Grażyna Bacewicz, Krzysztof Baculewski, Arcangelo Corelli, Fritz Kreisler, Niccolo Paganini, Antonio Vivaldi and Henryk Wieniawski.
Save The Music
Organized by the MEAKULTURA Foundation, the “Save the Music” campaign had its first press conference on January 27 at PWM Edition in Warsaw, to introduce its upcoming activities, including exhibitions, concerts and fashion shows. The aim of “Save the Music” is to shed light on underrated artists and composers, and to promote music and visual arts, regardless of genre. Already a wide range of outstanding professionals— artists, journalists, and scientists alike—support “Save the Music” and are involved as ambassadors for the program. One of the first events involves a presentation of CONFASHION clothes designed by Kinga Król, and graphic installments by Max Skorwider, featuring the following artists: Frederic Chopin, Hanka Ordonówna, Astor Piazzolla, Maria Callas, John Cage, Frank Zappa, Ella Fitzgerald, Enrico Caruso, Marlene Dietrich, Ludwig van Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, Sid Vicious, Frank Sinatra and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.
For more information or how to get involved, visit their website savethemusic.eu.
Witek Inaugurates Paderewski Concert Series
Pianist Przemysław Witek, winner of numerous international piano competitions, performed a program of solo works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff at the Paderewski Music Academy in Poznań. His January 13 recital inaugurated a new series of concerts at the Music Academy that will feature its young piano faculty, including Małgorzata Sajna-Mataczyńska (February 26), Jacek Kortus (March 23), Joanna Marcinkowska (April 2), Piotr Żukowski (April 29) and Piotr Szychowski (May 11).
See an interview with the pianist at wtkplay.pl.