Held during the first half of December, the 15th Festival of Song [XV Festiwal Pieśni] concluded on Saturday, Dec. 15 with a concert at the historic 18th century Royal Opera House located on the grounds of the Łazienki Palace in Warsaw. Under the direction of Director Krzysztof Kur and Artistic Director Ryszard Cieśla, for its final concert the Festival hosted the Polish Radio Orchestra presenting a program featuring vocal compositions by Krzesimir Dębski with soloist Anna Jurksztowicz.
The program began with Pieśn syberyjska [Siberian Song] for orchestra, a song “without words” as the composer explained at the outset, and a part of the score for a 2013 film, Siberian Exile, directed by Janusz Zaorski. The other purely instrumental work was Dos Lid—an evocative composition for strings with extensive and virtuosic violin solos, dedicated to Jewish friends of Dębski’s parents in the pre-World War II Ukraine.
The rest of the evening highlighted Anna Jurksztowicz and her intimate insights into the many hit songs composed by her husband. Starting with another song from the Siberian Exile, Nim kartka spłonie [Before the page burns] with its reflective and regretful tone, Jurksztowicz picked up the pace with the celebrated Cantabile in H and Dębski’s impish settings of Allegro ma non troppo and Urodziny [Birthday] to texts by Wisława Szymborska. Continuing with the film themes, Jurksztowicz gave a lovely performance of Pieśń baobabu [The Song of the Baobab tree] from the 2001 film W Pustyni i w puszczy [In Desert and Wilderness]. With her fiery temperament on full display, Jurksztowicz belted out Baile to text by Federico Garcia Lorca with gusto and appropriately Spanish mien. Two more hits followed—with Dębski’s famous Pieśń Heleny [Helen’s Song] from the 1999 film Ogniem i mieczem [With Fire and Sword] and his charming setting of W kropki zielone [In Green Dots], a Christmas carol to tenderly poetic text by Father Jan Twardowski. An enthusiastic audience and a standing ovation elicited from Anna Jurksztowicz and Krzesimir Dębski three encores that ushered the Holiday mood for the listeners on this wintry Warsaw evening.