From Frank Harders, our dear friend at Boosey & Hawkes in Berlin, we received a brand new CD featuring several major works by Józef Koffler. Born in 1896 in Stryj (a city in the Lviv Region of Ukraine today), Koffler studied music in Vienna and was drafted into the Austrian Army in 1916. After World War I, Koffler studied in Vienna with Guido Adler and Egon Wellesz and established himself as an avant-garde composer whose music was often performed at the festivals of the International Society of Contemporary Music. A close friend of Alban Berg, Koffler also corresponded extensively with Schoenberg and, once he became the first professor of dodecaphonic compositional techniques in Lwów (now Lviv), he was recognized as the primary exponent of serial music in Poland.
This world premiere EDA Recordings CD features two major large-scale works by Koffler—his Piano Concerto, Op. 13 (1932) and Symphony No. 2, Op. 17 (1933)—that display the composer’s imaginative melding of neoclassicism and dodecaphony. The CD also features several of Koffler’s works for voice and piano: Zwei Lieder, Op. 1 (1917) to texts by Richard Dehmel and Reiner Maria Rilke and Quatre poèmes, Op. 22 (1935) to texts by Alfred de Musset, Paul Verlain, and Antoine-Vincent Arnault. Rounding off the repertoire on this recording is Koffler’s late Ukrainian Sketches for string quartet, Op. 27, written sometime before 1941. Extensive and informative program booklet in English and German penned by Maciej Gołąb accompanies this exceptional and much needed release.
The details and the exact circumstances of Koffler tragic death in 1944 with his wife and son at the hands of the Nazi soldiers are still shrouded in mystery and, after the war, his music slipped into obscurity. Maciej Gołąb’s thoroughly researched biography of Koffler (published in English in 2004 by the Polish Music Center as Polish Music History Series vol. 8) is the most complete and authoritative source on Koffler’s music, much of which was lost. Many of the remaining works are still in manuscript and, so far, only a small part of Koffler’s catalogue has been published and performed. The EDA Recording Series “En Hommage” seeks to fill this gap and resurrect music by victims of the Nazi terror by producing CDs of works by Polish-Jewish composers, such as Szymon Laks, Joachim Mendelson and, most recently, Józef Koffler.
Pianist Daniel Wnukowski shines as the soloist in Koffler’s fascinating Piano Concerto, while Krzysztof Słowiński ably accompanies mezzo-soprano Fredrika Brillembourg in Zwei Lieder and Quatre poèmes. Maestro Słowiński also leads the Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra in Symphony No. 2 and skillfully collaborates with Mr. Wnukowski in the Piano Concerto. The Polish String Quartet of Deutsche Oper Berlin (Tomasz Tomaszewski, Piotr Przysiażnik, Sebastian Sokół and Maryjka Pstrokońska-Mödig) are featured in a convincing performance of the Ukrainian Sketches. This pioneering recording, released earlier in Europe, has already garnered excellent reviews. The February 2018 issue of the Fono Forum Magazine called Koffler “Much more than a twelve-tone individualist” and concluded that “We must perform his works and hear more of them…” while Discothèque Klassik carried a review headlined, “From the Mist—‘En Hommage’ Józef Koffler: A Master to Discover.” The New Listener in the December 2017 issue amply praised the stellar group of performers on this CD that was officially introduced in North America on February 9.
From President and the Executive Director of the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York City, Marek Skulimowski, we received several interesting publications, including the Winter 2018 issue of the Foundation’s Bulletin, a bilingual brochure about the history of the Kosciuszko Foundation, and a hardcover album entitled Polish Masters—From the Kosciuszko Foundation. This excellent publication featured biographies and reproductions of paintings in the Foundation’s collection, including such stellar names as Teodor Axentowicz, Władysław Benda, Olga Boznańska, Józef Brandt, Józef Chełmoński, Julian Fałat, members of the Kossak family (Juliusz, Wojciech and Jerzy), Jacek Malczewski, Jan Matejko, Aleksander Orłowski, Jan and Tadeusz Styka, Włodzimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer and Leon Wyczółkowski, among others.
From Eve Krzyżanowski we received a DVD of a film she produced, Kosciuszko: A Man Before His Time, a true story of the American Revolutionary War hero who was an early champion of human rights. Written and directed by Alex Storożyński, this film portrays Kosciuszko as an able military leader who distinguished himself in the Battle of Saratoga as a fighter for liberty, alongside the Founding Fathers of the United States.
From PMC supporter Dr. Monika Moniuszko we received several LP recordings, including Krzysztof Penderecki’s Dies Irae, Polymorphia and De Natura Sonoris (Muza SXl 0413), and Jutrznia/Utrenja (Muza SX 889-890); Karol Szymanowski’s Songs (Muza SX 1063) and selected Piano Works (Muza SX 0463); Artur Rubinstein’s recordings of Chopin’s Waltzes (RCA Victor LM/LSC-2726) as well as his performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto (RCA Red Seal ARL1-1420); a Candide LP (CE 31035) with several orchestral works by Witold Lutosławski; a Muza presentation of Music from the Warsaw Castle (SX 1381); Henryk Szeryng’s recordings of Mozart’s Violin Concertos No. 3 & 5 on Phillips Festivo Series (6570 024); as well as LPs with popular music, including Czerwone Gitary (SX 1364), Na Szkle Malowane (SXL 0666), and Piotr Figiel Music(Pronit SX 1320).
Marek Żydowicz, Director of the CAMERIMAGE Film Festival, added to our Paderewski Collection a late 19th century postcard with Paderewski’s photo dating from his 1891 North American debut.
As always we thank all our donors—dziękujemy!