Chicago Philharmonic Celebrates Polish Classical Music with Five Day Festival

As Chicago’s vibrant Polish community celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the regaining of Polish independence, the Chicago Philharmonic honors the rich music traditions of Poland and the importance of the community in the cultural history of Chicago with the “Chicago Philharmonic Festival: Poland 2018” on November 7-11. The ambitious festival will present world-class Polish musicians and soloists, Polish-Chicago music and arts organizations, music from Polish composers, the Chicago Philharmonic orchestra, and Artistic Director Scott Speck across five concerts presented in five days throughout the city of Chicago culminating in a free performance on November 11 – the day celebrating the 100th year of independence and Armistice Day. The festival comes following a tour of 10 Chi Phil musicians to Poland in April of this year and this is the first project of its kind from the organization, with plans to celebrate Chicago’s many diverse communities with similar festivals in the future.

The festival opens on November 7 with a guest performance from award-winning Polish string ensemble The Silesian Quartet performing at Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago. The quartet is known for their skilled, enthusiastic interpretations of Polish repertoire both timeless and contemporary; “The highest level of performance. They play like devils.” (NRC Handelsblad) The ensemble will showcase their stunning textural range and artistry in masterful 20th century string quartets. Featured is trailblazing female composer Grażyna Bacewicz’s driving, expressive String Quartet No. 4, written in post-WWII Poland in 1951; String Quartet No. 2 by Karol Szymanowski, who took inspiration for the piece from the folk music of the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland; and String Quartet No. 1 by Henryk Górecki, which is centered around the 16th century Polish church song “Already it is Dusk”. Rounding out the program is String Quartet No. 3 (“Leaves of an Unwritten Diary”) by beloved Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Introducing the concert and the festival is Chicago Philharmonic Executive Director Donna Milanovich, who traveled with Chicago
Philharmonic musicians and Artistic Director Scott Speck to Poland in April 2018.

On November 8, the festival continues at the stunning St. John Cantius Church (named “The Most Beautiful Church in America” in 2016) with a solo performance from Kraków born and raised organ master Andrzej Białko. Recipient of the Polish Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis, Białko will perform organ music from Poland, Eastern Europe, and North America on the church’s historic 92-year old Casavant Frères pipe organ. The program will begin with Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt as the composer explores the popular B-A-C-H motif in music. Also featured are pieces by Polish composers including church and organ composer Mieczysław Surzyński, living sacred choral music composer Paweł Łukaszewski, and a Christmas Carol-inspired fantasy Christmas Eve on Wawel Hill by Feliks Nowowiejski. Also performed is an excerpt from prominent Czech composer Petr Eben’s “Job” for Organ cycle. In addition to these Eastern European composers, Białko completes the program with English-Canadian Healy Willan’s Five Preludes, influenced by the composer’s love of Gregorian chants. Speaking before the concert is Director of Liturgy and Music Chaplain of the Patrons of Sacred Music at St. John Cantius and enthusiastic supporter of the festival, Father Scott A. Haynes S.J.C.

In partnership with the Polish Museum of America, the Chicago Philharmonic will present jazz pianist Piotr Orzechowski on November 9 at the museum in an evening event with music, food, and drink. Orzechowski will bring his 24 Preludes and Improvisations, based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s pivotal 24 Preludes and Fugues. The first ever Pole to win 1st Prize at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival, Orzechowski’s 24 Preludes and Improvisations allow his extraordinary composition and improvisational talents to shine. Richard Owsiany, President of the Polish Museum of America, will speak before the concert.

On November 10, the festival’s first full orchestral concert, Celebrate Polonia, will take place at the Copernicus Center. Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago Piotr Janicki will introduce this concert. Joined by young piano virtuoso Łukasz Krupiński, the Chicago Philharmonic and Principal Conductor Scott Speck will perform legendary Polish pianist, composer, and politician Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s Piano Concerto and Frédéric Chopin’s dazzling, technically demanding Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante for solo piano and orchestra. Also featured is Karol Szymanowski’s Concert Overture, masterfully orchestrated in the style of the composer’s contemporary Richard Strauss. Finishing the program is the Tragic Overture by 20th century composer Sir Andrzej Panufnik, composed in secret during World War II and later reconstructed by the composer from memory after the score was lost in the devastating fires of the Warsaw Uprising. Pre-concert entertainment will be provided by the Lira Ensemble singers, Chicago’s premier Polish music ensemble.

November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the regaining of Polish Independence and Armistice Day. The Chicago Philharmonic will join in the worldwide celebration with a free “Concert for Peace” featuring Polish composer Wojciech Kilar’s Missa pro pace. Kilar has composed for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, and soloists, but is best known for his film score compositions including those for The Pianist and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Kilar’s 2001 Mass, Missa pro pace, was composed for a full symphony orchestra, mixed choir, organ, and a quartet of vocal soloists. The piece is inspired by the composer’s deeply spiritual background, and was performed in the presence of Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pope. The performance will be presented in a liturgical setting in Chicago’s stunning St. Hyacinth Basilica. The Chicago Philharmonic will be joined by Kilar expert conductor Marek Moś and guest vocal soloists. Also included in the program is the world premiere of Fanfara by Krysztof Penderecki, commissioned by PWM edition and being performed in 11 cities around the world all on November 11. Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago Piotr Janicki will speak before the concert on this historic day.

The Silesian Quartet
November 7, 7:30pm
Fourth Presbyterian Church
126 E Chestnut Street

Andrzej Białko, Organ
November 8, 7:30pm
St. John Cantius Church
825 N Carpenter Street

Piotr Orzechowski, Jazz Piano
November 9, 8pm
Polish Museum of America
984 N Milwaukee Ave

Celebrate Polonia
November 10, 7:30pm
Copernicus Center
5216 W Lawrence Ave

Concert for Peace
November 11, 1:30pm
St. Hyacinth Basilica
3636 W Wolfram Street

Single tickets $25 – $75 | Students from $10
Festival package $89 – $116
(312) 957 0000

[Source: Press Release]