On 21 October 2000, the PMC presented its new additions to the Manuscript Collection (over 100 manuscripts by Polish composers, including manuscripts scores and sketches by Grażyna Bacewicz, Roman Maciejewski, Zygmunt Krauze, Zbigniew Bujarski, and many others). For more information visit the Manuscript Collection. The exhibit was accompanied by a Chamber Music Concert performed by Polish musicians from the USC Thornton School of Music as well as others active in Los Angeles. The Concert was recorded and the CD includes chamber music by Kazimierz Serocki, Marta Ptaszyńska, Tadeusz Szeligowski, Tadeusz Baird, and others.
by Radosław Materka
Manuscript Exhibition And Concert
Among the many political, economic and social organizations related to Poland, the Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California occupies a unique position. This center, founded in 1985 by Dr. and Mrs. Wilk (and still improperly seen by many members of Californian Polonia as their private concern) is the only institution dedicated to the promotion of and research about Polish music in North America. Moreover, it is the only academic institution dedicated to Polish culture in Southern California. The Center was designed to last in perpetuity (thanks to its permanent Endowment Fund) and is a part of one of the best music schools in the country, the Thornton School of Music (ranked in the top 1% of music schools in the U.S. and as no. 1 west of Mississippi).
The main part of the program was the most unique: a display of over 100 manuscripts by 33 composers who donated their music to the Polish Music Center. What is a “manuscript?” Something hand-written—and during the exhibit we had a chance of seeing a whole range of writing, from pencil to ink and marker, the composers used different means to record their thoughts. Each set of manuscripts (from 1 to 8 per composer) was accompanied by a display with the composers’ biography, titles of the works presented, photographs, concert programs, books, and quotations from their statements.
The displays were assembled on 36 white three-panel boards providing the backdrop for the manuscripts. The most precious of those were, of course, three of the manuscripts donated to the Center by Witold Lutoslawski—the total value of the set of five original Lutoslawski manuscripts in the PMC collection exceeds $1,000,000. No wonder two security guards were needed and present on the premises through the whole exibition. Other precautions included distributing gloves among the attendees, who could turn the pages but would not damage the precious old paper.
In addition to the Lutosławski originals, the display included also rare scores from mid-30s (by Grażyna Bacewicz and Stanisław Skrowaczewski), manuscripts by Tadeusz Baird (over 50 years old), Aleksander Tansman, Roman Maciejewski, Szymon Laks, Roman Palester, and many of their younger colleagues. The manuscripts were accompanied by printed scores and recordings—so people in attendance could learn about the music and listen to what they saw. The whole collection is not complete yet, it continues to grow through new donations made by other composers contacted by Dr. Trochimczyk. This stage in donations drive will end in April 2000, when another, smaller exhibition of recent gifts will be held.
Chamber Music Concert
Let me start with describing some examples—young musicians, graduate students in the Thornton School of Music, who volunteered to perform in the Concert of 20th Century Polish Music. Ladies first: Adrianna Lis has played the flute since childhood and won numerous prizes in international competitions. After being accepted to study at USC, she became the member of the most elite group of wind players, the “Scholarship Quintet” where she played for one year. It was a very special recognition of her talent as the best flutist in the whole School (her GPA? 4.0, perfect!). Her version of two lively movements from Szeligowski’s Sonata for Flute and Piano amazed the audience with the dexterity of her fingers. Marzena Wolna (who because of a hand injury could not perform in the concert)—the first bassoon in USC Thornton Orchestra, first bassoon in Debut orchestra, winner of every orchestral competition for her instrument that she ever entered. I hope that Polish-Americans in California will have an opportunity of listening to her music in the future.
Now the gentlemen: Jan Jakub Bokun, clarinetist and conductor whose graduation concert in April 2001 will feature Polish music, and for whom a professorship of clarinet in the Wroclaw Academy of Music is already waiting. Bokun’s two solo CDs have received rave reviews in international music press. His “stint” as the clarinetist for Krystian Zimerman’s Polish Festival Orchestra (traveling around the world and recording the two Chopin Piano Concerti) is yet another proof of his amazing talents (GPA? Of course, 4.0).
For the concert he selected a piece by Tadeusz Baird, the most romantic of Polish modernist composers, an artist whose talent was and is, not known well enough in the U.S. 2 Kaprysy delighted with their “capricious” nature and the virtuosity of performance.
Michaż Sobus (double bass) and Krzysztof Szmanda (percussion) have just been accepted to the Thornton School and will have to prove their talents. Already both musicians play the “first” parts in the Thornton ensembles and perform in other orchestras based in Los Angeles. During the concert Mr. Sobus performed a difficult and engaging work by Tadeusz Wielecki (the current director of the Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival). Mr. Szmanda was accompanied by a pianist in 4 Preludes for vibraphone and piano, and by another percussionist in Scintilla for two marimbas. Both works were composed by Marta Ptaszynska, Poland’s most eminent woman composer who is now full professor of composition at the University of Chicago. Ptaszynska is a percussionist herself and understands the nature of her instruments. The two marimbas at one point quoted some music from Chopin – so that the greatest Polish composer could be present in this concert as well.
I have not forgotten, but left for later, two names of wonderful Polish musicians who are not connected to the Thornton School but instead are active in Los Angeles: Yolanta Tensor, soprano (who moved here from Chicago, interrupting a budding solo career) and Roza Kostrzewska-Yoder (who studied in Harvard and other prestigious institutions) and now devotes most of her time to teaching and nurturing young talents.
Ms. Tensor sang two songs, one by Grażyna Bacewicz and one by Szymon Laks (a Polish Jewish composer who survived Auschwitz and continued to write music). These “recital-like” musical gems required attention and reflection of the listeners who could enjoy the beautiful Polish poetry and the poignant settings. Ms. Kostrzewska – Yoder started the concert with a piece written for Dr. and Mrs. Wilk by Henryk Górecki during his visit here in 1997 and explained the significance of this miniature portraying both musical benefactors. Two of Ms. Kostrzewska-Yoder’s students played Polish music – 6 years old James Lee and 12 years old Daniel Lee. Both have won competitions for young musicians and it was easy to see why -they were excellent!
Exhibition of Polish Manuscripts
The concert was just one of the aspects of the program of this event (it was recorded and a CD will be available). As a musician, music student (doctoral program in piano at USC) and music teacher, I am delighted to find such a resource for Polish music as the Polish Music Center on USC campus. I did not base my decision to apply to this school on this fact, but rather on the excellence of the piano department. I am proud, as a Polish American, that the Center presents such high quality projects dedicated to Polish music and that I am involved in some of them (my previous appearance was at the International Conference on Polish Jewish Music in 1998).
My sincere hope is that more people in the Polish American community would take pride in their musical heritage and helped the Center in its activities. During the concert and the exhibition I saw the representatives of the Polish government, with Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk and Consul for Commercial Affairs, Boleslaw Meluch, as well as members of some Polish American organizations, such as the Polish American Historical Association, the Polish American Cultural Network, and the Helena Modjeska Club for Polish Arts and Culture.
Let us all hope, for the benefit of all Poles, that more organizations will take pride in actively supporting the Center and its programs in the future.