Polish Season in the UK about to start

For quite a while now I’ve been meaning to mention the upcoming “Polska!Year” (argh, who thought up that name?). But somehow it kept eluding me. But now the Sounds New festival in Canterbury is upon us. And it marks the start of “a year of contemporary everything from Polska” (aaaaaaargh!) so I guess I can’t put it off any longer.

I’ve read the description of the festival on their web page. The absence of Polish cinema seems rather conspicuous and odd in the introductory part (feature films, documentaries, animation – there are distinct “Polish schools” in all these fields, even if they can’t be said to exactly thrive today). But films are in fact mentioned further in the text so at least a bit of that is obviously going to be present.

The Sounds New festival (contrary to the information on their site) has already been preceded in joining the Polska! Year by the Scottish Tides Festival (with a concert of the Warsaw Village Band on 6th March) but they can probably still be called the first major event in this cycle. They have a great lineup of performers, including the London Sinfonietta, Rolf Hind, Olga Pasiecznik, the Silesian String Quartet, the Camerata Silesia and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. There will be concerts featuring music by some of the leading Polish composers of today, including Paweł Łukaszewski, Hanna Kulenty, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Paweł Mykietyn, Zygmunt Krauze and Paweł Szymański. I’m a bit surprised by the absence of Krzysztof Meyer’s name in the program (as well as a few other composers, most notably members of the “Stalowa Wola Festival Generation“).

The main attraction of the festival, however, will be the music of Krzysztof Penderecki, featured in the program in generous doses. The composer himself will conduct a performance of his Passion according to St Luke.

There’s also going to be a smattering of less contemporary Polish composers. The program features pieces by Wacław z Szamotuł, Mikołaj Zieleński, Stanisław Moniuszko, Karol Szymanowski, Grażyna Bacewicz, Andrzej Panufnik and Witold Lutosławski (the last two appear quite a few times, actually). I am surprised by the omission of three names: Chopin, Tomasz Sikorski and Marek Stachowski (the latter two are a different league, obviously, but they definitely deserve to be present). But then, one simply can’t please everyone when preparing a festival of this kind.

In other events festival-goers will get a chance to see two of the worst Polish films ever: Andrzej Wajda’s Katyń (which has been justly criticized for both historical inaccuracies and lack of artistic merit) and Krzysztof Zanussi’s The Silent Touch (not even Max von Sydow’s acting can redeem this utter dud made by a director who on other occasions has created some of the greatest films in Polish cinema).

Check the festival page (linked to at the beginning of this post) for more details.

And finally, a longish note for those who do not understand my disgust (well, distaste) at the (mis)use of the word “Polska” in the quotations above. First of all, I personally find the mixture of two incompatible languages irritating. And I’m saying this as someone who is (moderately :lol:) bilingual and therefore engages from time to time in various types of code-mixing and code-switching. But my reservations are not purely aesthetic, they are also grammatical. Polish is an inflectional language. Depending on their place in the syntactic structure of a sentence, Polish nouns take on various cases (grammatical forms). “Polska” is a noun in the nominative case and it means “Poland”. But if “Polska! Year” is supposed to mean “Poland Year”, then the proper form to use would be the genitive “Polski”. In that case we should be speaking about a “Polski Year” not a “Polska Year” (the appalling mix-up between incongruous languages remains). I have a sneaking suspicion that what the organizers in fact had in mind was “Polish Year”. In which case the proper word to use would be the adjective “polski” – it happens to be homonymous with the genitive of the noun “Polska”, though here the “p” is lowercase. Which again brings us to “Polski Year” or “Year Polski”, depending on whether we decide to use the English or Polish word order (in this situation even in Polish the adjective would be spelled with a capital “P”). End of rant, you can go back to whatever you were doing.

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  1. maciek
    18 April 2009 at 7:35

    What I forgot to mention is that Bogusław Schaeffer, whom I’ve just mentioned in the previous post (he’s the protagonist of SOLO), is coming to the Sounds New festival with a composition workshop!

  2. maciek
    18 April 2009 at 7:38

    Wow! This post got almost 90 views in the 9 hours that have passed since I published it last night! :mrgreen: Where is that traffic coming from?? ❓ ❗

  3. Michael
    18 April 2009 at 7:50

    ” I am surprised by the omission of three names: Chopin, Tomasz Sikorski and Marek Stachowski (the latter two are a different league, obviously, but they definitely deserve to be present). ”

    I can’t speak for Sikorski and Stachowski, but I can absolutely guarantee you’ll be sick of the sight (and sound) of Chopin by the end of 2010 – or even well before that.

    I predict a particular concentration of events round about March 1…

    • maciek
      18 April 2009 at 11:56

      Speak for yourself. Last year I wasn’t sick of Messiaen or Carter or Szymanowski (the year before). Heck, I didn’t even mind the Karajan celebrations all that much. And I’m not sick of Haydn or Handel yet (or Bacewicz or Puccini or Karłowicz). So I can hardly imagine becoming sick of Chopin, a composer I like far more than any of the above… Despite the guarantee I don’t think your profecy has any chances of fulfillment. 🙂

  4. Michael
    18 April 2009 at 16:35

    It wasn’t so much a prophecy as an answer to your question about why there doesn’t seem to be much Chopin-related activity scheduled for 2009. Something tells me next year will more than compensate, and with a vengeance.

    • maciek
      18 April 2009 at 20:29

      I know, I know. Plus I’m sure you never have absolute control over who and what your festival will feature. And besides, I guess there isn’t much space for that sort of thing in a contemporary music festival so my complaints are a bit off anyway. I have to admit I find the programme quite mezmerizing in its ambition and scope. And yet the lack of Chopin might seem odd – after all, they managed to squeeze in some pretty old choral stuff. 😈 OK, OK, I’m a grumpy type, so what? 😆

  5. Johan Herrenberg
    18 April 2009 at 18:26

    I liked your rant, Maciek. Very educational.

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