Archive for the ‘Polish 20th century and contemporary music’ Category

Polish Focus! 2011

14 December 2010 Leave a comment

Just a quick heads-up for those who will be in NYC or vicinity Jan. 22-28 (2011): The main focus of Juilliard’s Focus! festival next year will be Polish modern and contemporary music! You can read more about it in an article by Joel Sachs. Or go straight to the calendar of events (more to be announced, I am told). Looks like a really great program, including both the Polish modern music warhorses (what a contradiction in terms!) and stuff that probably isn’t very widely known abroad (both contemporary and slightly less contemporary). Wish I could be there. No, seriously: a lot of the music I’ve never heard live, and would love to. (Wait a minute, that doesn’t make much sense. If I ever do visit the States, I seriously doubt whether I’ll be spending a lot of time listening to Polish contemporary music.)

My thanks go to Bruce Hodges for alerting me about this.


Henryk Mikołaj Górecki R.I.P.

13 November 2010 Leave a comment

Have just learned of Gorecki’s passing. He had been in the hospital since September. He would have turned 77 just over three weeks from today. Very sad news indeed. As a strange coincidence, during the last few days I have been rereading the Adrian Thomas monograph, and have been thinking about Gorecki a lot. About his health problems, which started at a very early age – he seemed to have always faced them with courage and a serene humility. And about the sacrifices he had to make in order to become a musician (he came from a very poor family, his father did not at first approve of his son’s musical interests). And about the uniqueness of his music, which was modern yet steeped in tradition, even in its avant-garde beginnings – drawing inspiration both from the old masters and from folk music (but then, how many composers do we have today, whose first music teachers were actual folk musicians?).

I haven’t got many of his scores; let this last page of Ad Matrem serve as an epitaph:



Niech na spotkanie w progach Ojca domu
Po ciebie wyjdzie litościwa Matka.

Pawel Szymanski – a checklist of recordings

4 September 2009 4 comments

I’ve been unable to find an up-to-date, on-line list of recordings of works by Paweł Szymański so I’m putting one together here. As in the case of the two previous ones (Bacewicz and Karłowicz), I’d like to encourage those who have something to add to participate (using the comments section). Are you aware of the existence of a recording that I’ve missed? Or maybe you’ve noticed something new? A forthcoming release? Do you know where I could obtain the picture of a cover that I haven’t included? Let me know, don’t hesitate. 🙂 As a reference (of sorts), older (out of date) discographies can be found on the Chester Novello and USC PMC sites. For Paweł Szymański‘s music available on-line check this post (including comments). The list is ordered by label and catalogue number (with year of release given in brackets, whenever I was able to verify it). It does not contain vinyl records and casettes (if you need info on those, follow the PMC discography in previous paragraph):

1. CDs

CD Accord

(a Polish label, not to be confused with the French one called Accord)

ACD 038

Partita III (1985-86) for harpsichord and orchestra (Elżbieta Chojnacka, PRNSO/Marek Pijarowski) Lux aeterna (1984) for voices and instruments (Camerata Silesia, instrumental ensemble/Anna Szostak) Partita IV (1986) for orchestra (PRNSO/Antoni Wit) Two Studies (1986) for piano (Szabolcs Esztenyi) Miserere (1993) for voices and instruments (Bornus Consort, instrumental ensemble/Marcin Bornus-Szczyciński)

ACD 046

Concerto (1994) for piano and orchestra (Ewa Pobłocka, Warsaw Philharmonic – National Orchestra of Poland/Kazimierz Kord)

ACD 149

Drei Lieder nach Trakl (Agata Zubel, Marcin Grabosz)


DUX 0398

A due (1991) for 2 violins (Bartłomiej Nizioł, Jarosław Pietrzak)

DUX 0609

(box and individual disc)

A due (1991) for 2 violins (Bartłomiej Nizioł, Jarosław Pietrzak) [same recording as on DUX 0398]

DUX 0628

A Kaleidoscope for M.C.E. – original version, ie. for cello solo (Mikołaj Pałosz)

DUX 0688 (2009)

A Kaleidoscope for M.C.E. – version for violin solo (Szymon Krzeszowiec)

EMI Poland

0946 3 71876 2 3

(in collaboration with Pomaton, Polskie Wydawnictwo Audiowizualne, and Office of Vital Records) Zaratustra – theatre music (instrumental ensemble/Stanisław Krawczyński)

0946 3 71878 2 1

(in collaboration with Polskie Wydawnictwo Audiowizualne, and Office of Vital Records) Two Studies (1986) for piano (Maciej Grzybowski) Une Suite de Pieces de Clavecin par Monsieur Szymanski – piano version (Maciej Grzybowski) Singletrack (2005) for piano (Maciej Grzybowski)

0946 3 84393 2 5 (PRK 046)

(in collaboration with Polskie Wydawnictwo Audiowizualne, Pronovum, and Polskie Radio Katowice) Five Pieces (1992) for string quartet (Silesian String Quartet) Two Pieces (1982) for string quartet (Silesian String Quartet) Recalling a Serenade (1996) for clarinet and string quartet (Roman Widaszek, Silesian String Quartet) Photo from a Birthday Party (1998) for string quartet (Silesian String Quartet) Compartment 2, Car 7 (2003) for vibraphone and string trio (Krzysztof Jaguszewski, members of the Silesian String Quartet)

Labor Records, NY

CCD-7050-2 (2002)

[no cover art found]

Two Studies (Angela Tosheva)

Polskie Nagrania

PNCD1271 (2009)

Through the looking glass… III (1994) for harpsichord (version 1) (Elżbieta Chojnacka)

Polskie Radio Katowice

(Polish Radio Katowice)

PRK084 (2007)

Two Pieces (1982) for string quartet (Akademos Quartet)

Silva Classics

SILKD 6001

Five Pieces (1992) for string quartet (Brodsky Quartet)

Universal Music Polska

476 155 7

(slipcase and jewel case)

Two Studies (1986) for piano (Maciej Grzybowski)

2. DVDs

Polskie Wydawnictwo Audiowizualne

(Polish Audiovisual Publishers, now renamed Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny NInA – National Audiovisual Institute)

5908259554112 (1 DVD)

Recalling a Serenade for clarinet and string quartet, Prelude and fugue for piano, Partita III for harpsichord and orchestra, Quasi una sinfonietta – version for symphony orchestra, Concerto a 4 for clarinet, trombone, cello and piano, Chlorophaenhylohydroxipiperidinofluorobutyrophaenon for instruments and tape, Drei Lieder nach Trakl – version for soprano and chamber orchestra, Appendix for piccolo and instruments, Limericks for violin and harpsichord, In Paradisum deducant te Angeli… for male choir, Sonata for violins, double basses and percussion (various performers, all recordings are live and come from the Paweł Szymański Festival in Warsaw, 24th Nov. – 1st Dec. 2006)

5908259554129 (4 DVDs)

everything that was included on the single DVD release (5908259554112) plus: A due for two violins, Two pieces for string quartet, Compartment 2, Car 7 for vibraphone and string trio, Photo from a Birthday Party for string quartet, Five Pieces for string quartet, Une Suite de Pieces de Clavecin par Monsieur Szymański – original harpsichord version, Concerto con duoi Violini e Violoncello di Concertino obligati e duoi altri Violini, Viola e Basso di Concerto Grosso del Sig’Szymański for chamber ensemble, Singletrack for piano, Two Studies for piano, Trope for piano, K for orchestra, Gloria for female choir and orchestra, Two Studies for orchestra, A Kaleidoscope for M.C.E. – original solo cello version, Bagatelle für A. W. for violin, clarinet, tenor saxophone and piano, Epitaph for two pianos, Two Illusory Constructions for clarinet, cello and piano, Through the Looking Glass… I for chamber orchestra, Through the Looking Glass… III for harpsichord, Villanelle for countertenor, two violas and harpsichord, Miserere for voices and instruments, Lux aeterna for voices and instruments, Partita IV for orchestra, Concerto for piano and orchestra, Film Music for orchestra, Sixty-odd Pages for orchestra (various performers, all recordings are live and come from the Paweł Szymański Festival in Warsaw, 24th Nov. – 1st Dec. 2006)

Pawel Szymanski x 4 on NInA

20 August 2009 2 comments

I’ve only noticed this today and it is news that deserves not only to be passed on, but to be shouted about. 4 videos of pieces by Paweł Szymański (complete recordings, not short clips) have been made available on the Polish National Audiovisual Institute (NInA) web pages.

Paweł Szymański is generally considered the finest Polish composer of his generation, and some even consider him to be the greatest Polish composer alive (I’d certainly put him on my personal top 3 or 4 list). The fact that so few of his compositions are easily available to listeners outside Poland is lamentable (there’s an old Brodsky Quartet disc with his 5 Pieces for String Quartet; all other releases are on Polish labels). I’m very happy that music lovers from around the world will finally get their chance to make aquaintance with this great music! :mrgreen:

So go there immediately, and listen:

Partita no. 3 for harpsichord and orchestra (Władysław Kłosiewicz – harpsichord, AUKSO Chamber Orchestra/Marek Moś)

Compartment 2, Car 7 for vibraphone and string trio (Krzysztof Jaguszewski – vibraphone, and members of the Silesian String Quartet: Szymon Krzeszowiec, Łukasz Syrnicki, Piotr Janosik)

Miserere for voices and instruments (Andrzej Wróbel, Kazimierz Koślacz, Elżbieta Piwkowska-Wróbel, Anna Wróbel – cellos, Stanisław Skoczyński – vibraphone, Anna Sikorzak-Olek – harp, Camerata Silesia Choir/Anna Szostak)

Epitafium (Epitaph) for 2 pianos (Maciej Grzybowski, Maciej Piszek)

All these recordings come from the Paweł Szymański Festival, which took place in Warsaw, in November 2006.

[UPDATE: If you’re looking for a Pawel Szymanski discography, you can find one in this post.]

Polish Season in the UK about to start

17 April 2009 7 comments

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.

Schaeffer (on film) wins prestigious award

15 April 2009 Leave a comment


SOLO, a documentary about the famous avantgarde composer (and dramatist) Bogusław Schaeffer by Polish director Maciej Pisarek has won the Grand Prize at the 27th FIFA (International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal).



Another Polish (and musical!) accent was the Award for Best Portrait, taken home by the creators of a French film about the Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski: PIOTR ANDERSZEWSKI – VOYAGEUR INTRANQUILLE (directed by Bruno Monsaingeon). Earlier this year the film won a FIPA D’OR Grand Prize (in the Performing arts category) at the FIPA (International Festival of Audiovisual Programs in Biarritz).


The festival ended on 29th March but I only discovered all this today (thanks mainly to the POLMIC site).

Full list of award-winners from this year’s FIFA here.

And here’s a link to a post on Schaeffer from The Rambler (includes a download of one of Schaeffer’s pieces).

Karlowicz photographs

26 February 2009 2 comments

PWM (the largest score publisher in Poland) has started a site dedicated to Mieczyslaw Karlowicz. Though my opinion on some of PWM’s actions (such as quoting different prices on their Polish and English web pages) is rather low, this project I cannot recommend highly enough! The main attraction of the site is a large gallery of photographs of people and places Karlowicz knew as well as of Karlowicz himself, not to mention a generous helping of photographs actually taken by the composer (he was an excellent photographer, a pioneer of mountain photography). The set contains lots of gems I haven’t seen before and the quality is certainly higher than that of most of the reproductions I know (though the ones given here are perhaps a bit small). So all I’m going to say is: what are you doing still reading this post? Click the link already!

%d bloggers like this: