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.
I’m a little late posting this, but anyone interested in such things might like to know that you can listen to an online broadcast from the Chopin Competition through several web pages, all of them listed here:
My copy of The Original of Laura arrived yesterday! Only had enough time for a tentative glance-through so far (even though there is actually very little text in it). Was pleased to find that the date on the front page is “2008”. 😉 The book is very heavy, even for a hardback, because the original index cards are reproduced inside (alongside typeset text) on thick, cardboard-like paper – the edges of these photographs are perforated so that these copies of the cards can be removed and rearranged in any fashion (or lost, which would seem like their more obvious fate). The novel turns out to be even less “finished” than I expected (I haven’t read any of the reviews). As someone who has never had the fortune to come into contact with larger portions of Nabokov’s manuscripts (just small reproductions in various books), I found it a true joy to leaf through this book. The scholar in me is absolutely enthralled, what a wonderful chance to examine Nabokov’s work in progress! However, I think that the novel might be of limited interest to the “general reader”, at least not in its present edition (sort of like Nabokov’s EO commentary). I may be wrong though, perhaps in the end it is more of a Ulysses than a Finnegans Wake – I haven’t yet read all of it, after all.
The old Olympia disc of Szabelski’s orchestral music (from Polskie Nagrania LPs) has been long out of print, so it is very exciting to see this new disc coming from DUX (it would have been even more exciting to see some previously unreleased pieces from Szabelski’s relatively small output, but I’ll settle for this). It contains new recordings of the Toccata (1936) and Concerto grosso (1954). After that comes the music of Szabelski’s student, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (not Mikołaj Górecki, as the DUX site would have us believe – that’s the name of H.M.Górecki’s son, who is also a composer): the under-appreciated and rarely heard Three Dances op. 34. Górecki’s music is followed by that of, in turn, his pupil, Eugeniusz Knapik. One of my two favorite “Stalowa Wola Generation” composers. His piece is the song cycle La flute de jade for soprano and orchestra (have never heard it). Performers are: Bożena Harasimowicz (soprano) and the Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra under Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk. I must say I greatly appreciate the idea of building a disc around a teacher-student, generation-after-generation concept. Really looking forward to this.
(The catalog number is DUX 0732.)
Sorry the blog has been sort of lifeless recently. I’ve been busy with thesis formalities over the last month and a half. The second review came in (in September), I had to get my final exam (a viva of sorts) scheduled, get prepared for it, pass it, get my “defence” scheduled, prepare for that (write a refutation of the reviews and put together a presentation of my thesis), and get through with that as well. And then I had to wait for official approval. As of this Tuesday I am allowed to use my new title. 😉
Anyway, this post will be very vaguely related with what I usually write about, but the last 10 days or so in my life have been all about pdf editing. I am involved in the preparation of a Festschrift for a professor I owe a lot to. I’ve been called in as a sort of last minute replacement. The volume was supposed to come out by early November, for the professor’s birthday. But some of the main actors are having health problems, there are also funding issues. It became clear that the book won’t be published until some time next year (and it’s already 2 years in the making). So a group of people decided to prepare a sort of home-made advance copy: have one copy of the text professionally printed and bound. But in order to do that, we had to be able to enter last-minute corrections in the texts. We got the pdf-s of the prepared book from the publisher. The only problem was: how can we easily make corrections in pdf files? Thus began my quest for a cheap and easy to use pdf editor.
I was looking for 2 things:
1) The ability to make corrections in the text, such as deleting words, correcting typos etc. Preferably without having to worry about fitting the text into the space of a line/paragraph.
2) The ability to change paragraph alignment. Through an oversight the entire book is aligned to the left, and we would like it to be justified.
Now, odd as it may seem, there aren’t that many programs around that can do both of those things easily. In fact, out of the 5 pdf editors I have now tried (the top 5 that came up in a Google search) – only one can do both of those things. Heck, only one can do either of them! Yeah, I was surprised…
There are pdf editors around which allow you to edit the text content in a pdf. But most of them allow you to edit only one line at a time. So if you remove too much text, the line is left empty-looking, and you are forced to “manually” move a word or two from the line below. I hope you get my drift: you have to edit every single line of the paragraph one by one, deleting from below the words you have just inserted above. The same goes for inserted text: if it’s too long, you have to personally deal with the part that “sticks out” – move it to the line below, and possibly move the text that’s left over in that line to the one below it. Etc. Etc. Quite a chore.
I can’t rule out the possibility that the editors I have tried do in fact have a workaround for all that. But it certainly isn’t readily available and I don’t have the time to read lengthy manuals at the moment. Especially since one program is capable of performing the task without a problem. It’s called The Infix PDF Editor (from Iceni Technology). First of all, what you get to edit here is not a line but the entire paragraph, with the text automatically flowing between lines. So if there are too many characters in a line, Infix automatically makes all the readjustments. It will even add an additional line to the paragraph if necessary.
The second task, changing text alignment, seems even more difficult for most pdf editors. In fact, of the ones that I’ve tried, Infix appears to be the only one which has that option! Perhaps others have it too, but it’s hidden somewhere. In Infix the alignment icons are part of the default toolbar. So it’s all done as in a standard text editor.
Now, I’m not the sort of person who talks all about their experience with a new piece of software unasked, even when that experience is very pleasurable. But as it happens, the people at Iceni Technology are implementing a clever viral campaign. They promise to reward people who describe their positive Infix experiences with a free lincense. Now, as pdf editors go, Infix is quite inexpensive (a license to edit 3 documents costs 30 dollars). But since what I’ve written above is a sincere description of my experience, I see nothing wrong in sharing it with other people, and hopefully Iceni will reward me with a license, and I’ll save some money. I’ll let you know if they did in the comments section below.
(The demo version of their program is fully functional but leaves a watermark on all pages of an edited document. You can remove the watermark at any point, once you get a license. At least that’s what they say – I haven’t had a chance to try yet.)
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):
(a Polish label, not to be confused with the French one called Accord)
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)
Concerto (1994) for piano and orchestra (Ewa Pobłocka, Warsaw Philharmonic – National Orchestra of Poland/Kazimierz Kord)
Drei Lieder nach Trakl (Agata Zubel, Marcin Grabosz)
A due (1991) for 2 violins (Bartłomiej Nizioł, Jarosław Pietrzak)
(box and individual disc)
A due (1991) for 2 violins (Bartłomiej Nizioł, Jarosław Pietrzak) [same recording as on DUX 0398]
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)
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
[no cover art found]
Two Studies (Angela Tosheva)
Through the looking glass… III (1994) for harpsichord (version 1) (Elżbieta Chojnacka)
Polskie Radio Katowice
(Polish Radio Katowice)
Two Pieces (1982) for string quartet (Akademos Quartet)
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)
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)
Here’s an interesting article by Anne Applebaum from The Washington Post (appeared on their site yesterday).
Two quotes to give you the gist of what she’s saying:
1. No German chancellor wants any of Germany’s neighbors to doubt that Germany is still very sorry about 1939 (even if some are rather indifferent). And none wants Germany’s neighbors to fear German aggression today.
2. Last weekend, Russian state television ran a long documentary essentially arguing that Stalin was justified in ordering the 1939 invasion of Poland and the Baltic states — and in making a secret deal with Hitler — on the grounds that Poland itself was in a “secret alliance” with the Nazis. […]
But from the perspective of the Russian ruling elite, such interpretations make sense: By praising Stalin’s aggression toward the Soviet Union’s neighbors 70 years ago, they help justify Russia’s aggression toward its neighbors today, at least in the eyes of the Russian public. Certainly they serve to make Russia’s Central European neighbors anxious
Anyway: lots of sensitive issues, and certainly a thought-provoking read, whether one agrees with Applebaum’s stance or not. To many Western readers some of her interpretations may seem almost paranoid. After all, the Russian gestures she mentions are only slightly menacing. Isn’t she reading too much into them? I don’t know. I’d like to believe she is but, frankly, I don’t feel confident about it…
The Russian documentary Applebaum mentions (it has met with outrage over here but I’m not sure if it has been noticed anywhere else in the world) is just one example of an extremely worrying trend (and not a new one by any means). Another is this interview in Komsomolskaya Pravda (in Russian, from last week) with professor Natalia Narochnitskaya – a historian. The interview is an unsettling example of the sort of historical thinking that seems to be rather popular in modern-day Russia. It is filled to the brim with extremely disturbing statements.
Here’s one illustration: Narochnitskaya attempts to justify (not just explain) the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, saying, among other things, that the territories it guaranteed to Russia were rightfully hers because, for example, the parts of Ukraine and Belarus which were within Polish borders before the outbreak of WWII were in fact “territories of the Russian empire”. This little piece of muddled thinking (consider how small it is indeed!) is pernicious in many ways. I’ll name two. First of all, there’s the rather terrifying suggestion that Ukraine and Belarus (modern-day Ukraine and modern-day Belarus!) ought to be Russian territories. It may be what one might call “a fleeting suggestion” but it’s there. Then there’s the attempt to pit Ukraine, Belarus and Poland against each other. Divide et impera. Poland is an ardent supporter of the independence and political transformation towards democracy in both of those countries – what better way to weaken them than by alienating them from their supporter? There’s more one could say about Narochnitskaya’s statement (why would any country respect post-WWI borders?) but let’s stop here.
There are other strange and disturbing assertions in that interview. For example, the thought that Poland owes Russia an apology for… the Polish–Muscovite War! That’s the one that took place in the years 1605–1618 (in case you were wondering)…
And, yes, the slandering suggestion of a Polish “secret alliance” with the Nazis is here as well. Well, not really that. But Narochnitskaya claims that in 1939 the Polish government was trying to unite with Hitler against Ukraine. Note two things: Firstly, pure stipulation about an alliance that never came into being (if indeed there ever were any such attempts – after all, this may be fabrication or an intentional misreading of facts) is used to counterweight an alliance that not only existed but was acted upon (the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). What is more, she is pitting Ukraine and Poland against each other again!
But the highlight of the interview is the mention of alleged Polish war atrocities during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920. These were first brought up rather late, in 1990, when Gorbachev admitted that the Katyn massacre was a Soviet crime. It’s quite easy to understand why it took so long for these alleged Polish atrocities to be “revealed”, as well as the reason it happened at that specific opportune moment. The “controversy” was settled in 2004 by a team of historians from Poland and Russia who established that the high death toll in Polish POW camps – actually, many times smaller than what the accusers claimed, 5 times less than the number Narochnitskaya gives – was due to poor sanitary conditions and not to the deliberate starving of prisoners (or even less so: mass executions). What is really amazing (in a rather morbid sense) is how Narochnitskaya brings up those accusations (in an eerie re-enactment of what has already happened) in the context of the Katyn massacre (incidentally, she seems to be thinking that Russia has already done everything it ought to about Katyn – how about rehabilitating the victims, eh?). Could it be that Katyn denial is morphing, before our very eyes, into… how shall I call it?… Katyn justification? Shudder.
Perhaps this sort of thing should be disregarded as warmed-up Soviet propaganda. Maybe one should treat it as odd rather than menacing. Komsomolskaya Pravda (‘The Komsomol Truth’) is, after all, considered a tabloid. Personally, I would not dare to classify it all as anything less than disturbing.