The Beijing International Karol Szymanowski Festival put the works of Karol Szymanowski in the spotlight, introducing Chinese audiences to the composer's sophisticated, individual musical style.
The inaugural concert on the 5th of August went under the theme of Slavic and European avant-garde influences, featuring a recital of Szymanowski's works performed by Barbara Kubiak and Slawomir Dobrzanski. Virtuoso etudes, which gained the composer the reputation of an avant-garde artist of his time, were a special feature of the performance. The concert was held at the prestigious National Opera House. Higlights of the programme included "20 Mazurkas for Piano, Op. 50" and the virtuosic "Twelve Etudes for Piano", Op. 33. "Far away is the whole world", op. 2, songs from "Swan", Op. 7 and the famous "Song of Roxana" from the opera "King Roger", which won the hearts of the audience. Also hot were adopted "Kurpie Songs", Op. 58. For many in the audience it was the first opportunity to hear works by Szymanowski and they gave a very warm reception to the performance, with vibrant applause and a standing ovation at the end of the concert.
Sinfonietta Polonia arrived in Beijing after a series of performances in Inner Mongolia, performing a joint concert with the choir and musicians of the China National Symphony Orchestra at the Beijing Concert Hall on Saturday 6 August. That evening the repertoire featured The Sacred and the Profane programme, consisting of three compositions by Karol Szymanowski: "Stabat Mater, Op. 53", "Love Songs of Hafiz," "Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin," and "Requiem for the Earth" - the latter written by Chinese composer Xian Quan. Written after the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan in 2008, the work provides great creative scope for the Sinfonietta Polonia orchestra and choir. The grandness of the undertaking, which featured eight horn sections and a rich percussion section was unprecedented for the Polish orchestra. That evening, Szymanowski resounded in Beijing in three languages: "Love Songs of Hafiz" in German, "Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin" in Polish, "Stabat Mater" in Latin - performed to great audience applause.
In turn, on Sunday the 7th of August the Beijing Concert Hall was filled with the Polish composer's symphonic works, with "Symphonie Concertante", Op. 60 for piano and orchestra and "Symphony in B flat major, Op. 10". Based on the piano, "Symphony" bring in a splendid technique and a strong character on stage through the interpretation of Maria Masycheva, the Russian pianist - a winner of many awards of music, including the prestigious International Competition. Here the piano was not so much a solo instrument as one of the instruments of the orchestra, with which it enters into dialogue. In the Second Symphony Sinfonietta Polonia young musicians presented their full abilities in the most difficult piece of the whole festival, which was played with enthusiasm and passion and true belief. That evening's performance brought on many various emotions, characters and shapes of this monumental work. Excellent and faithful interpretation of the conductor's score Cheung Chau was combined with a precise, colourful and expressive sound of the orchestra and the balance of individual sections. Solos were performed by masters Blanka Bednarz and Marcin Zielinski, Zuzanna Fabijańczyk and Nicholas Olech. The part of the song,a five-minute-long fugue is quite a complicated movement and often proves difficult, however orchestra managed a skilled rendition, which was loudly applauded by the audience.
On the 8th of August, Atma Trio performed "Works of Friendship". The troupe is composed of Slawomir Dobrzanski on piano, Blanka Bednarz on violin and Cheung Chau on cello. Fryderyk Chopin's Trio in G minor, Op. 8 was performed in the second half of the concert. and attracted a great deal of music enthusiasts of all ages. The performance, led by Slawomir Dobrzański on piano, demonstrated the richness of Chopin's music, combining lyricism, folk influences and poetry, grace and movement.
Cheung Chau with eloquently spoke of Karol Szymanowski and his friendship and collaboration with longtime friend Paweł Kochański. Artists demonstrated the characteristic themes and sound tracks that moment later presented in full, in particular Blanka Bednarz with her exceptional, enchanting performance of "Myths", Op. 30. "Roxana's Song" in the performed through Cheung Chau cello was exceptional. Younger audiences reacted most vividly on "Danse sauvage (Wild Dance)" by Karol Szymanowski and Paul Kochanski.
The final concert of the festival, themed "Chopin and Szymanowski - Polish geniuses", was held on August 9 in the Forbidden City Concert Hall, which was filled that day to the brim. The programme included two works by Chopin - Grande Valse Brillante in E flat major, Op. 18 arranged for orchestra by Zdzislaw Szostak and Concerto in E minor for piano and orchestra, Op. 11 and I, Violin Concerto, Op. 35 by Karol Szymanowski. Anna Maria Staskiewicz and Sinfonietta Polonia's interpretation was listened to with great interest and rewarded with thunderous applause. Pianist Maria Masycheva gave Concerto in E minor a beautiful, lyrical sound, and the Sinfonietta Polonia stylish and musically accompanied by the artist. It is worth noting that the maestro Cheung Chau with his orchestra undertook a very ambitious and demanding task - four days of a diversified festival programme which require a great deal of skill and effort on the part of organisers and musicians.
Sinfonietta Polonia in China was also invited to participate in a multi-day recordings of Mongolian and Chinese folk songs, arranged for solo voice and orchestra by composer and arranger Mongolian Xinjiletu.
Text: Aniceta Cooper, APOLLO Music Foundation. Edited and translated by Agnieszka Le Nart
See more information on each of the events as part of the International Karol Szymanowski Festival in Beijing:
Chamber Music Concert to Inaugurate International Karol Szymanowski Festival
Chopin & Szymanowski - Polish Musical Genius
Szymanowski and Kochański - Works of Friendship in Concert
Sacrum & Profanum in Beijing
On the 15th and 16th of August, Karol Szymanowski's works take the stage once again in the Chinese capital with a concert at Beijing's CCoM / Central Conservatory of Music by the Szymanowski Quartet.
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Photo: "Works of Friendship" performed by Atma Trio photographed by Paweł Maciejewski