An international group of contemporary musicians presented works by some of Poland's most illustrious composers. Pieces by prominent Polish composers Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010), Witold Lutosławski (1913-2003) and Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) form the repertoire for Polish Contemporary Music Across Europe with Friends.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,
photo: Robert Taylor
An international group of contemporary musicians presented works by some of Poland's most illustrious composers
Pieces by prominent Polish composers Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010), Witold Lutosławski (1913-2003) and Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) form the repertoire for Polish Contemporary Music Across Europe with Friends. In particular, Górecki’s 1963 "Three Pieces in Old Style" feature, as does Lutosławski’s "Cello Concerto", commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, originally written for Mstislav Rostropovich in 1970. English composer Peter Maxwell Davies’ Overture, "St. Francis of Assisi", which premiered in 2009, partners the Polish composers' works, with the programme closing with Szymanowski’s "Violin Concerto No.2" (1933), a work characterised by Polish folk music and an infinitely inventive solo violin.
Jakob Kullberg (Denmark) – cello
Giovanni Guzzo (Italy/Venezuela) – violin
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (UK)
Christopher Austin (UK) – conductor
Górecki, Three Pieces in an Old Style for string orchestra (1963)
Górecki wrote the Three Pieces in an Old Style for string orchestra in response to a friendly charge made by Tadeusz Ochlewski, (the director of the publishing house PWM) that his music lacks melody. As the title suggests, the work refers to the style of the old ages, a characteristic which first appeared in Górecki's music in the 1960s. The third of the Three Pieces uses the tenor part from a four-voice anonymous 16th century song "Pieśń o weselu najjaśniejszego króla Sygmunta wtórego" / "Song on the Wedding of His Majesty King Sigismund the Second". The archaic elements are combined with folk motifs, the second piece being a folk dance. The work was first performed by the ensemble "Con Moto Ma Cantabile" under Tadeusz Ochlewski in Warsaw on the 30th of April 1964.
Lutosławski, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1970) ‘25’
The Cello Concerto, unlike any other work by Lutosławski, was viewed from the beginning as a programme piece. Lutosławski categorically rejected any political interpretations of his music, explaining only the general idea of the Concerto as a conflict between an individual and the whole society. According to the composer, the drama can be interpreted in theatrical terms, without any references to real events. According to Krzysztof Meyer, Lutosławski's biographer, the one-part Cello Concerto can be interpreted as consisting of four "acts", of which the first is an introduction presenting both parties in the "drama" - the soloist and the orchestra, or- the individual and society. The second is made up of four episodes in which, unlike in a classical drama, the parties seem to attempt a "reconciliation". The third act is a lyrical cantilena, while the last brings a symphonic finale with the "triumph of the individual".
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. The piece premièred on the 14th of October 1970 in London with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Downes. The cello part was performed by Mstislav Rostropovich.
Maxwell Davies Overture, 'St. Francis of Assisi' Op.302 (London première)
Peter Maxwell Davies' composition was inspired by "visits to Italy, consequent rereading of source material including near-contemporary biographies by Belano and St. Bonaventure, Francis’s own writings, and modern studies by Julien Green and Anthony Mockler." The work is inspired by the plainsong 'Franciscus, pauper et humilis', although the imagined setting is Kirkwall rather than Assisi. Davies claims that this "certainly affects the work’s sound world." The work was first performed in 2009 by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with conductor Ilan Volkov in Glasgow's City Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performance will be the London premiere.
Szymanowski, "Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 2 Op. 61"
Szymanowski composed his second "Concerto for violin and orchestra Op. 61" at the request of highly accomplished violinist Paweł Kochański. Written in 1932-3, "Concerto No. 2" is very different from the first one - primarily in the sparing use of technical means. The dominant role is played by the changes of colour - the evolutions of chord sounds, virtuoso figurations and melodic motifs.
"Violin Concerto No. 2" was first performed by Paweł Kochański and orchestra under the direction of Grzegorz Fitelberg at the Warsaw Philharmonic on 6th October 1933: the last public performance of the acclaimed violinist. When submitting the score for publication, Szymanowski, deeply moved by his friend's death, added the following dedication: "A la memoire du Grand Musicien, mon cher et inoubliable Ami, Paul Kochański" [To the memory of the Great Musician, my dear and unforgettable Friend, Paweł Kochański].
After World War II the "Concerto No. 2" featured in the repertoires of such virtuoso violinists as Eugenia Umińska, Henryk Szeryng, Vadim Brodsky, and, more recently, Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Wanda Wiłkomirska, Roman Lasocki, Kaja Danczowska, Thomas Zehetmair, and Frank Peter Zimmermann.
Date: 25th of October, 2011 (7.30pm)
Venues: Cadogan Hall, London
Organised by: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Polish Music Information Centre POLMIC
Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute