Symphonic Concert – Szymanowski | Strauss | Rimski-Korsakow
20 May 2017, 7:00 pm
The Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio, Warsaw
Among the numerous works inspired by the fascinating colours of the Orient, Scheherazade (1887) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is one of the most iconic and popular ones. The Russian composer, one of five members of The Mighty Handful – a non-formal group of composers seeking to revive the national spirit of Russian classical music – was renowned for his great sensitivity to the refinement of orchestral colours and textures. His virtuosity in handling a symphony was unparalleled and has inspired numbers of authors to come (also due to his widely translated treaty Principles of orchestration). The four-movement symphonic suite based on One Thousand and One Nights reveals the entire artistry, employed here to reproduce the mysterious sounds of the Arabian stories. Elements of the style include also arabesque-like ornaments (the musical symbol of Scheherazade) and melodic turns that refer to oriental scales. The beauty and originality of the piece, which has been frequently rearranged (also in the form of ballets), has won the composer a widespread acclaim.
The German novelist and poet Clemens Brentano, a representative of early “Heidelberg Romanticism”, has come down in history primarily as an editor and publisher (together with Achim von Arnim) of the monumental collection of German folk songs Des Knaben Wunderhorn. It turned a valuable inspiration for many composers (Gustav Mahler drew from it generously, but also Richard Strauss wrote music to several poems from this collection). Brentano’s original poems are less popular – most of them were not published during his life. They disclose echoes of the author’s fascination with the poetry he collected – simple in form, leaning towards Classicism, they speak rather with suggestive images than elaborate metaphors. It was clearly the “painterly” quality of selected poems that bewitched Richard Strauss and inspired him to compose in 1918 the cycle of optimistic Brentano-Lieder which, first and foremost, seem to be an apotheosis of the artistry of coloratura singing. Further pieces bring a gradation of movement and vocal virtuosity and the singing is accompanied by a multicoloured orchestra, which, although enormous, here is treated as a quasi-chamber ensemble, changing almost from bar to bar, sensual, startling with the abundance of colour and harmonies, highlighting perfectly the phrases of the poetic text.
Vocal ornamentations (also in the form of impressive vocalises), sensuality, oriental allusions and rich harmonies are characteristic also of Karol Szymanowski’s cycle Songs of the Fairy-tale Princess (1915). The siblings of the famous composer displayed many talents – brother Feliks was a gifted pianist, older sister Stanisława – a singer, and the younger one – Zofia – had literary ambitions. It was her to pen the songs’ lyrics (and Karol dedicated his arrangements to her). Encouraged with the success of the original version for voice and piano, Szymanowski orchestrated in 1933 three of six songs and Ewa Bandrowska-Turska was their first performer. During the concert, all vocal compositions will be presented by Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha – soloist of such theatres as the Krakow Opera, praised on many stages in Poland and abroad, particularly for her excellent coloratura parts (she is currently among the most excellent Queens of the Night). Her impressive portfolio includes also magnificent leading roles, including Rosina, Donna Anna, Violetta and many more. The versatile talent allows her to successfully perform also the vast oratorio and song repertoire of various epochs and styles. Also the evening’s conductor – Tomasz Tokarczyk – is engaged with the superb Krakow Opera as its Music Director. Except for highly-praised theatre stagings, which include well-received premieres, he has carried out fruitful concert and phonographic collaborations with a number of the best Polish and foreign orchestras.
Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha – sopran
Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Tomasz Tokarczyk – conductor
Szymanowski – Pieśni księżniczki z baśni op. 31
Strauss – 6 Brentano Lieder op.68
Rimski-Korsakow – Scheherazade op. 35