Masterful Interpretations by Leszek Możdżer
13.01.2018, 7:00 p.m.
The Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of the Polish Radio in Warsaw
The period after World War I was among the most „experimental” and diverse in the whole history of music. One of the many significant novelties that the musical world of the time was enthusiastic about was jazz, at first a niche genre of improvised music of the descendants of African-American slaves, which at the beginning of the 20th century emerged from the Mississippi delta and New Orleans, shaping new genres, styles and varieties, fascinating with its agitated rhythms, exotic harmonics, the liveliness of emotion and the virtuosity of the musicians. Musical forms with jazz provenance (such as the banjo-imitating ragtime) were no longer improvised, but composed and published. Jazz „orchestras” – big-bands – also appeared. A marriage of jazz with classical music (e.g. Milhaud, Strawiński) also quickly took place. One of the creators from this borderland was George Gershwin. The young musician quickly attracted the attention of all of America, including the leader of a known big band, Paul Whiteman, who commissioned Gershwin to compose a „jazz piano concerto”. The composed accepted the commission and began work at the beginning of 1924. Years later, he recalled that he had the first ideas during a train trip from New York to Boston – the noise, with the peculiar rhythms of the rattling wheels, as well as the passing metropolitan and industrial landscapes made the composition appear to him almost in its entirety as a „musical kaleidoscope of America”. He first set it on paper in a two-piano version and titled it American Rhapsody. On the advice of his brother and close collaborator, the author of many songs famous to this day, Ira Gershwin, he changed the title to Rhapsody in Blue, referring to the paintings of James McNeill Whistler, which frequently refer to the dominant colour (such as Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket). Here, the reference was to blues music, although it was not the only inspiration for the piece. The premiere took place on 12 February 1924 in New York. Gershwin himself played the piano, improvising most of what he played (he did not write out the piano part until after the concert). The success with the audience turned out to be stunning, marking the start of Gershwin’s other broadly outlined symphonic compositions with jazz motifs, such as Concerto in F, or the less well-known Second Rhapsody. The fruit of a triumphant tour of Europe, as well as contacts with outstanding French musicians, such as Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger, was the symphonic poem An American in Paris (1928), which is as popular as Rhapsody in Blue. It is, once again, an expression of fascination with the element of the city (the composer even used authentic hand-held car horns, imported from Paris for the New York premiere). The „blues” motifs are an expression of the eponymous tourist’s longing for his homeland, but they are surrounded by sounds with a typical Parisian esprit, stylised here in a very original way, referring to the achievements of a group of French composers, known as Les Six.
The title of Leszek Możdżer’s composition, 7 Miniatures for Improvising Piano and Strings promises pieces with an open form, shaped live during the concert (each of the miniatures can last from 5 to even 25 minutes!), the pianist and the string ensemble inspire each other, interacting with each other under the soloist’s coordination. The work is distinguished by its sonic euphony, a nostalgic and humorous look back at the „golden years of jazz”, which for the author is a kind of leap away from the main trend of his – often avant-garde, still boldly searching for new forms and sounds – creative work in the mainstream of the jazz music scene. The combination of the talent, virtuosity and creativity of Leszek Możdżer, whose extraordinary personality is one of the most interesting phenomena of contemporary Jazz, with the youthful passion of the musicians of the Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra, promises an extraordinary concert! It will be led by the group’s artistic director, Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk.
Leszek Możdżer | piano
Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk | conductor
Leszek Możdżer 7 miniatures for improvising piano and strings
George Gershwin An American in Paris | Rhapsody in Blue
Tickets: in the box office of W. Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio one hour before the concert