31 January 2020 at 7:00 p.m.
Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw
Tymoteusz Bies – piano
Jerzy Semkow Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Paweł Przytocki – conductor
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini op. 43
Symphony No. 2 in E minor op. 27
phot. B. Barczyk
Sergei Rachmaninoff was among those composers who was born ‘too late’, who continued to look into the past and refused to abandon the romantic ideal, even if it seemed outdated. In 1897, the young composer entrusted the acclaimed composer and conductor, Alexander Glazunov, with the first performance of his Symphony No. 1 – a performance that turned out to be an utter failure. Glazunov reportedly conducted poorly and after an insufficient number of attempts, contributed to the failure of the work, which sent Rachmaninoff into a deep depression and almost ended his career as a composer. He decided to present his next work four years later, Piano Concerto No. 2, whose success restored his faith in his own capabilities and became a turning point in his wonderful career, which soon extended beyond Russia. A few years later, he created another symphonic masterpiece with Symphony No. 2, received this time with appreciation (1908), although many critics did not like the excessive length of the work, whose original version lasted about an hour! The author later subjected the pieces to subsequent editing, shortening them significantly. Symphony No. 2 was to some extent a development of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s symphonic ideas – neo-romantic, expressive, full of pathos and drama, with rich chromatic harmonics and colourful instrumentation; it is also very ‘Russian’ in spirit, although it does not contain many obvious excerpts of national music. Alongside his monumental piano concertos, it has become one of the artist’s most popular works, admired on concert stages around the globe for over a century.
Almost two decades later (1934), one of the composer’s last works and the last one for piano and orchestra was written: the daring Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The fascinating piece is a set of variations on the 24th Caprice written by the legendary Italian violinist – captivating for listeners of this hypnotic work, as well as for many composers. Since then, at least 60 works have been added by significant composers, who included an excerpt of, transcribed, or created their own variation on this piece! (These include Brahms, Liszt, Ysaÿe, Szymanowski, Skrowaczewski, Lutosławski, etc.). Rachmaninoff work represents one of the most monumental and difficult pieces for piano, a true test for only the most skilled virtuosos.
During the January concert, 25-year-old Tymoteusz Bies will demonstrate his artistry, which is inspiring increasing delight among listeners and critics who see him as one of the most promising talents of the young generation. His numerous successes include a double triumph at the Karol Szymanowski International Music Competition in Katowice (2018), when he received first prize in the piano category and a special prize for the best performance of a piece by Karol Szymanowski. The concert will be led by outstanding conductor Paweł Przytocki, artistic director of the Arthur Rubenstein Łódź Philharmonic since the 2017/2018 season. Russian music is particularly close to his heart – his recording of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 1 was honoured by American music magazine La Folia, and Warsaw audiences also appreciated, among others, his conducting of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, presented on the stage of the Teatr Wielki. [Piotr Maculewicz]