RAVEL | MUSSORGSKY
6 November 2021, 7:00 p.m.
Witold Lutosławski Polish Radio Concert Studio,
Paweł Kowalski | piano
Jerzy Semkow Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Jerzy Maksymiuk | conductor
Maurice Ravel – Piano Concerto in G Major
Modest Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. by M. Ravel)
Paweł Kowalski – photo Bartosz Szustakowski; Jerzy Maksymiuk – photo Artist’s archives
In August 1873, Victor Hartmann, Russian painter, book illustrator and architect, suddenly died at the age of 39; soon after his death, he was commemorated with a retrospective exhibition of his works. Modest Mussorgsky, who was in great pain after his friend’s demise, said that he perceived the paintings, drawings and sketches in a very “musical” way – as he looked at the works presented at the exhibition, themes and melodies were appearing in his mind. He wrote them down as soon as possible and in June 1874, Pictures at an Exhibition, referred to as the composer himself as the “album”, were finished. In the album, he translates Hartmann’s visions into sounds, connecting them together with the motif of a Promenade – a symbol of moving from one exhibition room to another. What is interesting, most inspirations for the cycle, which was to become an emblem of Russian music of that time, were drawn from Hartmann’s voyages outside Russia. The splendour of the history of Russia, however, is also shown in the Great Gate of Kiev, inspired by an architectural project that has never been implemented. It is hard to believe that Mussorgsky’s brilliant cycle was hardly noticed when the composer was alive. It was appreciated only in the 20th century, particularly due to stunning orchestration by Ravel (1922), who was captivated by the “symphonism” of Mussorgsky’s miniatures’ complicated piano texture.
“My will was to write a true concerto – a piece that is witty and that clearly exposes the soloist’s virtuoso skills without excessive solemnity. I was inspired by two musicians who, in my opinion, were the authors of the best examples of such compositions: Mozart and Saint-Saëns. That is why I originally wanted to name the piece divertissement” – Maurice Ravel commented on his late masterpiece created over long years. His final inspiration was a trip to the USA and his fascination with excellent orchestras and live-playing jazz bands; his original plan was also to make Basque music themes the foundation of the concerto. The colourful, showy and sophisticated piece will be performed by Paweł Kowalski, one of the most versatile Polish musicians, boasting an extensive repertoire from Mozart and Chopin to Panufnik, Kilar and Górecki, chamber music, film scores and jazz. The pianist was the first one after Christin Zimmermann to perform Witold Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto, which he played in Warsaw under the composer’s baton.
The concert’s main attraction will be presence of Maestro Jerzy Maksymiuk, celebrating his 85th birthday this year, who will conduct the event. Nearly half a decade ago he won the hearts of music lovers as a charismatic leader of the Polish Chamber Orchestra, and still it was only one of his numerous activities. He conducted, and still conducts, many ensembles in Poland and abroad, evoking admiration for his inexhaustible, impressive energy that seems to radiate upon all musicians and listeners. [pmac]