Publisher | Polskie Radio S.A. Agencja Muzyczna
Catalogue no. | PRCD 2289
Date | 2019
Roman Statkowski Overture to the Opera „Maria”
Stanisław Moryto Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra
Antoni Szałowski Overture for Orchestra
Piotr Moss Cello Concerto No. 2 “Prières”
Tomasz Strahl | cello
Jerzy Semkow Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk | conductor
The celebration of the centenary of Polish independence resulted in numerous cultural initiatives, focused first and foremost on reminding of the great Polish literary, artistic and musical heritage, the period of servitude and the period of freedom. Presenting Polish music has always been a significant part of the Jerzy Semkow Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra’s mission. After more than a decade of its fruitful activity, the Orchestra can boast an impressively extensive artistic output serving this purpose, including concerts and music records. During their concerts in Poland and abroad, as well as in recording studios, the ensemble has performed countless musical pieces that belong to the canon of 19th and 20th century concerto music, and, what is of particular value, works of less known or forgotten artists, pieces that are hardly accessible in editions and has been rarely recorded, and, in addition to this, new musical works composed in this century that has just been included in the concert repertoire. This direction in the Orchestra’s work is exemplified by the programme of this album, featuring the recording of a concert performed on June 22, 2018, devoted entirely to Polish music of the twentieth and twenty-first century, which showcased outstanding cellist Tomasz Strahl. The two cello concertos – by Stanisław Moryto and by Piotr Moss – featured in the programme are the perfect way to show off the versatility of this artist’s talent in a single evening. The concert was also a celebration of Piotr Moss’s dual anniversary, as in 2019 he celebrated his 70th birthday and 50 years of his artistic work. Furthermore, at that day he was awarded a Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis.
Roman Statkowski’s career illustrates the struggles faced by the composers of his generation. Talented and well educated (inter alia at St. Petersburg State Conservatory, under the guidance of Nikolai Soloview and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakow, the master of orchestration ), he had great ambitions as an opera composer, but tough political circumstances, as well as material and organisational conditions limiting the musical life of Warsaw at the turn of the twentieth century, did not enable him to reach his full potential. His 1897 opera Philenis, an exceptional piece set in ancient Greece that uses interesting archaic stylizations, waited many years for recognition, as it was staged not until 1904 (thanks to Emil Młynarski’s support), after it won a prize at a contest in London. Encouraged by the success, Statkowski soon composed his next stage piece, an opera Maria based on Antoni Malczewski’s verse novel. When it premiered in 1906, it was considered one of the best opera pieces of the post-Moniuszko period (sadly, soon forgotten…). The orchestral intro features impressive symphonic panache and a dramatic motif transporting listeners into events taking place in the Borderlands in the seventeenth century.
The interwar period is represented by the witty, lively and colourful Overture for Orchestra by Antoni Szałowski. The artist, after graduating from the Warsaw Conservatory in early 1930s, left to Paris (where he stayed until his death in 1973) to continue his education under the guidance of Nadia Boulanger, who gained recognition for her excellent teaching skills and was particularly beloved by Polish composers. Although the mistress gave their pupils considerable freedom in choosing their artistic path, it was Boulanger’s own preferences, turning towards neoclassical music, that left mark on the generations of her learners, hence consolidating the preference for this genre also in Poland – Szałowski’s Overture is a great example of this phenomenon.
The two cello concerts by Tomasz Strahl are only ten years apart, and yet they belong to two different centuries. The work by Stanisław Moryta from 1992 (dedicated to the memory of cellist Zbigniew Kycia, Moryta’s friend) is saturated with dramatic, elegiac expression, as expressed in the character of each movement: Drammatico / Lugubre / Aggresivo; It includes a quotation from a moving Polish passion song from the Renaissance Płaczże dzisiaj (Oh, cry today) and accentuates the great virtuosity of the cello part. The preview performance of the piece took place at the Kamień Pomorski festival on July 7, 1993. It was played by Andrzej Wróbel (together with the string section of the Koszalin Philharmonic conducted by Szymon Kawalla). The composition, regarded as one of the most exceptional in the author’s career, was particularly promoted and beloved by Tomasz Strahl, who performed it on tens of occasions and spoke about it in such words: “A very impressive piece, where the cello laughs and weeps, with the beautiful sound and dramaturgy. It lets the soloist showcase their skills’. Tomasz Strahl first recorded the Concerto at a radio studio with a band Concerto Avenna conducted by Andrzej Mysiński and included it on his album Moryto. Shostakovich (DUX) with Silesian Chamber Orchestra conducted by Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk.
Among the last generation of the aforementioned Nadia Boulanger’s pupils there is also an incredibly versatile artist, who has been residing in France for decades, but still constantly appears on Polish stages – Piotr Moss (his other renowned mentors include Grażyna Bacewicz, Piotr Perkowski and Krzysztof Penderecki). His Cello Concerto No. 2 titled Prières (Prayers) was composed in 2003 and premiered in Poland, performed by Tomasz Strahl of the NPRSO in 2005. As Ewa Szczecińska described it in her review after the Premiere Festival in Katowice, it is “a dramatic work resembling a prayer with a wide, elaborate narration, a concert where the cello solo (fantastic Tomasz Strahl) and howling, begging and lyrically humming phrases of each instrument of the orchestra are equally important. Music that is dark, monumental and grotesque at the same time, with its leitmotif reappearing like memento mori;” “Carnival struggles against fasting in Prières by Moss – that is how I interpret this music. Dramatic, multi-layered, dense with emotional thoughts and states, stylistically located somewhere between Shostakovich, Lutosławski and Kancheli. An important Polish cello concerto.” [Piotr Maculewicz]
Sound engineering, editing and mastering: Tadeusz Mieczkowski
Sound engineer’s assistant: Klementyna Mieczkowska
Recorded live at the Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of the Polish Radio, Warsaw, June 22, 2019
CD available: https://bit.ly/39jgaNv
Financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the Multi-annual Programme NIEPODLEGŁA 2017-2022