Arkadiusz Krupa cor anglais
Aleksandar Marković conductor
Krzysztof Penderecki Adagietto from Paradise Lost for cor anglais and string orchestra [5’]
Paweł Mykietyn Ash for orchestra (world premiere) * [25’]
Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D major Titan [55’]
I. Langsam, schleppend – Immer sehr gemächlich
II. Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
III. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
IV. Stürmisch bewegt – Energisch
* work dedicated to Sinfonia Varsovia
“There are pieces that were created spontaneously, written from start to finish. Especially the short ones, such as the Adagietto from Paradise Lost,” Krzysztof Penderecki confided to Mieczysław Tomaszewski in Rozmowy Lusławickie (The Lusławice Conversations). This lapidary confession points to the importance of the short Adagietto in the rich legacy of the composer of Black Mask. Special and symbolic as it is, the less than six-minute Adagietto was born out of a single motif that Penderecki “somehow couldn’t get over”. It took a long time for this episode of sacra rappresentazione to receive a new instrumental form and autonomy. Commissioned by Chicago’s Lyric Opera to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the United States, Paradise Lost was written in 1976–78. The Adagietto in a version for English horn and string orchestra was re-composed in 2006. It appears in the second act of Paradise Lost, revolving around human’s first amorous raptures. It refers to a mythical moment of innocence, hence probably the softness and warm tone of this music, yet the climax seems remarkably dramatic. Could it be that the composer’s thoughts have gone far away, into a completely different space? Could it be that Penderecki is here foretelling the future unrest and downfalls of humankind? Fortunately, the Adagietto successfully avoids simple answers.
“Composing is like playing with building blocks, during which new constructions are created again and again from the same elements” is how Gustav Mahler once explained his method of creative work to Natalie Bauer-Lechner. The Austrian viola player, who was close friends with the composer, meticulously jotted down his thoughts; thanks to her diaries and notes, modern musicologists were able to clarify many of the riddles and clues that appear in Mahler’s great symphonies. Numerous quotations and borrowings can be pointed out in his scores – from himself, from others, from folk or popular music. These small elements became the building blocks for great, symphonic constructions. They are virtually everywhere in Mahler’s musical worlds, but perhaps the easiest instance to pinpoint is the Symphony No. 1. It was a long time in the making – the essential work on it was done in 1884–88, but Mahler continued to revise and polish the work in 1893, 1896, and 1897–98, just before publication.
One can’t help thinking that this vast musical space is born from the first, primal motif – first used in the introduction (Langsam), and then repeated and developed. It is not original; the composer took it from his own cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer). It’s not just the first thought that he took; after all, Mahler also returned to the musical matter of these songs in the following chapters of his monumental story. The premiere of the original version of the piece took place in Budapest on November 20, 1889. The audience listened to an extended symphonic poem consisting of two chapters, further divided into smaller “paragraphs”. All bore programmatic titles. The first part, Aus den Tagen der Jugend (From the Times of Youth), consisted of Frühling und kein Ende (Endless Spring), Blumine and Mit vollen Segeln (Under Full Sails); the second part, Commedia humana, consisted of: Todtenmarsch in Callots Manier (Funeral March in Callot’s Manner) and the finale Dall’Inferno al Paradiso (From Hell to Paradise).
With the removal of Blumine (borrowed from the incidental music for the drama Der Trompeter von Säkkingen), the abandonment of titles, and the revision of instrumentation, the First Symphony took on its traditional shape. However, in order to understand its content and not get lost in its musical exuberance, it is useful to refer back to the first, programmatic ideas. Thus, the first movement weaves an idyllic tale of primordial nature, springtime and the awakening of life. The scherzo, cleverly combining ländler and waltz rhythms, is quintessentially ludic. It contrasts sharply with the gloomy and grotesque Funeral March (based on the theme of the popular canon Bruder Martin, better known to the English-speaking audience as Frère Jacques). The finale, on the other hand – according to Mahler’s explanations inspired by Jean Paul’s poem Titan – would be “an image of a battle in which a distant victory approaches”. The Symphony’s final movement should have a cathartic and liberating effect. Unlike in his later works, Mahler was very generous with his grandiloquent optimism in this piece.
Symphony No. 1 is remarkable for yet another reason: it contains ideas essential to Mahler’s entire future oeuvre, namely, combining the symphonic element with song (vocal lyricism) and the use of extra-musical scenarios – albeit hidden in this case. Finally, there is something in Symphony No. 1 that is most essential to Mahler’s work: the theme of the struggle between life and death – which, for now, seems to point to an optimistic conclusion.
Marcin Majchrowski (Polish Radio)
Ash was commissioned by Sinfonia Varsovia in 2022 to celebrate the orchestra’s 39th anniversary. I decided to write a piece “without contours”, in which sound becomes a pulsating – once faster, once slower – wave. The basic parameters for shaping the piece are harmony, timbre and, above all, dynamics. The ability of successive sounds to emerge and hide gives an a priori impression of multiple planes, and I guess that’s what polyphony was all about. The rather static nature of the piece may not give the magnificent musicians of Sinfonia Varsovia room for strictly virtuosic displays, but it is an expression of admiration for the beauty of the sound of their instruments. In a way, Ash has something of the first movement of 3 for 13 – only slowed down many times.
Sinfonia Varsovia has been a constant presence in my life since my early days in the music world. In 1995, under the direction of Jerzy Maksymiuk, it premiered my 3 for 13.
Later, I went through my microtonal stage together with the orchestra in Hommage à Oskar Dawicki and polytemporal explorations with the Second Cello Concerto, and more recently Sinfonia Varsovia performed my quasi-synesthetic Voyelles with voice and lights. We have also recorded together three film soundtracks I consider personally important: Andrzej Wajda’s Tatarak, Jan Hryniak’s Trick, and most recently Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.
I hope to have the opportunity to work with the wonderful musicians of Sinfonia Varsovia many more times.