|Polish Music Newsletter
November 2005, Vol. 11, No. 11. ISSN 1098-9188. Published monthly.
Los Angeles: Polish Music Center, University of Southern California
Bovard Auditorium, USC Campus The Polish Music Center at USC and the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles present a Gala Concert celebrating Polish Independence Day and the donation of manuscripts by Henry Vars to the Polish Music Center. Performers for this festive concert include the USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra, Shelly Berg, director, with Guest Conductor Gabriel Alegría. The program features a selection of the original big-band numbers written by Vars in Poland in the late 1920s and the 1930s (including the New York Times Foxtrot, the first jazz piece written by a Polish composer), hit songs from the pre-war Polish films, and songs written in the 1950s-1970s in the United States for performers such as Margaret Whiting, Bing Crosby, Mel Torme and Doris Day. Henry Vars (1902-1977) was the Polish equivalent of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin. A prolific composer of film, cabaret and stage music, he was also a conservatory-trained musician, whose symphonic works were only recently discovered in Los Angeles and given a world premiere at a festival dedicated to his music in Poland in June 2005. The manuscripts of Vars' symphonic works, including Symphony No. 1, a three-movement symphonic suite entitled City Sketches, a Piano Concerto, and Maalot-Elegy for Orchestra, alongside numerous drafts and arrangements, are among the papers donated to the Polish Music Center by the composer's family. A resident of Los Angeles since 1947, Henry Vars worked in the Hollywood film industry, scoring numerous motion pictures for all of the major studios. Some of his most memorable songs were recently used in Spielberg's Schindler's List and Polanski's Pianist. Vars' score for Flipper, a film about a boy and his dolphin friend, became as famous around the world as Vars' countless pre-war compositions that remain popular in Poland to this day, such as Miło¶ć ci wszystko wybaczy [Love Forgives All], Już nie zapomnisz mnie [You'll Never Forget Me] and Sex Appeal. For more information on Henry Vars, read his biography. The composer's widow, Elizabeth, and members of the Vars family will be present at the event. The Dean of the Thornton School of Music, Dr. Robert Cutietta, the Consul General of the Republic of Poland, Krystyna Tokarska-Biernacik, and members of the diplomatic corps will also be among the guests of honor in attendance.
The renowned Polish-born composer, Marta Ptaszyńska, had completed a week-long residence at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles during the month of October. Invited by the Polish Music Center at the USC Thornton School of Music, she was the 2005 Paderewski Lecturer, an honor previously held by Stanisław Skrowaczewski in 2004, Joanna Bruzdowicz in 2003, and Zygmunt Krauze in 2002. A flagship event for the Polish Music Center, the Paderewski Lecture-Recital is an annual presentation, designed to introduce the most prominent Polish musicians to audiences in the Los Angeles area. This event commemorates and highlights Paderewski's special links to the State of California and USC, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1923.
Marta Ptaszyńska currently holds the distinguished Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professorship at the University of Chicago. A virtuoso percussionist and a world-famous composer who studied with Witold Lutosławski, Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen, Marta Ptaszyńska's music has been performed by leading orchestras and ensembles throughout the world, including the BBC, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Polish Chamber Orchestra, and Sinfonia Varsovia, among others. Commissioned by numerous soloists and contemporary music ensembles, Marta Ptaszyńska's music is featured on MUZA, Polygram, Olympia, Chandos, and Dux labels.
Marta Ptaszyńska's visit on the USC campus included numerous meetings with students and master classes with the USC Percussion Ensemble, led by Prof. Erik Forrester. There were several performances of Prof. Ptaszyńska's music on the USC campus as well. The October 12th Music at Noon Concert Series featured Ptaszyńska's Mobile, a fascinating composition for two percussionists, playing a large array of drums, gongs, marimbas, xylophones, wood blocks, cymbals, and bells. Constructed as a set of short etudes to be played in a sequence chosen by the performers, Ptaszyńska's Mobile cleverly explored a seemingly endless variety of textures available from this battery of instruments.
The Paderewski Lecture, held in Newman Recital Hall on October 14th opened with a brief song for voice and piano by Paderewski, then continued with Prof. Ptaszyńska's address on the issues of color and form in her music. Describing her own approach to the art of composition, Marta Ptaszyńska also included references to several composers of the past—Brahms, Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen, among others—who had influenced the development of her musical style. During her lecture Marta Ptaszyńska also delighted the audience with several amusing anecdotes from her student days in Warsaw, Pozna?, and Paris.
After the intermission, listeners enjoyed a musical program including several recent compositions by the distinguished visitor. Opening with Liquid Light, a sensuous set of songs for soprano, piano and percussion, written in 1995 and set to evocative poems by Modene Duffy describing the luminescent landscapes of the Carribean. The performance featured a trio of outstanding artists: Juliana Gondek, soprano, Yevgeniy Milyazskiy, piano, and Daniel Kamiński, percussion. Ms. Gondek's masterful delivery and sensitive collaboration from Mr. Milyazskiy and Mr. Kamiński contributed to a highly successful interpretation of this fascinating song cycle.
The spirited performance by USC violist Lauren Chipman of Elegia in Memoriam John Paul II was next on the bill, constituting the American premiere of this unusual and evocative work. Completed shortly after John Paul II died earlier this year, the Elegia is a lament for solo viola—an intense composition, filled with rich imagery of suffering and pain, and of hope for the future of mankind.
Chicago-based pianist Amy Dissanayake then presented Ptaszyńska's Pianophonia, a three-movement composition for solo piano, inspired by paintings of Wassily Kandinsky, Ives Tanguy, and Paul Klee. Commissioned by the Chicago Symphony MusicNow program, this work was first heard in Chicago in February 2005. The USC performance was a West Coast premiere, and the audience was treated to an impressive display by Ms. Dissanayake, who rendered Marta Ptaszyńska's deft musical translations of visual imagery with adroit virtuosity.
The concert's concluding item was Ptaszyńska's composition from the year 2000, Letter to the Sun. Scored for a large percussion ensemble and two soloists—a hand drummer and a narrator—it is a setting of a poetic text written by Ptaszyńska's daughter, Julia Rafalski. Fascinating colors and timbres permeate this highly original work that received a superb performance from the USC Percussion Ensemble, led by Prof. Erik Forrester. Robin Sharp's numerous and intriguing solos on the hand drum were complemented by the elegant delivery of the text by Krysta Close, who was also heard at the very opening of the Paderewski Lecture-Recital, singing Paderewski's charming song, Moja pieszczotka.
Polish émigrés living in Los Angeles area had another chance to meet Marta Ptaszyńska and hear a selection of her recent compositions. Thanks to the house concert organized on October 15th by the Modjeska Art & Culture Club of LA, a group of lovers of Polish music had a chance to participate in a discussion with Prof. Ptaszyńska, followed by a musical presentation that included Elegia in Memoriam John Paul II as well as selected movements from Pianophonia and Liquid Light, heard this time in an intimate, chamber-like setting of an elegant private residence.[MZ]
The commraderie and musical enjoyment of the Annual Paderewski Lecture always seems to bring out supportive spirit of the community of fans of Polish music. And this year was no exception! In addition to several generous cash donations, the following items were donated to our collection:From our loyal supporters, Charles and Alice Bragg, we received:
Because the level of Mr. Blechacz's performance was considered so far above the other candidates, a 2nd prize was not awarded. Other laureates of the competition were: 3rd prize ex aequo—Dong Hyek Lim (South Korea) and Dong Min Lim (South Korea); 4th prize ex aequo—Shohei Sekimoto (Japan) and Takahashi Yamamoto (Japan); 5th prize—not awarded; 6th prize—Ka Ling Colleen Lee (China, Hong-Kong). The following players have received honorary mentions: Jacek Kortus (Poland), Rachel Naomi Kudo (USA), Rieko Nezu (Japan), Yuma Osaki (Japan), Yeol Eum Son (South Korea) and Andrey Yaroshinskiy (Russia).
Rafał Blechacz was born in 1985, and started playing piano at the age of 5. He attended the Artur Rubinstein Music School in Bydgoszcz and currently he is a student of Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń at the Music Academy in Bydgoszcz. Before winning this year's edition of Chopin Competition he had already accumulated an impressive collection of awards, among them: 2nd prize at the International Young Pianists Competition "Artur Rubinstein in Memoriam" in Bydgoszcz; 2nd prize (1st prize not awarded) at the 5th International Piano Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan; 1st prize at the 4th International Piano Competition in Morocco. Just before the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Mr. Blechacz's first solo CD was published by CD Accord, featuring a piano recital of works by Schumann, List, Debussy, Szymanowski, and Chopin. Mr. Blechacz performs in Poland and abroad, including Germany, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Japan.For a detailed review of Mr. Blechacz's performance, visit www.infochopin.pl.
To celebrate the 60 anniversary of PWM on the 9th of November, the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra will perform five compositions by artists closely tied with the PWM. The orchestra will be led by Jan Krenz and the concert will take place in the Kraków Philharmonic concert hall. Works featured will be: Marta Ptaszyńska's Inverted Mountain, Zbigniew Bujarski's Pejrene, Jan Krenz's Overture (World premiere), Witold Lutosławski's 10 Polish Dances, Feliks I. Dobrzyński's 1st Symphony.
The concert will also inaugurate the 1st Festival of Polish Music, which features an exposition of the publishing achievements of PWM. 60 years of existence has resulted in almost 13 thousand titles and over 60 million units, many of which have been recognized with awards for their editorial and graphical virtues. For more information and a program of the Polish Music Festival go to: www.fmp.com.pl.
World-famous violinist Nigel Kennedy will tour France with Polish Chamber Orchestra. The tour will start on October 30 and go through early November. Performances will take place in Paris, Lyon and Lille, among other cities. The Polish Chamber Orchestra is a part of the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra and Nigel Kennedy has served as artistic director of the ensemble for the past 3 years. In France the orchestra and soloist will be joined by oboist, Tytus Wojnowicz and violinist, Jakub Haufa. The program consists of works by Bach and Vivaldi.
Nigel Kennedy is, for over 20 years, considered to be one of the greatest violinists in the world and the best British violin player. In the early days of his career he was the favorite pupil of Yehudi Menuhin. He is also a graduate of Juilliard School of Music. His recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons is until this day the best selling classical album in the world, selling over 2 million copies worldwide.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the New York-based string orchestra SEJONG, also known as International Sejong Soloists, will appear for the first time in London at Wigmore Hall on Friday, November 4 2005. Comprised of fourteen string players from all over the world and heralded by the Washington Post as the "top-notched conductor-less string orchestra," SEJONG's program will consist of Penderecki's Sinfonietta for Strings (the Ensemble gave its New York premiere in 2002); Britten's Lachrymae Op. 48a, "Reflections on a Song of John Dowland;" David Diamond's Rounds for String Orchestra; and the Mahler transcription of Franz Schubert's Death and the Maiden for string orchestra.
The socially conscious Sejong is dedicated to raising humanitarian awareness through its music-making, most recently leading a soul-searching concert at Korea's DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) in commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the Korean Civil War at the 2005 Great Mountains Music Festival in South Korea. Sejong has also developed youth programs designed to both introduce classical music to young audiences and to cultivate promising classical music students. Sejong works to expose elementary students to classical music through lecture-concerts and demonstrations, in hopes of developing an appreciation for and further study of the genre.
Sejong was created in New York City in 1995. It has given more than 200 concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and the Far East. Its fourteen members hail from eight different nations: Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Singapore, Bulgaria, Korea, and the United States. Each has a distinguished reputation as a soloist and chamber musician, confirmed by prizewinning performances at prestigious international competitions (including the Indianapolis, Naumburg, Jacques Thibaud, Paganini, Hannover, and Nielsen competitions). The New York-based ensemble tours worldwide under the musical direction of Hyo Kang, a renowned professor of violin at the Juilliard School.
Warsaw's Archdiocesan Cathedral Boys' and Men's Chorus, better known as Cantores Minores (pictured above), celebrates its 15th anniversary on St. Cecilia's Day, November 22, with special music for the seven o'clock evening Mass at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Warsaw's Old Town. The Mass Ordinary includes the Kyrie and Agnus Dei from Jean Langlais' Missa 'Salve Regina' (1954) and the Gloria from Théodore Dubois' Messe Solennelle as well as the Sanctus from his Messe Pontificale. Both settings by Dubois were written for Parisian celebrations of the feast of St. Cecilia, the patroness of music and musicians, the former in 1900 and the latter in 1895. Concelebrating the Mass are the cathedral's pastor Msgr. Andrzej Filaber and the president of the Polish chapter of the International Society of Church Boychoirs "Pueri Cantores", Fr. Robert Tyrała of Cracow.
Cantores Minores, which gave its first concert on St. Cecilia's Day in 1990, has been associated with St. John's Cathedral for the past 14 years. In addition to the major church holy days, the choir regularly sings for the 11:00 a.m. Mass at the cathedral on the fourth Sunday of every month. During its short history, it has performed in 17 countries (including four concert tours of the USA) and taken part in 28 festivals and/or competitions, including winning top prizes in Lecco (Italy), Prague and Moscow. The choir prides itself with the first performances in Poland of works by Krzesimir Dębski, Jacek Grudzień, Roxana Panufnik and Zygmunt Stojowski as well as appearing in concert with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia and the philharmonic orchestras of Kielce, Lublin, Olsztyn and Szczecin. The choir's founder and current conductor is Joseph A. Herter, a native of Detroit who has been living in Poland for the past 31 years. Six choristers have been singing in the choir since its founding: Jan Filocha, Marcin Gieros, Adam Lorenc, Rafał Marjański, Michał Ossowski and Adam Wlazły.
In addition to its anniversary celebration, the choir also has several other performances in the near future: A concert in Skiernewice celebrating that city's 500th jubilee on November 11 and a concert at the Jan Paweł II Art Museum on November 19. At the end of the month, the choir travels to Szczecin, where it will join forces with the Szczecin Nightingales, and Prague's boys' and men's choir "Pueri Gaudentes" in a performance of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms with the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra on December 2, marking the 45th anniversary of the founding the Szczecin boychoir (Bożena Derwich, conductor). Joseph Herter conducts the combined choirs in the Bernstein as well as a performance of Zygmunt Stojowski's Suite in E-flat for Orchestra, op. 9.
November 5 - November 20, 2005
Ko¶ciuszko's Garden: A Play for Children and Their Families
Penderecki String Quartet
To view the full schedule of the festival, visit www.nydai.org/fest2005/festival_schedule.html.
The Kosciuszko Foundation in New York, established in 1925, has promoted education and cultural exchanges with Poland for 80 years, and has awarded tuition scholarships since the 1950s. In addition to these scholarships, the Foundation awards grants to Americans for research in Poland and grants for Polish citizens to teach and conduct research in the United States. Its other programs include concerts, lectures, exhibitions, and music competitions, promoting appreciation of Polish culture in the U.S.For this 2005-6 academic year, The Kosciuszko Foundation has announced grants of nearly $1 Million. Thirty scholars from Poland and eighty-nine students from the United States are included, in one of the oldest and largest academic programs linking the two countries. "We can take justifiable pride," commented Joseph E. Gore, Esq., President and Executive Director, "in this record of sustained support for so many years. Our founder, Stephen Mizwa, envisioned the Foundation as a 'living memorial' to Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and we have survived to fulfil his dream."
The Kosciuszko Foundation has the largest program in the United States to aid Polish-American students with tuition scholarships for study in this country, and one of the largest programs of any ethnic community in the nation. Eighty-nine graduate students received scholarships averaging nearly $4,000. An additional twenty or more students will receive scholarships to summer sessions at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, one of Europe's oldest universities.
October 29 - December 4 2005This year's edition of the Early Music Festival is sub-titled Music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque on the period instruments. Concerts are held every Sunday at 6:00 pm. The festival was established with the help of Polish Early Music Society in 1991 and became one of the most important musical activities at the Warsaw Royal Castle.
The aim of this festival is to present Polish ensembles performing music using only the instruments original to the period of the composition. Works are presented by composers from the 13th to the 18th century, with a particular focus on early Polish music. The concerts often feature spectacles of historical dance, baroque opera and madrigal comedy in addition to music. Such compositions as the Passions of J.S. Bach, the collected works of Mikołaj of Radom, the sequences of Hildegarde von Bingen, the violin concerts of Jean Marie Leclaire and Johan Fuks' Oratorio had been performed on period instruments for the first time in Poland during the Festival.
For a program of the Festival, visit: www.zamek-krolewski.art.pl.
The International Chopin Forum in Wrocław is organized by the Wrocław Circle of Warsaw F. Chopin Society and features both emerging talented pianists and renowned artists. The festival commemorates several visits that Chopin paid to Wrocław and the concert he gave there on November 8th 1830.
Events of the Forum:
Tuesday, November 8th - Concerts of the Participants in the 15th International F. Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Featuring: Piotr Szychowski - piano, Marian Sobula - piano and Gracjan Szymczak - piano. Wrocław, K. Lipinski Academy of Music, Theatre Hall. 7:00 pm.
Wednesday, November 9th - Chamber Concert: "Chopin's Peers - Warsaw, Paris" Featuring: the "Karol Lipiński Ensemble" from the Wrocław Academy of Music (Andrzej Ładomirski - violin, Beata Solnicka - violin, Urszula Marciniec-Mazur - cello, Tadeusz Górny - double bass, and Mirosław G±sieniec - piano. Klub Muzyki i Literatury [Club of Music and Literature in Wrocław], 6:00 pm.
Friday, November 11th - Finale on Independence Day: "From the History of Polish Chamber Music" Featuring: Joanna Domańska - piano, Tadeusz Tomaszewski - horn and Roman Widaszek - clarinet. Klub Muzyki i Literatury, 5:00 pm.
His son Joachim, a third generation Stępniewski musician, is also a violinist and the concertmaster of the Detroit Civic Orchestra, a pre-professional training orchestra under the auspices of the DSO. He recently won that orchestra's concerto competitions and will perform Sibelius' Violin Concerto with the Detroit Civic Orchestra at Orchestral Hall, the concert home of the DSO, in the spring of 2006. A senior at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, he first began studying the violin with his father at age five and then studied for several years with Grażyna Skowroń-Biskupski, also a former violinist of the National Philharmonic Orchestra living in Ann Arbor. Currently, his teacher is Jehonatan Berick, a Professor of Violin at the University of Michigan School of Music.
Motion Trio is an accordion trio founded in 1996 by Janusz Wojtarowicz, the leader and composer of most of the group's music. A unique entity on the European and world music scenes, Motion Trio is changing the face of the accordion while performing their own, original music. Their concerts are musical events, full of action and drama. The group presents itself excellently in concert halls, theaters, churches, and also plays club dates. In their music one can hear the influence of many diverse musical styles (from rock, to jazz, through classical music). Despite their youthful age, Motion Trio works with such artists as Bobby Mcferrin and Michał Urbaniak. They were the grand prix laureates of the 4th Edition of the Krzysztof Penderecki International Contemporary Chamber Music Competition (2000).
Soundtrack: The Manuscript found in Saragossa
NEW ALBUM FOR PAWLIKCalled "The Horowitz of Jazz" by critics at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Hague, Włodek Pawlik (pictured at right) is a major force in the jazz movement emanating out of Poland today. His trio consists of Włodek Pawlik - piano, Paweł Pańta - bass and Cezary Konrad - drums. The Włodek Pawlik trio is currently on tour, performing the material from their upcoming CD entitled "Anhelli" (released on ARMS Records) at the following events:
The album will be released in Poland on the 9th of February, 2006, and on the same day they will have a concert at the National Philharmonic. The release dates worldwide are: Germany - April 2006, France and Great Britain - May 2006, Ukraine - May/June 2006, Japan and USA - September 2006. The American release will be combined with a performance at New York's Carnegie Hall, featuring additional American musicians (Randy Brecker's participation is planned).
For the detailed artist information, visit: www.wlodekpawlik.com.
NEW RECORDINGS ON ACTE PRÉALABLEAP0115: Jean-Baptiste Senallié A premiere recording of the sonatas by French composer Jean-Baptiste Senallié (1687-1730), who was a pioneer of the French sonata. The pieces, from Troisième Livre de Sonates à violon seul avec la basse continue, are performed by Ensemble Baroques-Graffiti (Jarosław Adamus, violin; Jean-Paul Serra, harpsichord; Frédéric Audibert, cello).
AP0122 & 0123: Józef KofflerTwo albums of music by Józef Koffler (1896-1944), a pioneer of Polish dodecaphonic composition (for more information on this groud-breaking composer, see the PMHS book Józef Koffler: Compositional Style and Source Documents here). These albums were recorded by Polish pianist residing in Berlin, Elżbieta Sternlicht.
Piano works I: Musique quasi una sonata Op. 8 "A Karol Szymanowski"; Sonatina, Op. 12 "Mojej żonie"; 40 Polish folk songs, Op. 6.
AP0124: Władysław Żeleński
This is volume 1 of the cycle including the complete piano and chamber output of the great Polish composer Władysław Żeleński (1837-1921). Recorded by pianist Joanna Ławrynowicz.
Piano works I: Deux Morceaux, Op. 63; Oda do młodo¶ci. Marsz uroczysty, Op. 51; Marsz uroczysty ku czci nie¶miertelnego wieszcza Adama Mickiewicza, Op. 44; Deux Mazourkas, Op. 31; Sonata, Op. 20AP0126: Roman Statkowski
The first volume of the cycle of complete works by Roman Statkowski (1859-1926), in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the composer's death. This is the recording debut of young pianist Barbara Kara¶kiewicz.Piano works I: Toccata, Op. 33; 6 Preludes, Op. 37; 3 Morceaux, Op. 12; Chansons libres, Op. 15; Pièces caractéristiques, 0p. 27; Par une nuit de printemps, Op. 21; 4 Idylles, Op. 18; 2 Waltzes, Op. 5 AP0130: Fanny Mendelssohn
This album was made in celebration of the 200th birthday of Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847), and includes only works that have never been recorded and/or performed before. The album will have its Polish radio premiere on 11.14.05 on Koszalin Radio and the world radio premiere will take place on WPRB (Princeton, NJ - 103.3 FM) on 11.16.05, during their "Classical Discoveries" program. The album was recorded by Elżbieta Sternlicht.Piano works: Allegro con brio, Allegro grazioso, Allegro agitato, Largo con espressione, Allegro vivace, Presto, Sonata o Capriccio, Allegro agitato, Fantasia, Klavierstück in E minor, Klavierstück in G minor, Capriccio AP0131: Fryderyk Chopin
This recording is the label debut of pianist Robert Skiera, here performing Chopin repertoire. Skiera is connected with the F. Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw.Fantaisie in F minor Op. 49; Prelude in D flat major Op. 28 No. 15; Etude in F minor Op. 10 No. 9; Mazurkas: A minor, F major, A minor, A minor; Valses: E flat major Op. 18, C sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2; Polonaise in A major Op. 40 No. 1; Nocturne in G minor Op. 37 No. 1; Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor Op. 39 AP0132: Aleksander Tansman
A recording of selected works by Aleksander Tansman (1897-1986), performed by Barbara Trojanowska, violin, and Elżbieta Tyszecka, piano.Works for violin and piano: Sonate no. 2 pour violon et piano "à Bronislaw Huberman"; Cinq pièces pour violon avec l'accompagnement de piano "à Joseph Szigeti"; Fantaisie pour violon et piano "à Diane et André Gertler" AP0133: Laboratory of Contemporary Music 2004
Volume 1 of recordings presenting the output of the Contemporary Music Lab, which was created and led by composer and professor at the Warsaw Music Academy, Marian Borkowski. Featuring Barbara Trojanowska, violin, and Elżbieta Tyszecka, piano.Volume 1: B. Kowalski-Banasewicz – String Quartet No. 2; E. Pałłasz – Dwa wspomnienia z dziecinstwa for bass clarinet and marimba; W. Łukaszewski – Three songs for soprano and piano; S. Moryto – Bez tytulu for marimba and bass clarinet; E. Madey – Toccata for two cellos; Z. Bargielski – Noc-Dzień - Five songs for soprano and piano; P. Łukaszewski – Quasi Sonata for clarinet and piano; A. Dziadek – String Quartet No. 2; M. Borkowski – Pax in Terra II for female voice, percussion and organ
To purchase these and other great recordings of Polish music, visit www.acteprealable.com.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
NOV 5: Chopin & Friends Festival Gala Inauguration. Featuring performances by Atma Trio playing music of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Chopin and Ravel and an art installation by Yanusz Gilewicz. Kosciuszko Foundation House, NY, NY. 7:30 pm. To view the full schedule of the festival, visit www.nydai.org/fest2005/festival_schedule.html.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ELLIS SCHUMAN
by Liliana Osses Adams[This interview first appeared in HARPA Internet Magazine, No. 32, November 22, 2004, and then in the American Harp Journal, Vol.20, No.1 Summer 2005. Used with permission. © Copyright 2005 by Liliana Osses Adams] San Francisco with its Golden Gate renowned for majestic beauty looks across the bay waters and hills, painting a picture of perfect calm and serenity.
On a beautiful summer day, I came to visit Ellis Schuman, a long time harpist and piano teacher, a prolific composer who devotes himself to his writing and teaching. From the very first moment, seeing him smiling at the open door above the steps to his house, I somehow felt that I had come to visit a friend. Seated in his stylish parlor filled with beautiful memories from the past and enchanting with its view of nearby hills, I was interested in learning about Mr. Schuman's musical life. Our talk led to the following biographical sketch:
Ellis Schuman is a performing artist, composer and teacher in San Francisco, who, since 1985, has taught piano, harp, and composition at the Music Center of San Francisco. Born on May 25, 1931, in Chicago, he was on the faculty of the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University from 1981 to 1984, and was pianist-harpist with Chicago's Musica Viva Quintet, and also harpsichordist with the touring Baroque Repertory Ensemble. During his Chicago years he received the Kate Maremont Foundation Teacher Award for his innovative work in music education. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Harp Society and was Vice-President of the Bay Area Chapter. He received the Bachelor of Music degree from the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University and the Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio University in 1956. He studied with the Czech composer Karel Boreslav Jirak, and the noted Hungarian composer Ernst von Dohnanyi. Other prominent teachers include the eminent musicologists Oswald Jonas and Hans Tischler. He studied piano with Saul Dorfman, and advanced his piano study with Rudolph Ganz, Maurice Dumesnil, and Rosalyn Tureck. He also studied accompaniment and coaching with Frederick Schauwecker, the distinguished accompanist for Richard Crooks and Jussi Bjoerling. His harp teachers include Marie Ludwig Giordano of Chicago, Mildred Dilling at the University of California in Los Angeles and Lynne Wainwright Palmer of Seattle. Many of Ellis Schuman's compositions and arrangements for the harp are widely performed and have been published by Lyon and Healy and International Music Publications. Major performances of his original chamber works were included in programs at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, University of Chicago, Radio station WNYC-FM, New York City and concerts by the San Francisco New Century Chamber Orchestra.
A long chronology of artistic achievements gives an impressive picture of the artist. I went on to speak with Ellis Schuman about his life, his teaching and his writing; especially the musical meditation felt in his composition In Memoriam for Strings dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. It was inspired by a poignant personal discovery. According to Mr. Schuman, in 1993, while examining an old prayer book, which had belonged to his grandfather, he discovered several old letters within its pages. The letters, dated 1938 and 1939, were from relatives then living in Poland. These heart-rending documents, written in Polish and Yiddish, contain tragic foreshadowings of the impending Nazi invasion of Poland. None of those relatives were ever heard from again. To preserve their memories, Mr. Schuman donated these letters to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
LOA. Mr. Schuman, I would like to thank you for sending me your CD of In Memoriam. I listened to the performance by the San Francisco New Century Chamber Orchestra. Your composition In Memoriam for Strings was performed on January 27, 2001, at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Permit me to say, that I found the "atmosphere" of your composition very Mahlerian, though I anticipated more dramatic passages... But then, I realized that it was meant to be a calm and reverent work. Would you tell about the circumstances, which provoked this contemplative musical statement recalling a tragic period of the 20th century?
E.S. Both the historical events and my own vivid memories of very dear relatives who perished during World War II affected the development of my work. The emotional and spiritual nature of these recollections resulted in a musical utterance of genuine fervor with suggestions of hope and optimism for the new century.
LOA. In your program notes you mentioned your teachers of composition and musicology. Who influenced you?
E.S. Several teachers, including those mentioned in my biographical sketch. I was fortunate to have some great professors during my college years. Some of them had fled to this country from Europe just before the Second World War and found teaching positions at universities here. They inspired me. They were sincere and very dedicated to teaching.
Ellis Schuman in the music room of his house in San Francisco. Photo by Kent Smith.
E.S. At the moment I am arranging a compilation of Irish folk songs for harp scheduled for publication. In 2001, I composed the Night Song for Solo Violin and Strings, which was premiered on May 4, 2003, in Chicago by the local New Festival Fine Arts Ensemble with concert violinist Elaine Skorodin, a student of Jascha Heifetz. The Night Songg was originally written for Krista Bennion Feeney, concert violinist and music director of the San Francisco New Century Chamber Orchestra. Its world premiere will be in San Francisco on May 26, 2005, at California Palace of the Legion of Honor. The title of this composition was derived from David's Psalm 42:9, which reads: "Even by night His song is with me."
LOA. The program notes state that Night Song does not contain folkloric quotations or descriptive allusions. How then was its flavor maintained?
E.S. Its distinctive Hebraic flavor is evident only in the "singing" style of the strings, as a reminiscence of early cantoral chant. Night Song begins with the plaintive notes of the solo violin. As its melodic line begins its upward journey, a yearning of Israelites to return home, the cello enters with a series of nine tones which gradually descends to the low-pitched contrabass. An earth-bound presence is maintained well below the soaring solo violin. Even in the night of exile the Divine Presence of His song brings comfort and hope with the hymn-like quiet ending.
LOA. Where did you get the idea for using these particular nine tones?
E.S. I derived the tonal pattern from the nine thin metal tongues found on a small African Mbira, a primitive sub-Saharian musical instrument commonly known as the thumb piano.
LOA. Which technique do you use when playing harp? French, American, Russian or others Eastern? What technique do you teach?
E.S. I play a combination of French (Henriette Renié) and American (Carlos Salzedo), and I also teach a combination of these two methods to adjust to the temperament and physical character of the student, and to properly articulate the music of a particular period or composer.
LOA. Do you agree that the teacher doesn't have to limit harp lessons to harp technique and repertoire, but should also try to teach music history and theory?
E.S. Yes! It would be nice if teachers were willing to teach this way to obtain more desirable musical and educational results, from a sense of history and study of the humanities, including basic music theory.
LOA. What is your favorite part of teaching and what is more important: strictly to teach or to awaken the joy of music and love for the instrument?
E.S. Both. My favorite part of teaching is to identify the potential of the student and to develop it, and to work with him in a friendly manner; all for the joy of music making and for aesthetic fulfillment.
LOA. What advice would you offer to the harp students?
E.S. Learn to count with slow practice, listen and always evaluate tone quality in each finger and clear articulation. Expression marks printed in the music should be carefully observed early in the learning process. Learn about the life and times of the composer you are interpreting.
LOA. What do you hope your students will remember about you and your teaching?
E.S. That I am patient, strict and fair with a strong sense of optimism. I also have a sense of humor.
LOA. I read that the teacher should propose different possibilities to develop student ambitions and also discuss individual talent concerning a career in music. Do you agree?
E.S. Students do need counseling and a strong push on occasion. The teacher must be aware of the student's needs, interests and ambitions and, of course, inherent musical talent. Good communication with parents is necessary when working with the young.
LOA. And now, would you tell me how it all started for you?
E.S. I came from a non-musical family. My father's side of the family settled in Baltimore after immigrating from Russia and Latvia before the turn of the century. My father was born in 1899 in Baltimore and my mother was born in 1902 in a Jewish community in Okocim, in county Brzesko. My mother often spoke about her childhood in Poland. She and her sister, three brothers and my grandmother arrived in New York City in September of 1912 aboard the ship Pretoria. Speaking only Polish and Yiddish, she remembered the hard times during their brief stay on the Lower East Side. In 1922 my mother married my father in Chicago. We were very poor. It was during the Great Depression. When I was five years old, my aunt gave us an old upright piano, which was placed in our cold living room. The piano interested me, and I began to pick out popular tunes by ear. I had to wear a scarf and coat when I went into that room to play. I told my parents that I wanted piano lessons. My first teacher was an eighth grade girl who charged twenty-five cents a lesson. Then we moved to a better apartment. My father found another job as a laborer, which paid more. Actually, he was surprised by my infatuation with the piano and agreed with my plans to make music my career. To help me, he brought home used books on music and composers. In 1941, in Chicago, Moissaye Boguslawsky, a concert pianist, opened a little music school where some of the teachers were refugees from Europe. I studied piano there and also theory. Then, in high school I played viola in the school orchestra. One day my father brought home an old and almost string-less French single-action harp. He found it in a Chicago antique shop and was told to take it to Lyon & Healy for a repair. We did, but they told us that it was beyond repair and useful only as décor. I was very disappointed. I knew nothing about harps. This incident sparked my interest. For some strange reason I was drawn to the harp. Months later, my father answered an ad in the newspaper and surprised me with a used Wurlitzer concert harp. Its previous owner said that the harp had miraculously survived a house fire years before. I called her "Smokey" and she served me well for a few years.
LOA. And then?
E.S. In 1951 I enrolled at Roosevelt University in Chicago. The historic Chicago Musical College merged with the University a few years later. I majored in composition, continued my piano study and began my study of the harp. My teacher for one year was Teresa Colombo. I continued my harp study with Doriss Briggs, of Chicago's Lyric Opera. I practiced fervently. After graduating summa cum laude I received an assistantship in music at Ohio University where I earned my Master of Fine Arts degree. I had deferments from military service all this time. Late in 1956 the military called me, and in 1957 I was shipped overseas to Korea for fourteen months.
LOA. Did you perform during military service?
E.S. I served as operations clerk and chaplain's assistant in the U. S. Army in Korea during the occupation. I organized a choir and accompanied worship services on a small portable organ, which was also taken to the field from the chapel. I traveled through South Korea playing Protestant services and Christmas musical events.
LOA. What did you do when you returned home from military duty?
E.S. In 1958 I began teaching in the public school system in Chicago. In addition to teaching, I developed curriculum guides for music major courses including the innovative high school advanced placement music program. In 1969 I become a member of the American Harp Society. I reactivated the Chicago Chapter, serving as president for several years. I began my friendship with Marie Ludwig at that time. I studied harp with her and also attended harp classes with Mildred Dilling at UCLA in Los Angeles. I also went to Seattle during one summer to study with Lynne Wainwright Palmer. After leaving public school teaching, I joined the faculty of the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University and initiated a program of class harp instruction. In addition to my teaching, I devoted time to my composing and arranging with much success. In 1984 I moved to San Francisco, and soon thereafter I began to teach piano and harp at the Music Center of San Francisco. My writing and arranging for the harp continues on a more relaxed schedule these days. I hope to leave a legacy of good and well-edited publications for study and performance.
LOA. Mr. Schuman, I would like to thank you for the packet you sent to me of your harp arrangements mostly of Handel, printed by F. C. (Faith Carman) Publishing Company and later by Lyon & Healy. Each of your harp publications carries a preface, which project a loving attention to every detail providing educational and technical direction to the performer. How did you become involved in this project?
E.S. My interest in Handel began with a research project in college. The study later led me to libraries in this country and to places in Germany, Italy and England. London was the focal point for Handel landmarks and for discovering early sources of his music.
LOA. The catalogue of Lyon & Healy Harp Publications lists your arrangements of Handel for harp. These publications include reprints of some of the F. C. Publishing editions. Your harp collection titled Handel On Occasion published by Lyon & Healy Publications for students and professionals are also complemented by the Celebrated Minuet from Handel's opera Berenice (1737) published by the International Music Service, Lyra Music Publications, in New York. Now tell me something about your own original published works for the harp.
E.S. In 1999, I composed the Mouvement Classique for Harp, a sonata in one movement blending traditional and contemporary elements. This work, suitable for the intermediate and advanced harp player, was dedicated to San Francisco harpist and teacher Marcella DeCray, and was also published by Lyra in New York. It was premiered by Douglas Rioth, the principal harpist of the San Francisco Symphony at the Annual American Harp Society Holiday Gathering in San Francisco, December 2003.
The piece is in sonata form. Two contrasting subjects of the Mouvement Classique are introduced within the continuous forward movement of the exposition. This is followed by a more subjective development section. A quiet coda emerges from the formal recapitulation. The writing is transparent in texture and utilizes the natural string resonance and tone sustaining nature of the harp. Missing are the special harp sound effects and timbre modifications so prevalent in contemporary harp works. The Mouvement Classique salutes an earlier time as it anticipates the new millennium. Another original work titled Cashel of the Kings: Three Irish Impressions for Harp was written in 1995 and published by Lyon & Healy Publications. The work was dedicated to Derek Bell of the Chieftains. Ireland's ancient Rock of Cashel fortification left me with indelible impressions during my visit in 1986. The three pieces are titled "Landscapes," "Monuments," and "Horizons."
LOA. Finally, do you have a theory about the future of music? Do you see more and more extended techniques on all musical instruments and electronic music being performed? Do you think that a teacher should be familiar with these techniques and be able to incorporate them into lessons in order to give students a well-rounded education, instead of only a basic classical music education?
E.S. As a principle: Have an open mind, discover and don't hesitate to explore, but do not neglect basics in music study and the rich legacy from the old masters.
PUBLISHED WORKS FOR THE HARP BY ELLIS SCHUMAN
BORN THIS MONTH:
Copyright 2005 by the Polish Music
Send your comments and inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Newsletter Editor: Krysta Close
Assistant Editor: Daniel Kamiński Contributions from: Marek Żebrowski, Joseph A. Herter, and Liliana Osses Adams Sources of information: Kosciuszko Foundation, PAP, Polish Music Information Centre,
Washington Post, onet.pl, PWM, infochopin.pl, Adam Mickiewicz Institute,
and Nowy Dziennik Formatting by Krysta Close, 11/9/05.