The opening concert centres around pieces composed by Karol Szymanowski, whose inspiration came from the folk music of the Kurpie, Mazovia and Podhale regions. Both in Kurpie Songs and Mazurkas written for the piano, Szymanowski attempted to create a sort of musical expression, which would comply with the folk musical idiom: the rawer, harsher and more genuinly, the better. The folk nature was as little or so much the point of departure, around which - and trusting his own intuition, Szymanowski created a unique world of sounds: harmonies based on old scales, effects reflecting sounds of nature and vocal phrases referring to calls and wailings.
It’s not without significance that ElettroVoce duo (Agata Zubel and Cezary Duchnowski) are to open this year edition of the Festival. They have been long fascinated by broadening performance capacities, searching for new contexts for the human voice and traditional instruments. In the Szymanki kurpianowskie project they present their own visions of the chosen Kurpie Songs by Karol Szymanowski. As they put it: ‘our ambition is to be faithful to the author’s intentions, simultaneously using the language of our peers.The true folk nature – the one which stems from our roots, is the source of cosmic inspiration and a perfect pretext for personal and modern artistic expression. This is how we understand Szymanowski’s attitude, this is how we perceive the folk nature - as an expression of organic intentions, whose source lies deeper than our souls’.
For the Festival hosts – the Kwadrofonik ensamble – bringing out the sound of an instrument is every time an important experience. The same note played on the piano, vibraphone or gong allows to open the way for new interpretations and keeping the phrase. Their interpretations of the Mazurkas not only provide new arrangements, but is also significantly different from the original piece. They reveal the musicians’ fascination with individual sounds, rhythmic cells, harmonic spots or fragments of phrases found in the Mazurkas. They constitute the main source of inspiration. The ideas rendered by rich instrumentarium create abstract-sounding forms, which attempt to get through the ‘the other side of the sound’.
Song and dance workshops based on old games of the Mazovian villages and small towns typically played by children, youth and adults. Among the attractions awaiting participants there are circle and couple dances, counting rhymes, chases and skill contests accompanied by traditional Polish and Jewish tunes coupled with the violin, basolia and frame drum – the instruments typical for old, Mazovian bands.
The Kapela Niwińskich are students of old village musicians , practicioners and explorers of the music traditions of Central Poland , looking for indigenous sound of the rural music. They are initiators and participants at numerous activities aimed at reviving the local music tradition.
The musicians derive their repertoire from the rural violin music, mostly of the radomskieopoczyńskie border, from the ‘kajok’ violinist Piotr Gaca.
Hailed by critics as one of the most talented world cellists, Lechner’s musical interests build the bridge over the tradition and modernity, the East and the West, arranged and improvised music. The artist says, she comes from ‘the land of forgotten folk songs’, where childhood melodies are interspersed with pieces by Bach, Schubert and Schumann. Lechner calls folk music the source of abundance and inspiration. Her projects frequently unite distant cultures and types of music, and through her relentless pursuit of new musical experiences she tries to make them become her own ones, including them in her repertoire. Thanks to it her performances are not only beautiful, but also authentic. As composer Tigran Mansurian puts it: ‘Anja Lechner’s cello is as a widely open window, welcoming the purest sounds coming from all corners of the world.’
The range of her musical interests is reflected in over twenty albums released by the prestigious ECM Records. She was co-founder and member of Rosemunde Quartett, with which she performed on the most important stages of the world. Lechner cooperates with artists such as Argentinian bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi, Greek pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos (their joint album Chants, Hymns and Dances topped the American classical music charts), François Couturier and members of the Tarkovsky Quartet. Composers such as Tõnu Kõrvits, Tigran Mansurian and Valentin Silvestrov dedicate their pieces to her. During the Festival Anja Lechner will perform compositions by Bach and Silvestrov, along with her own pieces.
In the Folk Requiem the vision of man’s ultimate path is both horrifying and incredibly beautiful. The mystery of the absolute remains unresolved and the trumpets which announce the end of the world signify another verdict. The coming together of Adam Strug and the Kwadrofonik ensemble has resulted in something entirely new in Polish music. The undoubted master of traditional songs has put himself, so to speak, at the disposal of musicians who search for new timbres, spaces and values in folk music. References to the well-established form of Missa pro defunctis are loose but fully justified and legitimate. The Folk Requiem is not only a harmonious construction based on beautifully arranged traditional tunes but also on poignant reflections concerning the successive stages in the wandering of the human soul, highlighted by exceptional texts. It employs funeral texts from the Pelplin Songbook which are intricately arranged in an eschatological story with various endings (either in heaven or hell). The musical component of the work is equally fascinating. The motif of the funeral melody: Bije pierwsza (...), bije druga, (...) bije dwunasta godzina (...) / The first hour tolls (...), the second hour tolls (...), the twelfth hour tolls (...) serves as the unifying motif for the entire work. It keeps returning several times in the piece, as a kind of inevitable prophecy. The frugal sounds of the piano enrich the work with an element of noble harmony. In their unique style the musicians build tension on the borderline between minimal music and virtuoso improvisation. Renowned for its penchant for experiments, Kwadrofonik gives additional meaning to the timbres, sounds and rhythms. It is all part of their inimitable language of musical narration. Objects – not necessarily connected with music – are used as instruments, assuming a mimetic sense (computer keyboard, church bells, bowl filled with water). The arrangements of specific fragments of traditional songs are assigned the role of metaphorical themes whose meaning is evident in some cases and ambiguous in others. This is also the composer’s idea – after all every human being will take a different path, having to come to terms with one’s solitary wandering towards death. There are several things in the Folk Requiem which are unquestionable: hell is horrific (with its sound of bagpipes), purgatory is a place of suffering and heaven is warm and full of sunshine. The vision of eternity which concludes the composition invites listeners to reflect. Conceived by Adam Strug and Kwadrofonik, this is an incredibly beautiful vision. Using an interpretation derived from traditional Christian metaphysics, it is impossible not to turn beauty into goodness and hope. This is, however, as was mentioned earlier, a version solely for the chosen ones. However the final sequence, with the highly telling sound of an unanswered phone, undermines this fragile hope. The devout are left with their faith, the profane with aestheticism.
What kind of music do we expect from a musician? What music to perform to not stop longing for what‘s happening while making it? What music do we want to hear under our fingers and in our voices? What music to create, to feel the need of being inside of it over and over again? There’s nothing unusual in the union of voice and piano. Bartłomiej Wąsik is a pianist, arranger, member of the Kwadrofonik ensemble and the Lutosławski Piano Duo.
Barbara Kinga Majewska is an artist making voice and words her creative tools. They met as interpreters and performers of modern composers, and were connected by liking for songs. As a duo they move beyond categories and genres, staying faithful to themselves. Trusting their intuition and believing in delicateness, they oscillate around realities parallel to those which are common and superficial. They find themselves in shadows, trees, planes disappearing from radars and home epiphanies. They are inspired by songs which, played in the car, make us forget how many kilometres we’ve done. Songs bringing to tears, yet not the tears of sorrow or joy, but those caused by the feeling of sudden, sheer beauty. Songs which make us call the dear ones or put the phone away and smile at everyone who’s by our side.