Projekt Krynicki comprises three pieces of music composed by three renowned composers to poems by Ryszard Krynicki, one of the most important contemporary poets in Poland.
Paweł Szymański, Paweł Mykietyn and Aleksander Nowak represent three different generations of composers on the Polish contemporary music scene. Widely acclaimed, Szymański and Mykietyn have already become classics who influence the younger generation. Both musicians are mentioned alongside Penderecki, Lutosławski, Panufnik and similar artists, which is a great honour for a Polish contemporary composer. Aleksander Nowak is a member of the younger generation. In 2018, he received a Polityka Passport award for his opera Ahat Ili. Siostra bogów to a libretto by Olga Tokarczuk.
Malta Festival Poznań has invited the three artists to compose music to four poems by Ryszard Krynicki: Koty, To nie twój problem, Miasto and Prawda? Each composition differs in form and has been created for a different music ensemble.
The concert will end with a session where Polish animator, painter, performer and scene designer, Mariusz „Wilk” Wilczyński – awarded Złote Lwy Award in Gdynia, nominated to Academy Award for Zabij to i wyjedź z tego miasta animation – will draw and animate his drawings live to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro.
Entrance for the concert from Bukowska street.
PAWEŁ SZYMAŃSKI (b. 1954) studied composition at the National Higher School of Music in Warsaw (1974-1978). He took part in the International Summer Academy of Ancient Music in Innsbruck and the Summer Courses of New Music in Darmstadt. As a recipient of a Herder scholarship, he studied under Roman Haubenstock-Ramati in Vienna. In the late 1970s, Szymański began to compose electronic music: with the Polish Radio Experimental Music Studio, the Independent Studio of Electroacoustic Music and the Electronic Music Studio of the Cracow Academy of Music, as well as the Electronic Studio of the Technische Universität as a grant holder of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst in Berlin.
Paweł Szymański’s output currently includes several dozen works commissioned by European institutions and festivals: Radio France, the BBC, the Aldeburgh Festival, the London Sinfonietta, the Südwestfunk Baden-Baden, the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival and the Alonzo King Lines Ballet, to name a few. Many of these pieces were first performed by artists of international renown at prestigious music events. In Poland, Szymański’s compositions have been commissioned by the Polish Radio, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the Warsaw Autumn Festival and the International Wratislavia Cantans Festival.
Szymański’s early accolades include 1st prize at the Young Composers Competition (part of the Polish Composers Competition) for his debut piece Gloria (1978) and 4th place at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in Paris for the same piece (1981). These were followed by awards at the Sacred Music Composition Contest in Stuttgart (1985) and the Benjamin Britten Composing Competition in Aldeburgh (1988). In 1998 and 1999 he received a Fryderyk Award in the category ‘Contemporary Music’ and in ‘Composer of the Year – Classical Music’ in 2008. In 2007, he received a recommendation of the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers.
Paweł Szymański’s music displays a distinct composition idiom. According to Andrzej Chłopecki, ‘The specific nature of his language lies in the subjective play of musical conventions and the creative use of traditional elements. These incline towards Baroque techniques and forms, which he constantly transforms and puts in a completely new context of contemporary compositional language.’ Szymański revealed his fascination with Baroque already when he was a student, when his greatest passion was playing the Baroque flute in an early music ensemble. In the 1980s and 1990s, his characteristic fusion of contemporary and early music was interpreted in the context of postmodernism and was described in terms of surconventionalism, which, as Andrzej Chłopecki notes, is ‘a composing strategy that consists in creating new works from objects and extended sound gestures rooted in the convention of musical tradition, which the composer usually creates as pre-compositional material.’ In the humours Sonat(in)a for piano (1995), Szymański drew on Mozart’s sonata volumes, cutting out ‘accidental’ fragments. A similar device was used in Recalling a Serenade for clarinet, two violins, viola and cello (1996). To this day, the composer skilfully moves between epochs and styles, surprising listeners with a variety of emotions and moods, ranging from sensual sound play, through metaphysical reflection to grotesque forms and pastiche.
As noted by Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek, in the 2000s Szymański’s works gradually departed from his earlier surconventional style. One of the first signs of this change could be heard in Trzy pieśni do słów Trakla for soprano and chamber orchestra (2002), which Marcin Gmys described, next to Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Paweł Mykietyn, as the pinnacle of Polish vocal lyricism after Witold Lutosławski. This was also the time when Szymański composed the opera Qudsja Zaher commissioned by the Grand Theatre—National Opera in Warsaw (2005). Its staging in 2013 in an ascetic setting envisioned by director Eimuntas Nekrošius was nominated for the prestigious international Opera Award 2014, alongside operas by Philip Glass and Andrzej Czajkowski.
A clear breakthrough which opened a new chapter in Szymański’s work was Phylakterion for 16 voices and percussion instruments (2011), inspired by, among other things, the composer’s operatic experience. Another such piece was Sostenuto (2012), in memory of Witold Lutosławski. The latter marked a new formal and textural conception in the composer’s orchestral music, in addition to his solo and chamber pieces.
Paweł Szymański has composed music for film and theatre. Since the 1990s, he has worked with prominent director and documentarist Maciej Drygas. He has written scores for feature and television films, including Zajęcia dydaktyczne and Śmierć rotmistrza Pileckiego, directed by Ryszard Bugajski; Saviour Square and Birds Are Singing in Kigali, directed by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze; Inka 1946, directed by Natalia Koryncka-Gruz. He has received awards at the Gdynia Film Festival and the Polish Radio and Polish Television Theatre Festival. In theatre, he has mainly worked with Krystian Lupa (Zaratustra; Na szczytach panuje cisza; Persona. Marilyn / Ciało Simone; Końcówka).
Commissioned by Malta Festival Poznań, Paweł Szymański has composed Dwa wiersze Krynickiego for vocal and instrumental trio to two poems by Ryszard Krynicki: Cats and It’s your problem.
PAWEŁ MYKIETYN (b. 1971) studied composition under Włodzimierz Kotoński at the Academy of Music in Warsaw, graduating in 1997. Simultaneously, he studied the clarinet under another renowned musician and teacher, Ludwik Kurkiewicz. Mykietyn made his debut at the Warsaw Autumn Festival with the piece La Strada in 1993. In 1995, his postmodern composition 3 for 13 came first in the young composers’ category during the UNESCO International Rostrum for Composers in Paris (the piece was also presented in 2002 at Midem Classique in Cannes). In 1996, Mykietyn won the first prize in the young composers’ category at the at the IV International Rostrum of Electroacoustic Music in Amsterdam.
Ever since Mykietyn developed a technique based on microtones, or intervals smaller than a semitone (e.g. a quartertone or tones resulting from other semitone divisions into three or more fragments), his music became even more distinctive and innovative. His String Quartet No. 2 (2006), where the microtonal tonality intertwines with the world of tradition, was performed by the Kronos Quartet on the album Kwartety polskie, alongside quartets composed by Witold Lutosławski, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki. In 2007, he created Symphony No. 2, which is listed among the highest ranked compositions of the International Rostrum for Composers in Dublin. In 2008, Mykietyn composed Passion According to Mark, which had its premiere at the Wratislavia Cantans festival. In 2011, he wrote Symphony No. 3 for alto and orchestra. Composed to lyrics by Mateusz Kościukiewicz based on text messages, the symphony features triphop rhythms and rap mixed with traditional vocal techniques.
While in Symphony No. 3 the orchestra imitates electronic music, in the opera Magic Mountain, commissioned by Malta Festival Poznań (libretto by Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk, directed by Andrzej Chyra, set design by Mirosław Bałka,), the ‘instrumental’ parts were transcribed into an electronic recording. As Mykietyn says: ‘Electronic music is the only device that allows me to face what absorbs me nowadays: playing with time in music.’ In his Magic Mountain, the tempo constantly falls or grows. ‘If we assume that the tempo of a given motif constantly grows, we reach a point where even the best musician fails, because the sounds follow one another in microseconds. But you can perform this piece using a computer, although this is tedious, laboratory work.’ In the opera, 16 soloists sing to music played from speakers. Electronics make it possible to amplify the variations on the passage of time, one of the main characters of Mann’s novel and of the opera. At the same time, moving arias and ensembles add a sense of religious mystery.
Mykietyn’s works often combine formal detachment and mathematical precision with emotion and religious-like fabric. This is also true of his latest composition, Concerto for cello (2019). According to Jan Hartman, it is ‘A tale whose religious framework takes us back to the consciousness of our technical and cynical world. It is simply extraordinary. Paweł Mykietyn’s new work is essentially formal but also sensitive to lost time … It strikes a deep, intimate chord.’
Mykietyn’s compositions have been commissioned by Warsaw Autumn, the National Audiovisual Institute and the Grand Theatre—National Opera in Warsaw, as well as the Belcea Quartet, Orkest de Ereprijs, the Icebreaker Quartet and the Kronos Quartet. They have been performed by celebrated soloists, including Elżbieta Chojnacka, Ewa Pobłocka, Jerzy Artysz, Andrzej Bauer, Maciej Grzybowski, Jacek Laszczkowski and Jadwiga Rappé; and conducted by Paul Dessy, Jacek Kaspszyk, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Diego Masson, Wojciech Michniewski and Marek Moś.
Paweł Mykietyn is also composes theatre and film music. In theatre, he works mainly with Krzysztof Warlikowski (since 1997). Since 2008, he has been the musical director of Warlikowski’s Nowy Teatr in Warsaw. He has composed scores for a number of films, including Egoiści, directed by Mariusz Treliński; Stranger, 33 Scenes from Life and In the name of directed by Małgorzata Szumowska; Sweet Rush and Walesa. Man of Hope directed by Andrzej Wajda; Essential Killing and 11 minutes directed by Jerzy Skolimowski. He has received many awards for his film scores, including two Eagle Polish Film Award and five Gdynia Film Festival awards.
For this year’s Malta Festival Poznań, Paweł Mykietyn has created City, an audial installation to Ryszard Krynicki’s poem.
ALEKSANDER NOWAK (b. 1979) studied composition under Aleksander Lasoń at the Academy of Music in Katowice. Between 2006 and 2008, he continued his studies under Steve Rouse at the University of Louisville (USA). Since 2008, he has been a teacher at the Composition Faculty of the Academy of Music in Katowice, where he also received his doctor’s degree in 2010. Since 2011, Nowak has been the president of the Katowice department of the Association of Polish Composers where he coordinates the Silesian Contemporary Music Festival, the Silesian Rostrum of Composers and the Brand-New Music Festival.
Aleksander Nowak’s music has been performed by Ricardo Gallén, Eugeniusz Knapik, Urszula Kryger, Łukasz Kuropaczewski, Piotr Pławner, Piotr Sałajczyk and Agata Szymczewska, as well as Grupa Cellonet, the Lasoń Ensemble, the London Sinfonietta, the Chamber Philharmonic Pardubice, Kwartludium, the Silesian String Quartet, the Aukso – Chamber Orchestra of the City of Tychy, the Elbląg Chamber Orchestra, the ON – New Music Orchestra, the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Szczecin Philharmonic, the Silesian Philharmonic and the Polish Radio Symphonic Orchestra in Katowice.
Nowak composes orchestral, chamber and solo music (the latter for guitar or piano). His works also include the chamber opera Sudden Rain (libretto by Anna Konieczna, 2009), the quasi-drama for solo voices and video Spoon River (created with Adam Dudek to the writings of Edgar Lee Masters, 2013) and the Space Opera (libretto Georgi Gospodinov, 2015). In 2018, he received the Polityka Passport award for the opera Ahat Ili. Siotra bogów (directed by Pia Partum, libretto by Olga Tokarczuk). In 2019, he composed the opera Drachy to a libretto by Szczepan Twardoch based on his Silesian saga.
Nowak says: ‘To me, narration in music is key. Or even more broadly, I perceive the world narratively. I treat novels as the staging of certain truths. The narrative of a work is an imitation of the narrative of life, so life finds itself in art … I see a narrative as a series of events that you perceive as consistent in terms of cause and effect, although not always immediately. One event leads to another, the third results from the second and the fourth leads nowhere, for now. And all are connected to tensions, relaxations and culminations.’
Nowak’s narrative is clear to listeners only superficially. The composer enjoys interrupting its course using surprising sound shifts or self-ironic detachment. In many cases, this is inspired by the composer’s personal experience. Fiddler’s Green and White Savannas Never More for chamber orchestra and male choir is a specific diary of a journey Nowak made towards Arctica. The inspiration for Last Days of Wanda B. is very personal: his farewell to his grandmother, and Half-filled Diary tells the story of his grandfather. Many of Nowak’s pieces are also based on anecdote. Dark-haired Girl in a Black Sportscar (2009) was inspired by a woman who had stopped before a red light next to the composer. Nowak also uses popular music as medium of everyday life: its rhythmicity and repeatability. But he still believes in the potential of classical instruments, the power of their sound and the relationships between them.
Aleksander Novak’s I Symfonia – Prawda? (to the Krynicki’s poem Truth?) commissioned by Malta Festival Poznań, will be performed by Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Bassem Akiki.