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85th Birthday of Romuald Twardowski
17 June will be the 85th birthday of Romuald Twardowski, composer, teacher and author of orchestral, choral and theatre music. His work, encompassing almost all genres, is a boundless source of varied repertoire: from religious music, through song cycles to great orchestra forms.
Romuald Twardowski. The Master of Choral Music
by Karolina Kolinek-Siechowicz
Romuald Twardowski was born on 17 June 1930 in Vilnius. The first reminiscences from this everchanging city of his youth have been a constant source of artistic inspiration for the composer. It is in this city where - already during the war - he started playing the violin that he had been given by the ex-musician of the St. Petersburg orchestra who soon became his first teacher. It is also there where he learnt the sounds of church music, listening to it with his ears wide open during Catholic and Orthodox Church liturgies. At the Theatre on Pohulanka Street he experienced his first emotions for the opera which would inspire his future operatic work. Vilnius was also the city where he discovered his passion for the organ. After the war he would establish a close link with that instrument by enriching the liturgies at the Church of St. John of God with his play. Having no experience in playing the organ, Twardowski quickly learnt the basics of playing the piano and after a few months sat at the church organ for the first time. In the successive years he used to work at the Missionaries’ Church and at St. John's church in which Stanisław Moniuszko had played a hundred years before.
Fascination in Composition
In 1950 Twadowski was accepted at the conservatory and started a regular education in piano and composition classes. That marked the beginning of his strong interest in composition art. In 1956 he composed his first concerto for piano and orchestra. The single-movement form, with central episode of a reflexive character, announced the structure of his later compositions: Capriccio in blue for violin and orchestra (1979), Spanish Fantasia for violin and orchestra (or for cello and piano, 1985), Hassidic Melodies for violin and orchestra (1991), Piano Concerto (1984) and Cello Concerto (1995). By taking part in various competitions, the young composer started to present his works to a wider audience. After graduating from conservatory, he worked at the music school in Panevėžys for a while and in 1957, after having been granted the permit for going to Poland, he left Vilnius for Warsaw, to continue his composition studies with Prof. Bolesław Woytowicz at the State Higher Music School.
"New is not everything"
The 1960s were an extremely fruitful years in Twardowski's work. He gained high appreciation in various competitions: in 1961 he won the 1st prize at the Polish Young Composers competition for his Antifone per tre gruppi d’orchestra which was performed a year later at Warsaw Autumn, in 1963 he took the 2nd place at the UNESCO International Composers' Tribune in Paris, and in 1966 he won the 1st Prize of Prague Spring International Music Festival for his Sonetti di Petrarca per tenore solo e due cori a cappella (1965). His ballet: Wizard's Sculptures (1963) and opera: Lord Jim (1970-73) were awarded at the Prince Rainier International Competition for Composers in Monaco (in 1965 and 1973, respectively). Also at that time Twardowski would go to Paris (twice: in 1963 and 1966) to study Gregorian chant and medieval polyphony with Nadia Boulanger. That experience certainly added to his interest in vocal music, and especially to his fascination with religious music. During that period he developed his individual language of composing which combined the love of tradition and the will of using new composing techniques without violating the listeners' perceptual attention.
In the 1960s and '70s Twardowski revealed an increased interest in theatre music. At that time he wrote his ballets (Naked Prince, Wizard's Sculptures), a romantic opera Cyrano de Bergerac (1962) and morality play Tragedy or the Story of John and Herod (1965), as well as his musical dramas: The Fall of Father Suryn (1969), Lord Jim (with the libretto based on Joseph Conrad's novel, a monumental work with high emotional load) and Maria Stuart (1978). Twardowski's educational activity is also worth mentioning. In 1972 he began collaborating with the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw (now: University of Music).
Promoter of Polish Culture
At the turn of the 1980s the composer initiated an artistic exchange with Lithuania. During his numerous trips around Europe he constantly promoted Polish music. In his work he would more and more frequently turn to vocal composition. Apart from chamber and orchestra music (e.g. Three Frescoes for symphony orchestra - music impression on Orthodox Christianity, 1986; the popular Old Polish Concert for string orchestra, 1987; Italian Album for orchestra, 1989; Niggunim, Hassidic melodies for violin and symphony orchestra, 1991), he also wrote song cycles (e.g. Face of the Sea, 5 songs for bass-baritone and piano, 1979) and numerous choral works of great musical value. Involvement in the organisation of the International Orthodox Music Festival propelled Twardowski into composing even more choral works.
In Unanimous Voice
It seems that the choir, whether homogeneous or mixed one, is one of the most favourite line-ups for Twardowski. Excellent knowledge of choral polyphony, acquired both by personal experience and during extensive studies with Nadia Boulanger, allowed him to master the polyphonic structure of a vocal ensemble. However, Twardowski would not limit himself only to sacral music - apart from many religious compositions, he also wrote secular music for the choir, drawing from Polish folklore and Polish poetry. In that character he composed his early pieces: Bucolics for mixed choir (1962), Ode to Youth for reciting voice, mixed choir and orchestra (1969), Two Playful Songs (1972, in two versions: for mixed choir or for female or boys choir), Sea Impressions for mixed choir (1975) and two compositions for mixed choir from 1980: Village Concert and Three Songs from Kurpie. Small Concert for vocal orchestra (1988) is an extremely charming composition for mixed choir, in which Twardowski plays with various sound articulation techniques in singing.
Yet, what the performers and listeners value the most are Twardowski's religious works, e.g. Alleluja for mixed choir (1990) which - like Hosanna I (1992) and Hosanna II (1997) - can be performed by either Catholic or Orthodox church choirs. His Marian works: cheerful Regina Coeli for mixed choir (1996), Ave Maris Stella (in two versions: for male choir and organ, 1982, and for male choir, 2002) and Missa "Regina Caeli" (2002) are no less important. His Chwalitie Imia Gospodina (Praise the Name of the Lord, in two versions: for mixed choir, 1990, and for male choir, 2002) and Our Father for mixed choir (2005), revealing his high respect for Orthodox Church liturgy, are worth mentioning, too. There are also works for boys choir, like Two Carols composed in 2000. In the last decade Twardowski wrote other compositions for mixed choir: Pater noster and Our Father (2005), Myscerium crucis (2006), Popule meus (2006), as well as Virginum Custos (2011).
GREAT ENCOUNTERS are performers’ meetings with excellent music, but also the encounters of great personalities from the past with composers who enjoy successes in our own times. Fryderyk Chopin, Henryk Wieniawski, Stanisław Moniuszko, Karol Szymanowski, and Ignacy Jan Paderewski did for Polish music what the three great Romantic bards and the giants of positivistic novel achieved in the field of literature. Their music not only impresses audiences with its beautiful form and emotional charge, but also provides modern-day artists with an inexhaustible source of inspiration. That music preserves for us the idiom of Polishness, to which, willy-nilly, by way of homage or rebellion, successful generations of artists and music lovers continue to return as to a point of reference. On GREAT ENCOUNTERS, this is done by the most outstanding representatives of Polish jazz and popular music.
Music is normally supposed to be listened to. Still, it also flows through our other senses. Is it, however, connected with them in a necessary and inseparable manner? After all, we can close our eyes, open up our imagination, and let unexpected experiences flow through our minds. On its brand-new 2CD release from the PORTRAITS series, the ANAKLASIS label invites you to play with your experiences and expectations. The album ACOUSMATIC MUSIC presents the philosophy of music as interpreted by one of the most intriguing contemporary composers – Marcin Stańczyk.
FOREFATHERS’ EVE by High Definition Quartet, a mesmerising fusion of jazz, ambient, and electronics, will also be available on a gramophone record as of 17th March. The album features a galaxy of experimental music stars and will be released in the REVISIONS series under the ANAKLASIS label, as the second vinyl in that label’s catalogue. Apart from the Quartet, this release brings together such world-famous giants of ambient as William Basinski, Krzysztof Knittel, Robert Rich, Christian Fennesz, and Igor Boxx of Skalpel Duo.
The Polish Music Library is the youngest member of the top flight of Polish libraries, exceptional in terms of its collection and unrivalled for accessibility. It is maintained by PWM Edition, the biggest Polish publisher of sheet music and books about music, which thanks to its international prestige effectively promotes the output of Polish composers around the world. PWM sums up this project, which has been realised since 2017, with an attractive animation presenting the process through which its resources have been digitised.
Does music call for gender equality? It can surely defend itself. Nonetheless, the artistic advantages of excellent present-day women-composers and their eminent predecessors are worthy of being noticed and highlighted. Women have their separate and distinctive voice in Polish music. In recognition of the need to acknowledge that voice, on 29th January ANAKLASIS will release the CD POLISH HEROINES OF MUSIC, comprising orchestral works by Elżbieta Sikora, Hanna Kulenty, Grażyna Bacewicz, and Agata Zubel.
A panorama of compositional output combining Polish and Yiddish inter-war hits with sorrowful, despairing tangos from the Ghetto. The disc Bajgelman. Get to Tango represents a twenty-first-century take on the output of the outstanding musician Dawid Bajgelman, from Łódź. These arrangements and reworkings of selected works by one of the greatest composers of Jewish theatre music were produced by the outstanding musician and composer Jarosław Bester. The album comes out on 11 December.
The ANAKLASIS record label, created by PWM just one year ago (on 22 November 2019), already boasts sixteen albums, and it shows no signs of slowing down, with further releases announced.
PWM Edition has launched a campaign and an international educational project, which brings the works by Polish composers closer to the audiences worldwide. ‘Music from Chopin’s Land’ encompasses more than just pieces by Chopin – it also means Paderewski, Szymanowska, Moniuszko, Kilar, Kurpiński and many other composers.
On 7 November 2020, during a gala broadcast on TVP Kultura, the laureates of the 10th edition of the Coryphaeus of Polish Music awards were announced. The award for Event of the Year went to the premiere of Aleksander Nowak’s opera Drach. Dramma per musica, given at the AUKSODRONE festival. Aleksander Nowak’s work, to a libretto by Szczepan Twardoch based on his heralded novel, was rewarded for ‘emphasising local dimensions in universal processes, for the strength of its musical and cultural message’.
Paderewski was a great composer. Herdzin is a great improviser. The fusion of the worlds of these two musical giants has given rise to a new phenomenon, which we share with you today. On the 160th anniversary of the birth of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, it is time to prick up our ears to the most beautiful impressions on his music.