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Truth and Beauty (from composer's brochure)
The musical output of any composer may be viewed in various ways. Firstly one may consider the musical genres, species and forms. Secondly one may regard it in respect of subject matter: themes, plots, toposes. Thirdly - in the aspect of the evolution of sound idiom, style and aesthetics.
While evaluating M. Stachowski's musical output from the viewpoint mentioned as the first, one may notice that the standard, lexicographical division into orchestral, chamber, solo, vocal-instrumental and stage music, and the more fundamental division into two dominant trends - large ensemble- and small ensemble music, i.e. choral- or vocal-symphonic and symphonic music on the one hand, and chamber (including chamber-vocal) music on the other overlap. The first group includes both the orchestral compositions, such as Irisation, Poeme sonore, Choreia and From the Book of Night, and vocal-orchestral symphonies and symphonic poems like From the Book of Hours to words by R. M. Rilke, Chant de l'espoir to words by P. Eluard, Thakurian Chants to words by R. Tagore, Sapphic Odes to poems by Sappho. The second group comprises the string quartets, together with the latest cycle of pieces for string trio and the vocal cycles Five Senses and the Rose to words by T. Kubiak, Birds to words by Polish poets or Madrigali dell'estate to words by G. d'Annunzio for voice and string trio. In his compositions belonging to the first group Stachowski shows himself a master in handling a large performing apparatus and huge masses of sound, also an experienced instrumentator characterized by remarkable invention and colouristic imagination and, at the same time, a composer with much feeling for a large symphonic form. In his compositions of the second group he elaborates microform - delicate, ephemeral, transparent sound structures - to perfection. As if between these two groups - closer to the first but not entirely free from the features of the second - two excellent compositions for string orchestra (Divertimento of 1978, Sonata per archi of 1991 and also Cello Concerto of 1988) are situated.
Furthermore, Stachowski's compositional output is characterized by a large variety of formal solutions, both in the sense of the piece's general structure and its individual progress, the formation of tension lines, the arrangement of climaxes. The classical three-(3rd String Quartet) or four-movement (Divertimento) cycles go together with the well-knit one-movement compositions which might safely be called the symphonic or vocal-symphonic poems, such as Poeme sonore, Choreia, Sapphic Odes or From the Book of Night. The above-mentioned works may also serve as examples of various kinds of treatment of a one-movement form. In a gloomy, elegiac Poeme sonore five phases marked by the successive, growing pulsations and dematerializations of sound are clearly distinguished. Each phase leads to its climax. The general climax falls on the end of the fourth phase: it is a clash between the six-four chord in A major and a greatly dissonant chord of orchestral tutti. After this dramatic event the last phase seems to be only an epilogue. Choreia - in its two-movement construction leading from a solemn adagio through gradual condensation of texture and sound material to the fast and motor second movement - constitutes a specific pendant to the basic formal idea of Lutosławski's late compositions: formal relation (prelude - the movement proper, hsitant - direct). In Sapphic Odes the division into four phases results from the construction of the text: the second phase is the central point and the climax of the composition. This phase runs in three sections of development of poetical narration and expression, leading to the general climax on the word 'love' (a clash between the cluster tutti and the six-four chord in G major). After this climax there follow the funeral song and the epilogue which introduces the philosophical idea of the whole work. Stachowski's composition From the Book of Night, which is the most beautiful symphonic nocturne in the Polish 20th-century music - after Szymanowski's 3rd Symphony 'Song of the Night' and Lutosławski's Les espaces du sommeil - evolves in two basic phases of energetic progress: the first one which is fundamental - comes to its climax in the cluster tutti of the orchestra, and the second one - an epilogue - which leads gradually to dematerialization and the fading away of the music. This composition reverses, as it were, the formal order presented in Choreia.
One may come to the obvious conclusion that in the compositions inspired extramusically the form results from a poetic idea. However, the ancient unity of logos, melos and gesture is one thing and a story of the night, of the infinitude of the starry sky, of the ecstatic delight in the power of the universe dissolving in dreams and fantasies is another. Thus we enter into the second sphere of problems: poetic or - more widely called - extramusical contents inspiring the composer. It is, in the first place, the Greco-Latin world, the culture of the Mediterranean Sea basin, and the exotic cultures. Such compositions as Choreia, Sapphic Odes, Thakurian Chants show evidence of that inspiration. In what way is this world fascinating for the author of Choreia? In the first place - by its elementary, primary force revealed in the earliest forms of syncretic art. Impetuous, motor percussion passages, monorhythmic pulsations of dissonant chords or melorhythmic figures, present in both the above-mentioned programmatic or vocal-instrumental compositions and in the works of absolute music, such as Divertimento , String Quartet No. 3 and many others, point to this fascination. In Sapphic Odes we simply discover an allusion to the Spring Announcement and Sacrificial Dance from The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky.
The element of primitive instincts clashes in Stachowski's compositions with refined sensuality. A vocal cycle Five Senses and the Rose to words by T. Kubiak may serve as an example of this tendency. From this work onwards the trend of sublime neoimpressionism begins, no matter in what idiom - dodecaphonic-serial or neotonal-sonoristic - it is expressed. Another sphere of existential experience expressing in this music are feelings: delight in the world and its mystery, love fascination, terror and dismay, melancholy of transitoriness, tragedy of death. All these threads are pervaded by a philosophical reflection and tend towards it in the final conclusion. The composer of the vocal cycle Birds is a philosophizing author. He weaves a musical discourse on the antinomies of human condition, its biological threat on the one hand and the man's flight to freedom on the other. The commentators justly notice a certain intellectual trait in the composer's attitude, an ideal balance between emotional and national spheres in his works, a characteristic emotional reserve of his music. Its emotional nature is characterized neither by late romantic exaltation nor hypertrophy of emotions. Thanks to it this emotionalism is all the more powerful and convincing.
In the Greco-Latin world the composer discovers universal and general subjects: fundamental themes and perplexities of the human fate, such as love, death and longing for eternity. And, finally, the question arises: what is the nature of that specific, many-sided but artistically consistent aesthetical world? Would it be a stage manager's playing with tradition, a pastiche of bygone styles or, simply, their persiflage, a distorting mirror - and therefore all that is now roughly defined in music reviews as post-modernism. In other words - an expression of artistic impotence, defeatism, secondariness, eclecticism raised to the rank of method?
You only need to listen intently to Divertimento, 3rd String Quartet, the poem From the Book of Night and Sapphic Odes and you will find that the composer's intentions are quite different. They reach the art's essence as the synonym of beauty, perfection and the truth of existence. Indeed, this music more than once proves that the time for the long narrative compositions is not yet past.
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