Culture in Poznań



Tragedy and lyricism

A composition that captivates audiences with its lyricism and subtlety, and another that movingly echoes tragic memories, the former authored by an artist celebrated as Poland's most prominent composer, the latter written by a musician who despite being merely an up-and-coming artist, was held in high esteem by Shostakovich. These very different masterpieces of Polish symphony music of recent decades will be performed by the Wielki Theatre Orchestra conducted by maestro Jacek Kaspszyk.

Concert poster with information about the event. - grafika artykułu
Photograph from the press

Krzysztof Penderecki has eight numbered symphonies under his belt. The most recent of them is Symphony No. 6 entitled Chinese Songs. Its lyrics (used in vocals performed by the outstanding young baritone Szymon Mechliński) come from translations of Old Chinese poetry by Hans Bethge, whose work had previously been used to compile the lyrics of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Created in the final stages of Penderecki's life, Symphony No. 6 relies extensively on the broad melodic quality readily associated with the style of the late German Romantics. Being far from heavy, it delivers a mellowness that may well surprise the listeners who associate Penderecki with the avant-garde style of the 1960s and "70s. It contains a number of links that incorporate solo intermezzi on the erhu, a traditional Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument.

Symphony No. 21, in its turn, has been dedicated by Mieczysław Weinberg to the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto victims. It is among the many works in which Weinberg either speaks out against war or revisits the tragic events of 1939-1945. He himself was not spared the tumults of history. Born in Warsaw in 1919, he was quick to display a promising talent for the piano. His university studies were interrupted abruptly by the outbreak of war. Weinberg fled eastward to Minsk and remained in the Soviet Union for the remainder of his life. His professional success did not keep him safe from repression. His opera The Passenger, which is one of his best-known works today, was cancelled during rehearsals for fear of the repercussions it might cause (the fear being that his concentration camp theme might be associated with gulags).

Weinberg's music has been gaining popularity since the 1990s and was widely discovered in the last decade. Completed in 1991, Symphony No. 21 comes with the subtitle Kaddish, which refers to a Jewish prayer for the dead. The piece contains echoes of klezmer music and alludes to Chopin. Its expressive poignancy is nevertheless interspersed with flashes of happy memories and lyricism. Despite numerous extramusical references, the symphony is not strictly a programme piece, as it alludes to specific experiences. And yet, rather than telling his story directly, Weinberg lets the music express the tragedy of his memories.

The unique repertoire and the excellent artists recruited to perform it make the concert one of the Wielki Theatre's key artistic events of the season. Make sure to include it in your concert schedule for early 2023.

Kamil Zofiński

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

Concert: Penderecki/Weinberg

Conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk

8 February, 7pm

Adam Mickiewicz University Auditorium

Tickets: PLN 40-80

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2023