Culture in Poznań



Insomnia in sounds

Insomnia, a sleep disorder commonly associated with emotional and psychological states, originates from within and affects our inner selves. It is experienced individually, although its causes may be external. Such themes of individuality, personal experience, and the impact of the self on our surroundings are at the core of the upcoming edition of the Insomnia festival.

Photo of Bartosz Wąsik's face in profile on a blue background. - grafika artykułu
Bartosz Wąsik, photograph: Krzysiek Oleksiak

The Henryk Wieniawski Society for Music will host the seventh edition of the festival in late May. This year's programme promises a unique blend of classical and rock music in an intimate setting. The festival's line-up features renowned compositions by 20th-century music masters, fresh interpretations of Wieniawski's music, as well as Radiohead's pieces and Kora Jackowska's work seen through the lens of each performer's unique experience and sensitivity.

Kicking off the festival with a bang will be the jazz Atom String Quartet, whose musicians have been commissioned to create new arrangements of Henryk Wieniawski's Souvenirs. These small pieces were created by the composer to commemorate his concerts in various cities, including Poznań, where he performed as many as 18 times. In April 1847, Henryk and his brother Józef, a talented pianist in his own right, gave their first concerts in Poznań in the Miejski (Municipal) Theatre, currently known as Arkadia, at Plac Wolności. The Wieniawski brothers returned to Poznań in June of the same year to appear in the White Hall of the Bazaar, the Miejski Theatre and Count Seweryn Mielżyński's estate in Miłosław. They were widely celebrated and received with the highest honours for their performances. According to Gazeta Wielkiego Księstwa Poznańskiego, two ladies were so moved by the Wieniawskis' performance during one of their concerts, and specifically by their rendition of Souvenir de Posen, a mazurka dedicated to Countess Joanna Niemojowska of Września, that they had to leave the hall. This Souvenir was not the only Henryk Wieniawski composition inspired by the region of Wielkopolska. Others included a Romanza/Chanson polonaise written for Ludwika Torno of Objezierze, and a Kujawiak for Michalina Czapska of Bukowiec, with whom the violinist was infatuated.

On day two of Insomnia, clarinettist Andrzej Ciepliński and pianist Tymoteusz Bies will take the stage. This year, their debut album Irrberge earned a nomination for the Fryderyk award in the "Album of the Year: Chamber Music - Duets" category. The album is bookended by compositions by Polish contemporary music guru Krzysztof Penderecki: a Prelude for solo clarinet and Three miniatures for clarinet and piano. These works are interwoven with sonatas by Debussy, Weinberg, and Poulenc resulting in an intimate and focused dialogue between two remarkable musicians.

Day three will showcase FudalaRot Duo, composed of cellist Wojciech Fudala and pianist Michał Rot. While both share a passion for disseminating the music of Mieczysław Weinberg (their phonographic debut was the first Polish recording of the composer's works for cello and piano), they will present different programmes in Poznań. Their album Transfiguration, which competed with Czapliński and Bies in this year's Fryderyk awards, features cello arrangements of works by Karol Szymanowski (Roxana's Aria from King Roger, a sonata for violin and piano), Rebecca Clarke (The Cloths of Heaven, a sonata for viola and piano) and Ernest Bloch (improvisation from Baal Shem suite). The arrangement part has been authored by Fudala himself. In a predominantly dreamlike, intimate dialogue, the airy Cloths of Heaven nearly melt into thin air, while Bloch's Improvisation explores the ecstasy of prayer, and Roksana seeks to soothe King Roger's restless dreams.

The final two concerts of the festival will shift gears from classical music to rock. Pianist Bartek Wąsik will take audiences on a personal journey through the music of Radiohead. According to Wąsik, this English band's music "is fertile soil that feeds my own sensitivity [...] and opens up a world of associations that I aim to share." His piano transcends the boundaries between classical and rock music, opening doors to fans of both genres.

The finale will feature cellist, co-founder of the Royal String Quartet and producer Michał Pepol, who will deliver his unique take on Kora Jackowska's compositions. These will include new interpretations of familiar pieces and, in what promises to be an extraordinary treat for Kora's fans, original arrangements of previously unreleased recordings. Pepol has received studio tapes from Kamil Sipowicz, from which he managed to recover and develop the artist's private recordings, incorporating rock, pop, classical and alternative music. The material, which dates back to 2019-2020, was released on the album Kora nieskończoność.

Much of the music to be performed at this year's festival is introspective and intimate, capable of causing musical insomnia - a post-concert state in which emotions and artistic experiences linger and prevent sleep. The festival promises no shortage of either.

Paweł Binek

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

Insomnia Festival, Poznań Bazaar, 22-27 May, tickets available online

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2023