Two Major Polish musical anniversaries coming up on the classical music calendar are Witold Lutoslawski this year and Andrezej Panufnik next year.
Musical commentator Norman Lebrecht writes: ‘Poland is defined by musical statements. The liberation cry was articulated by Frédéric Chopin, mostly in Paris. It misled many successors onto a trail of false nostalgia for a prelapsarian paradise that never was.
At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, newly independent Poland was represented by its first prime minister, the pre-eminent pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
“Vous-êtes Paderewski, le grand pianiste, n’est-ce pas?” cried Georges Clemenceau.
“Oui, Monsieur le President.”
“Alors, quelle chute!”
Paderewski may not have seen politics as a comedown, but he lived to see his dream soured by Polish strife and crushed by a second German invasion. His music, like Chopin’s, clung to 19th-century conventions of romantic nationalism. In the next generation, Karel Szymanowski’s complex individualised idiom was condemned for its lack of patriotic zeal. Music in Poland was supposed to conform to political expectations.
Le Sacre du Printemps or Rite of Spring celebrates the 100th performance anniversary of its riotous debut on 29th May 1913 in the Theatre des Champs-Elysées, Paris. The ballet was commissioned by Sergei Diahgilev for his Ballets Russes. Music was composed by Igor Stravinsky, choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky and stage designs and costumes by Nicholas Roerich.
The avant-garde nature of the music and choreography, with their acknowledgement of primitive sources in the movement and music, caused a near-riot in the audience. Although Lebrecht Music & Arts has over 150 images about the Rite of Spring there are no photographs of the audience’s reaction. What we do have is coverage of dancers from the early performances, the stage sets and costumes. To get a flavour of the time we also have a critique from an English journal in July 1913 with the headline ‘Nijinsky ‘s revolution in choreography: the post-impressionistic & prehistoric dance….’ The New York Times’ headline in June 1913 reported ‘Parisians hiss new ballet’. And our resident artist Neale Osborne has created a drawing of how he imagined the enraged Paris audience responded.
The music and choreography of Le Sacre du Printemps has inspired future generation . Click on the image for photographs of the Kirov ballet, Pina Bausch, the Royal Ballet with Tamara Rojo, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Scala theatre costumes designs from 1972 and much more. It has also been performed in concert. Search our website for photos of the likes of conductors such as the young Pierre Boulez, Charles Dutoit and Simon Rattle – all grappling with this revolutionary composition.
LEBRECHT MUSIC & ARTS has 1872 images relating to Verdi and his works and 2459 of Wagner and his works for this special 200 birth anniversary year of these two famous opera composers. And Lebrecht Music and Arts is the photo library with the most images for Verdi and Wagner. The Verdi anniversary is in October 2013 and Wagner is in May 2013.
As always we don’t just have images of Guiseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner but every musician they knew and fought with, all their friends and lovers, everywhere they lived, whatever they read and wore, their favourite places in the world. We also have their manuscript scores, original programmes, period ephemera, opera scenes, paintings of themes related to their great musical works, buildings and backdrops, unusual instruments – you hum it, we’ve got it (or we’ll do our best to find it).
The 120 th anniversary of the world famous ballet ‘Casse-Noisette’ or ‘The Nutcracker ‘ is celebrated on 18th December. The music was composed by Russian composer Tchaikovsky and choreography was arranged by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The premiere took place at the Mariinsky theatre on a wintry Sunday in St Petersburg. Unfortunately, the story drawn from ETA Hoffmann’s ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ was not an immediate success – although the twenty-minute Nutcracker Suite did strike the right chord with the audience . By the 1960s the whole Nutcracker ballet had become an essential part of popular repertoire, particularly during the Christmas season.
Lebrecht Music & Arts carries photos from the original 1892 production and also many famous Sugar Plum Fairies such as Margot Fonteyn, Tamara Karsavina and Daria Klimentova. Irek Mukhamedov and Harold Turner are dancers remembered for their performances in this ballet. And, of course photographs of many of the great Bolshoi productions and with a more modern twist, the Matthew Bourne dance company.
A ‘truly national commemoration’ for World War I Centenary in 2014
British PM, David Cameron has announced that during 2014, the WWI centenary year, the UK will host a series of events to commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War.
Alongside a huge event programme, he has pledged £5m of government funding for educational visits to battlefields in Belgium and France for schoolchildren and promised financial support for the expansion of the Imperial War Museum – overall he has said that £50m will be allocated for the complete series of commemorations.
Lebrecht Music & Arts has been busy preparing for the centenary by expanding our collection of World War I material.
The 21st October will mark Sir Georg Solti‘s centenary.
One of the most influential conductors of the 20th Century, Hungarian born Solti appeared with opera companies in Munich, Frankfurt and London before taking up the post of music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1967 – a position he held for 22 years.
Solti’s musical career began at an early age and at 12 he gained a place at the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. Tutors here included some of Hungary’s most prominent musicians, including Béla Bartók, Leo Weiner, Ernő Dohnányi and Zoltán Kodály. The academy had a huge influence on him and his career. Of his time there he once said, “The academy gave me a grounding in discipline and hard work that has sustained me throughout my life, and the lessons I learned there I now try to impress on young people. . . .”.
He greatly admired Béla Bartók in particular and when Bartók and his wife, pianist Ditta Pásztory, performed the Hungarian premiere of Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, Solti welcomed the honour of turning the pages for Mrs Bartók during the performance, although in his own words, “As I had not seen the complicated score before, the task was not easy”.
Events celebrating Solti’s 100th birthday have been taking place all over the world this year. The next event in the UK will be a concert at the Barbican Centre in London, dedicated to his life and work, taking place on 23rd October.
Happy Birthday Roald Dahl! The much-loved author would have been 96 today. These black and white portraits were taken in 1985 by Lebrecht photographer Horst Tappe.
2012 also marks 30 years since The BFG was first published back in 1982. Short for The Big Friendly Giant, the book tells the story of Sophie (based on Dahl’s Granddaughter, Sophie Dahl) and the world’s only friendly giant who collects good dreams and distributes them to children. This wonderful children’s book has been made into both a film and a theatre performance.