Chopin' Around

 
 
Agata Zubel
voice
 
Cezary Duchnowski
piano, computer
 
Andrzej Bauer
cello
 
Jacek Kochan
percussion
 
Maciek Walczak
vizualization
 
Uri Caine (guest)
piano

Impressions of the Preludes of Fryderyk Chopin

The proposal for the discovery of works in the tradition already established, but now shown in a changed palette of colors and modern electroacoustic possibilities.

Chopin’ Around

Preludes - Portraits - Visions

 
Intepretations, transcriptions, jazz arrangements, reinterpretations, deconstructions. ‘Historically informed’ performance on period instruments, faithful to the original, and ‘iconoclastic’ gestures shattering the hallowed barriers of species, genre and style – the one does not preclude the other. The music of Chopin, with its dialectic of the finished masterpiece and at the same time the text that is open to subtle changes, Romantically oblique, has been the ideal nourishment for the imagination of successive generations of artists from various scenes. ‘Chopin is inspiring because he is an integrating composer’, claims Roman Berger. ‘Today, the hypothetical contemporary Chopin would not belong to the VIP caste – he would be a persona non grata. Perceived as a dissident, in the salons of today he would be salonunfähig’. Perhaps that is just what emboldens musicians to turn to his masterpieces. From Jane Birkin humming the Prelude in E minor, to the legendary Novi Singers and their vocal transcriptions Novi sing Chopin, Mieczysław Kosz, Włodzimierz Nahorny and, in the 90s, Andrzej Jagodziński, Leszek Możdżer and Adam Makowicz, up to Kuba Stankiewicz and Leszek Kołakowski – jazz arrangements of Chopin have a long tradition, especially in Poland. Chopin’s music also has an exceptional place in the artistic worldview of contemporary Polish composers – the highest place, alongside Bach. From the mid 70s, it was present in the piano recitals of Zygmunt Krauze, perversely called The Last Recital, in which, with a postmodern gesture, he juxtaposed contemporary works with quotations from Chopin, ‘ironically reevaluating them’. It is to Chopin (as well as Bach) that Paweł Mykietyn referred in the first of his profoundly metaphysical works: Epifora for piano and tape. Chopin is the most important inspiration, alongside Szymanowski, for Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and he is also crucial (à rebours) for Tadeusz Wielecki, who says: ‘Through Chopin we feel, we feel with Chopin. And we ought to liberate ourselves from this. For with Chopin we are snug as a bug in a rug. We’re in a familiar place, and warm’. The fact that Chopin so intrigues us today, touches some vital chords within us, Romantically charms us or simply continually overawes us with his genius, offers an opportunity not just for successive artistic utterances, but also for dialogue and collective action, since he has become part of a universally recognisable cultural code. This is precisely what Andrzej Bauer, the initiator of the project ‘Chopin’ Around’, has drawn attention to, assembling a group of improvising composer-musicians and turning to the set of Preludes, Op. 28. ‘Fryderyk Chopin’s music provides special material for reinterpretation and deconstruction, through its exceptional presence in our awareness. Thus a new look at it may relate to emotions and symbols that are universally familiar and strike up a unique dialogue with them. The idea of tackling the cycle of Preludes, Op. 28 is an attempt to impart to it a new sound, but also – above all – an attempt at a new aesthetic reflection on the subject of an acknowledged masterpiece, which continues to fascinate us with its artistic boldness, its visionary character, its poetic and its wealth of ideas.
The musical layer will be created by voice – the soprano Agata Zubel – and sounds from electronic sources combined with the real-time sound of acoustic instruments: cello, piano and percussion. There will be elements of improvisation and interaction with computers, and also interaction between sound and image. The visual element will process all the known portraits of Chopin, blending with the music in a multimedia entity.’
The construct is forged by selected preludes (No. 1 in C major, No. 2 in A minor, No. 3 in G major, No. 4 in E minor, No. 7 in A major, No. 15 in D flat major, No. 8 in F sharp minor, No. 18 in F minor, No. 6 in B minor, No. 11 in B major and No. 20 in C minor) and filled out with their original musical commentaries by artists experienced in projects of this kind, collaborating, harmoniously combining a discipline of performance with a freedom of composition, improvisation, arrangement. The cellist Andrzej Bauer, an outstanding performer of the newest music, an improviser who for years has been exploring and expanding the capacities of his instrument through the use of electronic media, invited three other musical artists to collaborate: two remarkably creative, experimental improvising musicians and composers, Cezary Duchnowski and Agata Zubel, who have worked for a number of years together as the duo Elettrovoce, and also Jacek Kochan, a percussionist, improviser and arranger with wide-ranging stylistic interests. The computer visuals are the work of Maciej Walczak, a new media artist who composes and improvises on the boundaries of sound, image and computer algorithms specially prepared for this project. Finally, there is a special guest: Uri Caine, a pianist and multi-instrumentalist, equally at home at a harpsichord or a Hammond organ, a toy piano or a concert grand. A devilishly gifted arranger, improviser and leader of groups that he assembles from among the leading musicians of the jazz, early music and contemporary music scenes. An artist who with the first of his acclaimed interpretations of classical music, the Mahler disc Urlicht, from 1997, created a completely new brand of that music – searingly modern, open to contexts, absorbing the present-day multi-stylistic excesses and drawing on the spirited commitment of musicians from outside the circles of the symphony orchestra. He recreated Mahler. He recorded music that makes one want to sing, dance or cry. Not just admire the genius of its composer. Since then, Uri Caine has produced a series of phenomenal reinterpretations of works by Schumann, Wagner, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart… but not yet Chopin.
Joanna Grotkowska