An American of Norwegian and Japanese descent, Joseph Swensen was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and grew up in Harlem, New York City. He currently holds the post of Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he was Principal Conductor from 1996-2005. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, in Spain, and Artistic Partner of the Northwest Sinfonietta, in the United States. He has served as Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris from 2009-2012 and has held positions at the Malmö Opera (2008-2011), Lahti Symphony, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Swensen is the Starling Professor of Music, violin, at Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music. He has also been awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Andrew’s University, Scotland, and was invited to give a TEDx Talk with the title “Habitats for Music and the Sound of Math,” about music education and the developing brain, at the New York Institute of Technology. Joseph and Victoria Swensen are the founders of Habitat4Music, a non-profit organisation devoted to establishing participatory music education programs for children in underserved areas world-wide.
Kari Kriikku was born in Finland in 1960. He studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, with Alan Hacker in England, and with Leon Russianoff and Charles Neidich in the United States. He is a founding member of the Avanti! chamber orchestra and has served as the ensemble's Artistic Director since 1998. Kriikku is a champion of contemporary music both debuting and commissioning new works for chamber ensemble and solo clarinet. In 2006, his recording of Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto won both BBC Music Magazine's award and a Gramophone Award. He was the 2009 winner of the Nordic Council Music Prize. The prize committee wrote, “Kari Kriikku is an extraordinary virtuoso on his instrument the clarinet. His performance is characterised by flexibility and a positive musician’s joy - he is a musician in the best sense of the word.”
Polish pianist, Tomasz Pawłowski, graduated from the Fryderyk Chopin University in Warsaw, having studied with Alicja Paleta-Bugaj. During his time there he studied chamber music under the supervision of Krystyna Borucińska and completed their Song Studies program as well. Pawłowski was awarded 1st prize and a gold medal at the International Piano Competition in Oranienburg, Germany, in 2005 and the Duos in the Giosuè Carducci Competition in Madesimo, Italy, in 2012. In 2000 and 2001 he was a two-time fellow of the Prime Minister and was awarded a scholarship in Hamamatsu, Japan, in 2006. In October of 2009, he made his debut as a soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. He is markedly passionate about performing chamber music and recorded the sonatas and miniatures of Hans Huber, in 2012, with mezzo-saxophonist Urszula Kryger, violaist Ryszard Groblewski and violinists Christian Danowicz and Agnieszka Marucha.
Krzysztof Penderecki composed the Sinfonietta per archi in 1992 as a transcription of his String Trio written in 1991. The chamber version was premiered in February of 1992 by the Sinfonia Varsovia, with the composer conducting. The Sinfonietta is not far removed from the original Trio. The composer simply doubled the melodic line in the second violins and double basses. Like the Trio, it is constructed in two movements. However, the Sinfonietta differs from the Trio in the spatial movement of motifs from one instrument to another. Although he kept the musical content the same, the composer used the increased number of voices to expand the depth of his textures for chamber ensemble.
Witold Lutosławski completed a work for clarinet and piano entitled Dance Preludes, in 1954. The idea had come from Tadeusz Ochlewski, the director of Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (Polish Music Publishing House) in Krakow, who wished to commission a cycle of easy pieces based on folk melodies for violin and piano. The Dance Preludes quickly became standards in concert halls and pedagogical repertoire. The following year, he revised a transcription for clarinet solo, string orchestra, percussion, piano and harp, and in 1959 produced a third version for the Czech Nonet using woodwind quintet, violin, viola, cello and double bass. The premiere of the orchestral version was conducted by British composer Benjamin Britten.
The work is constructed in five movements with the musical language based on folk songs from northern Poland. Lutosławski described the compositional process, "Somehow this violin writing wasn't working out, even though I myself played the violin for an extended amount of time. In view of this, I decided to write pieces for the clarinet. They were appropriate for young clarinetists, but posed difficulties for the accompaniment.” Accompanied by the Concerto for Orchestra, the Preludes complete a series of Lutosławski’s works inspired by folklore. All the pieces in the series are strongly linked to Béla Bartók’s compositions. The composer referred to Dance Preludes as “My farewell to folklore for an indefinite period.”
Henryk Górecki's Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra was written in 1980 and was commissioned at the request of Andrzej Chłopecki, head of the Polish Radio Music Section, for a radio series presenting music by contemporary Polish composers. The first performance of the Concerto's original version took place in Katowice on March 2, 1980, with Elżbieta Chojnacka, to whom the work is dedicated, as the soloist and the string group of the Polish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra directed by Stanisław Wisłocki. The alternate version with the piano had its premiere on April 22, 1990, during the Poznań Music Spring, with Jarosław Siwiński as the pianist and the Poznań Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra with Marcin Sompoliński conducting. The work, less than nine minutes in length, is constructed of rhythmic vigour, marked by a repetitive beat which is complemented by the chordal texture of the strings. The mood of the composition is drawn from the highlander music of the southern Podhale region of Poland. Musiciologist Teresa Malecka, has described the piece as, “a spectacular plaything,” and the composer sometimes referred to it as a “prank.” The piece continues to be popular in both versions and remains one of Górecki’s most frequently performed works.
Andrzej Panufnik’s Kołysanka (Lullaby), was composed in 1947 and revised in 1955. The composer described the piece best, in his own words:
This piece is composed on three plans: pulsating rhythm, played by harps; ultra-delicate harmonic textures created by constantly interweaving strings, each player with his own independent part, using quarter tones; and repetitions of the almost pentatonic melodic line (closely related to a Polish folk song) by violin, viola and cello, one by one. This basic melodic line from time to time becomes obscured behind the increasingly dense harmonic textures which are perhaps like clouds moving very slowly across a night sky, sometimes exposing and sometimes covering the outline of the moon. The Lullaby throughout is pianissimo, and has to be performed with much human warmth of expression.
Klezmer music, from the Hebrew-Aramaic words kley (instrument) and zemer (song), refers to a genre of Jewish music with roots in the Yiddish tradition. Klezmer dates back to at least the 16th century in Central Europe. It is the traditional celebratory instrumental music of the Yiddish-speaking Jewish people and was a significant cultural element in parts of modern Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary. Klezmer bands, characteristically consisted of a combination of instruments drawn from clarinets, trumpets, violins, and plucked string instruments and were often performed with a singer. The songs are popular at weddings and other family celebrations, though by no means exclusively, in Jewish communities. Performed by Polish, Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian immigrants they made their way to America, where they enjoyed a huge revival in the late 20th century.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator