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May 2018
7:00 PM
NFM, Main Hall
Plac Wolności 1, 50-071 Wrocław
The Firebird

Andrzej Boreyko – conductor
Agata Szymczewska – violin
NFM Wrocław Philharmonic


I. Stravinsky Funeral Song Op. 5
E.-P. Salonen Violin Concerto
E.-P. Salonen Helix
I. StravinskyThe Firebird Suite (1945)

Agata Szymczewska / fot. Bartek Barczyk

Andrzej Boreyko was born in St. Petersburg where, at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, he studied conducting and composition with Elisabeta Kudriavtseva and Alexander Dmitriev. While with the Jenaer Philharmonie, Boreyko received awards for the most innovative concert programming in three consecutive seasons from the German Music Critics Association, Deutscher Musikverleger-Verband. Boreyko serves as Music Director of the Orchestre National de Belgique and the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker. He is Music Director Designate of the Naples Philharmonic and he holds the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi. Boreyko has previously held positions as Chief Conductor of the Jenaer Philharmonie, where he is now Honorary Conductor, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Berner Symphonieorchester, the Hamburger Symphoniker and the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra. He was previously Principal Guest Conductor of the Vancouver Symphony and Music Director of the Ural State Philharmonic Orchestra.

Agata Szymczewska studied with Bartosz Bryła at the Academy of Music in Poznań and under Krzysztof Węgrzyn at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover. In 2006, she received first prize, the Gold Medal and the TVP Kultura Audience Award at the 13th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznań. She was also awarded the London Music Masters in 2009, first prize at the Internationaler Violinwettbewerb 'Zell an der Pram in Austria, the Gundlach Musikpreis in Hannover, and at the Concerto Competition in Calgary. She has received financial support from both the Ministry of Culture and the Young Poland National Heritage programme. Szymczewska has been honoured with Polityka magazine’s Passport award, the Transatlantic Chopin Award, and a Fryderyk Award in the category of symphonic and concert music. In September 2016, she released an album, Modern Soul, which includes sonatas written by the young Polish composers Ignacy Zalewski, Marcin Markowicz, Mikołaj Majkusiak, and Aleksandra Nowak. Szymczewska has served as a faculty member at the Academy of Music in Poznań since 2010. She plays a 1755 Nicolo Gagliano violin courtesy of Anne-Sophie Mutter.

In the 1960 book Memories and Commentaries, by Igor Stravinsky the composer said:

The Chant Funèbre for wind instruments that I composed in Rimsky’s memory was performed in a concert conducted by Blumenfeld in St. Petersburg shortly after Rimsky’s death. I remember the piece as the best of my works before The Firebird, and the most advanced in chromatic harmony. The orchestral parts must have been preserved in one of the St. Petersburg orchestra libraries; I wish someone in Leningrad would look for the parts, for I would be curious myself to see what I was composing just before The Firebird.

In the spring of 2015, the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory’s library had to be emptied for a building renovation and a pile of manuscripts emerged. The work received its second-ever performance, on December 2, 2016, in St. Petersburg, with Valery Gergiev leading the Mariinsky Orchestra. Stravinsky also made mention of the piece in his An Autobiography, where he wrote:

I can no longer remember the music, but I can remember the idea at the root of its conception, which was that all the solo instruments of the orchestra filed past the tomb of the master in succession, each laying down its own melody as its wreath against a deep background of tremolo murmurings simulating the vibrations of bass voices singing in chorus. The impression made on the public, as well as on myself, was marked, but how far it was due to the atmosphere of mourning and how far to the merits of the composition itself I am no longer able to judge.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Violin Concerto, description by the composer:

I wrote my Violin Concerto between June 2008 and March 2009. Nine months, the length of human gestation, a beautiful coincidence.

I decided to cover as wide a range of expression as I could imagine over the four movements of the Concerto: from the virtuosic and flashy to the aggressive and brutal, from the meditative and static to the nostalgic and autumnal. Leila Josefowicz turned out to be a fantastic partner in this process. She knows no limits, she knows no fear, and she was constantly encouraging me to go to places I was not sure I would dare to go. As a result of that process, this Concerto is as much a portrait of her as it is my more private narrative, a kind of summary of my experiences as a musician and a human being at the watershed age of 50.

Esa-Pekka Salonen composed Helix in 2005. The composer describes the piece in his own words thus:

I decided to compose a celebratory and direct overture-like piece, which would nevertheless be very rigidly structured, and based on essentially one continuous process. The form of Helix can indeed be described as a spiral or a coil; or more academically a curve that lies on a cone and makes a constant angle with the straight lines parallel to the base of the cone.

The process of Helix is basically that of a nine-minute accelerando. The tempo gets faster, but the note values of the phrases become correspondingly longer. Therefore only the material’s relation to the pulse changes, not necessarily the impression of speed itself. Hence the spiral metaphor: the material (which consists essentially of two different phrases) is being pushed through constantly narrowing concentric circles until the music reaches a point where it has to stop as it has nowhere to go.

The musical expression changes quite drastically in the course of these nine minutes: the idyllic, almost pastoral opening phrase for piccolo and contra-bassoon returns much later in the horns and trumpets, fortissimo, surrounded by a very busy tutti orchestra. The closing section shows the material in an almost manic light.

It has been a very inspiring task to write a piece for my friend Valery Gergiev and the World Orchestra for Peace, to whom Helix is dedicated. These are amazing musicians with no limits to their capacity. I have worked with many of the players over the years around the world. Writing this piece has felt like a more personal undertaking than usual.

Igor Stravinsky composed The Firebird between the autumn of 1909 and the spring of 1910. The ballet was premiered by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes at the Paris Opera on June 25, 1910. Diaghilev had heard Stravinsky’s music for the first time two years before, at a concert in Saint Petersburg and invited the young composer to assist in orchestrating music for the 1909 ballet season in Paris. According to Ravel, the Parisian audience wanted a taste of the avant-garde and the young Russian delivered a score beyond expectations. The Firebird, Stravinsky’s first large-scale commission, was a spectacular success and was quickly followed by two more collaborations with the Ballet Russes, Petrushka and the Rite of Spring. Stravinsky was quoted:

The Firebird did not attract me as a subject. Like all story ballets it demanded descriptive music of a kind I did not want to write. I had not yet proved myself as a composer, and I had not earned the right to criticize the aesthetics of my collaborators, but I did criticize them, and arrogantly, though perhaps my age was more arrogant than I was. Above all, I could not abide the assumption that my music would be imitation Rimsky-Korsakov, especially as by that time I was in such revolt against poor Rimsky. However, if I say I was less than eager to fulfill the commission, I know that, in truth, my reservations about the subject were also an advance defense for my not being sure I could. But Diaghilev, the diplomat, arranged everything. He came to call on me one day, with Fokine, Nijinsky, Bakst, and Benois. When the five of them had proclaimed their belief in my talent, I began to believe, too, and accepted.

The Firebird is based on a Russian folk tale about Prince Ivan, who enters the magical realm of Kashchei the Immortal and encounters the Firebird, which he captures and releases in exchange for its assistance. Kastchei who likes to sieze pretty young princesses as captives and turn knights who arrive to rescue them into stone is discovered by Ivan, who sees and falls in love with one of the princesses. The Firebird enchants them with her beautiful feathers, which glitter and flicker like flames and makes them dance. Afterward, while they sleep, the Firebird reveals the secret to Kashchei’s immortality, whom Ivan destroys, freeing the victims.

Over the years, Stravinsky returned to The Firebird score, which produced three suites. They date from 1910, 1919, and 1945. The latter is a shorter summation of the ballet, and is said  to have been Stravinsky’s preferred version, calling the original “too long and patchy.” Nonetheless, its continuous movements retain the original’s drama, colour, and wild rhythmic invention. Stravinsky wrote, “The first-night audience glittered indeed, but the fact that it was heavily perfumed is more vivid in my memory; the gaily elegant London audience, when I came to know it later, seemed almost deodorized by comparison. I sat in Diaghilevs box, where, at intermission, artists, dowagers, aged Egerias of the Ballet, intellectuals, balletomanes, appeared.”


Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator

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The National Forum of Music, plac Wolności 1, 50-071 Wrocław, co-managed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, City of Wrocław and Lower Silesian Province, registered in Rejestr Instytucji Kultury run by the City of Wrocław as RIK 38/2014.


Wdrożenie e-usług w Filharmonii im. Witolda Lutosławskiego we Wrocławiu - etap 2 współfinansowany jest przez Unię Europejską ze środków Europejskiego Funduszu Rozwoju Regionalnego w ramach Regionalnego Programu Operacyjnego dla województwa dolnośląskiego na lata 2007 - 2013 oś priorytetowa 6. Wykorzystanie i promocja potencjału turystycznego o kulturalnego Dolnego Śląska (Turystyka i Kultura), działanie 6.5. Działania wspierające infrastrukturę turystyczną i kulturową.