In our times, the term crossing borders has acquired a special meaning. The issue is raised all over the world. The experience of living during the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the concept of boundaries. For a virus, they just do not exist. Therefore, in a way we are all in a fairly similar situation. Of course, there are countries where the developments much more dramatic than anywhere else. This was the case in northern Italy, which was one of the first European countries to detect infections.
However, pushing boundaries also has a positive aspect when it comes to music. Composers’ journeys enabled them to grow by creating unique stylistic connections. The question of these mutual influences is fascinating. There were also times when the borders were closed. This was the case in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union and countries under their control, where the performance of works by some composers was prohibited. Their inhabitants had very limited opportunities to learn about the latest trends in music. Fortunately, today, at least in our societies, we can learn about everything that the human brain is able to produce. Music crosses borders, in a way that is its essence. For this reason, it is a great treasure of humanity, something we must care for. The concept of border crossing in the context of Wratislavia Cantans will be looked at from various perspectives.
During the opening concert featuring the outstanding mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožena and NFM Wrocław Philharmonic conducted by Duncan Ward, we will look at the relationship between music described as ‘classical’ and folk music. Another aspect of crossing borders will be taken up during the following two concerts, featuring Gaetano Pugnani’s Werther and Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire. The keynote of both works is the relationship between the spoken word and music. Agata Zubel and Wolfgang Mitterer will perform during the festival. It will be a late-night concert, during which the artists will improvise. We never know what will happen when improvisation comes into play, so it will be definitely a very exciting event.
Quatuor Mosaïques, one of the best string quartets playing historical instruments, will perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s pieces from the middle and late periods of his work. In the first decades of the 19th century, they were extremely progressive. Beethoven’s works will also sound during a concert under my direction, and I will conduct Il Giardino Armonico and the NFM Choir. Giulio Prandi and the Coro e Orchestra Ghislieri from Pavia will perform works of the late Baroque era. The concert conducted by Pedro Memelsdorff, a specialist in early music, will be very special. It is the result of the artist’s research into music performed in the then French colony of Haiti in the 18th century.
Paul Van Nevel and the Huelgas Ensemble, returning to Wrocław, will present works that crossed the boundaries of chromatics. The programme includes, among others works by Ciprian de Rore, Orlando di Lasso, Luca Marenzio, Giovanni de Macque and Michelangelo Rossi. They were very progressive composers. The excellent Zefiro Ensemble, conducted by Alfredo Bernardini, will perform one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterpieces, the Serenade in B flat major ‘Gran Partita’. The programme of the concert also includes a composition totally different from the serenade, written about one hundred and fifty years later, i.e. the Ionisation by Edgar Varèse. It was the first work ever written solely for percussion.
The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster will perform a programme entitled The Birth of Contemporary Music. It begins with the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy, a piece from 1894. This is one of the most famous works of musical impressionism. This trend, along with expressionism, was one of the most important currents at the beginning of the 20th century. Expressionism is represented in the concert programme by Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra. The Seven Early Songs by Alban Berg is a work full of poetic mood. Of all the composers representing the Second Viennese School, his work was the most lyrical. I also wanted to include in the programme the Double Concerto for Flute, Oboe and Orchestra by György Ligeti, who was one of the most important composers active in the second half of the 20th century. The programme of the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra’s performance, conducted by Joseph Swensen, includes Symphony No. 14 by Dmitri Shostakovich. This concert will be dedicated to the memory of the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, which took place on 11 September 2001. Wrocław Baroque Ensemble and Andrzej Kosendiak will present works by Giacomo Carissimi and Kaspar Förster the Younger. By performing his works, Andrzej Kosendiak continues research in the field of early music.
Participants of the 45th Oratorio and Cantata Music Interpretation Course conducted by Benjamin Bayl will perform Alessandro Scarlatti’s opera La Giuditta. He was a very interesting Italian early Baroque composer, and I think his music deserves to be performed more frequently. The festival will close with a concert of the great Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks. The pandemic situation is very difficult for all of us, including musicians. The closing of concert halls was a sad necessity. Let us keep our fingers crossed for them to remain open.
Artistic Director of International Festival Wratislavia Cantans