Carnegie Hall featured a rare treat for concert-goers on November 14, as The Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera performed the North American premiere of its heralded Voices of the Mountains program.
The multimedia concert inspired by the music of the Polish Highlands took the audience on a musical journey of the Polish Highlands through chamber and vocal music by some of Poland’s most revered composers, including Wojciech Kilar, Karol Szymanowski, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and Frederic Chopin.
It was a unique and one-of-a-kind immersion of Polish artistic culture across generations featuring Polish musicians rarely seen in the United States performing a range of styles from folk music, to jazz, to contemporary classical music, arranged by the young Polish composer Jan Smoczyński.
Projections depicting the majestic and awe-inspiring Tatra Mountains were adapted from photographs of the region taken by Polish composer Mieczysław Karłowicz, which formed the atmospheric backdrop for this multimedia concert.
Fast-Growing Classical Music Market
This was an extraordinary meeting of musicians from different aesthetic universes, yet the blend brought listeners into the true beauty of the Eastern country.
Poland is a fast-growing hub for classical music. This makes sense, as many flock to the country, especially Warsaw to explore the birthplace of Chopin, who was born just outside the city. It is full of monuments associated with the composer, from grand palaces to manicured parks.
Though in the classical genre, Chopin can express emotion when Mozart and Beethoven are too traditional. Musicians and tourists alike flock to the country to dive deeper into the composer’s life and influences.
This has aided in the efforts of Polish musicians to reach notoriety, and venture out to other countries, such as we saw in Voices of the Mountains.
History and World War I
This concert also was performed at a unique time, as the world remembers the horrors of World War I as well as the 100th anniversary of Poland’s formation. Countries involved in the war took time earlier this month to mark the occasion of Armistice Day, whether it was in Paris, the United Kingdom, or the United States, to name a few. It was on that same day in 1918 that Poland gained restored sovereignty from the German, Austrian and Russian Empires.
After World War I, holidays were established in other countries in the spirit of grief and horror at the enormous human cost, and they mark the sacrifices of those who fought. However, for Poland, the tragedy of the war was tempered by what had been accomplished at its end: the restoration of a sovereign Polish state that had been lost entirely in the partitions of Poland, after 123 years of struggle. The Polish holiday is therefore simultaneously a celebration of the reemergence of a Polish state and a commemoration of those who fought for it.
Voices of the Mountains brought together some of Poland’s most celebrated ensembles and musicians, including Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka’s Highlanders Quartet specializing in folk music of the Polish Highlands using traditional instruments; Atom String Quartet, an internationally renowned Polish jazz quartet; and NEO String Quartet, Poland’s premier ensemble specializing in contemporary classical music. In addition to composing the modern arrangements performed on the program, Jan Smoczyński was featured on the keyboard, joined by Jan Młynarski on drums and Andrzej Święs on double-bass. Polish pianist and musical director Janusz Olejniczak also performed.
This performance of Voices of the Mountains was conducted by Marek Moś, who also is the artistic director of the AUKSO chamber orchestra and artistic director of the AUSKO Summer Philharmonic festival in the Polish lake district. Moś also is the founder of the Silesian String Quartet, which in a very short time has become one of Europe’s finest ensembles of its kind.