Thanksgiving thoughts from Warsaw

Tonight I am conducting on a concert with three different conductors (hearkens back to my days with the Chelsea Symphony?), as part of a week-long festival in Warsaw to celebrate the 85th birthday of composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Take a look at this incredible line-up of artists, conductors, and musicians:

As a fledgling composer, I marvel at the ability to create SO MUCH excellent music that could fill up one concert, or maybe a weekend… but to have an oeuvre where 12 concerts don’t even cover all the repertoire is really an achievement and testament to creativity and longevity. Maestro Penderecki’s works have an underlying level of quality, breadth, and sonority that is apparent even in his earlier “experimental” works. He has nothing left to prove, so he is free to write the music he wants to write, full of gravitas and serious depth. His mastery of overarching pacing and form allows him to write expansive works, à la Mahler, wherein he blends his trademark chromaticism within a palette of beautiful diatonic and harmonic colors.

I’m conducting two works tonight: the Adagio from M. Penderecki’s third symphony, which he re-arranged for string orchestra, and a newly written work for this occasion “Letter to a Composer” by my composer and friend David Chesky. David’s music takes elements from his jazz background and mixes them with his love of dissonance and classical music. He has a unique voice and the seemingly uncomplicated music sounds beautiful and original. The young soprano Natalia Rubis is doing a wonderful job singing this tribute to M. Penderecki.

The idea of performing a single movement from a larger work is not new (think of the Adagietto from Mahler Five, or perhaps Nimrod from Enigma Variations). This Adagio movement absolutely stands on its own, and I love it in string orchestra form. In this version, the many instrumental solo voices are now distributed among the principal strings, and since they are so close to one another on stage, the work takes on a new feeling of grand chamber music.

This is third piece by M. Penderecki that I have conducted, and I am enjoying getting to know his music more and more. For those who are stateside, Happy Thanksgiving!

Yaniv Segal1 Comment