Friday, February 28, 2014

Polish Jazz vol. 74 – Namyslowski The Q – Open

   A famous Polish saxophonist, Zbigniew Namysłowski is one of most prolific artists of Polish school of modern jazz. He is active since late fifties and with every decade he was evolving through trends while retaining his individual style. In the era of vinyl records he was also one of most featured artists in Polish Jazz series. As many of Polish school founding fathers he was professionally educated in classical music as multi instrumentalist, arranger and composer. Before he chose alto saxophone, he was playing cello and piano in Academy and trombone in traditional jazz bands.
   After his debut in 1957 during Sopot International Jazz Festival, he almost instantly became one of leading artists in Poland, with his group Jazz Rockers which he was recording life during Jazz Jamboree festival in 1961. Later he was leader of The Wreckers. In both bands he was playing with Michał Urbaniak, then playing tenor saxophone. With The Wreckers he was touring in US and played at Newport Jazz Festival in 1962. In 1964 Zbigniew Namysłowski with his own quartet recorded for Decca album Lola and it was probably first international success of Polish jazz musicians.

Namyslowski The Q – Open (1987)

   Zbigniew Namysłowski was present on Polish Jazz recordings from the very beginning of the series. First volume of Warsaw Stompers presented four songs in his arrangements. On fifth volume Astigmatic he was playing with Krzysztof Komeda Quintet – he was listed as Zbyszek Namysłowski (he was 26 years old). Sixth volume of the series was self titled record of Zbigniew Namysłowski Quartet opening series of the most significant albums in the history Polish jazz. Next records were Winobranie (vol. 33), Kujaviak Goes Funky (vol. 46) and signed by Namysłowski The Q one of last albums in the series Open (vol. 74). In fact each of these albums requires a more attention and a separate article as every record is document of artist development.
   Album Open shows a reaction against exhaustion of jazz in the eighties. Saxophonist is convincing the best answer to an uncertain situation of jazz music could be turning back to seventies and using some past ideas in new context. In 1987 jazz was still highly priced in Poland, even if as a genre it was more and more marginalized. Many jazz musicians had moved to popular music, playing soft jazz or becoming arrangers and sidemen in dance recordings. Thus there are some references to the easy listening, but Zbigniew Namysłowski made Open another strong expression of his believe in folk music. His solos in Cuban Tango Mohito and Rachitis March are once again clear examples of artist’s post-bop and post-fusion improvisations.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Masters of Mannheim school

   In the Enlightment period composers found model of musical equilibrium between emotional and intellectual elements of musical formation. Thank to this balance musical rules of this period were defined as the classical style. And the one of most flourishing musical centers of this era was Mannheim court with its famous orchestra and a great bunch of talented and well trained composers.  The beginning of the movement was in 1920, when Charles III Philipp, Elector Palatine moved Palatinate’s capital from Heidelberg to Mannheim. Musicians from disbanded orchestras in Innsbruck and Düsseldorf were joined to continue traditions of Silesian Kapelle. In 1723 Mannheim orchestra consisted of 55 musicians from almost all directions of Europe. The band was diversified and competitive, but all those qualities were not recognized outside the country. It was so, until forties. In 1743 begin the reign of Karl Theodor von der Pfalz, art connoisseur and patron of artists. This is also the moment Johann Stamitz, bohemian composer and violinist was employed for Hofkapelle in 1741. Two years later he became first violinist, then concertmaster and conductor of the orchestra. 
   In the court of Charles Theodore orchestra was rapidly changed. Opulence of various instruments, high performing skills made this ensemble famous as band of virtuosi. And many of virtuoso musicians were also composers. And making their personal contribution in musical repertoire of the court they were also inspired one another. Such collection of great musicians made this ensemble famous all over Europe. In 1777 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart submitted a proposal to join the team but his access has not been accepted. It happened even though monarch Charles Theodore has commissioned Mozart’s opera Idomeneo. Composer’s visit in Mannheim has its part in creating classical style. His meeting with instrumentalists and composers has to be turning point. Mannheim court musicians were creating most capable, orderly and flexible orchestra in Europe. This orchestra played a decisive role during the classical turn in Mannheim and in other centers, Vienna and Berlin.

Musik in alten Städten und Residenzen – Mannheim (1961)

   Probably most obvious volume in Electrola-EMI series Musik in alten Städten und Residenzen was the one dedicated to the Mannheim composers. Recorded in 1961 by Kammerorchester der Saarländischen Rundfunks conducted by Karl Ristenpart, album features works of four composers, three orchestral and one for string quartet. First is Orchester-Trio C Major op. 1 No. 1 by Johann Stamitz, one of earlier Mannheim compositions (1755) according to Hugo Riemann this work was inspired by Christoph Willibald Gluck’s triosonaten from 1746. Composed between 1767 and 1771 Quartet for 2 Violini, Viola and Cello E-flat Major op. 5 No. 4 by Franz Xaver Richter (1709-1789) has been recorded in very reliable performance of Drolc Quartet. Second side of the album comprises two orchestral compositions Violin Concerto D Major by Carlo Giuseppe Toeschi (1724-1788) with solist Georg Friedrich Hendel and Sinfonia à 8 “Sinfonie périodique” No. 2 by Anton Filtz (1730-1760). Record was awarded with “Grand prix du disque” and happened to be one of basic recordings of the series.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nadia Boulanger conducts Monteverdi

   In final decades of 16th century master composers looked compelled by polyphonic techniques of renaissance music. The more and more composers were breaking rules in the search of strengthened artistic effect. The form of madrigal was perfect soil for experiments and many of great Italian masters were trying to find the best solution of dilemma between perfect polyphony and the need of emotional interaction with poetry. One of most consequent was Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), who was as much famous as distinct. In his compositions he was linking different, even contradicting ideas. In transitional era between renaissance and baroque styles such practice was even not so rare, as one can see in famous example of an eccentric music by Carlo Gesualdo. Seven years older than Monteverdi, Gesualdo broaden harmonic meanings, but didn’t found efficient way to break the idea of polyphonic he was educated. And this is why he is considered to be still in renaissance style. 
   Claudio Monteverdi, one of greatest composers in music history, started with accepted style and evolutionary changed the era. His achievements in the field of new form of opera are considerably known and appreciated. But space to experiment was madrigal, the most popular genre of chamber music in late renaissance. During his lifetime Monteverdi published eight books of madrigals. This cycle shows the way of developing monadic style out of Renaissance polyphonic style. The 5th Book of Madrigals shows the transition to baroque style. It was forwarded by preface taking position in the debate on music esthetic issues. Controversy was about the division between old, renaissance polyphonic style with dissonance limitations and equal voices, called by composer prima pratica and new, emotional, freely flowing monadic style based on rhetoric and structural meanings called seconda pratica.
   Monteverdi was sure of what he had done. His stile concitato (agitated style) using rhetoric means was developed in last three decades of his life and published 8 years after his death as Madrigali e canzonette a due e tre voci. It’s occurs to be called 9th Book of Madrigals. Abandoning equality of voices, featuring soprano and bass, he gave dramatic space for musical action. Repetitions, rapid changes of dynamics and dissonances were connected to lyrics. In such free harmonics comes the natural tendency to creating tonal gravity center and this was beginning of new functional tonality. Monteverdi’s improvements become the model for generation of baroque composers working after Monteverdi’s death. Among them were Giacomo Carissimi, Barbara Strozzi and many others. Although this great achievements, during next two centuries his music was almost totally forgotten. 

Nadia Boulanger conducts Monteverdi (1952)

   After 19th century revival of baroque music, Monteverdi was back from the shadow, but artistic attitudes to his works as well as other early baroque composers were predominantly doubtful. There was always fundamental question if historic works should be played with modern feeling or in purest, most crude shape. And most artists were choosing an intermediate position. One of them was Nadia Boulanger, composer, conductor and famous teacher of most successful composers. Her impact on 20th century music can’t be overestimated. For the first time she recorded collection of Monteverdi’s Madrigals in 1937. In 1952 in France and US Decca released the album of 11 works performed by Vocal and Instrumental Ensemble under the direction of Nadia Boulanger. The same year it was published in Great Britain by Brunswick label. There is no information when it was recorded, but quality convinces it was after the war.
   Program of this record comprises mainly madrigals. Opening are 5 voices madrigals O mirtillo, Mirtill'anima mia and Era l'anima mia from 5th Book of Madrigals (1605), then 3 voice Scherzo “Damigella tutta bella” from Scherzi musicali (1607), 2 voice O, come vaghi from 9th Book of Madrigals (1651) and 5 voice Sfogava con le stele from 4th Book of Madrigals (1604). Second side includes two works from 8th Book of Madrigals (1638): Canto amoroso for 5 voices  Dolcissimo uscignolo and Canto amoroso for 3 voices, 2 singers and alto Su su pastorelli vezzosi, Madrigals for 2 voices Interrotte speranze from 7th Book (1619) and for 5 voices A un giro sol de bell'occhi lucenti from 4th Book (1603), Scherzo musicale in recitative style Quel sguardo sdegnosetto from Scherzi musicali (1632) and Concertato Madrigale for 5 voices Qui rise tirsi from 6th Book of Madrigals (1614). In various setups artist were testing interpreting possibilities.
   Nadia Boulanger made clear vision of an early baroque sensibility. And this recording was strong statement in the discussions on performing ancient music. She directed the ensemble of nine singers: Flore Wend (soprano), Donna Rumsey (soprano), Geneviève Massignon (soprano), Nancy Waugh (mezzo-soprano), Violette Journeaux (contralto), Hugues Cuenod (tenor), Paul Derenne (tenor), Doda Conrad (bass), Bernard Cottret (bass) and eleven instrumentalists with Luben Jordanoff (violin), Pierre Pasquier (solo viola), Colette Lequien (viola), Maurice Gendron (solo violoncello), Pierre Barthélemy (contrabass), Pierre Jamet (harp) and four more cellists. Nadia Boulanger conducted and played harpsichord. Great album, even considering some old fashioned  voice projection. For studying esthetical evolution of the interpreting art it’s indispensable. Three and half stars should cover its value.