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Landowska In Memoriam

Shanghai, 2019 | 上海, 2019

THE LEGACY OF POLISH MUSIC ABROAD AT THREE GLANCES
波兰音乐海外遗产的三次巡礼

 

October 9, 2019 6 PM
East China Normal University
  |  Department of Music

2019109日  18 點
华东师范大学  | 音乐学院

 

Władysław Kłosiewicz harpsichord

◼︎ Louis Couperin (1626 – 1661)
– Pavane
– Prelude
– Passacaille

 

◼︎ François Couperin (1668 – 1733)

CINQUIÊME ORDRE (selection)
– Allemande “La Logiviére”
– Courante
– Sarabande “La Dangereuse”
– La Tendre Fanchon

 

◼︎ François Couperin

LES FASTES DE LA GRANDE ET ANCIENNE MÉNÉSTRANDISE
– I Acte – Les Notables et Jurés
– II Acte – Les Viéleux et les Gueux
– III Acte – Les Jongleurs
– IV Acte – Les Invalides
– V Acte – Désordre et déroute de toute la troupe

 

◼︎ Louis-Nicolas Clerambault (1676 – 1749)

SUITE EN DO MINEUR
– Prélude
– Allemande
– Courante
– Sarabande
– Gigue

 

◼︎ Claude Benigne Balbastre (1724 – 1799)
– La Lugeac
– La d’Héricourt
– La Castelmore

Period harpsichords

“It would be hard to forget any of her performances. This wise and sensitive woman held an extraordinary sway over her audiences. She dazzled people with both her charisma and the music she performed. It always seemed that Madame Landowska needed to take a few minutes to walk the twenty steps to the instrument waiting for her in the middle of the stage. When she sat at her instrument, she would join her hands as if in prayer, stroke them, turn her eyes to heaven; at this moment everyone in the hall felt that she was in communion with Bach, that she was listening to his instructions and encouragement. When playing, dressed in a black flowing gown, her spirit almost hovered over the harpsichord. Indeed, she looked like a custodian of the Holy Grail. “

That is how a performance of Wanda Landowska – probably the most famous harpsichord player of the 20th century – was described – not without a hint of irony – by the esteemed and influential American music critic and musicologist, Harold C. Schonberg, when in 1949 he wrote a number of articles for the New York press covering Landowska’s series of concerts, during which she performed the whole of Bach’s “Das wohltemperierte Klavier” [The Well-Tempered Clavier]. It was Landowska who was the first among the interpreters of Bach’s music, who flourished at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, to begin performing the keyboard music of the Leipzig cantor once again on the harpsichord – an instrument to which Bach had devoted numerous of his works, much like Händel, Scarlatti, Couperin and others. Inspired by the notion of ​​historicism, a desire to restore the compositions of the former masters; in keeping with the sound in which they were first performed, Landowska brought the harpsichord to concert halls. By doing so, Landowska not only re-established the harpsichord as an instrument for the performance of Baroque works, but also reconceived it as a modern instrument, offering new and unexpected audial possibilities to her contemporary composers.

Landowska was born on 5 July 1897 in Warsaw where she would study piano at the Warsaw Conservatory under Jan Kleczyński and Aleksander Michałowski. From Warsaw she went to Berlin to study composition with Heinrich Urban. There she met the well-known folklorist and writer, Henryk Lew, her future husband, with whom in 1909 she wrote the popular book Musique ancienne. She also went with Lew to Paris, where she was employed as a lecturer at the renowned Schola Cantorum. In France, she eventually turned to performing early music. The Pleyel Company built a concert harpsichord for her, on which she played in 1911 during the Bach Festival in Eisenach – the city of Bach’s birth. At that time, Landowska’s interpretations were hailed as astonishing, and her style of play inspired a heated discussion between proponents of the “new” historical trend and “tradition academic” in the field of pianism. Landowska soon won plaudits for her innovation. She not only became famous, but – most importantly –  renewed an interest in baroque music, having  restored to concert performance a large part of the largely forgotten historical repertoire. She repeated her success at Eisenach a year later during the 6th Bach Festival in Wrocław, organized at that time by the New Bach Society. In 1913, Landowska was offered a chair at Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik, where she would teach until 1919. Thus, this remarkable Polish woman became the first harpsichord lecturer in Germany and the most-respected authority on the keyboard interpretations of Jan Sebastian Bach, setting the standard in this field for the next half century. After a short sojourn in Basel, where she also taught, in 1920 Landowska returned to Paris for good. There she continued to work as a teacher, this time at École Normale de Musique; until in 1925 she founded her own École de Musique Ancienne in Saint-Leu-la Forêt in the outskirts of Paris. She opened her school in the presence of the renowned French pianist, Alfred Cortot.

But Landowska – most importantly – would continue to perform over the course of the next twenty years; and these artistic journeys would lead her to the most far-flung corners of the earth. Although she became a citizen of the world, she was always eager to return to Warsaw. Thanks to these visits, Polish audiences could experience Landowska’s fascinating interpretation of the music of old masters, and above her masterly performances of Bach. Her harpsichord recital at the Warsaw Philharmonic in 1912 was greeted as a triumph, performing on this occasion Bach’s Capriccio sopra la lontananza and the  Prelude and Fugue in D major from the first book of Das wohltemperierte Klavier [The Well-Tempered Clavier]. In 1913, she performed a recital at the Teatr Wielki, interpreting, among others his Italian Concerto. For Warsaw residents, both performances were greeted with great enthusiasm, and the press wrote that Landowska had delivered a “top-drawer” recital. From 1923, Landowska also began making recordings, many of which now have been digitally remastered. From among her distinguished students, we may mention: the Italian harpsichordist Ruggiero Gerlin, the English pianist Cliford Curzon, the Belgian composer and harpsichordist Aimée van de Wiele and the American harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. For Manuel de Falla wrote for Landowskaa his famous Concerto for harpsichord and five instruments (performed by her for the first time in Barcelona in 1926).Also with Landowska in mind, Francis Poulenc wrote his Concert champêtre (performed for the first time in Paris in 1929). In 1933, Landowska for the first time played Bach’s Goldberg Variations during a concert, and it was probably the first such public recital of this work.

The Second World War impeded the happy course of the musician’s life. When in June 1940, the Nazi army entered Paris, Landowska had to give up teaching due to her Jewish ethnicity, only escaping certain death by emigrating to the United States. Her Parisian library, music collection and rich collection of instruments were plundered by the Germans; and after the war these items were never returned to either the owner or her heirs. After arriving in the USA, she embarked on her second career there. She also resumed intensive teaching and recording activity. In 1947, she settled in Lakeville Connecticut, and it was here that on 16 August 1959 Wanda Landowska died at the age of 75. In 1954 Landowska had given her farewell concert in New York, but shortly before her death she had also recorded Bach’s oeuvre for vinyl.

Today Wanda Landowska is deservedly considered a precursor of the historical trend pertaining to the performance of early music. Certainly not all her interpretative proposals have stood the test of time. Although she brought the concert harpsichord back to life, the one she played had little in common with original baroque instrument. Despite this fact, her harpsichord interpretations should be regarded as seminal, as they revived an interest in the original Baroque repertoire, not to mention spearheading a revived fascination with Bach and the music of other Baroque masters. Her playing was neither pedantic nor purist nor dry, but she remained close to the Romantic tradition. Her recordings were, as confirmed by audio archives, full of imaginative and colourful flights. She revived polyphonic structures with extraordinary grace, giving them spirit, and imbuing them with emotion. Although Landowska did not recognize compromises in art; and despite her great musical learning and scholarship, she never surrendered the freedom which all great artists retain. Landowska rejected the nineteenth-century ideal of the virtuoso being placed on a historical and honorary pedestal, and instead established herself as an artist-scholar who, when performing, looked to  be guided by the composer and to bring their intentions to fruition. To this end, Landowska rejected the idea of technique for technique’s sake and remained solely in the service of true art.

 

SZYMON PACZKOWSKI ( translation Barry Keane )


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When we think today about the renaissance of harpsichord music in the 20th century, the figure of Wanda Landowska immediately comes to the fore, so much so that it is only today that we fully appreciate her role and contribution. We can now retain a distance from the controversy surrounding Landowska’s harpsichord and its monumental sound; the idea that early music was supposedly less perfect than the music of later periods, and we can appreciate the imaginative strength of Landowska’s character. Born in Warsaw, in a Poland, which at that time was not present on any of the maps in the world, Landowska, from early childhood, displayed a unique and precocious musical talent. It is worth recalling the name of her outstanding teacher: Aleksander Michałowski, who was a celebrated performer of Chopin’s works. His impressive repertoire also included all the preludes and fugues from Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, which he knew like no other. It is difficult to judge if Michałowski had an impact on the young pianist, but when Landowska at the age of 17 went on to study in Berlin, she dreamt not of the Romantic repertoire, but of the old music.

This liking for the old music was all the more surprising as at the time such music was known but a few, and in a fragmentary fashion; indeed classical music was completely dominated by the great romantic repertoire, being symphonic, operatic and concerto. Few people felt the need to explore and make themselves familiar with the intentions included in the works of a composer who had lived centuries previously. Bach was certainly (since the discovery of Mendelssohn’s The Passion of Matthew) the best known of such composers, but it was possible to play the composer by way of Busoni’s rifacciamenti; or to add a piano accompaniment to the solo violin parts, which was intended to complement (!) the sound picture of the work as if it were an incomplete piece.

At concerts, orchestras played symphonic reworkings of the Leipzig cantor, which included the Aria on the G string or the Toccata and the Fugue in D minor. The great neo-Romantic casts of the choir and orchestra performed Bach’s passions. No one was surprised by the dearth of instruments used by the composer in the orchestra (even the absence of the oboe da caccia, viola da gamba, lute and others), not to mention the quite different expression obtained by these monumental ensembles. Their volume and dynamics were associated with the music of Wagner or Mahler rather than with the polyphony of the composer of the mathematically precise Kunst der Fuge.

Being in thrall to the artistic world of bygone eras, and searching for ways and means that would evoke the sound-world of centuries old – thus entailing the construction of instruments and a reflection of the performance practice and aesthetics of these works – all of this would lie in the future. It was not until the 1970s that a generation of musicians came to the fore, who were not prepared to accept the dishevelled, monumental, romantic visions of Baroque works. Instead, they looked to interpret this music in their own way and make it a part of their personal experience. They wanted to preserve its unique beauty, without abandoning their own interpretation. This was the „creed” of Wanda Landowska, who stated that every performer „adds their own style, combining intuition with knowledge so as to create musical ecstasy”.

Landowska, in her firm conviction that only the sound of old keyboard instruments could lead to a full appreciation of Bach’s works, was very much ahead of her time. It turned out, however, that in Western Europe no instrument proved capable of matching the artist’s conception. She searched the museums for a long time, studied manuscripts, and finally sought help from the Pleyel piano company.

The first harpsichord did not win her over, only with time was it possible to combine the best features of historical instruments into one; and following this, a harpsichord was created with a deep, strong sound and an impressive low register, constituting a sound foundation. This opened up completely new interpretative possibilities for the artist. „Equipped with extraordinary intelligence, she managed to find a personal space for playing the harpsichord (…), and at the same time she did not forge the old anew, but looked to achieve their ideal perfection; this is her mystery and her artistry” (review after a concert performance on 15 March 1911 at the Cologne History of Music Museum).

The artist finally found her place in Paris, where from the beginning of the twentieth century one could sense the ferment; the search for innovation, and a rejection of the aesthetics of Romanticism so foreign to French sensitivity. Genius painters and great poets, would listen to Debussy’s music (hailed as „Claude de France”) and feel the spirit of the era.

Francis Poulenc wrote after meeting with Landowska (for which he composed his Concert champêtre): „Wanda is a phenomenal interpreter. The way she has restored to life and recreated the harpsichord is a miracle in itself.” Her sojourn in Paris Saint-Leu-la-Forêt with its beautiful gardens and concert hall has become a real centre of early music; a centre for the study and popularization of this art. Performing from May until October, conducting master classes, and hosting the meetings of musicologists from around the world. Leandowska already had in her possession two Playel harpsichords, spinets, clavichords, fortepianos, small organs from the 18th century, and many valuable manuscripts, all of which were kept in her home. She also had many students, who over time would excite a fascination for the harpsichord and the repertoire suitable for this instrument in many countries. From 1923, Lewandowska undertook a great tour of the United States, which during the Second World War would become her permanent home. These years are also the time of her Bach recordings, made in the studios of RCA Victor.

Landowska’s interpretations won universal acclaim after a concert performance in New York (Town Hall, 1942), where she had played the Goldberg Variations. The well-known critic, Virgil Thomson, wrote: „From every perspective- historical knowledge, style, taste, understanding and spontaneous musicality – these interpretations of the harpsichord repertoire are definitive for our time.”

Landowska looked to restore the music of Bach to its immanent sound image, with respect to its latent emotion versus knowledge and somewhat mathematical precision, as well as to its wonderful virtuosity and pure joy of playing versus metaphysical framework. At this time, Lewandowska was forging a solitary path, something which is worth remembering today when looking at the multitude of harpsichord classes in various countries, the number of competitions, the incredible wealth of old instruments or instruments modelled upon the original designs, and finally – the recordings of the harpsichord repertoire, perpetuated all over again, according to the informed knowledge, but also with an artistic interpretation.

Among the key works of Bach, the four volumes of the Clavier-Übung occupy pride of place, containing as they do works for harpsichords and organs (both small and large), and presenting various forms, styles and compositional techniques. The first part (published in 1731) presents the six Partite, which the composer described as „Preludes, Allemandes, Courants, Sarabands, Gigues, Minuets and other Gallantry”, with the last phrase referring to the remaining dancing as well as non-dancing pieces: characteristic miniatures, woven into the fixed pattern of a baroque suite.

This cycle is the summation and crowning of the two previous sets of suites – the French and English, a kind of musical summa, illustrating all the possibilities that this capacious form brought. This was very much in line with the composer’s analytical mind; and in this regard Bach did not emphasize the didactic qualities of the cycle, but rather allowed the free manifestation of its artistic quality. „For music lovers, and the diversion of their minds,” he so wrote. 5/ This was the first printed collection in the extremely rich oeuvre of the 46-year-old composer, which may seem strange given his esteemed reputation. The Rector of the University of Leipzig, Johann Christoph Gottsched, put it best when he wrote: „in Saxony, the Bach kapellmeister towers over his contemporaries.”

The series of the 6 Partite represents a review of the advanced means of the harpsichord technique, meaning the purely manual discoveries of the era, Bach will only multiply the difficult elements further in’s Goldberg Variations. By creating his original sound language, the composer draws freely from various sources: he uses elements of French and Italian style, concerto technique, lyrical cantabile and subtle ornaments, and even reminiscences of stylus fantasticus straight from Froberger’s suite. All this is immersed in a polyphonic tissue – once treated freely, and on other occasions taking the form of an intricate fugue (with the inversion of the topic or even two thematic thoughts). 

The core elements of the Partita are four basic (main) Baroque dances, in a suitably strongly stylized form: allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. As a part of one dance, Bach applies in the next Partite – apart from similarities, the visible differences, making for an intriguing tonal experience for attentive listeners.

The Praeludium opening the First Partita in B flat major (BWV 825) is the simplest among these introductory parts – conceived as it is out of one short motif, which resembles the preludes of Das Wohltemperierte Clavier. Further nexuses of the cycle consistently emphasize the rhythmic vibrancy, and homogeneous type of movement: the unique hexadecimal, triadic figurations in Allemande, and in Corrente – the triole, which is moving ever-forward. Giga has an original character, and is kept in an even rhythm and not in fugue, motori, or virtuoso. Only Saraband emerges from this domination of a homogeneous rhythm, and is French in type, being arabesque and ornate.

The French style finds a congenial manifestation in the Sinfonia opening the Second Partita in C minor (BWV 826), where pathos and cothurnus achieve true and tragic greatness: heavy, massive arpeggiated chords, punctuated rhythms, expressive harmonic language, and then a somewhat austere fugue with neutral “key” theme from the emotional side. It is preceded by Andante, replete with the intimate lyricism of a subtle kind, a pensive ariosa in the style of a cantabile. The French esprit is also linked to the two final parts (in the Second Partita, the gigue uniquely does not make an appearance) – instead the Rondeau is full of lightness and grace, and with splendid complementary rhythms, and the Capriccio – a virtuoso piece with an impressive finale, and which presents a new keyboard style.

The 3rd Partita in A minor (BWV 827) opens Fantazja, being in fact a two-part inventio, and does not present such expressive features so as to influence the ambience of the entire piece. Further parts have individual, diverse dimensions (according to the Baroque postulate of varietas): Allemande accords with the French taste in that it is decorative with a capricious melodic line which is both subtle and delicate. In contrast, the Corrente is in the Italian style, wherein the two “Galanterie” are both Burlesque and Scherzo, being as they are full of rhythmic energy, vigour, and grandeur. The Scherzo in particular introduces decisive dynamic accents – broken chords in the left hand as a foundation for the „chase” of figurative runners in the right hand. This leads to Gigue with its long theme, a three-part fugue maintained in a constant, uniform rhythmic pulse; with Bach such a vision of the stylization of this dance is a common idea.

The 4th Partita in D major (BWV 828) transports us to the splendour of the French court, seen through the prism of Lully’s triumphant apotheosis. This is the initial Overture, with its soaring markers and majestic puente rhythms. The wondrous first part of the Partita finds its worthy fulfilment in the finale, with the elaborate Gigue with its long, figurative, and dazzling theme, which progresses into a double fugue. The strict counterpoint is connected here – as often with Bach – with its dazzling piano-key virtuosity. Another phenomenon is the Allemande, which is unique in terms of its lyricism, which takes us from court splendour to deeply intimate moments. We find here one of those exceptional Bach melodies which so aroused the admiration of his contemporaries. „His melodies were unique, (…) rich in ideas and not reminiscent of the melody of any other composer” (we can so read in an obituary). The dancing elements are introduced by Aria – lively, syncopated, with a fondness using rhythmic play between the parts of both hands.

The Praeambulum opening the 5th Partita in G major (BWV 829) – diverse and ever-changing – brings improvised figurations and arpeggiated chords, intertwined with the fragments of a strict polyphonic structure, or with episodes laid out in a concerto style. Subsequent dances do not differ from the patterns created by the composer in the partite: Allemande introduces a touch of lyricism with its delicate figuration and rich ornamentation; Courante in its Italian style introduces a sense of renewal (rejuvenation?), whereas the Sarabanda is delicate and intimate, filled as it is with French esprit. The light and charming Minuet evokes the brisé style of French lutists, whereas Gigue – as always fugued, is based on a relatively concise theme, with a distinctive rhythm and a three-note motif.

The 6th Partita in E minor (BWV 830) opens with a brilliant and dramatic expression of Toccata, reminiscent of Froberger’s songs maintained in a stylus fantasticus. These quasi-improvised opening and closing pieces introduce violent dramatic narrative, both capricious and aphoristic, one in which a three-way fugued section is interwoven. Also the harmonic language – especially the chromatic progressions and the rising culmination, evoke Froberger’s bold ideas. The rhapsodic Toccata style is suggested by Sarabanda, with its powerful, rhetorical narrative. The Gigue closing the Partite, based on an exceptionally original topic, developing over the course of several segments, with the surprising, repeated steps of a small seventh chord, bring to mind Buxtehude’s strongly emotional, rhetorical ideas.

The 6 Partite crown the period of Bach’s work as based on the Baroque form of the suite, and clearly his analytical approach to the possibilities hidden in a given material or structure was sated. The meticulous elaboration of ideas (elaboratio) goes hand in hand with freedom of invention. When we add to this an impressive array of harpsichord techniques, we can understand the sentiment of his contemporaries who wrote in an obituary: „He was the greatest harpsichordist and organist we’ve ever had.”

Władysław Kłosiewicz studied the harpsichord under Ruggero Gerlin, a student of Wanda Landowska. It is probably difficult to discern in his mode of play direct references to the style of the great pioneer, but he has unquestionably looked to carry the torch, so saying that the performer „adds his own style, combining intuition with knowledge”.

Playing Bach, Kłosiewicz is free from preconceived assumptions; and especially the Partite, with their wonderful synthesis of styles and technical means, allow for such an interpretation. Indeed, in his interpretation, we can find a polyphonic, almost mathematical accuracy, but also a lightness, amusement and dancing vigour: full of momentum, rhythmic energy, exquisite accents and fragments – and beyond this- the purest lyricism with deeply intimate phrases, pensive; or the rendering of a climate of idyllic happiness. What we are presented with is a lofty pathos and cothurnus, a dramatic gesture, and an exquisite, fragile and sophisticated fabric of ornaments, or indeed a brilliant virtuosity inscribed in polyphonic exactness. This performance, honouring as it does the great tradition of the harpsichord with its origins in the Baroque, has achieved a modern sensitivity.

 

Ewa Obniska

 

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Władysław Kłosiewicz — harpsichordist and conductor. He studied at the Academy of Music in Warsaw and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena. Kłosiewicz was the last student of Ruggero Gerlin (1899-1983), the assistant and closest collaborator of Wanda Landowska. He was the winner of international harpsichord competitions in Paris (1981), Paris-Dijon (1983), and Munich (1984). Since 1978, he has played with the Polish Chamber Orchestra and the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra; he also co-founded the Concerto Avenna and has collaborated with many prominent soloists and conductors, including Fr. Bruggen, R. Norrington, N. Harnoncourt, Ch. Hoghwood, R. Jacobs, W. Kuijken, Th. Hengelbrock, P. Muellejans, L. Duftschmidt, J. West, Y. Menuhin, H. Szeryng. He has performed in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Spain, Holland, Lebanon, Luxemburg, Germany, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, the USA, Hungary, Great Britain and Italy.

His solo phonographic work includes all the harpsichord works of: L. Couperin and J.Ph. Rameau; the Partitas, French suites and Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach (Fryderyk 2000 award), the works of J.J. Froberger, the sonatas of D. Scarlatti, and the entirety of F. Couperin’s oeuvre (13 CDs, which in 2014 garnered Fryderyk and Clef d’Or awards). In the years 1993-2017 he was attached to the Warsaw Chamber Opera, during which time he was the conductor of the Baroque Musicae Antiquae Colegium Varsoviense Early Music Orchestra. He compiled, edited and oversaw the first Polish stage performances of Claudio Monteverdi’s „L’Orfeo”, „Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria”, and „L’Incoronazione di Poppaea”, as well as his vespers „Vespro della Beata Vergine”. He also directed G.F. Haendel’s operas „Imeneo”, „Rinaldo”, „Giulio Cesare” and „Ariodante”, as well as many other Baroque operatic works (including the first opera, J. Perri’s „Euridice” dated to 1600), as well as hundreds of oratoria, and symphonic and chamber concerts.

In the years 1987 – 2004, he was Professor of the Harpsichord and the Interpretation of Pre-Classical music at the Universitaet für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz, Austria. He currently lectures at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw.

 

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