Author Topic: Wojciech Kilar (1932-2013)  (Read 14959 times)

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Offline Maciek

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Wojciech Kilar (1932-2013)
« on: April 12, 2007, 03:53:02 AM »
He never had a separate thread on the previous forum but there was one devoted to his Piano Concerto.

Polish composer born in Lwów/Lviv. Started off as a neoclassicist, then took a turn towards the avantgarde, and finally developed a characteristic, individual brand of minimalism mixed with a romantic sensitivity. In interviews he usually gently derides his own soundtrack composing, saying he doesn't really treat it seriously. But the fact is that film scores vastly outnumber the "serious" compositions in his output. The catalogue on his home page is not complete but it lists 143 soundtracks! Some of the early ones (especially for Zanussi's films) were quite outstanding and an OOP Olympia CD with them is well worth seeking out.

Of his "serious" music, I'm not especially fond of the latest works, such as the Missa pro pace or the Piano Concerto (I only like the first movements of both these works) but most of his stuff written until the late 1980s I quite like.

Here's a short survey of some of his works:

The Small Overture from 1955 is a very enjoyable, energetic neoclassical piece with great, colorful orchestration.

Riff 62 (1962) is quite impressionistic and pretty toned-down for an avantgarde piece. It's the sort of atonal music that Penderecki wrote in his early years - very communicative and expressive, and I find it a bit more colorful than Penderecki (who remained mostly a string man in those days, no matter how large the orchestras he wrote for). Génerique (1963) is another avantgarde piece, very short (less than 6 mins.) and noisy (lots of brass).

Kilar's transition towards minimalism starts at some point between those pieces and the early 1970s. The Prelude and Christmas Carol (1972) is a very slow, quiet piece without much happening.

In 1974 he wrote the first in a series of works inspired by the Tatra mountains and the music of their native folk, the "gorale" (górale, "highlanders"). This was the tone poem Krzesany. With it Kilar was said to have "opened wide a window and let in fresh mountain air into the room of Polish music" (this is what Jan Krenz was supposed to have said upon first seeing the score). The idea being, I guess, that it sounded new and invigorating because Polish music in those years was dominated by the avantgarde that may have perhaps become a bit "old." The piece uses folk material from the Podhale region, yet Kilar developed it using modern compositional techniques, including an aleatory finale played without conductor. During the first performance (Warsaw Autumn) Jan Krenz famously showed off that fact by turning his back to the orchestra with a mighty flourish.

Personally, I prefer the four other pieces inspired by music from the Podhale region. The first of these is the tone poem Kościelec 1909 (Koscielec 1909) (1976). Its program is not as vague as that of Krzesany (which was meant simply to evoke the "atmosphere" of the mountains). Here the music is supposed to depict the tragic death of the Polish composer Mieczysław Karłowicz (Mieczyslaw Karlowicz) "the Polish Richard Strauss" who was buried under an avalanche in February 1909 at the age of 32 while climbing the mountain Kościelec (actually, not a very difficult climb during the summer but the peak looks very impressive nontheless - I've appended a picture of it from Wikimedia Commons at the end of this post). Kościelec is even more "old-fashioned" and "romantic" than Krzesany and it is a very moving piece, though somewhat dark. One of my favorite Kilar pieces. Together with the next two they make my top 3 as far as this composer is concerned. These other two are Siwa Mgła (White Fog?) for baritone and orchestra (1979) and Orawa for strings (1986). They are both definitely minimalistic but differ greatly in the overall mood. The first is slow, sombre, meditative, while the second very lively (a bit reminiscent of Krzesany)!

And since Siwa Mgła has come up, I'd like to mention three other vocal pieces. Bogurodzica (1975) for choir and orchestra is one of Kilar's last avantgarde pieces. It is a very original setting of the oldest known Polish poetic text (and melody). A very mysterious text (it used to be dated as far as the 10th century but studies from the last couple of years seem to indicate a much later date, probably the 15th century - though it incorporates much older elements). There are no catchy tunes here, the music is very plain, austere, Kilar was probably trying to evoke a sort of medieval aesthetics (?), and he used material from the original song of course. To me, the construction of the piece as a whole sounds a bit artificial though... The transitions are very abrupt and sudden, and sometimes there seems to be no connection between one segment and the next (perhaps this is intended, though?).

Two other pieces make for much easier listening. Exodus for choir and orchestra (1979-81) is a take on the repetitive crescendo idea from Ravel's Bolero and Shostakovich's 7th Symphony (I think Kilar himself said this). Personally, I don't really like it. And finally, the Angelus for soprano, choir and orchestra (1982-84) is a very minimalistic religious piece with simple melody, simple orchestration, yet I find it quite powerful.

And here's the photo of Kościelec (from Wikimedia Commons, by user Arwenaa):


Any comments? I know he hasn't enjoyed universal acclaim on the old forum but still... ;)

Cheers,
Maciek
« Last Edit: March 29, 2014, 05:35:04 PM by Maciek »

pjme

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2007, 11:48:10 AM »
Hi Maciek, i bought some of the Olympia LP's and Cd's .  I love Krzesany - a great wild piece that still remains a recognisable dance. I played it several times to friends who do not like classical music - they loved it!
I never heard Orawa- although several critics ( US and Great Britain) wrote very highly of it.
Angelus is fine, almost a masterpiece compared to the horrible  Exodus !( totaly over the top)

The Missa pro pace is now in the shops over here - not selling ,I'd say... (Will propably be cheap during the Sales)

Still, I agree that he is a composer with a distinct voice and worth discovering.

Offline Earthlight

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2007, 06:11:52 PM »
Bogurodzica (1975) for choir and orchestra is one of Kilar's last avantgarde pieces. It is a very original setting of the oldest known Polish poetic text (and melody). A very mysterious text (it used to be dated as far as the 10th century but studies from the last couple of years seem to indicate a much later date, probably the 15th century - but it incorporates many much older elements). There are no catchy tunes here, the music is very plain, austere, Kilar was probably trying to evoke a sort of medieval aesthetics, and he used material from the original song of course. The construction of the piece as a whole sounds a bit artificial though... The transitions are very abrupt and sudden, and sometimes there seems to be absolutely no connection between one part and the next.

Bogurodzica is very powerful. I guess I see what you mean about the transitions, but for me it holds together very well, and maintains a high level of tension. Avantgarde, but more than that it is sort of outside of time to me. Not even medieval, though that's what he's hinting at, but it feels pre-medieval or something, like dome time-warped Hittites could figure out what's going on with it.

The work by Kilar I'm most familiar with is September Symphony, a 9/11 tribute, but kind of upbeat, less doomy and ponderous than most 9/11 tributes I've heard. I purchased it on an impulse when it came out a couple of years ago, listened to it several times and enjoyed it, but it has filtered down to the back of the stack.

I even liked Exodus the one time I heard it (and Bolero annoys me). But that's just me :D.

Offline Maciek

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Happy Birthday, Wojciech Kilar!
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2007, 11:20:20 AM »
Wojciech Kilar was born on July 17th 1932 in Lviv. He is 75 today.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

karlhenning

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Re: Happy Birthday, Wojciech Kilar!
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2007, 11:25:21 AM »
Is Bogurodzica Polish for Mater Dei?

Offline Maciek

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Re: Happy Birthday, Wojciech Kilar!
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2007, 11:51:24 AM »
It's Polish for Theotokos. So I guess, yeah, it is Polish for Mater Dei. ;D

(That's not modern Polish though.)

Offline Maciek

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2007, 04:10:11 AM »
Hey, I have an idea! Why not celebrate this fabulously-popular-on-GMG composer's birthday by listening to his birthday concert?

I took place 2 days ago, on July 16th at the Częstochowa Basilica in Jasna Góra.

1.

The first piece in the program is the very short and dramatic fanfare called Victoria for choir and orchestra. It was first performed at the Katowice Cathedral in the presence of Pope John Paul II during his 2nd Apostolic Visit to Poland on June 20th 1983. The performers then were the PRNSO and the Silesian Philharmonic Choir under Antoni Wit. The piece was written to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Vienna (usually referred to in Polish as the "wiktoria wiedeńska" - hence the title of the composition). The piece starts with a musical quotation from Bogurodzica (the oldest Polish hymn). The sung text comes from King Jan III Sobieski's letter to Pope Innocent XI: "Venimus, vidimus, Deus vicit" (a quip alluding to Caesar's famous saying).

The performers here are the Polish Radio and Silesian Philharmonic Choirs and the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lukasz Borowicz. Oddly enough, there appear to be none of those ghastly glitches that often haunt my webcast recordings... ::)

DownloadLink: http://rapidshare.com/files/43503045/Kilar_Wojciech_Victoria__1983__PRChoir_SilesianPhilhChoir_PRNSO_Lukasz_Borowicz.mp3
File-Size: 5,24 MB

2.

The second piece in the program was Kilar's Angelus, written in the years 1982-1984. Though the title alludes to the Christian midday (and 6 o'clock) prayer Angelus, the piece itself seems to have more to do with the Rosary (a much longer prayer).

The performers here are the same with the addition of Izabela Klosinska - soprano. In my opinion Deflina Ambroziak fares much better in the Olympia recording of this piece - but you may judge that for yourselves.

There appears to be an awful glitch in this recording - more than 27 bars are missing, and from a very sensitive spot too: the entrance of the soprano! :'( Considering the fact that this is pretty repetitive music, and it would have been easy to remove a chunk of the same size somewhere else where it would go unnoticed, I'd say this is really tough luck. But still, 95% of the piece is there for you to enjoy. ;D

DownloadLink: http://rapidshare.com/files/43523181/Kilar_Wojciech_Angelus__1982-4__Izabela_Klosinska_PRCh_SPhCh_PRNSO_Lukasz_Borowicz.mp3
File-Size: 32,73 MB

3.

And finally, one of Kilar's newest compositions (perhaps the newest?): his Magnificat for soprano, tenor and bass, completed last year (2006). It's a very large piece (almost 50 minutes), so small glitches here and there were inevitable but still - you'd better snatch it up, as I don't think there's been a commercial release yet. The performers are the same as above (including Klosinska) plus the young tenor Rafal Bartminski (winner of 2nd prize at the recent Stanislaw Moniuszko Vocal Competition) and the eminent bass Piotr Nowacki.

DownloadLink: http://rapidshare.com/files/43591289/Kilar_Magnificat__2006__Izabela_Klosinska_Rafal_Bartminski_Piotr_Nowacki_PRCh_SPhCh_PRNSO_Lukasz_Bor (you need add the ".mp3" extension after downloading by renaming the file, sorry :-[)
File-Size: 66,39 MB

Enjoy the celebration!
Maciek

Offline BachQ

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2007, 04:14:39 AM »
Happy birthday.

Offline Maciek

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2008, 05:45:03 AM »
DUX have now commercially released a recording of the Magnificat. Check out the details on their new site (click on image):

Sean

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2008, 01:37:08 AM »
Hi Maciek, I got hold of Krzesany on LP only a few months back, coupled with Lutoslawski's Livre, a work I hadn't heard since a concert I went to in the '80s conducted by Maksymiuk. There's much energy and originality in Krzesany, with some very clever peroratory thinking at the end. Otherwise I come across very few recordings at my libraries.

Offline Maciek

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2008, 11:49:15 AM »
Hi Sean! I'm not surprised you liked Kilar - his style is the closest any Polish composer ever gets to Nyman and generally "Western" minimalism (though it is still quite far away ;D). I cannot recommend enough his soundtracks from the 70s which are IMO the best things he has ever written. Also, I think you should like all four of his Tatra-inspired pieces: not only Krzesany but Koscielec, Orawa and Siwa mgla as well (Orawa especially!). And you might find Angelus interesting. I find his music lost a lot of its former freshness at the end of the 80s though... But that's just my opinion. 0:)

Sean

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2008, 11:59:53 AM »
Yes indeed, the recording of his I had was quite a blast, and perhaps more interesting than the coupling I mentioned. Maybe a glib element to it, not that tightly wrought with maybe with a suitish disparate feel to the sections, but very much a name to return to.

Wish I could find more Szymanski also!

I did listen to some of Preisner's Requiem for my friend last night though- a few good ideas.

Sean

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2008, 10:26:37 PM »
Orawa for strings is somewhat minimalist and not too difficult to get into, the dissonant choral Bogurodzica a bit eclectic, redolent of symphony of psalms at one point, and likewise with Exodus, a bit like Nixon in China (written about the same time)! I've been playing the first two of these, but Exodus seemed on first impressions too derivative and simple. None of these I think compares with his more famous Krzesany: I think it's fair to say he has a small voice, with the occasional good idea and forms...

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Sean, I agree - his work is not always on the same level. However, I'm very fond of some of his pieces: Orawa, Mount Koscielec, Angelus, the Kyrie from Missa pro pace. Krzesany is on my "second favorites" list (which also includes the first two movements of the Piano Concerto). And some of his film music, especially stuff written for Krzysztof Zanussi (where the music only went over the main titles), is great fun (Balance, Catamount Killing, Hypothesis, The Contract). Also, the most traditional pieces, usually accompanying costume dramas: Jealousy and Medicine, Land of Promise, Leper, Chronicle of Love Affairs, Pan Tadeusz. And there's the really great tango from Salto!

Offline Dax

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2009, 12:04:51 PM »
Many thanks for posting the Magnificat! To my surprise I rather enjoyed it, although I'll have to give it another listen to find out exactly why. I've often found music which may be said to be rather similar to be somewhat vacuous in the past.

Offline Maciek

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2009, 02:14:12 PM »
Glad you liked it!

I've never posted this but you can listen to one of my favorite pieces, Orawa, over here.

For those interested, the title is pronounced Oh-rah-vah. I'm not sure whether the title alludes to the river or the county.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2009, 04:40:11 PM »
How seriously as a composer is Kilar taken within Poland, Maciek?

I always feel a little nervous about admitting to my liking for his music as I am aware that it is hardly cutting-edge Polish modernism ;D

Offline Maciek

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2009, 04:34:53 AM »
Oh, I think you'd be surprised to see how seriously he's taken! In a word: very. It's chic to complain about his quality but he still gets performed on all sorts of "official", "national" occasions. In that department he's second only to Penderecki. Or maybe he's actually ahead of Penderecki who's too much of an internationalist... ;D

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2009, 07:21:21 AM »
Ah...I feel better now ;D

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2009, 08:15:23 AM »
Right-I have checked to see exactly which Kilar pieces I have in my collection.

I have the 'September Symphony'(No.3), the Piano Concerto, 'Bogurodzica', 'Koscielec', 'Siwa Mgla', 'Krzesany', 'Angelus',
 'Exodus' , 'Victoria' and the Lament for unaccompanied chorus.

So..next stop should be to buy the Dux versions of the 'Missa pro pace' and the 'Magnificat'? Both sound as though they would appeal to me ;D

I see that Kilar has also composed a Symphony No.4 'Sinfonia de motu' for soloists, chorus and orchestra(2005) and a Symphony No.5 'Advent Symphony' for soloists, chorus and orchestra(2008) and a Te Deum(2008). I take it that these works have not yet been recorded?

Oh dear...when I get the bit between my teeth my compulsion to acquire all of a composer's works becomes totally obsessive ;D
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 06:06:43 AM by Dundonnell »

Offline Maciek

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Re: Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932)
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2009, 02:29:12 AM »
So..next stop should be to buy the Dux versions of the 'Missa pro pace' and the 'Magnificat'? Both sound as though they would appeal to me ;D

You could try the live version of the Magnificat which I posted above in this thread. The forces are roughly the same as in the DUX recording (I think). You're still in bad need of a recording of Orawa! Not to mention at least a sampling of his film music...

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I see that Kilar has also composed a Symphony No.4 'Sinfonia de motu' for soloists, chorus and orchestra(2005) and a Symphony No.5 'Advent Symphony' for soloists, chorus and orchestra(2008) and a Te Deum(2008). I take it that these works have not yet been recorded?

I'm not aware of any recordings. But I'm sure the good people at DUX are working to do something about that. ;D The Te Deum was premiered less than half a year ago to commemorate National Independence Day (90th anniversary of the 1919 independence) - I think it's rational to expect that to be released next. But who knows?

It would be interesting to hear his 2 early symphonies from the 1950s...