Arnold Schönberg

Friede auf Erden

Joseph Haydn

Symphony nr 39 g-minor

Karol Szymanowski

Cantate Demeter, Op. 37bis

Arnold Schönberg

Die Jakobsleiter

Alexander Liebreich
Conductor
NOSPR
The Kaunas State Choir
Petras Bingelis
chorus master
Camerata Silesia
Dietrich Henschel
baritone
Agata Zubel
soprano
Kurt Azesberger
tenor
Stephan Genz
baritone
Michael Pflumm
tenor
Yeree Suh
soprano
Katharina Magiera
alto
Martin Snell
baritone

Like his master Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) was of a deeply religious nature. But if Mahler turned away from his Jewish roots, looking for a universal, doctrine-free type of religious experience, Schönberg – since the 1920s and not without an incentive from political circumstances – increasingly identified with the Old Testament chosen nation, a commitment which is most explicitly declared in his opus magnum, the unfinished opera Moses and Aaron (1923-1937).

The cantata Friede auf Erden (1907, version for the orchestra 1911), the last total composition by Schönberg to the verses by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, rather small in size, is a kind of idyll or utopia (in 1923, Schönberg called it “an illusion for mixed choir”). The text refers to the birth of Christ – Christ’s peace will one day put an end to all war.

The unfinished oratorio Jacob’s Ladder (1915-1926, 1944) is the central piece of  Schönberg’s “worldview music.” It is here that he turns for the first time to religious themes. The biblical motif of Jacob’s dream, where the patriarch sees angels moving up and down a ladder that reaches the heavens, finds a rare interpretation, although well known from the antiquity (found as early as in Origen). We are witness to the process of reincarnation. Thanks to their talks with archangel Gabriel, souls absorb the teachings that emerge from their former lives before coming back to Earth in a new bodily form. Through the successive groups of beings (the Dissatisfied, the Doubting, the Joyful, the Indifferent, and the Humble) and individual souls (the Summoned, the Rebel, the Soldier, the Chosen, the Monk and the Dying), Schönberg outlines the whole range of attitudes and expresses his spiritual vision that matches his times.

Karol Szymanowski’s (1882-1937) cantata Demeter (1917) belongs to undeservedly forgotten pieces. Perhaps the “blame” should be put on his sister Zofia’s text, brimming with Young Poland, modernist clichés – a lamentation of the Greek goddess, looking for her daughter Persephone in the cold bleak cosmos, finished with invoking Nirvana. The music, full of subtle nuances, suffuses it with an aura – tragic and magical at the same time – which echoes Szymanowski’s most outstanding scores of this time: Symphony No 3, Violin Concerto No 1 or Mity (Myths). [Marcin Trzęsiok]

 


Alexander Liebreich

Alexander Liebreichhas proven himself to be one of the most avid conductors of his generation. Having only assumed the position of Principal Conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice in 2012, he has already received widespread recognition in Poland for reinventing the sound and programming of this tradition-steeped orchestra. Liebreich has also been Chief Conductor of the Munich Chamber Orchestra from 2006 until 2016: under his leadership, the orchestra has made tremendous strides through the development of new concert formats. In the same way, South Korea’s Tongyeong International Music Festival (TIMF) – which Liebreich led from 2011 to 2014 – has also benefited greatly from this spirit of renewal. In May 2016 the new concert hall in Katowice hosted the festival Katowice Kultura Natura under the artistic guidance of Alexander Liebreich for the second time.

Liebreich continually unearths new perspectives through his sleek, distinct and deft approach. He is equally aware of the historical, political and social dimensions of music: it is one’s responsibility towards the future to portray the present. Vocal music has always played a prominent role in Alexander Liebreich’s career. Born in Regensburg, Liebreich was steeped in the choir tradition of his hometown at an early age. In addition to conducting, he studied voice with the goal of being able to focus on both Romance philology and music history. Liebreich has conducted many renowned orchestras: he recently made his debut at such venues as the Musikverein in Vienna, Suntory Hall in Tokyo and Cité de la Musique in Paris.


NOSPR

NOSPRfulfils the role of an ambassador of Polish culture on the international artistic scene. The ensemble has performed in Brussels (Europalia), Vienna (the opening of the Polish Year in Austria), Madrid (the gala concert of the Polish year in Spain), Rome (the celebration of the 70th anniversary of H.M. Górecki’s birthday), Kiev (the inauguration of the Polish Year in Ukraine), Paris (the gala concert of the New Poland Polish Year in France), and in London (the inauguration of the Polish year in Great Britain). The Orchestra has collaborated with some of the greatest composers of the second half of the 20th century: Witold Lutosławski, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki, delivering the first performances of their works.

The NOSPR was founded in 1935 in Warsaw by Grzegorz Fitelberg who led it until the outbreak of World War II. In 1945, the orchestra was revived in Katowice by Witold Rowicki. In 1947, the post of the artistic director was taken again by Fitelberg. After his death in 1953, the orchestra was headed in succession by Jan Krenz, Bohdan Wodiczko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugała, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Stanisław Wisłocki, Jacek Kaspszyk, Antoni Wit, Gabriel Chmura and, once again, by Jacek Kaspszyk. In September 2000, Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa became the institution’s General and Programme Director. Since 2009, the post of the Associate Conductor has been entrusted to Michał Klauza. Stanisław Skrowaczewski is the first Guest Conductor of the NOSPR, Jan Krenz is a Honorary Conductor. On the 31st of August 2012, Alexander Liebreich became the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the NOSPR.

Apart from making archival recordings for the Polish Radio, the Orchestra has recorded more than 200 CD albums for many renowned record companies (including Decca, EMI, Philips, Chandos, and Naxos). The PNRSO was honoured with numerous awards for its phonographic achievements, including Diapason d’Orand Grand Prix du Disque de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque, the Cannes Classical Award, and the Midem Classical Award.

Many renowned conductors and soloists have performed with the NOSPR, including Martha Argerich, Boris Belkin, Leonard Bernstein, Rudolf Buchbinder, James Conlon, Placido Domingo, Pierre Fournier, Nicolai Gedda, Barbara Hendricks, Julius Katchen, Leonidas Kavakos, Wilhelm Kempff, Paweł Klecki, Kirill Kondrashin, Marguerite Long, Witold Lutosławski, Charles Mackerras, Mischa Maisky, Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Shlomo Mintz, Ivan Monighetti, Garrick Ohlsson, Kun Woo Paik, Krzysztof Penderecki, Maurizio Pollini, Hermann Prey, Ruggiero Ricci, Mstislav Rostropovich, Artur Rubinstein, Jerzy Semkow, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Leonard Slatkin, Isaac Stern, Henryk Szeryng, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Pieter Wispelwey, Krystian Zimerman, and Nicolai Znaider.

The Orchestra has performed in nearly all the European countries, in the Americas, as well as in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan and in the Persian Gulf countries. In the recent years, the PNRSO has implemented some spectacular projects which have been very well received by audiences and reviewers alike (The Marathon of Górecki’s Works, The Liking to Kilar’s Music, Musical Voyage(two editions), The Górecki•Penderecki Festival – in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the artist’s birth). Since 2005, the NOSPR has been the organiser of the biennial event called The Festival of World PremieresPolish Modern Music.

On the 1st of October 2014, the NOSPR inaugurated the artistic season in its new seat. The author of the architectonic project is Konior Studio from Katowice and the concert hall acoustics have been designed by Nagata Acoustics.

 


The Kaunas State Choirwas founded in 1969 as an ensemble of the Lithuanian Philharmonic Society. Since its inception, it has been led by one of the most prominent Lithuanian conductors, professor Petras Bingelis.

 

The choir’s repertoire encompasses 150 vocal-instrumental pieces, such as Bach’s Mass in B minor, Missa Solemnis, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Händel’s oratorios, Mahler’s Symphonies No. 2 and No. 8, the Orff trilogy, Verdi’s The Force of Destiny, as well as pieces by Stravinsky, Vivaldi, Rossini, Dvořak, Schubert, and Gershwin. The repertoire also features works by Lithuanian composers, including oratorios by Bronius Kutavičius, Julius Juzeliūnas, Requiem by Vidmantas Bartulis, and songs by the Lithuanian classics.

 

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the restoration of Lithuanian independence, the choir has increased its activity in the west of Europe. Western critics heralded it as the musical discovery of the year, and the opinion was shared by the distinguished violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin. Together with Menuhin as its conductor, the choir toured France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Egypt, and Russia.

 

has taken part in many international music festivals, such as Bordeaux Spring, The Mediterranean Coast, as well as festivals in Reims, and Schleswig-Holstein. It has repeatedly performed with such symphony orchestras as the London BBC, the National Bordeaux Aquitaine, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Moscow and Saint-Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestras, and others. The Choir has performed with Dmitri Kitayenko, Cyril Diederich, Yan Pascal Tortelier, John Axelrod, Vladimir Spivakov, and Valery Gergiev.

 

Among the choir’s most prominent recordings are the Messiah by Händel, The Creation by Haydn, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Schubert’s Masses, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. A special place in the discography is dedicated to choral works by Lithuanian composers – Čiurlionis, Naujalis, Sasnauskas, Dvarionas, Juzeliūnas, and Kutavičius.

 


Camerata SilesiaThe Camerata Silesia Ensemble of Singers of the City of Katowice was founded in 1990 by Anna Szostak, who remains its director and conductor to this day. The Camerata Silesia was formed with the idea of creating a group of singers who could perform both as a chamber ensemble, and as a support for soloists in vocal, instrumental, and a cappella choral works.

Every year since 1993, the ensemble has been invited to take part in the International Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival. Its performances of Anton Webern’s Cantatas with the Sinfonia Varsovia (conducted by Ed Spanjaard in 1995), and Trois Poèmes d’Henri Michaux by Witold Lutosławski with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Anna Szostak and Antoni Wit (1996), have been heralded as the greatest events to grace this festival. Also belonging to the choir’s most important achievements is the performance of Sinfoni by Luciano Berio at the inaugural concert of Warsaw Autumn in 1999.

Camerata Silesia appeared, by special invitation thanks to Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, in the renowned Gewandhaus (Leipzig), Opéra Comique (Paris), gave concerts in Taipei (Taiwan), Mei Lanfang Theatre (Peking Beijing), La Monnaie (Bruxelles), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), and also appeared during a cycle of concerts at the EXPO 2000 in Hannover.

The year 2006 was rich in performances of music by Krzysztof Penderecki. St Luke Passion has resounded in Münster, Cracow, and Hamburg. In 2012, the Ensemble (enlarged to 40 singers) took part in performances and recordings to a DVD edition of the stage version of Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Matthaeum by Krzysztof Penderecki, stage direction by Grzegorz Jarzyna.

The choir’s discography embraces a dozen CDs, which have repeatedly been awarded. The latest CD releases have attracted special attention, namely the Requiem by Andrzej Siewiński, and Krzysztof Baculewski’s contemporary music (both nominated for the Fryderyk music award).