Polish Icons: A Great Play with Masters
Add date: Sunday, 16 September 2012
On the one hand, music created by the great four: Penderecki, Górecki, Lutosławski and Kilar. On the other hand: the masters of electronic music connected with the London record label, Ninja Tune, and the legendary Kronos Quartet. This exceptional venture presented the works of Polish icons of contemporary music from a whole new perspective. The finale concert of Sacrum Profanum Festival held in the post-industrial interiors of Tinning Plant of ArcelorMittal Poland in Nowa Huta was an extraordinary event.
This unusual project was preceded by long talks with artists leading in electronic music. New, surprising arrangements of pieces composed by the Polish masters were prepared especially for this one and only evening by a famous duo Skalpel, which rejoined for Sacrum Profanum, DJ Food (Kevin Foakes aka Strictly Kev), King Cannibal (Dylan Richards), duo Grasscut (Andrew Phillips and Marcus O'Dair) and DJ Vadim (Vadim Peare).
The amazing interiors of the tinning plant were rearranged in a new way, as they traditionally are for every edition of the festival. This year, the whole audience area was transformed into a huge dance hall with a special sound-damping floor, underneath which there were tons of sand. Above the stage, there was a giant screen which revealed, a three-dimensional installation during the concert, consisting of a number of screens, varying in size, on which projections were displayed. This feature, along with marvellous lighting, created a frame for the concert.
Music, however, was the most important.
The over two-hour-long concert was divided into four sets, each of them devoted to a different composer. Each set was opened by Kronos Quartet presenting the original version of the piece and then Skalpel and DJs invited by the duo entered the stage.
The Penderecki Set was opened by Kronos Quartet performing an excerpt from String Quartet No. 1 which initiated sonorism in music which was then developed by, among others, Górecki and Kilar. The musicians turned their backs to the audiences while the score was screened on the screen in front of them. Later, DJ Vadim entered the stage. In his remix, the image of the original piece was blurred by growing dubstep beats and changing sound plains. This part of the concert was closed by a performance form the Wrocław duo Skalpel, that is composers and producers Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudło. “The world of club music is in a way closed and limited,” Marcin Cichy said during a conference announcing Saturday’s concert. “As producers, we always try to search for new sounds and there are a lot of them in contemporary music.” Indeed, Skalpel extracted most from Penderecki’s composition (during the performance, parts of the original score were displayed on scattered three-dimensional screens). All the new tones were combined into expressive music deeply affecting the listener’s emotions.
Overlapping sound combinations were interlaced with the composer’s name and his statements, among others, a sentence from one of the interviews he had given before the festival: In the computer age, when everything is unified and trivialized, it is individualism that counts so much, something personal. This sentences may be perceived as the motto for the Saturday’s entire performance of this group of artists.
The Górecki Set was based on Arioso from String Quartet No. 2. And again, Kronos Quartet opened the set masterfully and then Skalpel presented a more subdued remix based on long still sounds. The famous band Grasscut prepared a remix which contrasted with the previous interpretations and swept the audiences off their feet. The way the Britons combine electronic sounds with traditional instruments with such mastery is impressive. They performed a brilliant remix of Górecki’s piece. For the finale, they wove in the song Boże coś Polskę [God save Poland] combined with a strong beat.
The Lutosławski Set began with an excerpt from his String Quartet, which was first performed by Kronos Quartet and then by King Cannibal, who incorporated industrial sounds and massive pulsing bass sounds, so characteristic of their work. Skalpel made use of structures characteristic of Lutosławki’s style, used the composer’s name in the remix and gave a top quality performance.
This unusual evening was closed with one of Wojciech Kilar’s most famous pieces – Orawa. Kronos Quartet performed this piece composed for an orchestra in Krzysztof Urbański's arrangement for a string quartet. This performance may be deemed far better than many other orchestra performances of this work. The dynamics of this composition was closed in long vibrating sounds by DJ Food. In their version of this piece Skalpel kept Kilar’s strings but added their own strong trans beat emphasized by white casts of light. This set was given rapturous applause. Well deserved, indeed. The meeting of the masters with the masters was strong, juicy and inspiring. Unforgettable.