Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music

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The 54th Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music (16th–24th September 2011) will feature music that does not focus exclusively on itself but opens to the surrounding world, commenting on it and attempting to change it. This year’s festival will predominantly feature composers who speak out on important social and political issues of the modern world.

The 'Warsaw Autumn' (Warszawska Jesień) is a festival with a long history, an enormous tradition, and can be called a witness to history. It is the only festival in Poland on an international scale and with an international status, dedicated to contemporary music. For many years, it was the only event of this kind in Central and Eastern Europe. It is still, however, a living organism: it develops and thrives to the extent that the Polish cultural budget and the general state of music allow it to. The Festival is organized by the Polish Composers' Union (Związek Kompozytorów Polskich). The Repertoire Committee, which is in turn appointed by the Board of the Union, determines the program of each particular festival.
The Festival was created in 1956, during the thaw that followed years of Stalinist dictatorship. Even though the government quickly left the democratization course, the Festival continued without interruption (with two exceptions) during the entire communist era - its finances were secured by the state (up to this day, its main source of funding comes from public funds). Only recently has the new economic and social situation of a country working its way to prosperity threatened the financial stability of the 'Warsaw Autumn'. Nevertheless, the Festival still plays an essential role in shaping contemporary culture in Poland.

A number of documentary works will be presented. For example, our opening concert will feature Strange News for orchestra, actor and video projection by Rolf Wallin with a text by Josse De Pauw, addressing the issue of child soldiers in Africa. The text and video layer use a TV documentary shot in 2006 in Uganda and Congo. Soprano Pia Freund and the Plus Ensemble will present Lelele, a drama by Lotta Wennäkoski, with photography and video by Elina Brotherus. The text for this work is drawn from authentic testimonies of women abducted in Eastern Europe and sold in the West for prostitution. Phill Niblock’s The Movement of People Working focus on the work of human hands, its repetitiveness and magic; this work is a concert–installation and makes uses of electronic sound space projection and videos shown on three screens. The Neue Vocalisten ensemble will perform Freizeitspektakel by Hannes Seidl and Daniel Kötter for voices, electronics and video installation, addressing the phenomenon of leisure time in modern culture. Zorka Wollny and Artur Zagajewski are setting up a street oratorio with orchestra and Warsaw residents’ choir, a sort of composed rally, a polyphony of citizens that feel ignored by social discourse. The project is co-managed by Zachęta National Gallery of Art.

Roman Berger’s Missa pro nobis for soloists, choir and orchestra shows another attitude towards reality – a dramatic refusal of barbarism and cynicism. Songs of Wars I have seen, a music theatre superproduction by Heiner Goebbels based on Gertrude Stein’s diaries Wars I have seen (1945), takes yet another position: it speaks about prosaic everyday life in the context of war’s terrors (performed by the London Sinfonietta).

Date: 16th–24th September 2011

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Karol Piechocki
Karol Piechocki
Karol Piechocki