Hall: Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera
Please note the concert has been moved to the Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera.
See more: en.chopin.nifc.pl
Karol Rathaus, born in Tarnopol (now Ukraine) became a citizen of the world already as a young man. After studies in Vienna and Berlin (with Franz Schreker, among others) he lived and worked in Germany, where he won growing recognition. Unfortunately (as in the case of other excellent artists, including his teacher) the Nazi anti‑ Semitic policies interrupted this period of his work. He later stayed in Paris and London, then settled in New York shortly before the war. There he shared the fate of many other eminent European émigré composers who in the quite different new environment did not manage to regain their earlier position. He was nevertheless held in high regard is a pianist and teacher. He left behind a vast but insufficiently known output of compositions. His Piano Concerto of 1939 is especially characteristic of his style. It was written in a period when the artist worked on a synthesis of the modernist tools and techniques he had explored in his youth with more traditional elements. His extended tonality, though going beyond the major‑ minor system, looks back to it in its euphonic harmonies and economic use of dissonance. Rathaus combines exuberant post‑ Romantic expression with high sensitivity to sound – both these qualities are typical of Schreker’s school.
The career of Alexandre Tansman, Rathaus’s contemporary, went through similar stages: early success and recognition (in his case – in Paris); wartime escape from the murderous threat of Nazi anti‑ Semitism to the United States. Tansman, however, returned to Europe and continued his work as a composer, a great authority and a luminary of culture. His musical language is different from Rathaus’s. Tansman felt very much at home with the neo‑ Classical style so popular at that time especially in France, with which he was associated from 1919. In the preface to his biography written by Janusz Cegiełła (1983), Tansman commented: “I owe a lot to France, but everyone who has ever heard my music knows that I was and always remain a Polish composer.” His works contain many references to the country of his youth. One of these is Polish Rhapsody of 1940, dedicated to the defenders of Warsaw in September 1939, with a moving quotation from the Polish anthem (the Dąbrowski Mazurka) and elements of Polish folklore. The Rhapsody exists in many versions scored for different instrumental groups and was frequently performed in the USA during the war, providing moral support for “the Polish cause”.