Impressions from distant journeys formed an important source of inspiration for Romantic composers. Echoes of such experiences can be found in works by Berlioz, Liszt, Smetana and Strauss, and they found particular expression in the music of Felix Mendelssohn, including his ‘Italian’ and ‘Scottish’ symphonies, as well as the Hebrides overture, recalling an emotional sea voyage to the Scottish islands in 1829. Six years later, it was Mendelssohn who conducted the first performance of the highly virtuosic, brillant-style Concerto in A minor by the fabulous 16-year-old pianist Clara Wieck, who was helped with the orchestration by her future husband, Robert Schumann. A virtuosic deployment of orchestral colours also pervades the ever-popular Rapsodie espagnole by Maurice Ravel (1907) – a suite comprising four symphonic miniatures stylised on the folklore of Iberia.
The centenary of the birth of Kazimierz Serocki is a perfect opportunity to recall the works of this luminary of Polish avant-garde music of the twentieth century, co-founder of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ International Festival of Contemporary Music. His Symphonic Frescoes (1964) do not refer to any specific works of pictorial art, but rather to the actual notion of al fresco and the technique of creating frescoes by building up layers, beginning with a drawing (‘parton’) supplemented with colours. This fascinating work won the composer third prize in the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in Paris in 1965.