2021/2022 Jubilee Concert Season Closing Concert Filharmonia Narodowa

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2021/2022 Jubilee Concert Season Closing Concert
Andrzej Boreyko, fot. Michał Zagórny

The genesis of this monumental composition, which was to become a milestone in its author’s career, lies in a poem written by John Henry Newman, an extraordinary figure in the spiritual life of 19th-century Britain. He was an Anglican clergyman who, influenced by his readings, reflections and travels to Italy, converted to Catholicism and became a cardinal of the Church, an ardent apostle and later a saint. Newman described the moment of death of an old man bearing the symbolic name of Gerontius, surrounded by fellow worshippers in prayer, and later the subsequent journey of his soul towards God. Edward Elgar was fascinated by Newman’s work, and thus enthusiastically embraced the challenge of setting it to music with the great Birmingham Triennial Music Festival of 1900 in mind – one of the most important musical events, the tradition of which went back to the 18th century. The long-awaited premiere was not a success, and even Hans Richter, one of the most prominent conductors of his time, was unable to help – the enormous difficulty of the piece exceeded the capabilities of amateur choirs; however, subsequent performances brought the work success and recognition, including in Germany, and later also in the USA and other countries. Interestingly, in many churches in England, performances planned by church choirs were initially hindered by the work’s strongly Catholic message and its commentary on the idea of purgatory, an idea alien to the Reformed faiths; however, with time these objections lost their significance. The rich musical fabric of the two-movement work (the author himself suggested that it should not be called an oratorio) exploits the whole expressive potential of the eschatological text and its harrowing visions of death, the journey of the soul and the judgement. A special function is performed by the choir, which takes on the roles of the protagonist’s friends and companions on his final journey, demons and angels, and souls in purgatory. The Dream of Gerontius remained immensely popular until the First World War, after which – like many of Elgar’s compositions – it almost sank into oblivion, although not in his homeland, where it was one of his most frequently revived works and a favourite of ambitious choirs.

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Tomasz Konieczny

One of the world’s greatest bass-baritones specialising in German music. Over the years his reputation has grown thanks to his excellent performances at the Wiener Staatsoper, where he has been singing since 2009, as well as thanks to three Wagner albums recorded under the baton of Christian Thielemann (Der Ring des Nibelungen / Alberich), Marek Janowski (Der Ring des Nibelungen / Wotan), and Sir Simon Rattle (Das Rheingold / Alberich).

He studied acting at the Leon Schiller National Film School in Łódź, solo singing at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden, in the class of Christian Elßner. He made his acting debut in Andrzej Wajda’s film The Crowned-Eagle Ring, and has subsequently appeared in numerous Polish film, TV and theatre productions. He also worked as a theatre director.

Tomasz Konieczny has held scholarships from, inter alia, the Minister of Culture and Art (1997) and the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung (1998–2000). He received Second Prize in the International Antonín Dvořák Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary (1998) as well as the Arnold-Petersen-Preis for outstanding artistic achievements at the Nationaltheater Mannheim (2004). On the initiative of the management of the Wiener Staatsoper the singer was awarded the prestigious title of Österreichischer Kammersänger (2019).

He first appeared on the opera stage in the role of Figaro in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at the Grand Theatre in Poznań (1997). His first performance in Germany was as Kecal in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride at the Oper Leipzig (1999), and this paved the way for appearances in the most important opera theatres of Europe, North America and Asia. And in 2019, he enjoyed a triumphant debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Alberich in Wagner’s Das Rheingold to the great acclaim of the critics and the audience alike.

The artist’s rich repertoire encompasses all the parts from the operas of Richard Wagner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss, as well as those by Giuseppe Verdi, Benjamin Britten, Dmitri Shostakovich and Claude Debussy. He also performs oratorios and songs. In addition, he has sung under the baton of such eminent conductors as Ádám Fischer, Antoni Wit, Peter Schneider, Christoph Eschenbach, Kent Nagano and Franz Welser-Möst. He has been invited to perform at numerous prestigious festivals, including in Salzburg, Bayreuth, Edinburgh, Warsaw and other cities.

 

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