About this Recording
9.70239 - SAWA, M.: Violin Music (Complete) (Sosnowska, Gabryś, Kruzel-Sosnowska)
English  Polish 

Marian Sawa (1937–2005)
Complete Violin Music


Marian Sawa was a Polish composer, organist, improviser, and pedagogue. From 1958 to 1968 Sawa studied organ performance with Feliks Rączkowski and composition with Kazimierz Sikorski at the Chopin State Higher School of Music, and between 1956 and 1966 was organist at the Military Church in Warsaw. Between 1966 and 1973 Sawa was co-chairman of The Polish Composer’s Union Youth Department and later, between 1997 and 1999, was Artistic Director of the Polish Union of Choirs and Orchestras (Mazovian chapter) and a member of the Authors’ Union (ZAiKS) and The Musica Sacra Society.

Marian Sawa’s teaching career began in 1966. He taught organ improvisation, harmony, counterpoint and liturgical accompaniment at many of the great musical establishments in Warsaw. During his lifetime Marian Sawa was awarded numerous prizes and state decorations for both his rich compositional output and his outstanding contributions to education and culture.

This world première recording of Marian Sawa’s complete violin music aims to introduce the recently discovered violin music of the highly prolific Warsaw composer. Sawa, now regarded as one of the most interesting twentieth-century Polish composers, never strove to publish his compositions nor to promote them in his lifetime. Although his music has recently risen in prominence, the majority of his music remains available only in manuscript form. The works for violin are but a small part of his impressive oeuvre and many of his compositions for the instrument remained undiscovered until 2012.

Sawa’s violin music encompasses many musical idioms. Its disparity is relatively large, beginning in the 1960s with fully experimental works, tone clusters in the avant-garde style, and ending with works from the 2000s which are identifiable by their simple modal harmonies. Sawa’s violin works are of varying levels of difficulty and are written for violin and piano, violin and organ, and for violin solo and are characterised by cohesive form and contrapunctal intricacy. The composer employs many musical effects and techniques including scordatura and aleatoricism, and the music sparkles with brilliant humour.

Bogurodzica, for violin and organ, was written in 2003. It was first performed at The Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw by Wojciech Kondrat and Ewa Kowalewska. This compact work is entirely based on the opening motif of the oldest Polish Medieval Hymn Bogurodzica (Mother of God). Its majestic long tones depict the marching and victorious battles of the cavalry and evoke the entries of the impressive Polish Hussars. Rhythmical and imitative elements make up this short composition, which ends with a bugle tune.

The following piece for violin and organ, Modlitwa (Prayer), was written at the same time, in 2003, and was first performed by the same artists as premièred Bogurodzica. The beauty of Modlitwa lies in its exceptional simplicity. The violin provides the tuneful narrative with the organ providing a characteristic accompaniment, based on a walking bass consisting of a few repeated tones. This ostinato-like accompaniment provides a meditative mood, a mysterious sound-world enhanced by the artificial violin harmonics in the second stanza.

The longest and most spectacular violin composition by Marian Sawa is his Sonata, for violin and piano, composed in 1967. It was written during Sawa’s studies in Warsaw and left unfinished. It consists of twelve pages in total and has no formal ending, with Sawa’s scribbled amendments clearly visible on the manuscript. The work is experimental, variable in character and multi-stylistic, with scordatura in the violin part (a technique also called cross-tuning and used most often in Baroque music, when the strings are tuned differently from normal); the strings are to be tuned F#-D-A-F. Sawa was one of only a handful twentieth-century composers to employ scordatura, even applying it to a two minute violin cadenza. In addition, the violin and the piano parts are rich in glissando effects, with the pianist asked to utilise tone clusters. The conclusion of the Sonata was composed using material left by Sawa; a recapitulation and an aleatoric coda were added and is performed here in an improvisatory way.

Trzy Dialogi (Three Dialogues), for violin and organ, was completed in the summer of 2002 and represents an excellent example of dialogue between two equal instruments. In each of the three parts of Trzy Dialogi, Sawa chooses a different musical motif, a distinct musical figure that is subsequently altered, repeated, or sequenced throughout each of the parts. The first dialogue regularly uses augmented fourths which are later rhythmically augmented. The second dialogue comprises motifs recalling irregular Balkan rhythms. Finally, the third dialogue is based on the rhythm and meter of the Oberek, a Polish traditional dance. Trzy Dialogi was first performed by Jolanta Sosnowska and Marietta Kruzel-Sosnowska at St Jacob’s Cathedral in the Polish city of Olsztyn on July 14, 2002, with Marian Sawa present.

Hommage à Karol Szymanowski is Sawa’s earliest violin and piano miniature. The piece was composed in 1964, at the beginning of his career, and is clearly influenced by Szymanowski. Sawa abandons a traditional structure and instead constructs the piece with many individual sections. Hommage à Karol Szymanowski remained undiscovered till 2012 and was only premièred by Jolanta Sosnowska and Maria Gabryś in Warsaw on April 26, 2015—one day before the tenth anniversary of the composer’s death.

Cadenza for violin solo was probably Sawa’s last composition for this instrument. It was found in Marian Sawa’s archives in 2012 with no instrumental specification, no title and no ending. After being completed and named by Jolanta Sosnowska, she first performed it on June 9, 2013 at The Field Cathedral of the Polish Army in Warsaw in Poland.

Canzonetta and Duol vel Duet for violin and organ were composed in 2003. The violin parts in these mysterious and calm miniatures are more exposed and the organ takes a more background role, providing respite from Sawa’s other dynamic and passionate violin compositions. Jolanta Sosnowska and Marietta Kruzel-Sosnowska premièred Duol vel Duet on May 1, 2008 at the Second Annual Polish Festival in Houston, Texas (USA). The first performance of Canzonetta was given during the Vendyssel Festival in Raabjerg (Denmark) by Jolanta Sosnowska and Rikke Møller-Kursch on July 17, 2008.

Lajkonik for violin solo, composed in 2003, was first performed by Jolanta Sosnowska in the concert hall of the F. Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, Poland during the Third Composers Symposium on May 16, 2003. The piece bears an interesting title: the Lajkonik is one of the unofficial symbols of Kraków, the former Polish capital. Clad in Mongol robes, the fairytale figure rides a hobbyhorse topped with peacock feathers and accompanied by a musical troupe. The myth has been celebrated once a year for more than 200 years with the procession of the Lajkonik through the gothic city. Sawa’s programmatic representation is picturesque, humorous and virtuosic.

One of Marian Sawa’s earliest compositions, Burleska for violin and piano was written in 1967. This short miniature is based on four motifs which form the foundation of the entire work, undergoing quasi thematic development and imitative interplay. After a virtuosic, tumultuous opening in the piano part, the violin and piano parts are constantly intertwined, sometimes in canon and other times synchronised. The first performance of Burleska was given by Jolanta Sosnowska and Maria Gabryś on April 26, 2015 during the gala concert commemorating the tenth anniversary of Sawa’s death.

Trzy Miniatury Dziecięce (Three Children’s Miniatures) was written for the young Jolanta Sosnowska for her first violin exam and were composed on May 2, 1986 at Sosnowska’s home; a place in which the composer was warmly received and considered a family friend. These miniatures were Sawa’s first works for the instrument in nearly two decades at a time when he was devoting himself to the composition of organ music. Krakowiaczek dla Joli (Cracovienne for little Jolanta), Pavana and Oberek constitute an enjoyable children’s cycle, a valuable addition to musical literature for youngsters. Simple in both technique and tonality, the works are extremely accessible. The first performance of the Miniatures followed a few weeks later at the Karol Szymanowski State School of Music in Warsaw, with the dedicatee accompanied by her mother.

The first of Sawa’s compositions for violin and organ were Largo and Con fuoco. They were written on June 6 and 7, 1995, for summer organ concerts held at the Assumption Church of St Mary in Władysławowo (Poland). The premières were given by Marian Sawa and the teenage Sosnowska on Aug 3, 1995. The first piece, Largo, is possessed of a mystical character. The relatively simple use of the violin in a smooth flowing cantilena is juxtaposed with rhythmic ostinato structures and modal harmonies on the accompanying organ. Con fuoco in contrast, written only a day later, has its roots in Polish folk music. The opening of the piece is a long pedal note in the organ, which becomes the background to a striking violin recitative. Gradually increasing in emotional and dynamic intensity, both instruments burst into folkloric dance passages, driving the middle section forward in a motoric and rhythmic dialogue. Building to a climax, the music ends in a mood of wild elation.

Jolanta Sosnowska

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