Koprowski in conversation with Eleanor Wachtel on Behind the Iron Curtain and repressed life in communist Poland (“Arts Tonight”, CBC Radio; 2005)
Duration: 17 minutes
Premiered: January 29, 2005 by Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Andrey Boreyko International New Music Festival Centennial Concert Hall Winnipeg, Canada
2 Flutes (2nd doubling on Piccolo)
2 Clarinets in Bb
4 Horns in F
3 Trumpets in C
The speech delivered at the UN by Nikita Khrushchev in 1960 seems to have been the crowning achievement of his leadership. Although the shoe banging seemed a little unrefined, it provided me however, with a point of departure for this new composition – composition taking me again into the shadows of the “old regime”.
It was the repeated nature of the sound of his footwear that attracted my attention. While combined with some African rhythms from Ghana and the rhythm of the Polish Mazurka (considerably more sophisticated), it actually offered a suitable vehicle for the composition. To immerse the work into the mood of the day, I added to it (well hidden and camouflaged) some fragments of tunes from this period, tunes that one could not avoid hearing (Polish marching song “Raz ,dwa lewa…”, “The International”, the anthem that one heard so often at the Olympics and the drinking song “Pije Kuba do Jakuba”.
Actually, the piece is much more than that. It evokes memories of the time – the relentless stupidity, terror, absurdity and more. I cry over it on the one hand and I mock it on the other.
In its design, the work commences with a somewhat phony heroic gesture that gets suddenly interrupted. (My memory tells me that this is how it was, in everyday life). The piece attempts to rebuild this gesture throughout, and when it finally does, it is somewhat awkward and ungainly. There is not much of tranquility in this work, just like there wasn’t much at this time, which I have been trying to forget for so long. Sometimes I scream in it like the image in Edvard Munch’s painting, and at other times I weep.
Why did the dance of skeletons, the “Dance Macabre”, keep entering my mind in the initial stages of the writing, I am not quite sure. But it found its place within it, along the side of various furious prestissimos and repeated “shoe banging” events.
Perhaps I was longing for something else in my thoughts of the day. Perhaps I was yearning for the truth. Perhaps I still do. Perhaps the piece reflects on that aspect…