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A Tale of Two Riffs and Two Rituals

What better way to ring in the year than to take in a couple ensembles, from opposite ends of the spectrum, showing in much the same way what the whole point of playing is?

Wojciech Kilar is a Polish composer from the same 60’s group that gave us Penderecki and Gorecki, but is notable for his detour into film music (Like Coppola’s Dracula). This is his utterly simple/hard 1988 piece Orawa (there are a bunch of other video performances of this on YouTube, but this one with Agnieszka Duczmal conducting the Chamber Orchestra “Amadeus” has them all beat for pacing and enthusiasm. Just ignore that couple-second blast of other music at the start):



For all his jazz-lite leanings, David Sanborn (with Hal Willner’s savvy music coordination) has always had my eternal gratitude for hosting one of the most phenomenal major-network music offerings, NBC’s Night Music, which ran between 1988 and 1990. Not least for this wonderful clip of Sun Ra and the Arkestra taking us all to a higher plane:


Two really different approaches perhaps, but both seem to work some of the same ground and head to the same place in the end. May what we attempt in the coming year get lucky enough to find that place too, at least once or twice…


Comment from Tom Myron
Time: January 1, 2009, 1:44 pm

Thanks for posting these. That conductor on the Kilar is stellar.

Comment from jamescombs
Time: January 1, 2009, 1:57 pm

Sun Ra is one of the greatest composers, not only here on Earth, but I suspect in relation to composers on other planets as well.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: January 1, 2009, 2:09 pm

In “Orawa”, check just before the 7’40” mark, when the bassist has his instrument slip on the floor. Great recovery, and if anything gets him even more into it!

Comment from Richard Mitnick
Time: January 1, 2009, 7:07 pm

So, I just hopped over to Amazon and bought the Kilar “Requiem Father Kolbe”, which has the ‘Orawa’.

Very nice.

Comment from J.C. Combs
Time: January 1, 2009, 9:05 pm

is it just me or does “orawa” sound very Vivaldi-ish? Neo-baroque? I dig it. Major jam session.

Comment from J.C. Combs
Time: January 1, 2009, 9:10 pm

actually, the neo-baroque-ness starts at 5:58.

Comment from zeno
Time: January 5, 2009, 10:57 am

“Wojciech Kilar is a Polish composer from the same 60’s group that gave us Penderecki and Gorecki, but is notable for his detour into film music (Like Coppola’s Dracula)”

Steve, I thought that you were going to say … (Like Andrzej Wajda’s “The Promised Land” [1975]) … perhas Kilar’s finest film score — or at least arguably Wajda’s finest film (in color …).

[The more I watch the three-hour “The Promised Land”, the less I think about Penderecki’s “The Devils” …]

Comment from Mary Jane Leach
Time: January 7, 2009, 8:51 pm

Steve and Zeno – thank you both. I’d never (knowingly) heard Kilar before. Just listened to Totus Tuus – beautiful. Wajda is one of my all-time favorite film directors, but I”ve never seen “The Promised Land” – nice to know there are wonderful things left to see/hear.

Comment from zeno
Time: January 8, 2009, 12:22 pm

You are welcome, Mary Jane.

Kilar also worked with Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, and Robby Müller on the very powerful 1990 film Dr. Korczak (not to be confused with the opera Dr. Atomic).

I don’t know the international business/political/theological back story on why a DVD of the film has not been released.


[Wesele (The Wedding), based on Stanisław Wyspiański and music of Szymanowski, is perhaps Wajda’s most operatic film; and, for your information, we were recently rather disappointed by Wajda’s Landscape After Battle despite exquisit cinematography.]

Comment from Richard
Time: January 12, 2009, 12:37 pm

Man alive. Thanks so much for posting this. Any attention for WK is good. I only had the occasion to hear his music live once: his Missa Pro Pace with the Wroclw Phil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral a couple of years ago when John Paul II died.
Recently, Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Phil toured America and they played Orawa, but not on their stop in NYC much to my chagrin.
Of interest and in fact, Kilar has spent most of his life almost exclusively composing film music and not just dabbling as the post suggests. It was a permanent detour. He still had the discipline to put out a concert piece every couple years.
However, since 2003 with his September Symphony, he’s done almost nothing but concert works, or “music of a singular authorship” as he puts it. He wrote two symphonies in his youth, but he had to wait 50 years to write another…now he’s done 3 in the last five years. For fans, we’re thrilled. Not to mention more large scale liturgical pieces like a Te Deum and Magnificat have come out.
For more, there’s a good interview link at the bottom of his Wiki page.