Contemporary works rooted in tradition
Krzesany, Wojciech Kilar’s composition of 1974, was an important turning point in his artistic career. It closed the composer’s questing stage, deeply immersed in the avant-garde of the time, and fully revealed his new style. It came as quite a surprise. At that particular time no one expected a return to the symphonic poem derived straight from Mieczysław Karłowicz or to the renewed fascination in the folk art of highlanders as initiated by Karol Szymanowski. Krzesany, in which the idea of post-romantic form was revived, showed the way to make this forgotten source of inspiration lively and rejuvenating for modern music.
The vivid musical poem, named after a highlanders’ dance in which both heels of a dancer hit each other, takes listeners to the austere Tatra landscape of sharp peaks and nostalgic valleys. You can hear highlander’s woodwinds called trombity and the jingle of sheep bells, as well as more or less literal borrowings, including quotations from the folk music of the mountains. You can hardly resist viualizing that landscape, described by the composer with great suggestiveness by using extremely simple construction and expressive neo-symphonic means. The juxtaposition of piano with powerful fortissimo tones and pure unison chords with sharp dissonances, the variety of texture, the persistency in motive repetition and the straightforwardness of huge tutti form a dazzling display of vital energy.
You have opened a window and let some fresh air into the stale room of Polish music, said Jan Krenz to the composer after the world premiere of the piece at the Warsaw Autumn festival in 1974. Krzesany restored the meaning to emotional expression, in the music of that time reduced to the minimum. By appealing to senses and feelings, the piece made it big among ordinary music lovers. Performed by Polish, French, German, American and Brazilian orchestras, it became a hit in concert halls. Never having lost its popularity, it can still be an attraction of any philharmonic repertoire.