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The Warsaw Voice » Stage & Screen » September 2, 2011
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Contemporary Music With Social Comment
September 2, 2011   
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The 54th Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music, one of the most established events of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe, takes place on Sept. 16-24 in a range of venues including the National Philharmonic and the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music.

The festival was first organized in 1955 by the Polish Composers’ Union as the only major contemporary music event in Central and Eastern Europe at the time. The idea behind Warsaw Autumn was to end the isolation of Polish musicians in the Stalinist years, and open the country’s music scene to new currents in Western music. The festival helped bring the music of major Western European composers such as Schonberg and Webern, and the American avant-garde of the 1960s, to Polish audiences. It also became a major attraction for Western musicians and critics eager to discover the music scene behind the Iron Curtain.

This year’s festival aims to comment on the social and political issues of our times, combining music with photos, spoken word and video art. Examples include Rolf Wallin’s Strange News composition opening the festival. The work touches on the problem of child soldiers in Africa, making use of journalistic materials from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Similarly, a monodrama by Lotta Wennakoski sheds light on the problem of human trafficking in Eastern Europe, and the composition “Songs of Wars I Have Seen” combines extracts from Gertrude Stein’s World War II diaries with music performed by the London Sinfonietta.

However, Warsaw Autumn is above all a celebration of new musical currents and trends. Composers showcased this year range from Poland’s world-famous Henryk Mikołaj Górecki to up-and-coming artists from across the continent. The Little Warsaw Autumn section, aimed at children and young people, has been introduced this year due to huge interest in last year’s installations among younger audiences, the organizers say. They add that contemporary classical music “needs not appeal solely to a small group of insiders and aficionados.”

J.K.

More information on the festival and tickets at www.warszawska-jesien.art.pl
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