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The Year 1945 – the music of Weinberg and Laks in the Sinfonia Varsovia Chamber Music Series

10-05-2014 11:38:46 11-05-2014 11:38:46 35 Summary of the event Description of the event Location of the event Organizer Organizer e-mail true DD/MM/YYYY

In the fourth Sinfonia Varsovia Chamber Music Series concert we will hear string quartets by Mieczysław Weinberg and Szymon Laks. Both works were written in 1945 and both provide a remarkable account of the experience and emotions of their creators, who have gone through so much in the early years of the 20th century.

The last concert of the spring edition of the Sinfonia Varsovia Chamber Music Series will consist of two exceptional string quartets written in the year in which World War II came to an end. Three Sinfonia Varsovia musicians: Stanisław Podemski and Agnieszka Guz – violins, Małgorzata Szczepańska – viola and Sinfonia Varsovia Academy participant, cellist Zofia Ziemkiewicz will perform Mieczysław Weinberg’s String Quartet No. 5 Op. 27 and Szymon Laks’ String Quartet No. 3.


Even though both composers were born and brought up in Warsaw, they also both left Poland at an early age. Szymon Laks established his ties with Paris in the late 1920’s, studying composition with Paul Vidal. He came back to Poland during World War II in rather drastic circumstances – as a prisoner of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He was then transferred to the German concentration camp in Dachau and was eventually liberated by the American army. After the war he came back to settle in Paris permanently. Apart from composition, Laks also started to write books about life in the concentration camp. Laks’ String Quartet No. 3 is based largely on Polish folk melodies. Some themes, such as the song about a hungry soldier could be an expression of the composer’s experience in the concentration camps. However, rather than a reflection of the terrors of war, the Quartet resonates with a joy of life and amazement at the vital power of folk music.

Perhaps Mieczysław Weinberg’s wartime experience isn’t as severe, but nevertheless the dire aura of those times made a strong impression on his music. When the war broke out in September 1939, the composer made his escape from Poland to settle permanently in the Soviet Union. String Quartet No. 5 Op. 27 was composed when Weinberg was making a living in Moscow, writing music for the circus and the theatre, keeping serious works of chamber and orchestral music for his own creative needs. “I believe it is my moral duty to write about the war, about the terrible fate this century brought down on human beings.” said Mieczysław Weinberg, who lost many loved ones in concentration camps. Even though Weinberg’s output is exceptionally extensive (including 22 symphonies, 18 concertos for solo instruments and 17 string quartets), music composed by him in the 1940’s and 1950’s met with criticism of sprading “Jewish bourgeois nationalism”, “formalism” and other crimes against the socialist realism doctrine. If not for his friendship with the influential Dmitri Shostakovich, Weinberg would probably not have lived until the 1990’s, when his name started to arouse interest beyond the borders of Russia.

The April concert is the last in the spring edition of the Sinfonia Varsovia Chamber Music Series concert cycle. Meetings with Polish chamber music written between 1918 and 2018 will return to the Orchestra’s home in October. Meanwhile May heralds the beginning of the 8th edition of the Summer Concerts at Grochowska Street series, as well as a new cycle: Sinfonia Varsovia at Grochowska Street, during which we will have an opportunity to hear the full orchestra in the newly-built Concert Pavilion.

Admission to all Sinfonia Varsovia Chamber Music Series concerts is free.


For detailed dates and concert programmes please visit Calendar