The music that plays a part in Piano Etudes, is a special selection. When choosing, some factors played an important part. A trivial one, but not unimportant, was that the chosen compositions should not be too long, from the perspective of the length of a performance, as well as for keeping a good balance between text and music. In content I have chosen for music whit a certain mood, not too intrusive, but offering space for musing. Because musing is storytelling by nature, the music that is connected with that, should just touch this space, not filling in completely, but rather surrounding it.A composer like Zbigniew Preisner, who composed soundtracks for films from Krzystov Kieslovski, became more known to a bigger audience through his composition Requiem for my friend, after Kieslovski’s death.
But already from the beginning of his career, Preisner was involved as a composer with his work. For me this became clear for the first time when seeing Dekalog, a series made for television in ten parts, freely based on the Ten Commandments.
Two parts are worked out also in a longer version for the cinema. Preisners music is a special contribution for the mood in these series of stories, which seem to play all in the suburbs of a big Polish city. I saw the series for the first time in the Filmmuseum in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam. It was very special how these autonomous stories got their connections, for example how the main characters in one story became onlookers in another one. Also some personages who return all the time, a silent passer-by, as an angel for instance. Preisners music was also a binding factor.
Piano Etudes starts with his composition Do not take another man’s wife, originally incorporated in one of the Dekalog parts, later returning in Rouge, one of the films in his triptych Bleu, Blanc, Rouge, Kieslovski’s first big European project after La Double Vie de Véronique, the first one to reach a wider audience in Europe.
The combination of piano and voice in this composition Do not take another man’s wife is extraordinary. The piano supports the voice with some chords, and only picks up the melody in the interlude.
In my texts this composition appeared at the end, at etude 20. It stays there in the text, but in the theatrical form it also fitted perfectly to start the whole play. The audience is in the theatre room, the lights are going down, the performers come up and the music starts as an immediate moment of attention. There is an open space, concentration; we are ‘inside’.
In etude 2, I am talking about Almeida Prado’s Noturno nr. 4, but this one is not executed at all. Almeida Prado is a Brazilian composer and the grandfather of Flavia Tojal, one of the participating artists. But the scores have not been found and slowly, even in silence, this one is replaced by our own pianist and singer Magdalena Golebiowska, with a composition of her brother Maciej Golebiowski. In fact I discovered this much later, it’s even mentioned in the Piano Etudes book as Prado’s one.
Magdalena totally surprised me to work with one of my texts from my novel A Winter Heart, a day before the recordings in the conservatory studio. It has become a beautiful love song now, a surprise for everyone, a song on its own.
Talking about Magdalena, it seemed good to me to replace the cello part in Ernest Bloch’s Jewish Life, I. Prayer by her voice. That is after the Preisner beginning a second time voice and piano sound beautiful together.
Only once her voice is to hear just solo, without piano, in etude 5, an improvisation of her on Polish folk music. And another time, at etude 6, she interprets A house is not a home in an inimitable way, singing and playing.