Orchestra of The Swan - Worcester Cathedral by Christopher Morley
Patrycja Pieczara, born in Krakow in 1983, has conducted to great acclaim in opera-houses and concert-halls both in her Polish homeland and abroad, with several successful appearances in the UK. One of her most recent triumphs was an all-English programme in Birmingham Town Hall with the Orchestra of the Swan, joined by baritone Roderick Williams, and given to great critical acclaim.
On April 6 the same performers repeat the programme (Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Ireland) in the quintessentially English setting of Worcester Cathedral. Patrycja tells me about her reactions to the music.
" To begin with, I would like to say I’m very much looking forward to perform once more with Roderick Williams - and OOTS in this beautiful Worcester Cathedral so soon ! Again I will have the pleasure to perform this all-English programme - the music I knew not quite well before ( Oh, maybe except Vaughan Williams!).
"To be completely honest, before the February concerts with OOTS I'd never conducted pieces by those composers! Having this ultimate experience while performing it I have to admit I found lots of similarities with music from my very own country. Especially in Finzi - his nostalgic, very melancholic, ultra-romantic and non-stop rubato music narration reminds one of music of Chopin. Maybe this is why I felt so comfortable while performing it?"
Can we look forward to a similar all-Polish programme from Patrycja with OOTS?
"Well, I would love to bring some of the Polish music and perform it with OOTS !
"I think it would be a great idea to show a mixture of known and unknown composers to the English public , fromthe Romantic era to XXI century, showing the very Polish output in some larger perspective !"
Patrycja goes on to tell me how much she enjoys working with the Orchestra of the Swan.
"Working with a chamber orchestra gives a quite unique opportunity of making music far closer, more intense, more intimate than with a large ensemble. I have to admit I felt electrified by the musicians of OOTS ! I felt they are very responsive, sensitive and what is the most important - they really enjoy making music together! Each performance is very unique, powerful and unforgettable to me!"
Roderick Williams describes the pleasure of performing an all-English programme with a foreign conductor.
"This repertoire is very personal to me and, I’m sure, to a lot of British musicians and audiences but I’m less certain of its position on the world stage," he says.
"I just think it is so flattering that people from other countries are intrigued enough to programme and take an interest in our musical heritage. I remember feeling this when Sakari Oramo conducted Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony at the Proms or when the Vienna Philharmonic played Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius also at the Proms. They played the music with respect and fascination and I revelled in this.
"So it is when Patrycja conducts this concert. There’s no feeling that this music needs to be apologised for or is somehow second-rate and I’m very glad of that."
Williams is so much-loved and respected as a performer, as a composer, as a thinker and writer, and his recent series of Radio 4 programmes about the British choral tradition was absorbing. How does he cope with such a many-faceted existence? And how much of him does his family get?
"I've never set out to be anything other than a singer. That my compositions have aroused some interest recently is not down to any particular attempts on my behalf to push them to a wider audience. Nor have I sought a career in broadcasting especially; these are offers that have come to me for whatever reason and they have been great fun to explore.
" I don’t find myself having to cope with this in any sense as it all seems to stem from my comfort with performing, which in turn sprung up from my classroom teaching experiences a few decades ago. It all seems very natural just at the moment.
"Of course I would love to have spent more regular time with my family but my children have benefitted from the stability of having their mother with them as a more constant presence. Now that they are older and gradually leaving home, my wife has time to join me on some of my concert trips so we look forward to this new chapter together."
And family links bring an added bonus to Roddy's anticipation of the Worcester concert, as he explains.
"I’d just like to make a connection to Worcester where this concert is taking place; I was married in Pershore Abbey a few miles away, which is where my wife’s parents settled, and I have a long association with the Three Choirs Festival. I will also be adjudicating all that week at the Bromsgrove Competition only a few miles away so it all feels very local to me, given that I live the other side of Stratford-upon-Avon.
" I do love home engagements, anything where I can travel home easily after the concert and see my lovely family and home. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to travel. I’m answering these questions from digs in Dallas Texas, and will shortly be about to embark on a European tour with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; but nothing beats coming home!"
That should make an appropriate last word, but in fact that goes to Patrycja, who tells me of her pleasure in working with Roderick Williams'
"My first „onstage meeting with Roderick was in February, performing the very same English programme. It was an absolutely incredible experience to perform with one of the best baritones in the region, known as a great interpreter of English music. Apart from the voice he has such a fantastic personality, so I can’t wait to perform together once more in this breathtaking venue!"
*The Orchestra of the Swan, conductor Patrycja Pieczara, soloist Roderick Williams, performs an all-English programme in Worcester Cathedral on Friday April 6 (7.45pm). Details on 01905 611427.
Photos courtesy of Paolo Pezzangora, Orchestra of the Swan.