Chamber Works by Szymon Laks

Part of the series: Music In Exile


Artist: ARC Ensemble
Release Date: 2 June 2017
Label: Chandos
Format: CD



SZYMON LAKS (1901 – 1983):
• Divertimento for violin, clarinet, bassoon, and piano
• Concertino for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon
• Passacaille (arrangement for clarinet and piano)
• String Quartet No. 4
• Quintet for piano and strings
• Sonatina for piano

‘In the autumn of 2008 the ARC Ensemble performed
Laks’s Piano Quintet in a live broadcast from Warsaw.
At the post-concert reception, a very stylish and
distinguished woman congratulated the ensemble’s
pianist, Dianne Werner, on her performance. The
woman, Halina, told her that she had not heard Laks’s
music since a visit to Paris, some fifty years earlier, with
her late husband, the composer Władysław Szpilman,
a founding member of the much-admired Warsaw
Piano Quintet. Unlike Laks, Szpilman had remained
in Poland where his music, his songs particularly, had
been performed both before and after WWII. The Pianist
(2002), Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film, had
introduced the extraordinary story of Szpilman, as well
as some of his music, to an international audience.

While music saved the life of both Szymon Laks and
Władysław Szpilman, the unsparing eyewitness account
which Laks gave of his imprisonment has eclipsed his
musical legacy. His view that music was powerless
to effect any tangible improvement, and irrelevant to
the quality of prisoners’ lives, capsizes assumptions
that credit music with intrinsic goodness, redemptive
power, or a means of protest, and this is something
that many find troubling. Laks did little to promote his
music, and his backward-looking style and language
separated him from the fashionable trends of the midtwentieth
century. In commemorative and anniversary
programmes, composers who perished during the
Holocaust often receive a kind of compensatory
attention, but despite this process of revival many
émigrés and survivors, Laks among them, have been
roundly and unjustly ignored.‘
(From the CD’s booklet notes,
written by Simon Wynberg)

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