Hymnos for piano (1979)


Performer: Szabolcs Esztényi - piano; Polish Radio Archives 1988


Hymnos, composed in 1979, is dedicated to the Japanese pianist Aki Takahashi, who premiered the work in November that year in Sabaé, Japan. The Polish premiere took place during the 1981 Warsaw Autumn Festival and featured the composer himself.

The structure of the work is, characteristically of Tomasz Sikorski, modular, though the various modules are not as strictly defined as in many other compositions preceding Hymnos. What becomes a module is the general outline itself, the skeleton on the basis of which Sikorski builds shorter or longer fragments of the work. An easily discernible rhythmic-textural or rhythmic-melodic pattern undergoes a variety of transformations: harmonic, dynamic, rhythmic and expressive. The various modules appear irregularly: they emanate from each other, interweave and interpenetrate, creating an extremely compact, single-movement piece lasting over twelve minutes.

Hymnos is one of Tomasz Sikorski’s most highly regarded compositions, a work showing all the elements of the composer’s piano style at their best. It crowns the experiments begun in 1967 with Sonant. In addition, we can clearly discern here elements of an interval system – a specific harmonic language developed over many years.

The uniqueness of this composition is evidenced by the fact that it was performed no fewer than three times at the Warsaw Autumn: in 1981, when it was presented for the first time to the Polish audience, in 1989, when it was performed during an all-Sikorski concert by Szábolcs Esztényi, the greatest interpreter of his works, and in 1993, when it was performed during a recital by the American pianist Darryl Rosenberg. This is what he said about Sikorski’s music:

His music leaves an indelible impression of depth and meaning. The distance of the road travelled between Sikorski's very early Two Preludes (1955) and the Hymnos (1979) offers testimony to an extraordinary spiritual journey and transformation in the life of an artist. To say that Sikorski's music causes one to think is simply not enough. More importantly, it causes one to feel, to resonate, to vibrate. In the case of the repertoire presented here, it also brings us closer to the nature of the piano itself. Sikorski’s understanding of the instrument and its possibilities is of the highest order. The sonorities pierce through one. Only a composer who existed thoroughly within the interior of this realm of sound could deal so truthfully with the consequences of his harmonies, his repetitions, his crescendos and decrescendos, his silence. The tension in Sikorski's music emanates from his ability and willingness to both expose and deny feelings with the same stroke of the pen. Passion expressed, passion withheld, beauty, intensity, loneliness, richness of sound and spareness are put to the point.

The performance of Hymnos was also Tomasz Sikorski’s last appearance at the Warsaw Autumn Festival.

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