The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Burren is a limestone plateau in north County Clare, Ireland, dominated by karst landscape. It measures at least 250 square kilometers. This extraordinary region is rich in natural and cultural attractions. Traveling via the Wild Atlantic Way, along the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean, through the limestone desert interspersed with the green hills and valleys, you have the impression of traveling in time and space. In a moment you are back to the Neolithic Era, in the other you are crossing the gate to the world of fantasy full of Little People, Feries and other amazing creatures well known from the J.R.R. Tolkien works.

The name Burren comes from the Gaelic and means a rocky place. Historically, the name referred to the Barony of Burren situated in north-west County Clare. Geographically, the name has a wider meaning. The area lies between Galway Bay on the north, the Atlantic coast on the west and a line drawn through Doolin, Kilfenora, Gort and Kinvara. However, outside this area you can also find the limestone features, but not as frequently and concentrated.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

The Burren is the youngest landscape in Europe and has suffered intense glaciation. The last one occurred about 10 000 years ago. You can find here almost all typical limestone landforms, like underground rivers, swallow holes, glacial erratics, caves, clints, grykes and closed depressions. The limestone is an organic sedimentary rock laid down millions of years ago in a shallow warm sea, it is the result of marine plants and animals dying and accumulating in horizontal beds on the sea floor.

The first people to arrive in the Burren were hunters and fishermen who moved into animal husbandry with the keeping of cattle, sheep and goats. From the results of research and archaeological excavations a lot of information has been gathered about the life and death of these early settlers. There are numerous monuments and tombs dated to the Neolithic Era from, ca. 4000 – 3000 BC. The tombs of the first farmers, widely known as megaliths, are impressive monuments over the graves of their dead.

Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott
Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott

The Burren is also well known for the remains of over twenty churches constructed between the 6th and 12th centuries. These are evidences of the spread of Christianity in this region and traces of stay of the early Irish missionaries, like St. Colman and St. Cronan, who laboured in this remote area. Most of these churches are of architectural interest and in most cases their patrons and founders being known and revered.

The Corcomroe Abbey is one of these remains, sited among the grey hills and valleys of the Burren. It is best known for its lonely situation. The abbey acquired the name of Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili (St. Mary of the Fertile Rock) which reflects the fertile nature of the Burren lands. It has been built in the 12th century and used by the Cistercian community for the next 400 years.

The Corcomroe Abbey

In a countryside like the County Clare, isolated from the rest of the country by the river Shannon, with so many visible remains of the past and an extraordinary landscape that stimulates imagination, the folklore was rich and survived over the centuries maintained by the Gaelic language. It has left many material and immaterial traces in the landscape and in the literature.

Recently it turned out that the magical landscape of the Burren may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to bring to life the Middle-earth – the central continent of the Earth in Tolkien’s imagined mythological past. The term is equivalent to the term Miðgarðr from Norse mythology, describing the human-inhabited world. In ancient Germanic mythology, the world of Men is known by several names, such as Midgard, Middenheim, Manaheim, and Middengeard. The Old English word middangeard descends from an earlier Germanic word, transliterated to modern English as Midgard.

Doolin Fertile Stone
Doolin Fertile Stone

Tolkien’s world famous works, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, take place entirely in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien worked as an external examiner to National University Galway in the 40s and 50s of the XX century. Galway, the most central port on the West Coast in the sheltered eastern corner of Galway Bay, located between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south, was a great starting point for exploring the surrounding area.

It is said by the locals that Tolkien would often take trips to the lunar-like landscape of the Burren. When you consider that Tolkien was visiting the Burren around the same time that he was writing The Lord of The Rings, it is easy to see how the stark beauty of this region might have inspired him. The landscape here is certainly unusual, and for a fantasy author such as Tolkien it must have been magnetic.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Amongst the craggy fissures and creeping woods of the Burren there is a cave called Pol na Gollum (Hole of Gollum). The Gollum’s character is essential to the entire plot of The Lord of The Rings. Did Tolkien get the name for this miserable creature from this cave? Furthermore, Gollum in The Lord of The Rings had a distinctive gurgling cough, and at the mouth of this cave the chirps and calls of rock doves echo and transform into a similar guttural sound.

Thanks to Peter Curtin, the owner of The Roadside Tavern pub in County Clare and a member of The Burren Society Tolkien Symposium, it has been accepted that one of the most iconic authors of the fantasy literature – J.R.R. Tolkien, was influenced by the magic of the incredible place of the Burren while writing his most famous work.

Pauline Baynes's copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings
Pauline Baynes’s copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings

Gallery

Reference:

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/the_burren/burren_karst.htm

http://www.ireland.com/en-gb/what-is-available/attractions-built-heritage/historic-ireland/articles/burren-and-tolkien/

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/the-little-people

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/fairy-and-folk-tales

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-earth#Etymology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galway_Bay

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3287440/Show-way-Mordor-Unique-hand-drawn-map-Middle-Earth-gives-rare-insight-Tolkien-s-mind.html

https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_colbeck_1905.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2016/sep/26/hannah-kent-the-good-people-dives-into-an-irish-world-of-faith-and-fantasy

Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Grzegorz Kiarszys


The presented book “Three medieval worlds. Iuxta castrum Sandouel” aims to tell the stories of the remains of medieval strongholds in the cultural landscape of the Góra district (Lower Silesia Region, Poland) and to restore their presence in the social discourse. The research project was financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, coordinated by the National Heritage Board of Poland, with the aid from Archeo Landscapes Europe. The studies focus on the relics of early medieval strongholds and late medieval motte castles located in the Lower Silesia Region, Poland. These features are often considered as mysterious objects of anthropogenic origin. However, their original purpose and cultural value is seldom recognized by the local community.

Relatively low historical awareness in the western Poland results from the historical context of those territories. After the end of World War II, due to decisions made at the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the eastern part of the Third Reich was put under Polish administration. The local German population was replaced by Polish settlers from the eastern and central territories. Post-war reality in western Poland caused the meaning of archaeological and historical monuments to be devalued. Polish citizens, resettled to the western territories, perceived the landscape as “alien” or “German”. After the horror of war they were unable to recognize the heritage sites or imagine their abstractive value and identify with it. In their eyes the landscape of “Regained Territories” didn’t have any past or tradition worth to acknowledging and commemorating. Historical and archaeological monuments were not seen as their property.

On the other hand, the communistic ideology was about creating the new social order; it exploited the past for political reasons, developing interest only in specific archaeological sites, for example those related to the early Polish Piast monarchy. Such archaeological sites could later be used in the discourse of propaganda and to justify border shifts after World War II. Along with the disappearance of archaeological earthworks from the Polish topographical maps, they also vanished from the awareness of the local population, losing their cultural value. The consequence of that process had a great impact on the contemporary perception of cultural heritage in western Poland.

Archaeological sites can be valued due to their physical form and state of preservation, as well as their chronology or relationship with historic events that are considered to be important. As soon as such a place is identified and significant, it starts to play a part in contemporary social discourse, receiving a new cultural context. This can be created in relation to different roles such as education, or become an active part of the construction of social identity.

The non-invasive archaeological methods can be useful for popularizing of archaeology and widening the awareness of historical places in local societies. Application of such methods as: aerial photography (both archival and contemporary), Airborne Laser Scanning, magnetometry and historical cartography can be valuable, not only for professional archaeological landscape studies, but also in the process of construction of a narrative about the biography of specific archaeological features.

Archaeology can produce a persuasive and aesthetic background for the contemporary social discourse. Restoring the memory of archaeological heritage sites in the region, with the aid of a properly constructed narrative and visualisation of specific monuments, can revive the imagination of local society and fill in the empty places with stories being told once again.

 

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemeteries are one of the most impressive reflexes of an historic moment in a certain culture. Therefore, it is rather understandable why southern Europe cemeteries present features that cannot be easily found in Great Britain cemeteries, for example. However, if we look closer to Portuguese cemeteries, we can easily distinguish it from the Spanish, the French or even from the Italian ones.

Francisco Queiroz

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The rainy and gloomy November especially encourages to do some reflection and meditation on the transience, the death and the fragility of human life. This is the best time for remembering the dead and visiting cemeteries. The Western world celebrates in this particular time of the year the Halloween, the All Saints’ Day, the All Souls’ Day from 31st October to 2nd November. At that time cemeteries are illuminated by thousands of candles and sunk in flowers, like in Poland. However, during the rest part of the year the final resting places are usually empty.

In the last week of October this year I visited the famous Prazeres Cemetery in Lisbon, just before the upcoming holidays. Portuguese transport has switched already to the winter timetable, but the temperature was still high (ca. 27-29 degrees Celsius) and the sun was shining beautifully. So there was not a bit of the so called “November atmosphere” which I described above. It was completely different, in fact. The Prazeres Cemetery was almost empty. I saw only a few tourists and I met two old ladies, who were taking care of the graves of their dead spouses. We had some conversation  and frankly they complained a bit that since the cemetery has become a monument the cost of upkeeping the graves increased significantly.
I walked around the cemetery around 1.5 hours and I really felt myself like visiting a ghost town, a city of the dead. The plan of the streets, squares, monuments, mausoleums, chapels and avenues with the houses of the dead corresponds 1:1 to the normal city plan, a living city. Nevertheless, the net curtains in the tombs’ windows looked a little spooky and caused me a bit of an unpleasant shudder. And the coffins visible directly through the glass… This is not a daily view, even at a cemetery. Modernly, we are more accustomed to burying the coffin with the body in the ground or to a discrete cremation rather then exposure of coffins with corpses. A certain order of things had been infringed and that was probably the reason why I felt a bit strange and slightly uncomfortable.
Beyond the beautiful nineteenth century romantic architecture and the scenic location, the Prazeres Cemetery is also well known from the oldest and largest concentration of the cypresses on the Iberian Peninsula. These long-lived trees bring incredible peace and dignity by their presence and are the characteristic elements of this landscape. And the cats are the only living inhabitants of the Prazeres Cemetery, I suppose. They behaved very calmly and very freely, so you could conjecture that the cemetery is probably their living environment, their home. It is significant that the more we move to the south of Europe, the greater dominance of the cats in the cities we observe. Sometimes they took such a pose that they looked like a guardians, absolutely focused and concentrated. Just like the mythical Cerberus,  guarding the entrance to the underworld…
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The Prazeres Cemetery was originally created to handle the thousands of victims of the cholera epidemic in 1833-34.  By 1839, wealthier families began to build monuments.  Several hundred tombs were build between 1839 and1850 alone.  Many important names figures of Portuguese arts and politics are buried here.  The Prazeres Cemetery became the model for most cemeteries in the center and south of Portugal, and is the most cosmopolitan cemetery still existing in the nation.

Before the grounds were converted into a cemetery, it was a collective of farms by the name of Quinta dos Prazeres in which you could find gardens, vineyards and orchards. It’s location, with a beutiful view of the Tejo river, was noble indeed, positioned near Dom Pedro II’s Royal Palace in Alcântara and the other royal parties.

In the XVI century the farm was converted into a refuge for people suffering diseases like smallpox, the plague and yellow fever. Eventually, thanks to the the cholera morbus epidemic in the 1830s, the whole area was designated as a final resting place for the local aristocracy. It was run by the nuns from the Convento de Boa Morte (Good Death Convent) until 1834.

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References:

http://portugalconfidential.com/10-intriguing-cemeteries-of-portugal/

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/en/equipments/equipment/info/cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/equipamentos/equipamento/info/museu-cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.ucityguides.com/cities/10-famous-cemeteries.html

http://www.atlaslisboa.com/cemiterio-dos-prazeres/

http://queirozportela.com/cemetpo.htm

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


Part II
Biography of place and landscape. Memory and monuments.

The Birthplace. The composer’s mother, Justyna nee Krzyżanowska, from an impoverished gentry family, helped with the house keeping as a resident of the Skarbek’s manor house. She met Mikołaj Chopin, a French immigrant who became tutor to the Skarbek’s children at Żelazowa Wola. The Chopins married in 1806 and set up home in the right part of the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate.

Nothing is known about the furnishings of the flat where Fryderyk’s parents lived in the annexe of the Skarbek’s manor house. It could have contained furniture belonging to the Skarbeks, but the Chopins might also have possessed their own. There is no doubt, however, that the interiors were furnished modestly and in a stylistically inconsistent way. The existing books belonged to the family and certainly have been kept in a bookcase.

The Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola. Photo M. Czechowicz
The Chopin’s Room. Permanent display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin and Park in Żelazowa Wola. Photo by M. Czechowicz

After moving to Warsaw in the autumn 1810, the Chopin family maintained close and warm contacts with the Skarbek family. Żelazowa Wola became a destination for  Chopins summer excursions. Only one letter addressed to Fryderyk’s friend Jan Białobłocki survived, where the composer describes his summer holiday in Poland. Fryderyk and Jan spent the summers of 1824 and 1825 in close proximity. Their visited one another on regular basis. Białobłocki died at 21, most probably of tuberculosis of the knee. Chopin wrote 13 letters to his friend, the last dated 12 March 1827.

Descriptions from the period, which are not always reliable, speak of the composer giving concerts on a piano carried out from the house and placed beneath a spurt, on which occasions his music would have been heard by all around.

The Park Monument_Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The Museum. The idea of creating a museum devoted to Fryderyk Chopin in the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate dates back to 1891, but it was not until the inter-war period that concepts for its display began to be realized at Żelazowa Wola. None of them was fully implemented at that time. The intention was to furnish Chopin’s birthplace partly with historical furniture, in an effort to recreate the atmosphere of the times. The plan was to fill the display devoted to Chopin with souvenirs connected with the composer and his family.

During the period when the Chopin Family was living at Żelazowa Wola, the right part of the annexe was residential, while the left part, with a cellar, served functional purposes. The display in this room presents the history of this modest manorial annexe, with its successive renovations and functions from beginning of the XVIII century, when the landed estate of Żelazowa Wola was acquired by Count Skarbek, up to the 1930s, when the neglected building was rebuilt and turned into a museum – a place devoted to the memory of Fryderyk Chopin.

Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola
Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola

Although the display was not officially opened until 1949, it is known that the Chopin’s death mask was already here in 1930 and later also two pianos, copies of portraits of the composer by Delacroix, Scheffer and the Bissons, a collection of Chopin-related drawings and probably a cast of his hand.  Few of the items from the pre-war interiors survived the World War II.

In post-war display, the furnishings were more in line with current conceptions of the interiors of a XIX century Polish manor house than the humble annexe in which Chopin was born. At that time, the left side of the annexe was not distinguished as having been non-residential, with a fictive vision of a manor house created throughout the building.

Żelazowa Wola, First Chopin's Monument 1894
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 1894

The Monument. On 14 October 1894, the first Chopin monument on Polish lands was unveiled. Modest in form, referring to the tradition of obelisk commemoration and given such a form due to censorship restrictions. It was shaped like a gravestone, since that was the only form allowed by the Russian imperial authorities of those times. The medallion with an effigy of Fryderyk Chopin was designed by Jan Woydyga whereas the whole monument was designed by Bronisław Żochowski.

The unveiling ceremony represents a symbolic watershed in the history of the commemoration of Chopin’s birthplace. It also marked the start of lengthy efforts to set up a museum devoted to the composer. From the beginning of the XX century, many initiatives designed to popularize the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin were undertaken, like numerous concerts, trips and exhibitions, accompanied by the collecting of donations initially towards the purchase of the annexe from private hands and then for the creation of a museum.

The Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 2016

Mily Balakirev, a Russian composer, pianist, conductor and musical activist and an enthusiast of Fryderyk Chopin’s music, secured the permission of the Russian imperial governor of Warsaw to erect a monument to the composer. Aleksander Poliński, a member of the Committee of the Warsaw Music Society, sought to buy the historical annexe from the then owner of the estate. Although the plan fell through at that time, a monument was raised in front of the annexe.

During the unveiling ceremony, works by the Polish composer were played by Aleksander Michałowski, one of the leading pianist in the transmission of the Chopin pianistic tradition, Mily Balakirev, and the pianist and journalist Jan Kleczyński. The official programme featured a performance of Zygmunt Noskowski’s polonaise-style cantata On the Banks of the Utrata/ Nad Utratą, and the Lutnia choir sang vocal transcriptions of works by Chopin.

The Park – Monument. The rebuilt annexe of the Skarbek family estate was to be the centerpiece of a modernist park-monument designed by Franciszek Krzywda-Polkowski, founder and head of the Parks and Landscape Architecture Department of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, who broke with the idea of an idyllic garden detached from the context of the surrounding Mazovian landscape. The modernist character of the design was manifest in the treatment of the park as a closed, individual work of art, characterized by the geometrisation and rhythmisation of the spatial elements such as architectural features, paths and avenues. Their composition with the flora, laid out in a free and picturesque way, indicates the character of a landscape park.

The Park Monument at Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The work on laying out The Park – Monument began in the early spring of 1933. In many places the lie of the land was altered mostly new flora was planted, not all of it native to Poland, and paths and avenues were marked out, including the road leading from the new gate to the Chopin’s birthplace. Terraces, steps and bridge were built, the River Utrata was regulate, water bodies were created and architectural features were raised, like bowers, rain shelters, a pergola and a summer concert stage. The 1894 monument was moved from in front of the annexe to the western part of the park, and in its place a pool was created, in which the annexe’s façade is reflected. The work was completed in December 1937.

Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola
Remains of the Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola

The decision not to recreate the surroundings of the annexe from Chopin’s times gave rise to numerous polemics in that times. Opponents of the modern vision argued that a garden typical of the impoverished gentry of the period ought to be created around the composer’s birthplace. That argument was countered with notions of the revolutionary and innovative character of Chopin’s music, which should be reflected in a bold design. Finally, the revolutionary vision was realized.

The latest archaeological research revealed that the annexe in which Chopin was born stood opposite the larger building referred to in documents as the Old Manor – probably the only residential building besides the annexe on the Skarbek’s estate.

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Detailed information is derived from the New Display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola, 2015

 

Gallery:

Żelazowa Wola Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes

Reference:

http://chopin.museum/en/museum/zelazowa_wola/id/757

http://pl.chopin.nifc.pl/chopin/persons/detail/id/6748

http://bazawiedzy.chopin2010.pl/en/people/wszystkie-osoby/entry/4043-bialoblocki-jan.html

Related article:
Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I. People and objects. Music, memory mediums and emotions.

The Great War and Its Landscapes Between Memory and Oblivion: the Case of Prisoners of War Camps in Tuchola and Czersk, Poland

The Great War and Its Landscapes Between Memory and Oblivion: the Case of Prisoners of War Camps in Tuchola and Czersk, Poland

Dawid Kobiałka, Mikołaj Kostyrko, Kornelia Kajda


Abstract

Many sites related to the First World War are forgotten and neglected in today’s Poland. This paper shortly presents the ways of practicing “conflict archaeology” in Poland and it discusses results of the non-invasive archaeological survey conducted in Tuchola and Czersk, places where during the First World War Germans built and run prisoners of war camps. In the article the material remains of the camps that have survived in the local landscapes till the present are analyzed. Both sites are at the same time remembered and forgotten by local communities. This paper tries to account for oblivion as an inherent part of local landscapes that adds a unique value to them.

Prisoners of War Camps structures in Tuchola Poland
Contemporary landscape of the former PoW camp in Tuchola: an integration of different types of data. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka, Drawing: Mikołaj Kostyrko
The Prisoners of War cemetery in Czersk. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka
The Prisoners of War cemetery in Czersk. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka

 

The full article available at SpringerLink International Journal of Historical Archaeology

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Reusing the abstract under the Springer License

All photos published with the Authors’ permission.

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


Part I
People and objects. Music, memory mediums and emotions.

I met Saskia Giorgini, the Italian pianist, in Żelazowa Wola, Fryderyk Chopin’s birth place. Although the astrological summer hadn’t started yet, it was a very sunny and torrid Sunday on the 19th of June. The Mazovian sky seemed to be larger and brighter than ever. Ms Giorgini enjoyed it a lot. She already visited Poland several times but this one supposed to be different, because of her recital in Żelazowa Wola. Her beauty and gentle behavior strucked me immediately. Combined with her great talent, it is no wonder that she and Chopin were born under the same sign of zodiac – Pisces. According to astrology, Pisces are deeply creative and artistic, with enhanced intuitive abilities, sensitive and instinctual rather than bookish or mechanical, wholly engage in a chosen path, to the exclusion of everything else. They are great friends and romantic partners. Personally, I fully agree with this characterization. Judge it according to your own discretion. Chopin’s family celebrated his birthday on the 1st of March, however, there are known sources informing on another date of his birth, the 22nd of February 1810.  Saskia Giorgini was born in February too but more than 150 years after Chopin. The music subtly combines their biographies. Through playing the piano Saskia Giorgini introduces us to the world of Chopin and revives the memory of him, his life and his works.

Żelazowa Wola, Fryderyk Chopin birthplace, 1810
Żelazowa Wola. The birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin

The whole Chopin’s family had artistic leanings, and even in infancy Fryderyk Chopin was always strangely moved when listening to his mother or eldest sister playing the piano. Being at the age of six, he was already trying to reproduce what he heard or to make up new tunes. The following year he started his piano lessons. At the age of eight he made his first public appearance at a charity concert. Three years later he performed in the presence of the Russian tsar Alexander I, who was in Warsaw to open the Parliament. His reputation of a child prodigy was growing rapidly. At seven he wrote a Polonaise in G Minor, which was printed, and soon afterward a march of his appealed to the Russian grand duke Constantine, who had it scored for his military band to play on parade. Other polonaises, mazurkas, variations, ecossaises, and a rondo followed, with the result that, when he was 16, his family enrolled him at the newly formed Warsaw Conservatory of Music.  Chopin had shown interest in the folk music of the Polish countryside and had received those impressions that later gave an unmistakable national colouring to his work. At the conservatory he was put through a solid course of instruction in harmony and composition. In piano playing he was allowed to develop a high degree of individuality.

Skarbek family residence in Żelazowa Wola
Skarbek family residence in Żelazowa Wola

Chopin’s childhood coincided with the Napoleonic era. Poles pinned great hopes for the restoration of the Polish State with Napoleon Bonaparte. They fought at his side against Prussia and Russia. After the fall of Napoleon the Congress of Vienna brought to life the Polish Kingdom, with an extremely truncated borders and fully dependent on Russia . The Tsar of Russia became the King of Poland. A fairly quiet life in the time of Alexander I turned to anguish during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. All of this resulted in the outbreak of the November Uprising in 1830. Chopin was already outside Poland. He left the country on 2 November 1830 to start his concert tour throughout  Europe. His journey coincided with the emigration of Polish insurgents after the defeat of the November Uprising. As a true patriot Chopin supported the Polish cause and the Polish emmigrant associations with his work and money almost till the end of his life in Paris, on the 17th October 1849. His music, his association with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness.

Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola 2016
Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola

Saskia received her first piano lessons at the age of four. Being fifteen years old she was admitted to the piano academy “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola, where she studied with Franco Scala, Riccardo Risaliti, Leonid Margarius and Michel Dalberto. At the same time she graduated from the Conservatorio di Torino with Claudio Voghera, with the highest grades. She then completed her studies at the Accademia di Musica di Pinerolo with Enrico Pace and the postgraduate studies at the Mozarteum Salzburg with Pavel Gililov. For her 2013 New York debut she performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto n.1 with the New York Concert Artists & Associates Orchestra. She has played together with important orchestras, such as Lodz Philarmonic Orchestra in Poland, CBC Radio Orchestra in Canada, Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg, Liepaja Symphony Orchestra in Latvia, Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, L’Orchestra Archi De Sono, l’Orchestra Giovanile Italiana, under the baton of conductors as Mario Bernardi, Gérard Korsten, Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Antonello Manacorda, Andrea Battistoni, Massimiliano Caldi. She is a winner of the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 2016, where she also got the special prize for the best interpretation of the commissioned work. She has a special affinity for chamber music. The Artist is considered by the music critics as one of the most interesting pianists of the young generation. Her visit and recital in Żelazowa Wola on the 19th of June 2016, organized by The Fryderyk Chopin  Institute, was as a special price for the finalist in the International Piano Competition Ferruccio Busoni 2015, were she received the award for the best interpretation of a work by Fryderyk Chopin. She admits that she loves Chopin and his music, which also rises her warm feelings for Poland and Poles.

Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola
Broadwood & Sons piano in Żelazowa Wola

The opportunity to listen to Saskia Giorgini performing Chopin on the 19th of June in Żelazowa Wola was unique, because the Artist played the instrument from the Chopin era. The piano was produced by the John Broadwood & Sons piano manufacturer in London, 1843. It was originally ordered by Georges Wildes from Manchester. F. Chopin played a similar grand piano (serial no. 17047, now in Cobbe’s Collection in Great Britain) during his trip to England in 1848. According to factory archives it was repaired twice in 1855. The instrument was bought in 2014 by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw. A square lime plate on the keyboard cover, decorated with arabesques, contains inscription: Patent / Repetition Grand Pianoforte. / John Broadwood & Sons / Manufacturers to Her Majesty / 33. Great Pulteney Street Golden Square / London. The instrument is made from wood, metal and ivory. The timbre of each instrument is unique, but it is possible that the “Chopin’s piano” sounded very similar, as an instrument from the same manufacturer. At least we would like do believe so. The Artist played two concerts in Żelazowa Wola. The first one, on the historical piano, started at noon. The second one, on a modern instrument, started later in the afternoon. Both concerts lasted ca. 45 minutes and the program stayed the same:

– Notturnos op. 15
– nr 1 F-dur
– nr 2 Fis-dur
– nr 3 g-moll
– Rondo à la Mazur F-dur op. 5
– Waltz a-moll op. 34 nr 2
– Waltz As-dur op. 42
– Ballad As-dur op. 47

Saskia Giorgini at Żelazowa Wola 2016, fot. Magdalena Rodziewicz NIFC
Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola, fot. Magdalena Rodziewicz NIFC

The Pianist stayed alone with the old instrument inside the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin, an eastern outbuilding of non-existing Skarbek family residence, while the audience stayed outside in the garden, waiting impatiently for the first tunes. After all, Saskia Giorgini said that it was an unusual feeling playing in an empty room on the historical piano, accompanied only by the ticking clock. Visitors from around the world behaved very quietly. The atmosphere was amazing and magical. The succeeding melodies, wistful and carefree, cheerful and thoughtful  were very reminiscent of the sounds of the surrounding nature. Birds singing blended in the music and the subsequent passages strikingly resembled the rustle of trees and the nearby Utrata River. The music was spreading around the park from hidden speakers so you felt like the all creation is singing the same melody. Each leaf hummed to the rhythm and the sound of Chopin’s music reverberated around the park.

Saskia Giorgini Chopin Recital in Żelazowa Wola 2016
Saskia Giorgini Recital in Żelazowa Wola

The Pianist revived the historical instrument and reanimated the Author. The sounds carried us back in time to the family home of Chopin and his childhood. It was really something like a time travel, or better to say between times travel. You could almost hear the sound of an evening lullaby or the laugh of children playing in the garden. In that one brief moment the Author, the Artist and the Instrument became one and brought us somewhere beyond time and space – to the land of Chopin’s dreams and memories. The past and the present became one.  The future was unnecessary. Nobody wanted to interrupt this unique experience. Chopin’s music acts extremely on imagination and Saskia Giorgini played it perfectly. She and the piano were a memory medium and a time vehicle, because in the world of music everything is possible. The music is like the space – unlimited and everlasting.

* * *

Gallery:

Żelazowa Wola Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes

Reference:

http://www.piano.instruments.edu.pl/en/pianos/show/piano/8
http://www.britannica.com/biography/Frederic-Chopin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Broadwood_%26_Sons
http://en.chopin.nifc.pl/institute/concerts/zelazowa_wola/sunday/06.19_Saskia_Giorgini
http://realitas.pl/SwiatoOglad/MR20100112.html
http://www.saskiagiorgini.it/

Related article:
Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II. Place and landscape, memory and monuments

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus

 

Curatorial Text


Travellers. Voyage and Migration in New Art from Central and Eastern Europe.
14.05 – 21.08.2016 at Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland

Artists: Adéla Babanová, Daniel Baker, Olga Chernysheva, Wojciech Gilewicz, Pravdoliub Ivanov, C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska, Irina Korina, Taus Makhacheva, Porter McCray, Alban Muja, Ilona Németh & Jonathan Ravasz, Roman Ondak, Tímea Anita Oravecz, Adrian Paci, Vesna Pavlović, Dushko Petrovich, Janek Simon, Radek Szlaga & Honza Zamojski, Maja Vukoje, Sislej Xhafa

Curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz
Collaboration on the part of Zachęta: Magdalena Komornicka

The exhibition looks at travel in a region where freedom to travel was, until recently, a luxury available only to the very few. The revolution of 1989 and the subsequent opening to the world and globalisation processes allowed citizens of the former Eastern Bloc personal mobility on an unprecedented scale. Participation in international exchanges contributed to the region’s identity today as much as the new political and economic order. For two successive decades, capitalism and globalisation carried us farther, faster, and surer, until we got used to thinking in terms of progress with only one direction — forward! Today, we see how that moment was as pivotal for modern European history as it was exceptional. Europe’s response to foreign refugees shows that our participation in the global exchange was, and is, predominantly one-way. We do not willingly share the privileges that we gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall and as a consequence of our EU accession. We are enthusiastic about going abroad, but far less so about welcoming foreigners.

The works presented in the show tell the stories of holiday trips as well as distant journeys and migrations. They focus on a period from the mid-20th century until today, from the closed borders of the divided Cold War-era Europe to the capitalism-driven acceleration of the 21st century’s first decades. They offer a reflection by contemporary artists hailing from the region — the former Eastern Bloc countries, the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia — often first and second generation migrants, on the last few decades in the history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Twenty-three artists from fifteen countries show how people, goods, and ideas flow between our part of Europe and other regions of the world. They tell us about Cold War-era tourists dreaming about exotic trips at a time when the freedom to travel was synonymous with political freedom. About travellers, who, on distant voyages, discover the forgotten history of abandoned places. About historical and contemporary migrants, their identity formed at an intersection of languages and cultures. But also about the objects these travellers take with them. About pictures that are to remind them of home and which become a source of knowledge about the world for others. About products that in distant countries turn into ambassadors of their culture. About artworks whose circulation beyond their place of origin lays a foundation for building canons. The artists present various means of transportation, such as ships, trains or buses, as well as visas or permits, that facilitate or limit their personal mobility. Discovering the enriching value of travel, they also shed light on the tensions arising inevitably between the poetics of the experience itself and the political situation that condition it.

Most of us know the familiarity of one home and one culture only. A traveller takes advantage of multiple viewpoints. That complex perspective not only allows us to recognize and embrace the value of other places and nations, but also to see ourselves as foreigners. By looking at the experience of voyage and migration in the art of Central and Eastern Europe, The Travellers shed light on the contemporary identity of the region.

The Travellers_full materials (pdf)