The stylistics of Stachowski’s music basically evolved along with the progress of Polish music after 1956. Nevertheless, composer’s musical language was shaped mainly by the aesthetic trends of his times. But, it were his preferences and experiences obtained through development of composition skills which were the most important factors determining the choice of means.
Despite the legible influences, somewhat “from the outside”, Stachowski’s musical style clearly and invariably preserves an element of originality. This causes to think of composer’s aesthetic attitude as highly individual.
In Marek Stachowski’s oeuvre two main stylistic periods – divided by conspicuous caesura between 1975 and 1976 – can be distinguished. The first “avant-garde” period comprises of aesthetically sonoristic pieces. Like many other Polish artists, composer’s interest in sonorism was manifested in exploration of comprehensive sound palette and desire to broaden the amount of instrumental effects. Stachowski - significantly influenced by his maestro Krzysztof Penderecki – didn’t limited himself to already introduced and, in a sense, common solutions, but tried to bring out his own innovations.
Stachowski employed an interesting use of choir as a source of non-vocal sounds (such as paper rustle etc.) in his first significant vocal-instrumental composition called Neuzis II (1968). The composition was written for mixed choir and unconventional instrumental ensemble. Diligence with which Stachowski sought for new sonoristic techniques is primarily perceivable in the orchestral pieces from that period, such as Musique solennelle or Poème sonore. These compositions serve as an example of individual approach to sound possibilities found in the extensive symphonic apparatus. The approach being slightly different from Penderecki's technique. Sonorous sphere gets pretty important when it comes to form-creation, owing to the fact that process of building the tension is not based on combination of sound complexes, but on tones fluctuation. In large vocal-instrumental compositions (such as above mentioned Neuzis II or Thakurian Chants), choir parts are added and used as sonoristic instrument within the limits imposed by lyrics. The way of manipulating the tonal sphere in order to build up narration reveals sophisticated sense of form and structure. Precision in building composition structure is mostly striking in the early, linearly written chamber pieces: Musica per quartetto d'archi, Audition or II String Quartet - which undoubtedly is the king of chamber works of the early period.
In the above-mentioned pieces in order to emphasize the form, Stachowski chooses to not overwhelm the audience with extensive wealth of timbre. With the clarity of narrative flow which is in this way achieved, high degree of coherence and cohesion of formal construction is maintained.
In 1976, one year after completing his major work of sonoristic period - Poème sonore – in the process of evolution of his style, a significant aesthetical breakthrough in Stachowski’s works happened. At this point he completely changes his attitude towards sonority and ceases to treat it as a priority. Melodic and harmonic sphere is what now “play first fiddle”, in a traditional sense, typical for late major-minor system. Intervals of melodic lines become crucial elements where the composer sets the revival of ideals of Debussy or Ravel, carefully choosing intervals, of which minor third and tritone prove to be the most important ones. In Birds – written for soprano and four instruments – those intervals play a key role in building up a poetic atmosphere of the composition. Along with return to the traditional hierarchy of individual music components comes Stachowski’s inclination for use of neoclassic or neoromantic idioms. A good example would be, in a way, Divertimento - a masterpiece from 1978 written for at that time established Polish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk. The composition was made for small, homogeneous string ensemble and is like a sparkly firework, stunning with variety of textures and movements. The sense of virtuosity of that piece is emphasized by internally rich arrangement of interwoven colors of string orchestra. In the course of bold and unpretentiously spectacular Divertimento there is an echo of rebellious spirit of the eighteenth century divertissement. Moreover, thanks to narrative clarity and excellent use of virtuosic possibilities of string instruments, a piece referring back to the best neoclassic traditions had been composed. Divertimento may evoke some associations with works of Grażyna Bacewicz (Concert for String Orchestra) and Michał Spisak (Serenada). And although dominant in the two first fragments of this composition, this is only one of many faces of Stachowski’s music. Similar clarity of narrative flow can be also found in slightly older pieces composed for string orchestra, to name a few: Cello Concerto written in 1988 for Boris Pergamenschikow and Sonata per archi written in 1991. Both compositions are characteristic of sophisticated harmonic, often based on the "half-tone – whole tone" scale (which, by the way, is containing a series of parallel minor thirds). Different kind of stylistic kinship with foregone trends can be found in works scored for larger performance ensembles - such as Sapphic Odes or romantic nocturne From the Book of Night I. The inclination for impressionistic emotional aura emerges right here, aura triggering the associations with sophisticated atmosphere of Ravel's works. These associations with French music are not direct analogies, but merely a remote echo of impressionistic atmosphere of sensuality and sound exquisiteness.
Talking about the stylistic path of Stachowski's works throughout the past twenty years, it is impossible not to mention constant but slow process of reducing the number of used technical means, which is an essential quality of his aesthetic evolution. Tendency to be economical with technical means is being gradually reinforced, even though it still varies depending on a composition genre. In orchestral music it is not so clear and not as early as in chamber works. Quartetto da ingress, for example, written in 1980 for string quartet is obviously influenced by this tendency whereas Choreia written one year later impresses with the wealth of implemented solutions and narrative momentum (especially in the finale of the second part). Comparing other chronologically analogous “pair” of compositions from the later years – for instance III String Quartet (1988) and From the Book of Night I (1990) – such discrepancies, in terms of means choice, won’t be found. Moreover, the choice of means in this case seems to be very precise and careful. The newer is the work, the reduction of components of this work is bigger. It seems that as time goes by Stachowski pays more attention to keep the means to the minimum necessary. Music clarity achieved in this way serves to highlight the emotional element. Still Choreia’s author remains emotionally restrained and detached – even in pieces inspired by poetry. In 2001 he admitted to be “one step behind” which could be attributed to his aesthetic turning away from modern trends in European music.
Indeed - his newest pieces, such as Recitativo e la preghiera, Adagio ricordamente or Clarinet Trio are undeniable lean towards traditions of the first half of the twentieth century. It is undoubtedly conscious decision of mature artist who consequently develops his composition skills and stylistic idiom - a step needed to conclude one's own path. Simultaneously, in late works there is intensified expression and personal intimate reflection - traces of what might be most accurately called sort of Condradian “shadow line”- literary metaphor for transition in man’s life.
It is already in the early compositions that the drive to hierarchize the means and considerable pressure to stress the dramatical potential is noticeable. Stachowski in order to emphasize the form, chooses to not overwhelm the audience with extensive wealth of timbre, which at the same time allows him to shape the form as more legible. With the clarity of narrative flow which is in this way achieved, high degree of coherence and cohesion of formal construction is maintained. Stachowski exhibits his strives after organizing the means. However, his ways are far from post-serial speculativeness and simultaneously he does not try to radically remodel language which is immanent for a given genre. Faithful to his position, he consciously acts like Coryphaeus, maybe a commentator. Anyhow, he does not aspire to be perceived as an avantgardist. The latest composer's works are the best examples of that. With every next composition he presents his own, sometimes intimate interpretation of genre. Nevertheless, the interpretation is always rooted in the rudiments of already polished aesthetics. As a result his aesthetical identity remains almost intact.
Balance between means and formal legibility is particularly perceivable at the syntactic level - in the form of references to imitative techniques, in visible separation of figure from background and in use of potential enchanted in colorful play of instruments within the scope of homogeneous medium. Even in the Percussion Concert sparkly with tone colors, we find strong inclination for ordering concepts and superior structural system. What is also found there is heavenly order and authentic serenité. These are individual characteristics, operating in their own specific way and they cannot be found in the works of other Polish composers.
Marek Stachowski is an exceptional mesmerizing personality for whom one can have nothing less than admiration and respect. Individual character of Professor Stachowski's personality does not only lie in his fascination for music, but also in profound interest in Mediterranean culture and ancient history. Professor Stachowski belonged to the circle of people intrigued by ancient Egypt, he could even read hieroglyphs. Endowed with linguistic abilities - he was quick and bright language learner. Among other languages he could speak Korean. Marek Stachowski's interests are largely congruent with his aesthetics and apparently account for specific aura of his music and the choice of subjects (Sapphic Odes, Choreia etc.) as well as for his passion for order and claritas.
Stachowski's most important achievements when compared to European music after 1950 are chamber works - both ample and distinct from other modern Polish works. Another significant accomplishment is the creation of nocturnal orchestra - new musical genre of symphonic music. And although its origins lie in symphonic poems, the genre is marked with set of individual constitutive characteristics (From the Book of Night cycle, inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke poetry). For its clarity and notable balance between use of technical means and intended (and ultimately achieved) expressive effect, Stachowski's music has unique didactic quality and can be a valuable resource for beginners in composition.
The high standard of Marek Stachowski's pedagogical excellence is mirrored in the wide circle of his students - young artists distinct in their aesthetical attitudes, but most of all and for the most part well-educated and technically skilled. Among students who graduated from professor Stachowski's class are: Kazimierz Pyzik, Marcel Chyrzyński, Wojciech Widłak, Maciej Jabłoński, Wojciech Ziemowit Zych and Michał Pawełek.
Author: Maciej Jabłoński, Cracow (2011) translated: Agnieszka Gregorczuk