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Jazztopad 2015

Jazztopad 2015
Henning Bolte By

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National Music Forum
Jazztopad 2015
Wroclaw, Poland
November 21-25, 2015

The city of Wroclaw by the Odra River in the southwest of Poland has occupied a pre-eminent position throughout its long, turbulent history, and it still does. Wroclaw's Jazztopad festival is a relatively young one. This year celebrated had its 12th edition. The first things to mention are the Wroclaw C's: a brand-new concert hall and its context, commissions and collaborations, one (vertical) chain of concerts, artistic choices/challenging the audience, connecting senses/disciplines, (Wroclaw as the European) capital of culture 2016.

The Wroclaw C's: the new NFM concert building and its context

For the first time the festival took place just months before the opening of the brand-new concert hall of the National Music Forum (NFM). To ensure the highest acoustic standards, this five-story building (2 stories underground and 3 stories on ground level) was designed by Artec, a Design and Planning Service for Performing Art Facilities in New York. APA Kurylowicz & Associates, an architectural firm with offices in Wroclaw and Warsaw, was contracted for the building work. The building hosts an 1,800-capacity concert hall, three chamber halls, rehearsal rooms, conference and office spaces, a recording studio, exhibition area, and an underground car park. The building and area will adopt a significant and impressive public function in town. According to Andrzej Kosendiak, director of NFM, its name "refers to 100 year old plans to set up an Arts Forum in the place where national and military celebrations were held. The location was called the Royal Forum (it housed the palace of the King of Prussia). Today we wish the Music Forum's name would stand for the space providing room for the performance of works of different epochs, a true dialogue, and artistic disputes on contemporary art."

When establishing places and buildings like this, the design, construction, and functional specifications are issues to deal with. Still more important is to ensure that the projected function(s) can actually be fulfilled successfully in terms of the necessary financial means and a dedicated audience.

According to director Kosendiak NFM will have the necessary financial means and above all has been engaged during the last few years to build a rich, stimulating context, required for the growth of an interested and engaged visiting audience. Educational programs were organized as well as musical performances in schools, hospitals, and living rooms. In addition, music schools were established and choirs were formed. Ten years ago there was no school choir in Wroclaw. Today there are more than 40, all thanks to NFM's work. NFM has set up the Singing Poland project to form choirs across the whole of Poland. More than 400 school choirs were formed, three new music schools founded, and many music teachers have been trained through a special in-service training program.

Wroclaw C's: commissions, collaborations, artistic choices

The nature of the festival is contained in the premieres of works commissioned each year: works of world-renowned musicians performed by musicians of the 10 ensembles of the National Forum of Music, the organizer of the festival. Jazztopad is a vertical one-chain or one-stream festival that presents as many special tailor-made concerts as possible. The festival is characterized by a well-chosen, artistically motivated and reflected programming. First of all there were the commissions, one for Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier, and one for Anders Jormin.

The collaborations form another important festival constituent. Jazztopad has organized many collaborations throughout the years, such as JazzPlaysEurope, Take Five Europe, and the laboratory Melting Pot Made In Wroclaw—all with young, up-and-coming musicians from different (European) countries.

There were special temporary combinations of musicians, like in the tribute to Kenny Wheeler concert and the Melting Pot laboratory. The festival also offered especially augmented groups like Whahay, Red Trio, Trio Draksler/Santos Silva/Zetterberg, as well as premieres of groups like the new line-up of Anthony Braxton's Diamond Curtain Wall Quintet, with two harps, and Polish clarinetist Waclaw Zimpel's Saagara, with Indian instruments and musicians. These combinations do not only sharpen and enhance the artistic profile of the festival, but also offer its audience something unique not put together from the catalogue.

Wroclaw C's: challenging the audience, connecting senses/disciplines, Capital of Culture

Jazztopad has always challenged its audience on a profound basis and continues to do so—with beneficial consequences. Contrary to widespread belief, it just seems to increase the attractiveness of the festival's activities, the dedication of the audience, and the number of visitors.

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