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Christoffer Kofler

My Shostakovich and Jazz



It is impossible to study music and not to come across the name of Shostakovich. It is even impossible to listen regularly to composed music without hearing this name.

My father was never a big Shostakovich fan, therefore until 1960 my sphere of musical interest, carefully controlled by my father, was concentrated primarily around the romantic mainstream and secondarily around the Wiener Klasicismus.

First in the early sixties, when I, a self concious teenager, started to dig down into the previously unknown ground, I discovered Shostakovich. It happened in the late sixties, when I, urged by my piano teacher, bought a standing ticket (this was the cheapest way of attending the weekly concerts of composed music at the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Warsaw) for a concert belonging to the cycle "Soviet Composers". In the programme was his Second Piano Trio and the Fourth String Quartet.

The two pieces of modern chamber music, that time very far from being attractive for an eighteen years old young man raised up on the traditionally composed music.


Now it is time for a short jump to the craddle of my young personality.

This was the time, when my life opinions were not moulded yet. An incident could then turn to be the most crucial moment of my life.

This was the time when I falled in love with the music of jazz and the whole essence of jazz. Particularly the musical improvisation in jazz made me completely devoted to it. Just few years earlier, in 1957, the communist system allowed officially jazz music to be played and admired.

I threw myself into the mysterius atmosphere and for long time banned music of American imperialism. Later I sucked-in every sign, sound and blow of that mood, which came from the young pioneers of Polish jazz.

Polish jazz musicians like "Dudu's" Matuszkiewicz, Komeda, Trzaskowski, Kurylewicz, Karolak were for us not only symbols, but also a source of the life inspiration. Later American jazz artist like David Brubeck, Paul Desmond, "Cannonball" Adderley and Chet Baker visited Poland, leaving not only a taste and smell of the original merchandise, but also a feeling of the lost paradise.

Honestly, my parents, the father particularly, were not very found of the new passion of mine. As a matter of fact I was told, that "this" kind of music had no spiritual depth and value and had absolutely no future. The communist regime in Poland was present everywhere and it was undoubtly extremely annoying for my parents to discover, that the son has deviated towards the disgusting and banned sounds and rhythms. On the top of that my parents still had illusions about me, ending as a virtuoso grande, doing career on the European classical concert scenes.

As it usually happens, the more criticism I heard from my folks, the more resistance I yielded. I almost stopped excercising my classical piano. I listened more and more to the programs of Willis Conover's " Music USA", one of the few jazz brodcasts then available on the "Voice of America" receivable in Poland in the early sixties. The worst for my parents was, that I started playing jazz at home. First trying to copy the tunes and artists heard in the broadcastings and later improvising over some known jazz standards.

In vain were all the perswasions.

And here we shall return to the abandoned Shostakovich.

I entered the Warsaw Philharmonics Hall for the mentioned Shostakovich koncert.

For those, who have an idea about the chamber music of Shostakovich, it would be obvious. The sentimental mood of the third movement of his Fourth String Quartet acted as a balm on my, at that time very perplexed ego. The feeling of melancholy and the dolorous theme of the second movement of the Second Piano Trio was unforgetable. And the Fourth String Quartet's slow movement made me abandon myself to dreams. This mood I, already then a tried music consumer, seldom experienced since. That evening made a miracle.

I came back to the composed music and I stayed there till the day today. That started my deep interest to Shostakovich, his music, particularly the Symphonies. It waked my appetite for the music of our age and, finally it became a germ of my interest for the complicated personality of Shostakovich.


However, just to be honest, I had never betrayed jazz.

And I will never do . . .

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