Last October I posted a series of Songs My Mother Taught Me in memory of my mother. I had a few left over in drafts that I mentioned I would post in the future (and others that may come to mind). Warsaw Concerto was one of them and I'm posting it as a tribute in solidarity with a nation in mourning. The plane crash deaths of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, and a delegation of 94 of their country's top officials, including military, political, and of the arts, have created a nationwide sorrow that I find touching because it includes even the deceased president's detractors.
The album cover shown above is a scanned copy of the album owned by my mother. It's mine now. When I was a little girl my sister and I had our own records and record-player, and the rule was Don't touch Mama's. I distinctly remember one day being alone in the house (my sis and the daytime babysitter must have been in the backyard) when I decided to look at my mother's albums. I saw this cover and had to pull it from the shelf and set it on the floor in front of me. It terrified me. I had heard adults use the word war and I gathered it was a terrible thing. I saw war in front of me but attached to other letters. The planes looked threatening, not like the happy ones we would watch take off while parked in my mother's car at the end of the runway of the small Reno airport. That huge fist. Could it knock the angry planes out of the sky? Blood. Maybe the planes were winning. That day I understood the album both said and showed something about awful war. I did not know until a few years later that it was also about a city, a country, a people.
A few days after discovering the album I broke the rule - couldn't help myself - and I played the "war" track on the album. It was the first time I'd heard music without words. While Warsaw Concerto played I had a dawning that is as difficult to explain as war.
Warsaw Concerto was composed by Richard Addinsell in 1941 for the movie "Dangerous Moonlight," also known as "Suicide Squadron." The plot was about the love between a beautiful concert pianist and a pilot. The action takes place in Poland during WWII. The producers wanted to use the second concert of Rachmaninov, but ultimately requested that music be written in the style of Rachmaninov by Addinsell. The music he created has outlived the film.
[To see a clip from the movie, the scene when the pianist is composing the concerto, click here.]