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Conductor, organist, harpsichordist

ul. Zwierzyniecka 1
31-103 Kraków


day like any other one. But then we heard: „It's a coincident, obviously, but on the same day you contacted me, I bought myself a new audio system. Actually it's almost the same as the one I had before and was happy about it. But this one is new.” „You” means us, Bartosz Pacuła of „Music to the People” and me of „High Fidelity”. And we contacted Mr Jan Tomasz Adamus, director of Capella Cracoviensis.
It was formed in 1970 thanks to stubbornness of a conductor, composer and musicologist, decorated with „Zasłużony Kulturze Gloria Artis” medal, Mr Stanisław Gałoński. For years this ensemble belonged to the most important artistic institutions in Cracow. As in case of any other institution also this one “wore off” over time. When something like that happens the best solution is to bring some new people, with new ideas in. It turned out that in such city as Cracow it is not that simple.

As we mentioned on Nov 1st 2008 in HighFidelity it seemed that when Jan Tomasz Adamus became a director of Capella he was already doomed to fail (more HERE). Born in 1968, so 38 years later than Mr Gałoński, he had a PLAN, though. Anybody who had anything to do with state founded institutions knows, that the key issue there is survival. The very few who dare to do something more, stick out, but are not appreciated by others, as they break status quo. For example by showing that an instrument is just a job and not the purpose, the meaning of life. That is why anybody who thinks ahead beyond present budget year is doomed to be attacked by others. And the attack happened.

Beginning of February 2015, we sit in a small room on the third floor of Cracow Philharmonic Society, where Capella Cracoviensis also holds its headquarter. Apart from a small place to make tea or coffee, there is only enough space for two armchairs and a couch. It's not a Biedermajer, but rather a colorful, soft couch, really comfortable one. There are two more people in the room, except for Mr Adamus and us. Ms Agnieszka Kopieniak – responsible for marketing and advertising and Mr Paweł Szczepanik, responsible for PR. Both significantly younger than their boss. This interview was rather sort of casual conversation about many different things and time passed really quickly.

That is not the point. The point is that we had a chance to talk to the people who turned Capella Cracoviensis into one of the best Polish orchestras specializing in historical performance practice. Into ensemble that works with most interesting artists from around the world performing this type of music, and the one that records its music for the renown recording labels. After Bach. Rewrite made for Decca (photos from recording sessions no. 5-9), came Te Deum released by Alpha, with a performance of CC choir, and finally latest release Motets J.S. Bach, with conductor Fabio Bonizzoni, recorded in Lusławice also for Alpha. As you can see we talked to very successful people.

• FEUILLETON: Capella Cracoviensis, czyli „dźwięk absolutny” w: RAVEEN BAWA I VIVALDI (Data Conversion Systems). Dwaj panowie w Krakowie, see HERE • REVIEW: CHARPENITIER & LULLY, Te Deum, see HERE

Wojciech Pacuła, Bartosz Pacuła: What exactly got you to take such a desperate step – to run and change an ensemble in a city, that hates changes?
Jan Tomasz Adamus: Change is a natural course of life and so a conservatism could be treated as a sort of mental impairment. Any ensemble has to keep trying to get as good at what it does, as possible. Or cease to exist. Capella Cracoviensis' potential is so huge – and I mean of both – artists and team managers – that we don't even bother to worry about people complaining about us performing a classic symphony in a tram depot. Sure, there are many people who believe that opera should be performed only in an opera house, symphony in a concert hall, sacral music only in a church, and sex is allowed only in bad with lights off. But it is hardly a reason to sentence all Cracow citizens for a boring life in an inferior, less creative part of a Middle Age Europe.

Whom should a director of an ensemble specializing in historical performance practice be? What qualities should he have?
There is no single recipe for that. Successful management of such ensemble requires multiple qualities, skills and talents. Sometimes the best person for the job is someone who has many different qualities and they all combined allow him to success. But it also happens that a man of a single quality, that is absolutely dominant, that gives this person strength to overcome shortcomings in other areas is able to act efficiently. Capella Cracoviensis was an idea of a single man, a project of a single man. We try to continue this tradition. I believe that it is an important quality on artistic map of Cracow. In Cracow we have some traditionally, quite democratically, but also a bit conservatively managed institutions (Cracow Opera, Cracow Philharmonic Society), but also two groups that exist as original projects: choir and orchestra Capella Cracoviensis and Sinfonietta Cracovia. I believe it's a great advantage for Cracow.

How did it happen that CC started to work with famous artists and ensembles?
We managed to introduce few simple mechanisms into our work which allowed us to achieve a certain, high artistic level that was recognized by international community. CC is quite international by itself – artists from all over Europe perform with us on regular bases. Usually they automatically become our ambassadors. In turn people that we admired several years ago listening to their recordings, now contact us asking if they could perform with us. There is a very clever term ”reality management". We live in times of great opportunities and we try to use them.

Does it really happen this way? I always thought that, at least the the beginning, one can't do anything without contacts/relations with certain people.
Yes, it really works this way – it is usually somebody we don't know – one has to call, propose some sort of cooperation and that's it. That's exactly what happened with Mocci [Alessandro Moccia - violin, concertmaster]. I simply wrote an email, introduced myself and then he came. He came, looked around, listened to us playing and liked what he saw/heard. Today he performs with us on regular bases – there is this good energy between us. I can understand that what sells press are more unusual, exciting stories, but that's how it worked for us. The role of personal contacts, acquaintances is overrated. These are not necessary even in actors world. We just called Andrzej Chyra and there he is – we will perform together on March the 3rd in Galeria Sztuki Polskiej XIX wieku in Cloth Hall. It's going to be Haydn's Seven last words of Christ on Cross with already mentioned Aleksander Moccia as concertmaster and Andrzej Chyra as lector. I'd like to invite you all right now! And let me repeat – usually all it takes is to call, present what we do to get interest of these interesting people. But for that to work, to get these interesting people to come, we have to be able to propose something serious to them. Top musicians, singers, conductors prefer entrances in their schedules marked with long lines rather than with single dots. They need to know their schedule long time ahead, they need to know when and where they are going to perform. Best option is always a performance repeated in the same place for at least few days in a row. These „dot” job loose to those that last few weeks.

How would you position your ensemble now, after few years under your “command”?
We have become a part of international historical performance practice scene. My wife went to see a Mozart's opera in Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, recently and while there she sent me a text: “Half of the orchestra is Capella Cracoviensis". It so happened that several musicians that work with us on regular bases performed there that night. Few years ago, when CC underwent some dynamic changes, we saw some comments that we took the right path, because of 5 orchestras in the city one became unique because it used original instruments. Today we know that only few orchestras among many existing in Europe perform on regular bases using original instruments to play 19th century music. We are one of these few. So instead of being “one of five” orchestras in Cracow, we became “one of five” in the world. Classic music on high artistic level is an international phenomenon. Either you're a part of it or you don't exist.

What challenges can you see ahead? What do you dream about?
The most important dream that I have is related to the CC's and Cracow culture's advancement – what is needed for that is a concert hall with great acoustic, architectonic and lifestyle qualities. Concert halls, theaters, art galleries are today's temples. Temples of modern, enlightened society. Art is today's sacrum, a better one because it's free of ideology, exclusion and so on. I would really love to see Cracow as a cultural city, but not in a fancy-festivity way, but in organic, autonomous, original, visionary way. I want it to be a lively, expressive, bold, young city. There have been many insignificant museums created in Cracow, that haven't even really had their exact role specified. Too much attention still goes towards past, and the past is not that important to young people. And it is them who will create future. It is not really possible to go forward and back at the same time, to live in the 21st century and in Middle Ages simultaneously. It leads to schizophrenia. I believe that a spectacular concert hall in Cracow should be treated as sign of us belonging to enlightened Europe of open minded people.

Can you find time and will to listen to the music also at home? If so, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
Recently I've been listening mostly to a classic mainstream operas and symphonies, but also to romantic chamber music and 20th century music. I truly enjoy music that was created at the turn of 19th and 20th century. I realize it is not a concrete answer, but I actually listen to various music. Music is my job after all.

How do you see the role of sound quality as a part of musical experience? Did you have any experience with high quality audio systems?
It's a matter of good manners, ecology, or even acoustic hygiene. It is really depressing to see all those mass events using cheap audio systems that only hurt people's ears, or those screaming speakers outside churches. It's barbaric! So yes, we should be glad that more and more people find pleasure in listening to the music provided in an aesthetic way. Privately I don't really celebrate listening to the music much, although I use a system some might call audiophile: Cambridge Audio electronics and Triangle speakers.
It's a coincident, obviously, but on the same day you contacted me, I bought myself a new audio system. I've been using Cambridge Audio system for many years but its time has finally come and it had to be replaced. So I bought more or less the same system, just its newer version. Nothing special – a CD Player and amplifier.

I'd hardly call it “nothing special” considering that most musicians don't even realize that there are audio systems people use to listen to the music…
I guess it's a matter of man's sensitivity to various things. One can know more or less about specific matters. In most countries when you take your Labrador for a walk, people you meet smile, want to pat it because they know that this is a very friendly, “benign” dog that loves children. Take such a dog for a walk here – people will tell you to take away “that beast”, “why isn't it muzzled?” and so on. Same goes for trees – some people appreciate them, some will cut them down and burn them.

I remember that many years ago I owned JBL speakers and Technics CD Player and amplifier. System sounded pretty cool. But then I bought a new system, which was kind of impulse purchase – there was an audio salon in my city that I frequently visited. And some day I went in and bought a new system.
It is true, that to truly appreciate sound quality system offers one needs some listening experience. Only after several sessions with different systems one might be able to assess systems properly. To put it simply – JBL speakers had more power, or in other words they played louder. But then I listened to some well known recordings using new system and I found out many details that I couldn't hear using old system! I listened, for example, some vocal cantata, where each voice was doubled by trombone. I didn't realize that as I couldn't hear it on my old system. It was a nice finding.

It's a real story – people think that buying some high quality product is just eccentricity, that it won't make a difference. But there is a difference! One needs a proper attitude. One can drink wine from a beautiful glass, or from a jar. Same vine but totally different experience.
Here, in Poland, people keep having problem with that. Another example is a tender law – it says that the least expensive tender wins. Such approach lead to many things being shitty. And when one goes to a restaurant one expects a lot of food for 5 zloty. There has to be A LOT. In our business it has to be LOUD – whether it concerns audio system, or concert hall.

With Messiah you've inaugurated cooperation between CC and ICE. We attended this concert and were truly impressed. Tell us about your impressions – did you like playing there? What about hall's acoustics? Was there anything that surprised you?
The main ICE hall – despite its weird name – offers pretty good acoustics with quite short reverberation. Its scene allows to prepare also simple opera productions. It seems that this building, despite its functionality, will be used mostly for various congresses, so neither artists will have too many opportunities to perform there, nor music fans to benefit from this good acoustical environment.

Going back to the what I said about audio systems – I am not sure that a concert has to be LOUD, that acoustics has to support this particular element. In ICE it doesn't really get loud. One could wonder about tonality, but level of volume is not that high. Reverberation is very short, almost none – that's good. In Lusławice reverberation is long and everything gets loud. But I know that there are some people who prefer that. One has to remember that this is only one element of hall's acoustics, but not the only one.

And what you think about Philharmonic Society Hall, where we are now. A common opinion about it isn't very good…
Well, no. I can't agree with that. I think that this hall's acoustics is very good. Maybe the sport under balcony isn't a perfect one. Everybody complains also about trams passing by, and I don't even notice them. Besides for the last couple of dozens of years nobody's figured out that it would be a good idea to install double door on street's side. What I don't like, what I find humiliating is a long line in front of a toilet. That feels like a Third World country.

Do you think that a new Music Center building, project that has been recently rejected by the city council, would solve these problems?
That's a complex issue. Obviously artists would love to have a second concert hall at their disposal, but we have to be reasonable. Let's take an example of Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra – they don't have funds to play two concerts a week, and most weeks they play only one. Friday night with Philharmonic Orchestra was sort of tradition. In Cracow they played this concert Friday evening, and repeated it on Saturday. But for a long time they have been playing only one concert. They can't play the second one even though it wouldn't really cost that much, as the first concert. So let me ask: how would they afford performing in a new concert hall?
It's like with high quality audio system – once you have it you need to feed it with high quality current, right? – There are specialized filters, cables and so on. To get them you need to spend even more money. Powerful amplifiers consume a lot of power, right? Power that also has to be paid for. When there is a new building there are also maintenance fees, utilities, electricity and many other things that have to paid for.

I believe that a new concert hall could trigger some new energy – today people are happy to go to ICE, and they would be, most likely, also happy to go there. But a new concert hall makes sense only if it is occupied all the time, if there are concerts there every day. For someone who sells wine to spectators to make some profit of it, he has to do it few times a week, not just once.
That's what Agnieszka tries to do now [Agnieszka Kopieniak, who was also present during our interview] for out summer enterprise called Theatrum Musicum. The idea is to create an organized concert life, to set a rhythm to it as a preparation for future common, organized usage of a new concert hall by several institutions together. If we manage to organize this concert life of our city some potential partners, like wine companies, might be interested in making some investments. Maybe in a place visited by so many music fans other firms could sell speakers, or audio/music magazines. That would be great, but today we play a concert here, and the next one there.

Don't you exaggerate a bit? You did it! You're very successful!
Well, yes. But we could achieve much more if we haven't had so much problems with where to perform. The office responsible for ICE schedule can't give us available dates with reasonable heads up. And even if they know about some, they make a reservation that if some company (offering enough money) wants the hall for some conference it will be a preferred customer. We can't work this way. Culture, art require order and peace of mind. If one, who doesn't know that ICE is a Congressional Center, takes a look at this building, at its concert halls and facilities, one would have to think it's and art center. And yet, a decision has been made and it is a congressional center, not an art center. We expect a simple message – during summer you can use the hall as much as you like, as nobody organizes conferences then. We simply need to be able to prepare some plans.

Aren't you managed by the same office that runs ICE schedule?
Well, we might say that. But the fact is that they don't really “manage” us. It's like they had two kids, gave them some money than ask them to pay for using toilet to claim that they run a profitable operation. We've been looking for locations for our performances months ahead and we had to delegate one person to this extremely difficult task. The job is horrible as usually there is no one who can answer a simple question about availability dates, nobody knows that. Unfortunately still most people think that music belongs only to concert halls and operas.

Agnieszka Kopieniak: That's true. I applied for a financial support for theatrical-musical project and I proposed it would be performed in a gym. I received an answer that a gym is not a proper, prestigious place for such project ad that I should have changed it. And it wasn't just any gym, it was in the Sokół building on Piłsudski Street [Polskie Towarzystwo Gimnastyczne "Sokół", J. Piłsudskiego 27, Cracow] – fantastic example of great architecture with a lot of unused potential.

Jan Tomasz Adamus: That's a beautiful building with wonderful interior, too! It could be easily turned into a fantastic space for music. I have no idea, I really don't, why such things can't be done. We need a hall of substantial height to get the sound circulating. Against appearances the tram depot that belongs to Muzeum Inżynierii Miejskiej on Wawrzyńca str. provides great acoustics and is really suitable for music concerts. But it seems that we are all quite primitive in thinking that there is space for cars and trams but not for Mozart, Mahler and Szymanowski. Everybody knows what an aircraft is so money from EU goes to Aviation Museum. Nobody knows what Brahms is so there is no money for a concert hall. Obviously we live in a lesser part of Europe. Filled with superstition and lack of ambition.

You recorded Bach. Rewrite in Lusławice – what are the differences between concert hall there and ICE?
The hall there has a much longer reverberation time, possibly even blurring some details. Personally I prefer halls that are a bit more “dry”. But most of the public prefers this type of acoustics. I think that the concert hall in Lutosławice is a giant leap forward. Let me repeat – today's temples are not churches but concert halls and theaters. We should invest in them. It is an urgent need. Art plays an important role of emotional education, it teaches tolerance, prevents nationalism.

Any plans for future? Both private and professional?
We are currently working on a large, international production of Pergolesi's Adriano in Siria opera; we prepare concert versions of such operas as: Sosarme by Haendl, Iphigénie en Aulide by Gluck, Cosi fan tutte by Mozart. We are in process of recording Lassus, Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Karłowicz, Arvo Pärta – we should finalize 5 albums this year. I guess that's a lot.
There is also another, summer project called Theatrum Musicum – together with other musical institutions we have created one of the largest classic music scenes in Europe. Not everybody believes it is possible, as the word “cooperation” doesn't exist in many people's vocabulary, but the project develops nicely and in few years it will make us all very proud.
My personal agenda – to start something new. I will not tell you what will it be, that's a private plan after all, but I need to do it to keep my juices flowing.

Are you happy about your life? Do you feel accomplished in your professional life?
Yes, I am a happy man. I could still wish that we managed to plan something ahead, to play few days in a row, that would be a perfect situation for us. As for Capella – it is an artistic group and not an institution. And that's great! Nobody comes in to just sit for eight hours in a boring job, but to do something, to play some music. People come to rehearsal, to get ready for the performance. They don't have to stay here for certain amount of hours.

Name 10 albums that our Readers should familiarize themselves with as soon as possible...
That's difficult, but let me try. It's a mix of “new” and “old” music. Please consider that I'm recommending album with great music, not necessarily with great sound:

1. Mahler, 9th Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel, Deutsche Grammophon.
2. Massenet, Werther, Rolando Villazón ROH/Antonio Pappano, Deutsche Grammophon.
3. Szymanowski, Song of the night, Wiener Philharmoniker/Pierre Boulez, Deutsche Grammophon.
4. Strauss, Songs with orchestra, Karita Mattila/Claudio Abbado.
5. Schoenberg, Violin concerto, Hilary Hahn/Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Salonen, Deutsche Grammophon.
6. Schumann, Das Paradies und die Peri etc., Gardiner, Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv.
7. Schubert, Winter journey, Ian Bostridge/Leif Ove Andsnes, EMI.
8. Schubert, Songs, Bryn Terfel/Malcolm Martineau, Deutsche Grammophon.
9. Gesualdo, Tenebrae, The Hilliard Ensemble, ECM.
10. Brahms, Sonatas for viola and piano, Kim Kashkashian/Robert Levin, ECM

And, of course, our own latest recordings:

Te Deum, Lully & Charpentier, Capella Cracoviensis & LPH, Alpha.
J.S. Bach, Motety, Capella Cracoviensis, Alpha.
Bach Rewrite, Masecki/Orzechowski/Capella Cracoviensis, DECCA.

I know that you saw our web page of Cracow Sonic Society – would you be willing, together with Ms Agnieszka and Mr Paweł to accept invitation to one of our meetings?
With pleasure. We just need to come up with some nice “theme” for this meeting – this year we are recording five album, so we could use one of them.

Great! We'll keep you to your word. Thank you very much for taking tame to meet us.
Greetings for all Readers!