Edoardo Ponti's interview with Zbigniew Preisner

EP: Weíre here with Zbigniew Preisner, and weíre here to talk about his latest project, which is Requiem for my friend. Tell us a bit about how the project was born.
ZP: You know what happened. A few years ago, when Krzysztof Kieslowski was still alive, we had an idea to make a lot of concerts, you know, something special, like in a mysterium, something between classical music, opera and a rock concert. His idea was to change a bit a classical concert in philharmonic theatre: put more space, put more staging, maybe more life than in the regular theatre, than in the opera. And the first project was to do something in the Acropolis - the name of the concert was Life. But as you know Krzysztof died on 30th March 1996, and the first part of Requiem I composed for three nights just after he died. And I think that I would like to give something special for him, I would like to indicate something for him, because I was with him a lot of time, we worked together, with him and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, his scriptwriter for 15 years. It was a fantastic time for me, a fantastic period for me, fantastic work for everybody, I think. He was my friend. And when he died I think that OK, the first part of Requiem for him, which I played one time in the church, and the second part, Life, was not exactly how we had talked, how we had imagined, because Krzysztof Piesiewicz would have to write a special script, but I touched, I think, his idea. And it was also the reason why I invited you to make something together and try to make something new, and maybe interesting.

EP: So your main inspiration for the piece of music was your love and respect and admiration for this group of you, and Kieslowski, and Piesiewicz?
ZP: I think that we shouldnít be embarrassed about our feelings. And I think that feelings are the only important thing that we possess. As St. Peter says in his Letter, the most important thing is love. You may have lots of money, you may have everything, but if you donít have love - you are empty. And I donít want to be ashamed of it, though Iím not an "open person", I donít like to talk about it. Yet I was spending time in my life with some people who brought a lot into my life. And the most important of them was Krzysztof Kieslowski. And in this record, which is as if dedicated to him, I want to show it to people that, if it is interesting to at least one person apart from me, we shouldnít be ashamed of our feelings. Itís only important that we ought to know how to express them. I donít know if I express them in such a way that everybody will feel the same as I do, but I express what I feel.

EP: Letís talk a bit about the people who react to your work. In where I live, in America or in Switzerland, what I find is when I tell that Iím working with you, they all know you. People from teenagers, 25, 35... How do you feel about having also such a young audience? Do you feel that it fills you with joy to have also not only people of a certain maturity, but also people who are starting in life?
ZP: Itís very important to me, I think. By the way, I would never have expected that. But it is really so, even with the Requiem, which is not an easy thing, which is a difficult thing, which doesnít have anything to do with rock music or heavy metal. But indeed - many young people, children of my friends, react to it very positively. I have no explanation of why it is so. I always speak of my music like this: I compose such music that I would like to listen to, if it werenít me who composed it. And I must advise myself with my own taste. I must trust it. As for the time being, I think I donít err in what Iím doing; I donít err in my taste. Maybe this is the reaction of young people, like those youíre working with, or your own reaction- after all you are a young person, and there is a difference of over 20 years between us. But I think it is really very interesting, and Iím very happy about it.

EP: Did you approach this piece of work differently, musically speaking, than when you approach a film composition?
ZP: You know what is the story. I think the whole success of my music started with the music for Kieslowskiís films. This music was on the border-line. It wasnít classical music, but at the same time it wasnít film music, in the precise meaning of the word. I make creations, I make creative music. Thatís why I assumed Iíd like the music I want to make now to be somewhere in-between. The times of dodecaphonic music of the 20th century, of the difficult music, has ended. What comes back is some kind of romanticism. And the music I composed for Requiem is in-between film music and classical music. I think what I took from film music is its function. That is to say that this music has a name. Itís not Violin Concerto in D-major. It has a name: this is "Silence", this is "Peace", this is "Beginning". In other words, the title defines what Iím talking about. And I think this record is composed in such a way that everybody can have his or her own projection. The first part of Requiem is some kind of ceremony, some mystery. And you may experience it in your own way. Every one of us has lost somebody. You lost your grandma, you lost some friends, you lost many people. Like I did. And with this music you may try to experience it again, try to imagine how it was with you. On the other hand, the second part, Life, is a story about life, and perhaps about the end of this life, the part of which we have lived, and the other part we hope we will live. I strongly identify myself with it, and I hope someone else will also identify himself or herself with it.

EP: The more I thought about even the word "requiem", the word marks a crossroad between an end and a beginning. Do you find that this piece of music for you marked a crossroad in a new part of your life, new compositions of those types?
ZP: You know, Seneca said a wonderful sentence: "With dignity lives the one who can die with dignity". I think about death, this topic is around me all the time. Iím not afraid of it. Many peoplearound me have passed away recently. One of them was Krzysztof. And in fact all our work with Krzysztof referred, somehow, to matters of death, of life and death. Of course these are two opposite things, yet they are most interesting. And I would say more: this is something that pertains to us. We shall all die, for sure. And for me it is also putting the question "How should I live to die with dignity?".

EP: Itís very beautiful.
ZP: Thank you, Edoardo.

EP: One last question: there is a lot of courage and there is a lot of pain and there is a lot of suffering in the Requiem, and one of your favourite lines when we talk together is "Life is brutal and full of zasadzkas" (from Polish zasadzki: traps, pitfalls - translís note). Now, but also what I find in your work is a lot of hope. Especially Prayer, the last movement of the Requiem, which is really this innocent hope for life. Do you want to talk about that last movement and how it touches you as a human being?
ZP: We cannot live without hope. We must have hope, because if we didnít have this hope, there would be no reason to live. And we must have this hope in the positive meaning of the word. I mean, this is very personal, my hope is, because Iím asking for the possibility of living in this situation, as it is. That is, in a difficult, in a sad situation. Because we are alone when we are born, we have parents, after some time we get to know them, later to get to know different people, and I donít how it is in your life, but in mine there were very few people that I really wanted to spend time with. One of them was Krzysztof Kieslowski, one of them was Piotr Skrzynecki - my first director in the cabaret in Cracow, a few meters from here. One of them is Krzysztof Piesiewicz. And to be honest, there werenít many people with whom I would like to go for holidays, spend a couple of weeks together. They were such people. And this Prayer is at the same time also a request, or a dream, that I may still spend such time with somebody. Like I spent with them. So that such friendship could exist once more. And, at the same time, so that we know - when dying - that yet we must go through this life. And I would like to go through it with dignity.

EP: I think that this music is a great homage to your love for your friends, and I think that this love for your friends has been immortalised through your work. And I thank you for it.
ZP: I also thank you, Edoardo, for that we are making this concert together. The idea of Krzysztof Kieslowski was to introduce young people. And I think that meeting you is somehow a continuation of Kieslowskiís idea. He wouldíve been very happy. He liked young responsible people who are interested in something more than the so called "easy living". And he wouldíve been very happy. So am I. I hope we will manage to do something interesting, and I thank you very much.

EP: And I hope that this is the beginning of a long partnership together.
ZP: Me too. Thank you, Edoardo.

Translated by Pawe Mazur
© Edoardo Ponti
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