Zithers in Łazienki 

Once again I’ve come in at the end of a series, this time the free summer concerts of the Chinese Lanterns Festival in the Chinese pavilion in Łazienki. The festival is part of the Garden of Lights international project promoting exceptional gardens and museums: the other participants are Prince Pückler Park in Bad Muskau, Germany; Château de Lunéville in France; Tsarskoye Selo in Saint Petersburg; Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing; and Frederiksborg Slot in Hillerød, Denmark.

Towards dusk on Sunday I walk down into the park early enough to choose a seat with a good view of the instruments: pretty well all the types of zither played in Asia are sure to be visually interesting. People gather, and when chairs run out they settle on the rocks around the pool, which is a pleasant breeding ground for mosquitoes. In the background a bride and groom are being photographed. 

The pavilion itself is the stage. As the evening darkens towards 8pm, one of the performers, Anna Krysztofiak, ushers two blind people towards the instruments, where she guides their hands over the strings and the decorations. The other performer is Tomasz Bonikowski.

The music is reflective, and the hand movements meditative. Fingertips are sheathed in plectrums and sometimes move over the strings in graceful circles leaving a trail of notes hanging in the air under the vivid lacquer work and red lanterns. Occasionally the rich voice of Anna Krysztofiak accompanies the music, once startling me with an English ballad.

The commentary on the instruments is extensive and I regret yet again my lack of Polish. The concert features the Vietnamese dan tranh, the Chinese guzheng and guqin, and the Japanese koto, yakumogoto, ichigenkin, and taishogoto. The clavichord seems out of place, but I discover that it was brought to the Chinese court by European missionaries where it was seen as a variant of the zither. 

I leave the park with the music still in my mind. It is brutally displaced by the crooning of “Love me tender” from a party near the Ujadowskie Palace.

About morselsandscraps

A retired Australian who spends a lot of time in Warsaw, and blogs as a way of life.
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13 Responses to Zithers in Łazienki 

  1. Sue says:

    Goodness, in the first part of the post, you mention the Puckler Park…. I went at the beginning of this century, and the place was still very dilapidated…..I imagine it is all done up now. Your evening of lanterns and music at Lazienki sounds lovely


  2. Lucid Gypsy says:

    What a multicultural experience Meg! Those instruments are fascinating, and I love the Chinese lantern 🙂


  3. Thank you very much for such a good comment to the festival I invented, conducted and played in Lazienki! I regret you didn’t ask any question before or after the concert, it would be a big pleasure to explain some ideas of the concert. But I hope there will be a chance to meet again in next year! We are playing oriental music in the possibly widest meaning of the word “chinoiserie” or “orienatalism”. So, there are many crazy instruments and music styles crossing their roads. Indeed, the clavichord appeared because it was one of the first gifts from Matteo Ricci to the Chinese Emperror, and what’s more, it was called by Chinese as “European Qin”, which means a zither!
    Many greetings to you! Don’t hestitate to visit my cottage for a chinese cup of tea (cha wan) when you are traveling around Poland!

    Here I posted your note about our concert. Thank you once more!

    Anna Krysztofiak


    • What a delight to find a comment from you, and to have my post reposted on your Facebook page. Thank you. I’m not travelling much in Poland. I’m living in Warsaw for a year to spend time with my three year old Polish-Australian grandchildren, and I’m reluctant to miss out on a minute of their company, despite plans to travel widely. Thank you again for the pleasures of the concert.


  4. restlessjo says:

    How lovely to have Anna comment here. I missed this post and found it this morning while fiddling with my phone. The laptop isn’t playing so I’m very pedestrian in commenting. I would love to see the photos better but thankfully I have your powers of description to set the scene. I can picture it so vividly. Hugs darlin! Breakfast time and then zumba xxx


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