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.