Misteria Paschalia coming soon!

10 April 2022

Time for Change

We talk to Martyna Pastuszka about the programme and message of this year’s Misteria Paschalia Festival.


Mateusz Borkowski: You are the first woman – and the first Pole – to be Misteria Paschalia’s resident artistic director. It marks an important moment in the festival’s history.
Martyna Pastuszka: I didn’t realise in the beginning that I was the first, and the invitation came completely out of the blue. I’ve never felt the need to defend my identity as a woman, which doesn’t of course mean that I haven’t experienced difficulties. The fact that we have reached the 19th instalment of the festival before a woman has been invited to direct it tells us a lot about our habits and the music industry as a whole. I hope that Polish music circles will continue promoting local artists. This is a great honour, and I’m delighted the festival decided to take this step.

This year’s festival is the first to bear a specific motto: “Tempus Paschalis as a bolster and ethical commitment to change.” On one hand, each day of the festival reflects specific Christian symbolism of Holy Week, and on the other it explores human emotions and experiences on the psychological level.
Given the festival explores this incredible misterium, following the annual ritual of cleansing, release and penance, it seemed natural that I would want to remind the audience of it by returning to sources. I’m fascinated by the fact that all cultures and religions feature the ritual of transformation, of metanoia – a change and a hope that we can become even slightly more virtuous. This hope, common to us all, allows us to look to the future, and it was my first idea for developing the festival programme. When I was starting to plan the festival, it was important to me to explore the role played by mental processes in penance.

This psychological approach to the Tempus Paschalis suggests that we can examine the process whether we are religious or not. Could we think of the programme as a form of self-help?
I don’t think of it as self-help, but rather an attempt at deciphering the meanings of individual stages of the familiar ritual; an attempt to find things in common with people from other circles and beliefs, and to find sense and beauty in rituals which help us live our lives in dignity.

This year’s programme features classics from Austrian and German repertoires. On Maundy Thursday, we will hear an oratorio by Johann Joseph Fux focusing on Peter’s denial of Jesus.
The Ars Antiqua Austria ensemble under the baton of Gunar Letzbor presents material from its album released in 2021. Peter’s realisation of his own weakness and conformism is something we can all relate to. I am eagerly awaiting this day; it is an important event for me as someone brought up as a Christian and someone who is always interested in finding alternative answers to challenges. I also am looking forward to reflections in the essay written especially for the day [in the festival book available online featuring texts relating to Tempus Paschalis – ed.].

You will conduct your {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna ensemble at two concerts.

On Holy Wednesday we will hear you performing Mozart’s acclaimed Symphony No. 40 and, together with the vocal ensemble Vox Luminis XL, the oratorio Davidde penitente of the same composer as well as Miserere penned by Niccolò Jomelli rather than Allegri.
It was Lionel Meunier, leader of Vox Luminis, who came up with the idea to juxtapose Mozart’s famous work with something less obvious. In turn, the increasingly popular oratorio Davidde penitente is a beautiful combination of sacral music and opera.

Your second appearance will be at the performance of Jacob Schuback’s oratorio Die Jünger zu Emaus or Disciples at Emmaus.
The score itself reveals how beautiful the piece is. It was written in 1778 and it was hugely popular in Protestant circles. Interestingly enough I first came across it at the Evangelical church in Tarnowskie Góry. The beautifully-produced score was sent there in the 18th century on recommendation for using it during Holy Week. Schuback was a musician, composer, lawyer and archivist, and he was an important member of Hamburg’s musical circles; his friends and collaborators included Telemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. He also penned a treatise on musical declamation. In his preface to the oratorio, Schuback suggests it is used in interpretations of chorales and choirs. The composition itself has highly unusual instrumentation, and very different sonority than that found in Telemann and Bach.

I’m also interested in the “Mediaeval Florentine garden” we will hear at Wieliczka.
It was prepared by Anna Danilevskaia from Sollazzo Ensemble – I asked her to come up with a programme expressing my experience and observations of celebrations of Holy Saturday. I can’t shake the feeling that we never really know what to do with the day. We know about the customs and emotions of Good Friday, we understand the joy of Easter itself, but the Saturday doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. Some of us end up in the doldrums after all the emotions of Holy Week, others try to forget about them – it’s a self-defence mechanism. And this is perfectly expressed by mediaeval music. It’s worth remembering that it was then, as the plague was devastating Europe, that some of the most frivolous literature and music was being written as a kind of antidote and respite from the terrifying reality. The venue itself – the Chapel of St Kinga at the Wieliczka Salt Mine – is also incredible. This sacred space is carved out in the rock where men laboured; like much labour at the time the work was backbreaking, and the chapel can be seen as a sublime response to their suffering. It is like a mirror reflecting the message and theme of the concert, just like the programme of the entire festival is a mirror reflecting our emotions.

  • Martyna Pastuszka

    Violinist, leader and artistic director of the {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna ensemble. She also works with many orchestras all over Europe as a concertmaster, soloist and chamber violinist. She has been nominated for the Koryfeusz Muzyki Polskiej and Paszporty “Polityki” awards. She teaches Baroque violin at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice.


Photo by Magdalena Hałas

  • Mateusz Borkowski
    Musicologist, music critic and columnist, pedagogue. He writes for “Ruch Muzyczny” and is the author of a music blog. He has published two books: a long-form interview with director Michał Znaniecki (PWM 2017) and a series of discussions with the organist Marek Stefański, awarded Kraków Book of the Month in 2019. He hosts shows on Radio Kraków and Radio Kraków Kultura.


Photo by Piotr Kubic, Radio Kraków Kultura

The interview published in the 1/2022 issue of the "Kraków Culture" quarterly.

Detailed information on the festival: [CLICK] and on festival's website

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