An interview with Rostislaw Wygranienko, organist of The Church of England in Poland at Res Sacra Miser Chapel, Warsaw
Q: You were born in the Ukrainian town of Simferopol, which means from a background of Orthodox church music. A very different tradition. Small choirs high up on balconies and chants. Jewish music, plainsong, come to mind. When and where did organ music come into your picture? Does that Orthodox background still influence your musicianship?
A: Well, when I was born, they were crazy times in The Soviet Union. So, no real influence from any local church music, since visiting churches was something of a taboo then. Anyway, I was never really interested in or privy to the Byzantine church tradition of music. On the other hand, my mother was a professional organist and organ teacher. So I have fond memories of organ music from my childhood. I came to the organ not through the church and maybe because, as everybody knows, the “church organ” (or, more correctly, “pipe organ”) is more ancient than any Christian church. So, my current life is a little paradoxical: only now do I have regular job as an organist – for Warsaw Anglicans – but for many years I’ve done hundreds of recitals and concerts across the whole continent of Europe. It’s usually the other way round.
Q: You attended master-classes with Christopher Stembridge. Who is he?
A: Maestro Stembridge is an unique personage, one of greatest world specialists in old Italian and English organs and organ music. He’s giving many master-classes in different countries, but mostly in Italy, where many historical organs are preserved. First I attended his master-class in Koszalin, Poland. Later he invited me to take part in a big academy in Tuscany, Italy, and made for me everything free of charge (both participation and accomodation). It was enormously important time in my artistic life – he discovered for me many secrets of early music performing. I am proud to be his pupil.
Q: You have a vast repertoire of organ music you’ve played but what organ music do you like playing? Are you attached to any particular church music composers?
As a great musician once said, “My favourite composer is the one I’m playing now”. This is absolutely true. I’m playing music from all epochs, from middle Renaissance to nowadays. There are some favourite pieces, which I play more often, than not, but that doesn’t mean that others I like less. I’m more at ease with epochs, styles and countries: so I admire and enjoy playing Polish early and romantic music, my chief speciality, but also that of Italy and Germany). When I need to make a selection, I consider the character of the organ and coose the repetoire accordingly.
Q: What is your opinion of Anglican church music in general. And how would you like to interpret and expand it?
A: I like Anglican hymns a lot , but let’s not forget that English Church Music is more than mere hymns. So many works by English or American composers for church use, superb if not so familiar. So far, at our Anglican Services, I’ve played improvisations, but now I’m considering a more intentional choice for our context and liturgy. Some parishioners from our wide Anglican Community here would like to hear church music from their native countries But why must it be only hymns’ tunes, when you have your own Nigerian, Australian, American and British church composers? It may be a good idea to make our church a place which regularly resounds with music from those countries. It would be quite unique for Warsaw, where such organ music is little known.
Q: Your opinion of the organ in the Res Sacra Miser Chapel.
A: This 1908 organ is not big, but has some very nice stops, which can add to music very diverse character. This is typical instrument of time it was build, and has some limits. Actually the renovation is going, so, I hope, in close future I can show this organ in full capability.
Q: Can you tell us something about your musical activity?
As I told before, I am playing a lot of concerts in different countries of Europe, also with soloists, ensembles and orchestras. I finished my studied under Professor Joachim Grubich in Chopin Academy, Warsaw. I am a winner of three international organ competitions and currently invited as a jury-member in International Organ Competition in Saint-Maurice, Switzerland. I am working with organ music of Poland, making some CD with world premiere recordings of unknow Polish music. I am an author of very big internet project – the biggest collection of organ music recordings in internet. Actually more than 16 hours of organ music available on website http://www.organ-music.net – and all of them are played by me.
See Slavek’s photos of The Ukraine.
More about me can be read on my official website, http://www.concertorganist.eu.