Café. Warsaw 1944

for chamber ensemble

Erika Fox

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for chamber ensemble

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Composer Erika Fox
Year of Composition 2005
Duration ca.15'
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-ef1cw1


Commissioned for the Bromsgrove Concerts and performed by the New Music Players.

In his poem ‘Café’(Warsaw, 1944) the great Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz (1911 – 2004) reminisces about a café frequented by friends and colleagues before the war, of whom, he himself was the sole survivor.  He imagines going in and touching the ‘cold marble’to evoke shadows.  It is quite a long poem, presenting a terrible, startling and grimly ironic contrast between the quick and the dead; 

They are forever like busts in frock coats in some monstrous encyclopaedia….


they look at me with a burst of laughter

for I still don’t know what it is to die at the hand of man,

they know – they know it well’.


There are 4 short movements: 

      I.        Prologue

     II.        Lament

    III.        Scherzo

   IV.        Lament II & Coda.


In my work the percussion could be said to ‘lead’ the proceedings, as in a kind of ironic fanfare. The ‘whirling’ of the waiter’s tray and other moments of activity are portrayed by frenzied phrases moving and out of the texture, particularly at the end of the 3rdmovement when the violin has a frantic but strictly notated passage apparently quite unrelated to the rest of the movement.   Sometimes quiet unison chords portray the eerie stillness of the dead.