Inner Symphonies is the ideal title for the new album from long-time Polish friends and composers Hania Rani & Dobrawa Czocher, since it neatly encapsulates the relation of the inner joy of close friendship and collaboration as much as the grand gestures and circumstances of the world we live in—one currently marked by major themes such as the ongoing global pandemic, the battle to save our planet, feminism and civil rights…
"Here inner means something little, private, intimate, while the symphonic means something huge,” says Hania. “It’s a new adventure for us.”
The duo’s recent music video made in cooperation with Netflix Poland was a fabulous example of this fusion of the inner and outer, the small and the large: while performing a song from the album (‘Dunkel’), both musicians allowed themselves to be connected to a brain-computer interface, and have a 3D visual interpretation of their inner emotional life projected around the stage. The combined effect of the swirling animations and the grandiose sweep of the song made for an incredibly powerful audio-visual experience.
The enigmatic cover of the album, which pictures the two seated next to each other, wrapped together in one large jacket amidst a sea of sand dunes, also speaks directly to the themes within, but most obviously it underscores their personal closeness. The pair—just out of their twenties and the youngest composers ever signed to Deutsche Grammophon—originally met during their time as students at the Feliks Nowowiejski Music School in Gdańsk.
They began making music together in their early teens, both went on to study at Warsaw’s Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, and have both since become successful musicians in their own right: Dobrawa is a solo cellist with the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra, while Haniahas composes for strings, piano, voice and electronics and has performed at venues across Europe; her debut solo album Esja went gold in Poland and entered the top 100 in the UK charts, and last year she wrote a stunning rework of Debussy’s La damoiselle élue for Víkingur Ólafsson’s Reflections project.
In terms of recorded collaborations, the most significant to date have included their first album together, 2015’s Biała flaga (White Flag), which features re-workings of ten tracks by late Polish composer and Republika frontman Grzegorz Ciechowski. Last year the duo also caused a sensation with a re-working of the traditional Polish Christmas carol ‘Jesus Malusieńki’, which drew on their own musical roots while simultaneously bringing them up to date with layers of electronic and instrumental sounds. (The traditional Polish folkscale pops up again on the album in the shape of ‘Anima’).
Inner Symphonies, recorded in Szczecin’s Philharmonic Hall, is clearly something very special for, and from, this pair of talented composers. For a start it’s their first full album of completely original works, a series of rich and bold compositions that glide elegantly and effortlessly through shades of light and dark. Next to the somber ‘Dunkel’ (which means ‘dark’ in German) lies the cautious optimism of ‘Spring’ and the Philip Glass-inspired ‘There Will Be Hope’, and these are joined by the meditative "Malasana”—named after a yoga move and inspired by the duo’s love of eastern philosophy—and the dynamic piano-and-cello of ‘Con Moto’, the album’s first single release, whose stunning music video was filmed at the Stary Teatr in Kraków, one of Poland’s oldest theatres.
To capture the full symphonic potential of Inner Symphonies, the pair invited other musicians—all close friends from their university days—to appear with them, which has added violin, viola, more cello, double bass and even synths into the mix. Another particularity of Inner Symphonies is that the album was created and recorded during lockdown.
Starting with video calls, the collaboration flowed into more personal creative sessions at Hania’s parents’ house in Gdańsk, which took place between forest walks and yoga sessions. "The world seemed to be falling apart but we had hope for a better future,” says Dobrawa. That hope—buoyed by moments of reflection, inner peace, and unease at the state of the world—runs audibly throughout this magnificent tour-de-force.