“Here inner means something little, private, intimate,
while the symphonic means something huge. It’s a new adventure for us.”
Hania Rani and Dobrawa Czocher are the youngest female composer duo signed to Deutsche Grammophon. They began making music together in their early teens, discovering an instinctive artistic connection with one another. Both are now successful musicians in their own right, but that special bond remains unchanged. “There’s a lot of sisterhood between us,” explains Rani. Czocher agrees, adding, “When you’re siblings, you can be honest. We trust each other.”
That sense of mutual trust and understanding has inspired their debut DG album. Written by composer-pianist-singer Hania and composer-cellist Dobrawa, and recorded by them in their native Poland, Inner Symphonies is their first full album of original works and is set for international release on 15 October 2021. A taster track, “Con Moto”, will be released on 16 July. A music video, filmed at one of Poland’s oldest theatres, the Stary Teatr in Kraków, will follow on 21 July 2021.
The central element of Inner Symphonies is hope. During lockdown Hania and Dobrawa were able to encourage each other both as friends and as musical collaborators when they began composing this distinctive set of pieces. “I remember Hania telling me her grandmother would say, ‘Spring will come, that’s for sure’”, recalls Dobrawa. “The world seemed to be falling apart when we began work on the album, but we had hope for a better future. And it was a joy to have the Deutsche Grammophon team on our side. They were so supportive, and that gave us the freedom to develop our music.”
Inner Symphonies began life with video calls, then flowed spontaneously when Hania and Dobrawa were finally able to meet at Hania’s parents’ house in Gdańsk and renew their long friendship in person. They explored ideas together, improvised material that formed the foundations of individual tracks and, when not writing, reflected on their values and artistic insights. “We had a lot of time for talking, for asking what you really want right now, what music means to you,” recalls Dobrawa. “That time was really precious. We also had a lot of fun. We would do yoga and go for walks in the forest.”
Their love of the natural world is reflected on the album, together with the themes of friendship and hope. Its contrasting tracks work together in light and shade to construct a unique, introspective soundworld, from the slow, mysterious beauty of “Whale’s Song” to the headlong movement of “Con Moto”, whose restless energy is heightened by the gentle melody that emerges amid endlessly rushing notes on piano and cello.
“‘Con Moto’, as the name itself indicates – with movement, lively, with spirit – was our attempt to give an idea of the force that all living matter embodies,” the artists explain. “Repetitive rhythms in piano and cello, pulsation, energy and dynamics were our tools for creating this piece. It was especially interesting composing something that contrasted so much with the position we were in during lockdown – ‘Con Moto’ is therefore our ode to freedom too.”
The video was shot in the historic auditorium of Kraków’s Teatr Stary (Old Theatre). “The spirit in the air of all the great plays performed here leaves you speechless,” say Hania and Dobrawa. “We wanted to create a contrast: acoustic instruments and majestic architecture on the one hand, synthesisers and the modern feeling of our work on the other. That eclecticism makes a unique impression.” To capture the symphonic sound of Inner Symphonies, the pair invited other musicians – all close friends from their university days – to appear with them, so layers originally written for cello are here played by violin, viola, a second cello and double bass.
Hania Rani and Dobrawa Czocher discovered they were kindred spirits during their time as students at the Feliks Nowowiejski Music School in Gdańsk – both went on to study at Warsaw’s Fryderyk Chopin University of Music where their friendship flourished. Dobrawa has since become solo cellist of the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom she has performed both in Poland and further afield. As a composer she sets out to connect with others on a deep emotional level, something she certainly achieves in Timelines, her recent contribution to DG’s “Project XII”. Hania, meanwhile, has composed for strings, piano, voice and electronics and performed at venues across Europe. Her debut solo album Esja went gold in Poland and entered the top 100 in the UK charts. Last year she wrote a stunning rework of Debussy’s La damoiselle élue for Víkingur Ólafsson’s Reflections project. Her latest solo release ‘Music for Cinema and Theatre’ found its way into the top 10 of the UK Classical Charts.
In 2015, the pair were delighted to join forces and create their first album together. Biała flaga (“White Flag”) features imaginative reworkings of ten tracks by the late Polish composer and Republika frontman Grzegorz Ciechowski. These and the other pieces they have composed collaboratively reveal influences absorbed from sources as diverse as Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Agnes Obel, Henryk Górecki, Karol Szymanowski and Robert Schumann, but their music defies easy comparisons with the work of others.
Hania and Dobrawa signed to the yellow label at the end of May 2021, soon after putting the finishing touches to Inner Symphonies. “Here inner means something little, private, intimate, while the symphonic means something huge,” observes Hania. “It’s a new adventure for us.”