Polish Music Center Newsletter Vol. 10, no. 9

PMC News

Skrowaczewski To Give Paderewski Lecture

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, composer and conductor, was one of the first donors to the PMC Manuscript Collection
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, composer and conductor, was one of the first donors to the PMC Manuscript Collection

During the first two weeks of September 2004, Stanisław Skrowaczewski will be sharing his talents and insights with the students and community of the University of Southern California and the Polish Music Center. His residency at USC will feature 2 public events. First, on September 15th, Skrowaczewski will give the annual Paderewski Lecture/Recital, presented by the Polish Music Center. This talented performer/composer/conductor will discuss his thoughts on music with moderator Larry Livingston (former Dean of USC’s Thornton School of Music) and audience members. The event will also include performances of Paderewski’s Cracovienne Fantastique and Skrowaczewski’s String Trio. Then, on September 16th, Skrowaczewski will conduct the Thornton Symphony in a performance of his own Concerto for Orchestra, short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and in Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.

The namesake of the Paderewski Lectures, Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), was a virtuoso pianist, composer, politician (the first Prime Minister of independent Poland after World War I), humanitarian and orator. His charismatic personality and popular appeal earned him universal acclaim as a “Modern Immortal” by his contemporaries and a legacy as one of the most cherished figures of the 20th century. The Annual Paderewski Lectures highlight Paderewski’s special links to the State of California and to USC, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1923. By presenting outstanding Polish musicians, the Paderewski Lectures also emphasize achievements of Polish contemporary music. Previous speakers in the series included Zygmunt Krauze (2002), and Joanna Bruzdowicz (2003).

Stanisław Skrowaczewski commands a unique position in the international musical scene being both a major conducting figure and a highly regarded composer. Born in Lwów, Poland, Skrowaczewski began piano and violin studies at the age of four, composed his first symphonic work at seven, gave his first public piano recital at 11 and two years later played and conducted Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto. A hand injury during the war terminated his keyboard career, after which he concentrated on composing and conducting. From 1946-1959 he served as conductor and Music Director of Poland’s most prominent orchestras.

Skrowaczewski spent the immediate post-war years in Paris, studying with Nadia Boulanger and co-founding the avant-garde group Zodiaque. After winning the 1956 International Competition for Conductors in Rome he was invited by George Szell to make his American debut conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in 1958. This led to engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Symphonies and, in 1960, to his appointment as Music Director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (now the Minnesota Orchestra), where he remained for 19 years. Skrowaczewski has regularly conducted the major orchestras of the world as well as the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. He has made international tours with the Hallé Orchestra (during his seven years as Principal Conductor), Concertgebouw, French National, Warsaw and Hamburg orchestras, and twice toured with the Philadelphia Orchestra to South America and the Cleveland Orchestra to Australia.

Beginning with his Overture 1947, which won the Szymanowski Competition in Poland, many of Skrowaczewski’s works have received major international awards. Among his most recent compositions are the Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra and short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and his Violin Concerto, commissioned and premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1991, Ensemble Capriccio commissioned Skrowaczewski to write his String Trio, which will be performed by a USC student string ensemble at the Paderewski Lecture. In this work Skrowaczewski followed traditional, classical principles to expose each instrument as a soloist. At the same time, he sought to bind the three parts by vertical chords and harmonies, and with sharp rhythmic patterns that demand perfect synchronization. Harmonically, each movement has one or more melodic group themes. Patterns of certain intervals reflect Skrowaczewski’s obsession with the interplay of augmented fourths with perfect fourths, diminished ninths and sevenths, etc. These patterns are repeated in all five movements. During the Lecture, we will hear movements IV “Adagio amoroso” and V “Furioso” of the String Trio.

2004 Paderewski Leacture
Wednesday, 15 September 2004, 12 Noon
United University Church (UUC)
University of Southern California
817 West 34th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Free Admission, Reception to follow

Skrowaczewski Leads USC Symphony
Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 7:30 pm
Bovard Auditorium (ADM)
University of Southern California
University Park Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Admission: General, $18; Seniors and non-USC students, $12
Free admission at the door with USC ID
Buy a ticket online here

We Have Moved

The Polish Music Center has changed location on the beautiful USC campus! Over the first part of August we moved from the United University Church building to the first floor of Stonier Hall. Stonier Hall (labeled STO on USC maps) is located behind the bookstore and across from the Student Center, at the heart of the campus. Come visit our new home!


Warsaw Autumn

17-25 September, 2004

This year’s Warsaw Autumn [Warszawska Jesień] marks the 47th anniversary of Poland’s premiere festival of new music from Poland and beyond. Presented annually with only two years of interruption, Warsaw Autumn was a beacon of musical expression and freedom throughout the period of Communist control, and continues to shine today, attracting composers, performers, music experts, and music lovers from all over the world. The festival is organized by the Polish Composers’ Union [Zwiazek Kompozytorów Polskich]. According to Director of the Festival Tadeusz Wielecki, “The ‘Autumn’ has an open formula, and tries to present a variety of phenomena and tendencies typical for the music of our times: from the sonic radicalism derived from the Webernean tradition (Lachenman, Ferneyhough, Hollinger), though the currents that make reference to the music of the past or traditional cultures, all the way to audio-art or sound installations. It is said—appropriately—that the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ is positively eclectic. That is the way it has to be, if the festival wants to inform its Polish audience about what is going on in the musical world as fully as possible—which is what it wants to do and what it should do.”

“Warsaw Autumn – new generation” concert, 22 Sept. ’03

In addition to the importance of the multitude of live performances that are organized for the festival, the influence of this event runs deeper than just the moment of the festival. Such a large musical undertaking requires the cooperation of many people, and the nature of the Warsaw Autumn fosters international cooperation, sponsorship and attendance. These concerts are directed specifically at young audiences, creating a whole new pool of interested and educated listeners who also pass their experience onto peers and colleagues. And the performance program created for each festival is more than memorabilia for those in attendance; it is a textbook on the newest, cutting edge music, composers and performers for international new music community.

On the 30th June, 2004, Director Wielecki shared the following recommendations for this year’s festival the readers of The Warsaw Voice: “The final concert at the National Philharmonic features the first performance of all four Symphonies by Witold Lutosławski in history. The National Symphonic Orchestra of the Polish Radio will be conducted by Gabriel Chmura and Jacek Kaspszyk. Another interesting event will be the first performance of Rafał Augustyn’s Hymn Symphony, presented by soloists, Sinfonia Varsovia and the Choir of the National Philharmonic conducted by Renato Rivolta. A particularly remarkable concert in the night series will be the presentation of a new composition by Bernhard Lang. The piece, entitled DW9, was inspired by popular techniques used by DJs.”

For a program and more details about the festival, visit www.warsaw-autumn.art.pl/04/.

Poland And Germany In Concert

25 September – 9 October, 2004

Germany’s Usedom Music Festival celebrates reconciliation on Usedom, the island where the former German missile base of Peenemünde is located, which is said to be “the sunniest spot in Germany with the darkest history.” The focus of the 11th Usedom Music Festival will be: “Poland and Germany: Musical Encounters.” The history of Germany and Poland shares both horror and creativity—war and banishment, yet also aid and admiration. The tradition of memorial concerts as part of the Usedom Music Festival’s symbol of reconciliation continues on October 1, 2002, in the former Nazi missile development center of Peenemünde, where in 2002, the first historic concert of its kind took place with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting Britten’s War Requiem in the presence of Mikhail Gorbachov. This year’s opening concert will be performed by the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg under the direction of Christoph von Dohany with world-renowned baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the announcer. The orchestra will perform Lutosławski’s Trauermusik, Shoenberg’s Survivor from Warsaw, Liget’s Atmosphérs, and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

Peenemünde began construction in 1936 and was manned by slave labor in 1943. Following heavy bombing by the Royal Air Force in August, 1943, in which 750 people (including 600 slave laborers) lost their lives, the manufacturing of missiles was moved underground to the Dora/Mittelwerk concentration camp in Thuringia in central Germany. Launched by the Third Reich in late 1944, the first ballistic missile, the V-2, fell on London, Paris, and Antwerp after covering nearly 200 miles in 5 minutes. Hitler had hoped the V-2 missiles would ultimately be the “Wunderwaffe,” (wonder weapon, so labeled by Goebbels) that would win the war for Germany and thus aid him in his quest to control the world.

Premieres In Wrocław

Marta Ptaszynska

On 3 September, in the concert hall of the Wrocław Philharmonic, Fanfare for the Wrocław Philharmonic by Krzysztof Meyer and the Wratislavia Symphony by Marta Ptaszyńska will be heard for the first time. These premieres will be a part of the solemn opening of the Philharmonic’s 50th artistic season. The program of the concert will also include the September Symphony by Wojciech Kilar, as well as the Violin Concerto in D minor by Henryk Wieniawski with Krzysztof Jakowicz as soloist. Mariusz Smolij will conduct the symphony orchestra of the Wrocław Philharmonic. The PWM Edition exhibition, “Witold Lutosławski and His Musical Ideas”, will open during intermission of the concert.

Warsaw Philharmonic In NJ

On 15 October, 2004, Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic will be joined by winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Olga Kern, in a spectacular night at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ. Their program will consist of the following: KILAR Orawa, CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, and BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.

Wratisławia Cantens 2004

10-19 September, 2004

Wratisławia Cantens is an international festival of music and fine arts. Events include performances of oratorios, cantatas, chamber and symphonic concerts, orthodox church and synagogical music, as well as exhibitions, film screenings, and lectures. The festival is organized in most beautiful historical venues in Wrocław and in the Lower Silesia.

Chopin And The Colors Of Fall

16-19 September, 2004

For the last 23 years, the “Chopin in the Colours of Autumn” Festival has been held annually during the third week of September in Antonin, Poland. The Festival commemorates the two visits Chopin paid to the Antonin Palace in the years of 1827 and 1829. The first edition of the festival took place in 1982 on the 155th anniversary of Chopin’s first visit to Antonin. Traditionally, the opening symphonic concerts are held in Ostrów Wielkopolski.

For a full schedule of events, visit www.infochopin.pl.

Bacewicz’s Short Stories

The first English edition of Grażyna Bacewicz’s book of short stories about music and musicians, entitled Znak Szczegolny, has been published by Krzys Chmiel, under the English title A Distinguishing Mark. This book was published in Ottawa, Canada, with the help of Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, former director of the PMC. All proceeds from the sale of A Distinguishing Mark will be directed towards the Polish Music Endowment Fund, aimed at helping young musicians from the Ottawa region to learn about Polish Music. If you would like to purchase the book, contact kchmiel@sympatico.ca

New Chopin Center

The Minister of Culture Waldemar Dabrowski has officially announced that a new Chopin Center will be established in Warsaw. The Fryderyk Chopin Institute will be responsible for the new project. The center will be located at 43 Tamka St, opposite Ostrogski Castle, seat of the Frederick Chopin Society. Within this year, the Institute plans to erect a building suitable for the needs of the Center, which will comprise a coffee shop, tourist information office and a souvenir shop. Chopin concerts will be held in the courtyard of the center.

Polish Renaissance Woman

Actress, artist, activist Beata Pozniak-Daniels is the featured artist in the Spring 2004 edition of Voices, the magazine of the Women’s College at Santa Monica College. Read the article at http://www.smc.edu/voices/fea_artists/pozniak.htm.


Polish Composers’ Union Award

On 22 September, the Polish Composers’ Union [ZKP—Związek Kompozytorów Polskich] will present their 2004 ZKP Awards and Honorable Mentions. Musicologist Irena Poniatowska and composer Grażyna Pstrokońska-Nawratil have both been chosen for the great honor of the ZKP Award. Poniatowska is lauded for her excellent achievements in musicology, especially in the area of “Chopinology”, as well as for her skills as a pedagogue and organizer of musical events. Pstrokońska-Nawratil is an accomplished composer, a sought-after pedagogue and tireless organizer.

The 2004 Honorable Mentions are Martina Homma, Krzysztof Kilian and Jerzy Stankiewicz. A long-time friend of the Polish Music Center, Homma is a champion of contemporary Polish music through musicological conferences she has organized and articles and books she has published, especially in Germany. She is an expert in the life and music of Witold Lutosławski. Kilian is an indomitable force in the world of managing the Polish music business. He has been particularly helpful in the organization of “Warsaw Autumn” [Warszawska Jesień], the ZKP’s annual contemporary music festival. Many of the other festivals and concerts of Polish music, especially in the Ukraine and Belorus are thanks to the hard work of Jerzy Stankiewicz, who has done much to strengthen the cultural bonds between Poland and her Eastern neighbors.

Learn more about these awards at www.zkp.org.pl.

Internet News

Muso Magazine


Muso is the ground-breaking magazine for the 16-30 generation of young classical musicians and music fans in North America and UK. Muso is a one-stop shop for entertainment and enlightenment for anyone wanting to keep up with the latest in the classical music world.

An upcoming edition of Muso Magazine will include performance career editorial and listings for performance & composition competitions worldwide. It will examine the benefits of entering competitions to launch a career in the classical music world, including advice from established artists and editorial on select competitions.

Iskry Folk Dance Groups

The PMC was recently contacted by dance group from Canada called S.P.K. Iskry Folk Dance Ensemble. They had found our web page about the Orange Country dance group Polskie Iskry interesting, especially considering that Iskry is not a common name. Visit their beautiful website at www.iskry.com.

Serebella Search Site

Serebella.com has included links to the following PMC on their research-related web-site:
Tadeusz Baird
Poland’s Contribution to Music (Article by Felix Łabunski, reprinted in PMJ Vol.2, No.2)
Paderewski, Ignaz Jan (1860-1941)


Vander Sande Gives Song Recital

In April, Dayle Vander Sande, conductor of the Polish Aria Chorus and friend of the PMC, gave his second performance of “Piesn wiekow” [Song of the Ages] a survey recital of Polish art song. The program includes three songs by Szymanowski exhibiting three different compositional periods of his life: Jestem i placze [I am and cry] from 3 Songs Set to Poems of Jan KasprowiczAllah Akbar from Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin; and Lean Out of the Window from Songs of Poems by James Joyce. The recital explores the art song genre from its earliest days in Poland to 1977. The recital program is still in its developmental stages; Mr. Vander Sande hopes to broaden its scope by including composers of slightly earlier and current periods and then to travel with the program.

Visit Mr. Vander Sande’s web-site at www.daylevandersande.com.

Drzewiecki At Disney Hall

On 1 August, Stanislaw Drzewiecki (pictured at left at Carnegie Hall earlier this year) was hailed as the featured soloist at the final concert of the 7th annual Gateway International Laureats Festival. Maestro Schmieder deftly led Drzewiecki and the I Palpiti Orchestral Ensemble through a challenging combination of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Prelude and Scherzo, Op.11 and Piano Concerto No. 1 in c-minor, Op.35, as well as Peter Tchaikowsky’s Serenade for String, Op.48.

Young Artists International is a non-profit organization providing a forum to bring performers and diverse audiences together. It stands on a belief that “classical music is the spiritual factor which brings people together and unites them irrespective of religion and culture, appealing to sublime senses”. Its International Laureates Festival emerging as one of the nation’s most significant music festivals. This festival serves to highlight the skills of the I PALPITI Orchestral Ensemble, comprised of selected prize-winning young professional musicians from around the globe who perform at the festival as both soloists and ensemble members. During this festival, 10 concerts were given in two weeks, from 19 July – 2 August, 2004.

Calendar of Events

SEP 1: Richard Goode, piano. Works by Beethoven, Schubert, Janacek & Chopin. Usher Hall, Edingburgh. www.usherhall.co.uk.

SEP 1: BBC Radio 3 Broadcast (90-93 FM) Composer of the week: Karol Szymanowski. 12 midnight – 1 a.m.

SEP 5: BBC World Service Broadcast (9-10 p.m.)of Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra. BBC Symphony, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, cond.

SEP 7: Stephen Hough, piano. Music by Schubert, Leighton & Chopin. City Recital Hall, Sydney, Australia. www.cityrecitalhall.com.

SEP 8: BBC Radio 3 Broadcast (90-93 FM) BBC Proms 2004: Music by Dvorak, Schumann & Chopin. 2-4 p.m.

SEP 15: 2004 PMC Paderewski Lecture: Conversations with Skrowaczewski. See abovefor details.

SEP16: Skrowaczewski to lead USC Symphony in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. See abovefor details.

SEP 17: BBC Radio 3 Broadcast (90-93 FM) New Generation Artists: Llyr Williams, piano. Chopin & Debussy. 1-2 p.m.

SEP 19: Chopin: Scherzo, Polonaise-Fantaisie. Kazumari Shiraiso, Chinami Smith, piano. DLI Museum, Durham, England. 0191 334 3140.

SEP 20: BBC Radio 3 Broadcast (90-93 FM) New Generation Artists: Alex Slobodyanik, piano. Chopin, Beethoven & Ravel. 1-2 p.m.

SEP 23: Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra. Seattle Symphony, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, cond. Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA.www.seattlesymphony.org.

SEP 29: Chopin: Fantaisiek-Impromptu, Nocturne, Piano Sonata, Op. 58. The Venue at Leeds College of Music. www.leedsconcertseason.com.

SEP 29, 30: Ax Plays Chopin. Emanuel Ax, piano. Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Piano Concerto No. 2. Roy Thomson Hall. www.tso.on.ca.

* For more Concerts in Poland, visit the website of Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzycne and search their concerts page. For events in France’s Nova Polska Festival (a year-long celebration of one of the newest members of the E.U.), visit the September page of www.nova-polska.pl. *

Remembering Wiktor Łabuński

By Joseph A. Herter


This homage to the Polish pianist and composer Wiktor Łabuński is the result of my correspondence with Marcia Crossley Whitcomb in Denver, Colorado. I first wrote to Mrs. Whitcomb, the personnel manager of the Centennial Orchestra and a 1960 alumna of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, in connection with my research on another Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Stojowski, who—like Łabuński—immigrated to the USA. I was looking for information on one of Stojowski’s most notable pupils, the conductor Antonia Brico who founded the Antonia Brico Orchestra in Denver, the precursor of that city’s current professional chamber orchestra. During the course of our written exchanges, Mrs. Whitcomb’s former Kansas City Conservatory professor Wiktor Łabuński came up as a topic of discussion. Her glowing comments on this musician, who played such an important role in the musical life of Kansas City, inspired me to find out more about him.

Besides the fact that they were both Polish pianist/composers seeking their fortune in America, other similarities could be seen in both men’s careers. Both Stojowski and Łabuński were consumed with teaching and gained reputations as highly respected and beloved teachers—Łabuński in Memphis, Nashville and Kansas City and Stojowski in New York during the academic year and on the West Coast in the summer. The saddest thing the two men share in common is that they have been forgotten as composers in both Poland and in their adopted country.

Interest in the music of Stojowski is experiencing a renaissance. Wiktor Łabuński’s music, however, still remains to be found only in encyclopedic sources instead of concert programs. In 1968, this sad state of affairs was pointed out by his former student Wanda Waliszewska when she wrote an article about Łabuński to mark the 40th anniversary of his emigration from Poland. She lamented the fact that Łabuński’s orchestral music had never been performed in Poland,[1] and Łabuński had not returned after World War II to perform or even to preside as a juror at one of the International Chopin Competitions in Warsaw. [2] Thirty-six years later in 2004, Łabuński’s orchestral music still remains unperformed in Poland, and his legacy as a pianist is nearly forgotten.

It took the British pianist Jonathan Plowright, who to date has released two CDs of Stojowski’s music, to show the world what Polish cultural treasures had all but been lost. As it prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2006, would it not be possible for the Kansas City Conservatory to do the same for Łabuński by releasing a recording of his music as part of their centenary celebrations? Wiktor Łabuński, who served the Conservatory for a nearly a third of its 100-year history as piano professor, director and artist in residence, died 30 years ago. Now is the time to give younger generations the opportunity to share and reevaluate his music as well as to appreciate the legacy of this great Polish-American Kansas City musician.

Joseph A. Herter
Warsaw, Poland

The Recollections

I. Clifton Matthews

In June of 1947 my mother took me, twelve years old at the time, to a master class given at the Conservatory of Kansas City by the doyenne of American piano pedagogues, Olga Samaroff Stokowski. She had brought two of her brilliant Juilliard students to perform major works of the repertory, among which were the Bach English Suite in A minor, Schumann Carnivale, Ravel Gaspard de la nuit and the Concerto in G Major, all new to me at that time. Of course I was dazzled by the music and the performances. I had also enrolled for two private lessons with Mme Samaroff who, after I played something for her, said sternly, “But why have you come to me?” I, desperately trying to think of the reason, finally declared, “To get your interpretation.” To which she replied with scorn, “There is no such thing. There are only the notes.” We quickly cancelled the second lesson.

The good news was, and still is, that she suggested that I play for Dr. Łabuński. He was very kind and encouraging and agreed to teach me for four dollars a lesson, a third of his fee at the time, as I would have to travel by train each Saturday from Wellington, Kansas, some 250 miles from Kansas City. So for the four years I was in high school I spent each Saturday on the train to and from Kansas City, arriving at two in the afternoon, leaving again at 5:15 p.m. Dr. Łabuński agreed to teach me on the condition that I have a private half-hour theory lesson each week before my piano lesson.

I took it all in my stride at the time, but in retrospect it seems amazing that a boy from a small town in southern Kansas would have had the opportunity to learn from this elegant, gifted, charming man who spoke seven languages, wore spats, and smoked cigarettes in a silver holder. And who was the brother-in-law of Artur Rubinstein!

Dr. Łabuński’s studio was a handsome room, walnut paneled, with French doors and a beautiful painting of his lovely wife Wanda. In the course of those four years we went through a considerable portion of the piano literature. I loved and admired my teacher who could not have been more kind to me. As I lead my present students through the literature I often am reminded of my lessons on those works with Dr. Łabuński during those years 1947-51.

The Łabuńskis’ home was filled with photographs of all the important musicians, and their parties were always happy occasions with good food and good cheer. I have a fond memory of Mrs. Łabuński’s elderly mother (Anna Młynarska), visiting from Poland, sweetly offering “Cherries! Cherries!” to everyone. Dr. Łabuński was always importuned to play for the students, and annually it would be Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz which Dr. Łabuński would always say he had not played for twenty-five years.

At one of those parties I met for the first time Rosina Lhevinne. When, after a summer in Aspen in 1952, I decided to go to New York and to Juilliard, it was Dr. Łabuński’s wish, and mine, that I study with Mme. Lhevinne. Through a misunderstanding that did not happen, and I very much regret that Dr. Łabuński took offense, the result of which was that we were out of touch thereafter. How I would like to be able to tell him, as I approach my seventieth birthday, how grateful I am to him, how much he has meant in my life!

Clifton Matthews, Professor
North Carolina School of the Arts
Winston-Salem, North Carolina


II. Emma Lou Diemer

About Wiktor Łabuński: When I was 15 my mother, who knew of his reputation as a fine teacher and pianist, took me to the Kansas City Conservatory for an audition with him. He tested my (perfect) pitch and heard me play and told my mother I was very talented and accepted me as a piano student. I took the bus from my home in Warrensburg to Kansas City (50 miles) every two weeks and studied with him for about 2 years before entering Eastman as a composition major.

Dr. Łabuński was an impressive teacher, very exacting—particularly with fingering, very dignified, a trifle intimidating. I had the pleasure of meeting Wanda Łabuński and spending several evenings in their home. Dr. Łabuński gave an address at Central Missouri State College (CMSTC), where I was a student in the College High School, and, to my family’s great pride, mentioned me in it. He stayed at the College Residence (our house), and in an evening private discussion with my mother told her that I could be a concert pianist but that he was a little concerned that I was petite (I’m 5’2″), perhaps not robust enough for a concert career. (That was fine with me because composition was my principal interest, although being a keyboard performer has made all the difference in composing).

The piano literature that he assigned me to learn was usually 19th century romantic music—Rachmaninoff, Grieg, Chopin, and some obscure composers I cannot recall. I wrote two piano concertos while studying with him, and he had occasional suggestions about orchestration. I must say that although my piano technique advanced considerably under his tutelage (I started practicing at 5 a.m. before going to school!) I didn’t become completely captivated by music until later when studying—at Eastman and Yale—more contemporary composers: Bartók, Khachaturian, Prokofiev, etc.

I returned after a year at Eastman to study at CMSTC where my father, the president of the college, had instituted a BM degree. During that year I again studied with Dr. Łabuński as well as Garner Read. But I needed to work toward a composition degree, and went to Yale for the remainder of my undergraduate study and my Master’s. After graduation from Yale, I had some lessons with Dr. Łabuński and played the Prokofiev 3rd piano concerto for him. He was astounded by my progress, and I remember he rushed out of the studio to exclaim this to other people at the conservatory. He had me play the 2nd piano (orchestra part) of the Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations with one of his advanced students, for that student to enter a competition. He and Mrs. Łabuński were so charming and gracious to me.

Other memories: Dr. L. always smoked a cigarette in a holder, and would sometimes absent-mindedly dribble a little ash on his students (at least I imagine other students had that experience).

He told me once that I was very near the top in talent, but not quite there yet. I believe he was encouraging and honest and inspiring to all his students, certainly to me.

I had no contact with him during later years, and was saddened at learning of his death in 1974. The above recollections are very vivid in my memory and I hope helpful. They are naturally a bit self-centered—what teenager is not?

…I’m grateful to Dr. Łabuński for furthering and advancing a profound love of the piano as the premier instrument for playing and for composing.

Emma Lou Diemer, Professor Emerita
University of California Santa Barbara


III. Don C. Shoberg

It is a great joy to reminisce the memories of Wiktor Łabuński. While a student at the Conservatory of Music of Kansas City (now known as the Conservatory of Music of the University of Missouri at Kansas City), I did not study directly with Dr. Łabuński as my area of study was composition. However, Dr. Łabuński did critique my compositions and I enjoyed the opportunity to play trumpet (though not really well) with him and Walter Cook at the pianos playing the Italian Polka by Rachmaninoff. My wife Tharon, on the other hand, did study piano with Wiktor and greatly admired him as a teacher and, in later years, as a very close friend to both of us. Dr. Łabuński was a most dedicated administrator and teacher as well as a perfect gentleman. He was quite formal when at work yet very friendly and playful socially.

One cannot remember Wiktor without also remembering his lovely wife Wanda, her mother Mme. (Anna) Młynarski, and her sister Mrs. (Aniela) Rubinstein, all very special people who loved to entertain. Tharon and I were guests in the Łabuński home on a great many occasions and, after Wanda’s death, Wiktor was a guest in our home many, many times as well. I recall Wiktor’s fondness for gin and tonic and Wanda’s absolutely superb liver pâté to mention only a few memories. To be entertained in their home was always a treat for every guest. I also recall how Wiktor would jokingly imitate various personalities at the keyboard. Of course, I shall always remember his playing piano works of great Russian and Polish composers and the depth of expression he brought to the music.

I shall always cherish the wonderful memories of Wiktor and Wanda Łabuński. Thank you for making it possible to pay tribute to very dear friends.

Don C. Shoberg
Luyben Music Store
Kansas City, Missouri



IV. Marcia Crossley Whitcomb

Wiktor Łabuński was the Director of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music when I began to study ‘cello there as a high school student. I was a bit put off by his slightly regal, Victorian style, and of course by his astounding knowledge, but my ‘cello teacher regarded him highly, and I learned to do so too. By the time I was a college student there, he was cordial to me as though an elder relative.

Although I did not study the piano with Wiktor, I was an advanced harmony student under him, one of three. One day while he was illustrating something of Bizet, he played a section at length from memory and suddenly stopped. “I think that was the wrong key,” he said a bit flustered, and proceeded to replay the entire example in a different key!

Wiktor enjoyed talking with the students, would often come into the cafeteria during lunch hour to visit, and at the school Christmas party would mimic beginning pianists at the instrument to great hilarity. His stories of friends in Russia and Poland were fascinating, and we were convinced he knew of (or was only a generation away) from all of the late 19th century and early 20th century musicians in Eastern Europe. Paderewski was a family friend.

Most of Wiktor’s colleagues knew their craft through Rimsky-Korsakoff. One time, Wiktor said that he had found so many translation and professional errors in the English version of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s manual, Harmony, that he finally wrote a long treatise to the publisher pointing out errata and offering to retranslate and correct the book. He was indignant that the publisher never acknowledged his offer.

Marcia Crossley Whitcomb
Violoncellist and Personnel Manager
Centennial Orchestra
Denver, Colorado


V. Douglas Ashley

How grateful we can be to have the privilege of recounting memories of Wiktor Łabuński! I knew him from 1954 to 1964. I studied with him as a high-school student and stayed in touch with him until his last years when I was seldom in Kansas City.

As a boy of twelve, my mother once pointed out the Łabuńskis at Union Station. A few years later, he, my grandmother and my organ teacher Mrs. Maltby shared a program. In fact, my grandmother, the contralto Gladys Havens, shared his first public appearance on a concert in Kansas City.

He was a dignified, aristocratic gentleman, formal but not unfriendly. All of this carried over into his teaching: he was both strict and encouraging. He demanded a thoughtful approach to every aspect of piano playing. Once he said, “I am a Christian Scientist when it comes to producing tone.”

The Łabuńskis were hospitable and sometimes invited a French exchange student and me for a meal. We always spoke French on those occasions because Mme Mlynarska was often there. She was Mrs. Laubunski’s mother and her other daughter married Artur Rubinstein. So sometimes she lived with them in Paris. How fine that we can celebrate the life of this wonderful musician and dedicated teacher!

Douglas Ashley, Professor Emeritus
College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina



VI. LeRoy Pogemiller

My Thoughts on Wiktor Łabuński

My first meeting with Wiktor Łabuński was in April 1950. My father, my piano teacher and I drove to Kansas City, Missouri, from my home town, Morning Sun, Iowa, to audition with Łabuński and see if I could attend the Conservatory of Music.

We met at their house on a Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t really a very good pianist but I played some pieces anyway. Then Mrs. Łabuński interrupted with “Stop, stop! We must turn on the radio and listen to my brother-in-law play the piano.” The brother-in-law was Arthur Rubinstein and he was playing the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the St. Louis Symphony. I was awed by his performance, and then I had to play again after the radio program was over. When I hear that piece today, I still vividly remember how I felt at my first hearing. I was accepted by Łabuński and started summer school at the Conservatory less than a month after graduating from high school.

For a few years, I worked for the Łabuńskis. I mowed the yard, hung pictures in the house, drove their maids to their homes if it was dark, and chauffeured Wiktor from school to home and to various towns where he performed. One day I drove him home and as he was getting out of the car I said, “Congratulations on your wedding anniversary.” He looked somewhat startled and then thanked me. I don’t know what he did after that, but at the next lesson he thanked me for “saving his life.”

My wife’s name is Carolyn Pogemiller. I took her to a Conservatory dance when she was very young, before I went into the army in 1952. After I returned from service, I took Carolyn to another dance. At my next lesson, Wiktor said, “I like the second girl best.” I never told him she was the same girl.

When I told the Łabuńskis that Carolyn and I were to be married, Mrs. Łabuński offered us a floor fan, slightly used. She said they wouldn’t use it anymore. We were really glad to have the gift. We were married in a small church in Kansas City. At such events, it was the tradition of the church to display wedding gifts in the basement so they could be seen by the guests during the reception. We failed to put the Łabuńskis’ fan among the gifts. When we returned from our honeymoon, I apologized to Wiktor for the fan being absent at the wedding. He said, “Had we given you a cow would you have had it at the church?”

One time in a lesson, Łabuński told me about a concert by Rachmaninoff at which Łabuński was present. Rachmaninoff made a slip on one of the pieces. Back stage, after the concert, Rachmaninoff begged his friends, including Łabuński, to tell him when he should stop playing. Łabuński commented to me that he was glad that he could still play well. Later on, when he was much older, I remember he played at a noon program at the Conservatory and his playing was not what it used to be. I guess his friends didn’t have the courage to tell him when to quit.

When there was talk of a merger between the Conservatory and the University of Kansas City in the mid 1950s, Łabuński was very much against such a union. As a result, the Board of Directors dismissed Łabuński as director of the school. At the time of the merger, Dr. Archie Jones from Texas was named the new Dean of the Conservatory. A few years later at a meeting of the faculty, Łabuński rose and proposed a motion for the faculty to commend Jones for his fairness towards everyone as dean. I thought this was a very fine gesture on Łabuński’s part considering Łabuński had lost the position of director and Jones had become the new dean.

One of the nicest things Wiktor ever said to me was his hope that someday I would be director of the Conservatory. In 1959, the Conservatory merged with the University of Kansas City, a private institution. In 1963, that school became a campus of the University of Missouri system. For 13 months in 1993-1994, I was interim dean of the Conservatory while a search for a new dean was taking place. During that period, I always remembered what Wiktor had told me many years earlier.

LeRoy Pogemiller, Professor Emeritus
Conservatory of Music
University of Missouri-Kansas City


VII. Dr. J.D. Kelly

I studied with Wiktor Łabuński for five years and always found that he never told me anything musically that was false. He was an amazing person as a musician and otherwise. I can share a few funny things that he said or did as well as other things.

He told me once that by the time he had read through a composition three times, it was memorized for all time. And I believe this to be true! At the Conservatory we had weekly convocations on Wednesday, and often he would play a recital. As his students we always tried to find out what he planned to play, but his answer was always, “I haven’t decided yet.” But the next morning he would present an hour long program.

I remember another time early in my study with him he has assigned a Chopin Etude. I was having a difficult time with it, and said one day at a lesson “This is impossible.” His reply was “then it just takes longer.” So I stayed with it.

One evening when he was playing a recital in Kansas City, the clock on the front of the hall’s balcony bothered him. So, someone had to lean over the balcony rail and hold the hands so they could not move.

He did not like to fly and always tried to take trains wherever he went.

As a freshman I met him in the hall one day early in the year and I said, “Hi, Dr. Łabuński.” He said, “You don’t say ‘Hi’ to people, you say ‘Hello.'”

He decided when I was sophomore or junior that I was going to learn French and we were going to have my lessons in French. He spoke five or six languages fluently, as did his wife.

I was in Kansas City at the time of his death and attended the funeral service.

He took a great interest in his students. We were required to attend every recital at the Conservatory, and he always took a mental role call when he entered the hall to make sure we were all there.

He could tell wonderful jokes. I remember one in particular about brain surgeons. He could also do wonderfully funny things on the piano, i.e., imitate a piano with a broken key, using his knuckle to rap on the sound board to imitate the click of the broken key, or imitate the piano student that consistently plays the wrong note or notes in a sonatina.

He knew all of the great pianists of the time and they would sometimes come to the Conservatory to speak to the students or play a private recital. I remember in particular one time when Kapell spoke to the student body and another time when Rosalyn Tureck played a Bach recital just for the students…

Another time in a pedagogy class he was talking about teaching young students the lines and spaces and he said, “Just tell the student that these are the lines and spaces, and learn them.” Not such a bad idea. It would only take a few minutes.

Well these are a few things. I had and still have great respect for Łabuński, musically and as a person. He was always very good to me.

My lessons were always just before his afternoon break and almost always he would send me to the snack room for coffee and we would continue on with the lesson through his break.

The old Conservatory building was not at all sound proof and you could hear the other studios and also sometimes the practice rooms two floor below. He would sometimes send us down to tell some student that they were reading a note or notes wrong in what they were practicing.

I have sat with him at student recitals, and when the students would sometimes have difficulty he would call out the correct notes for the student, with the result that the student was even more confused.

Dr. J. D. Kelly, Professor Emeritus
Arkansas State University


VIII. Virginia French Burkhart

I was one of the fortunate students to study with Dr. Łabuński. My study with him began in the nineteen-forties, during my junior high and high school years. I continued study with him while I was a student at the Kansas City Conservatory, where I received my bachelor’s degree in 1950. My lessons and classes were in the old Armour residence, where Dr. Łabuński reigned regally as dean of the conservatory.

While I was his student, Dr. Łabuński was instrumental in securing for me the position as pianist with the Kansas City Philharmonic—a position which I held throughout my three undergraduate years at the conservatory. He was most helpful and accommodating in preparing me for my audition for graduate study with Madame Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School in New York.

As I look back over the years, aside from the considerable technical training I received from him, I was especially helped and impressed with his remarkable ability to recall and play virtually any piece of music. His tastes were eclectic and fascinating. He could rapidly identify any music he heard; and he noticed and commented upon the similarities, often unnoticed, between quite diverse compositions. No matter whether from operas, symphonies, chamber music, or piano literature, he spotted and talked about, sometimes at length, how themes or motifs or phrases were echoed or imitated in various works.

Later, while I was studying at the Juilliard School, I shall never forget his visit, when he appeared at Rosina Lhevinne’s master class. He was clearly in his element, striding among the greats, as he shared his experienced insights into the proper playing of Chopin’s Mazurkas.

Virginia French Burkhart
Retired Faculty member of the Music Institute of Chicago and of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois
Currently residing in Dubuque, Iowa


IX. Julianne McLean

I first met Dr. Łabuński when I was 16. We had a family friend in Kansas City who arranged an audition with Dr. Lab (!) because I had to look for some place to go for my college work and the Conservatory in Kansas City was outstanding, mainly due to Dr. Łabuński. I did go and played for him—he literally guided my future life by giving me a 4-year scholarship to get my Bachelor and Master of Music! He had a great wit and humor as well as a great knowledge of languages and history. I remember vividly when he had Olin Downes—the great New York music critic—come to Kansas City. Dr. Lab played all of Chopin’s music with Mr. Downes critiquing it! He had a spectacular memory, and could truly sight-read anything.

One other charming remembrance of ‘Dr. Lab’: When I was studying the E-Flat Rhapsody of Brahms, Dr. Lab said, “Think of this: I play the DRUM in the SAL–vation AR–MY BAND– BOOM BOOM,” and he would just roar with laughter!!

Julianne McLean Wichita, Kansas



X. The Nettleton Twins

Wiktor definitely had great charm, elegance and wit that enhanced his superb teaching style. The two Baldwin grand pianos were side by side in his studio at the Conservatory of Music in Kansas City, Missouri. Often he would stand in front of the pianos, facing us, giving us helpful suggestions, and often compliments. He was a great encourager and inspired us to high excellence in our duo-pianism. Being a wonderful pianist himself, he taught much by example. He had superb fingering suggestions for all difficult passages. His goal was to make our playing transparent, colorful and exciting, and we trust that was accomplished. Performance excellence was definitely the primary goal!

We had a wonderful relationship with Wiktor and a strong, mutual respect for each other, artistically and personally. We had many wonderful times in the Łabuński home, where Wiktor and Wanda treated us as family. We treasure the opportunities we had to meet and play for many great artists of the day. Playing for Artur Rubinstein was a tremendous highlight and another impetus in launching our career as concert duo-pianists.

Wiktor was a unique composer and he greatly enjoyed writing and transcribing for two pianos. His Concerto in C Major for Two Pianos and Orchestra is an exciting work while his Nocturne for two pianos is a very beautiful work with shimmering harmonies. Wiktor transcribed or arranged for two pianos several compositions for us. We regularly programmed some of his works in our duo-piano concerts across the country. The following are Wiktor Łabuński’s transcriptions for two pianos that we play:

Wiktor Łabuński was a great artist and master teacher. We shall always be grateful for the years that we worked with him.

Jeanne and Joanne Nettleton
Concert duo-pianists
Tulsa, Oklahoma


XI. Norman Shetler

My first encounter with Dr. Wiktor Łabuński occurred on my l6th birthday, June 16, 1947 (57 years ago) having just moved to Kansas City from Nashville, Tennessee. He had been most highly recommended to me by my teacher in Nashville, where previous to his becoming director of the Kansas City Conservatory, he had been head of Nashville Conservatory.

We met in the conservatory just outside his Studio. I was very impressed by what I saw, and I guess I was more than a little nervous in the presence of this great musician. Dr L was a very distinguished looking gentleman, and, for a youngster just fresh from the Deep South, seemed to be a trifle haughty. He, I believe, was always “posing” and appeared to be more than just a little vain. This you will please remember is the first impression of a totally inexperienced and totally “innocent” teenager.

He complimented my playing saying many nice things about my musicality, hand position, etc., and said that he would take me as his student. For me this was a great measure of success and I was given a complete new spurt of inspiration and resolve. Having as well to start in a new school, I’m sure this meeting with Dr L was an important source of confidence building for me.

Dr L was a meticulous dresser. He always wore a vest with a gold watch chain going from the right to the left pockets, and always used an ivory cigarette holder from which the ashes of the cigarette were forever falling on his vest, then nonchalantly being whisked away with the back of his hand. And the spats! I had never seen spats before and Dr L wore them I believe even in June. He was also the first émigré from Europe that I had ever encountered and his perfect, sophisticated English flavored with his (surely) retained and cultivated accent was an additional source of fascination for me with this man.

Under his guidance I made rapid progress progressing from, e.g., Chopin Impromptus/Nocturnes and shorter works of Brahms and Schumann to major works of the piano literature such as Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano, Op 110, Schumann’s Kreisleriana and Mozart Concertos at the end of my studies with him (four years in all)—works which have remained in my repertoire to this day.

I remember very well a series of concerts he gave with Olin Downes, the dean of American music critics in which he played all the works of Chopin (all from memory if my memory serves me) with Downes giving introductory remarks at the beginning of each session. I was very impressed with this feat and grateful that I was able to hear this great body of the piano repertoire from such a master.

It was through Dr L that I was introduced to and shook the hands of Artur Rubinstein, Jascha Heifitz and other legends of the music world while attending post-concert receptions at the home of the Łabuńskis. Mme. Łabuński was a very gracious hostess and full of old world charm.

Dr L had, understandably, a large class of exceptionally talented students. It was through them that my knowledge of the piano literature was expanded and it was very interesting to follow the progress of all of my fellow students, several of whom I have contact still today.

His personal contacts and friendships with composers like Szymanowski, Medtner and pianists/teachers like Goldenwieser, Siloti and I believe Rachmaninoff as well, makes him a very important link to the great traditions and personalities of the past.

Norman Shetler
Former Professor at the University of Music of the University of Vienna
Vienna, Austria

Biographical Information

Wiktor Łabuński was born of Polish parentage in St. Petersburg, Russia on April 14, 1895. He first started piano lessons at the age of six with Adolf Jaroszewski [3] and continued studying with Roch Hill. [4] At the age of ten he entered the St. Petersburg Imperial Conservatory of Music where he studied piano with Leonid Nikolayev and Felix Blumenfeld. [5] His other teachers at the conservatory included Vassily Safonov (chamber music performance), Joseph Vitols (theory), and W. Kalafati and Nicholas Medtner (composition). While completing his musical studies at the Conservatory, Łabuński also studied for four years at the St. Petersburg University. His debut as a piano soloist took place in St. Petersburg performing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto in the autumn of 1913. Subsequent performances of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra in F-sharp minor, Op. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat minor, Op. 23 took place in 1914.

Russia was home for Łabuński for the first 23 years of his life. His father was an engineer who specialized in the construction of railroad cars, and managed two factories, causing the family to spend some years in Moscow and other years in St. Petersburg. By the time he was three and a half years old, Wiktor was able to read in both Russian and Polish. His German and French language skills were first acquired from governesses he had as a child, but they were later polished with eight years of formal education. During World War I he served as a lieutenant in the Russian army. In 1918, the last year of the Great War and the year which saw an independent Poland resurface on the map of Europe, the Łabuński family relocated to Poland. Here Wiktor joined the Polish army and fought in the war against the invading Bolshevik Russians.

Mr. Łabuński came from a very musical family. His father was an amateur singer, his mother played the piano and his older brother Feliks (1892-1979) became a well known composer who, following in the footsteps of his younger brother, also immigrated to the United States, settling in Cincinnati. His father-in-law was the famous Polish conductor Emil Młynarski, the first conductor of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra (1901) and later a faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (1929-31). Młynarski would give Wiktor conducting lessons when the Łabuński family moved to Warsaw in 1918. His wife Wanda, whom he married in July 1920 at Warsaw’s Church of the Visitation Sisters, and with whom he raised two sons Stanisław (b. 1922) and Stephen Bronisław (b. 1924), was also a pianist and gave lessons to students at the family’s home. His sister-in-law Aniela was the wife of still another musical giant—pianist Artur Rubinstein.

A Chronological Biographical Sketch Of Wiktor Łabuński’s Professional Career

1919-28: In June 1919, Wiktor wins the third prize at the Paderewski Piano Competition for Polish Pianists in Lublin, and in the autumn becomes the head of the piano department at the Cracow Conservatory [Konserwatorium Towarzystwa Muzycznego]. There he is affectionately referred to as “Wik” or “Łabun” by his students. While living in Cracow, Wiktor regularly performs recitals in many Polish cites, including Cracow, Katowice, Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), Warsaw and Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania). During that time, he also performs with the philharmonic orchestras of Bucharest (1927), Edinburgh and Glasgow (1925), and Warsaw (1920, twice in 1922, once in 1924 and ’25, and twice in 1926) as well as giving recitals in Paris. His orchestral repertoire includes Scriabin’s Concerto for Piano in F-sharp minor, Glazunov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Paderewski’s Polish Fantasyand works for piano and orchestra by Chopin. [6] Former Łabuński student Wanda Waliszewska wrote in 1968 that, based on his nine years of concerts, lecture recitals, radio broadcasts and studio classes in Cracow, Łabuński had more than 1,500 compositions in his repertoire. This period was also productive for Łabuński’s compositional output of numerous piano miniatures such as Variations on an Original Theme (1923); Toccata(1923), dedicated to his compatriot Josef Hofmann;[7] Preludio (1924), [a free transcription of a prelude by J.S. Bach] published by Bote & Bock in Berlin; Impromptu (1926), which was published in the United States by C.C. Birchard & Company; Rigaudon (1927) which won first place in a competition organized by and later published in the Polish periodical Muzyka; Menuet (1928), dedicated to his wife and published by C.C. Birchard and Co. in Boston.

1928: A concert tour of the United States takes place at the beginning of the year with Łabuński returning to Poland in May with a contract to teach in Tennessee in the autumn. A farewell concert is given in Cracow in June, and he returns to the United States. On December 11, Łabuński gives a recital in Carnegie Hall performing works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Nicholas Medtner and his own Impromptu.

1928-31: Head of the piano department of the Nashville Conservatory

1928-39: Writes a monthly feature story for the Polish magazine Kurjer Ilustrowany[Illustrated Courier].[8]

1929: On February 8, 1929, he plays Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra with Henry Verbrugglen conducting at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville.[9]

1931-33 and 1935-37: Professor and director of the Memphis College of Music in Tennessee.[10] The family resides at 1216 Union Ave. in Memphis.

1932: Completes his Concertino for Piano in C minor, Op. 10. His Etude in A minor for solo piano is published by B.F. Wood in Boston.

1934-35: Wiktor returns to Poland “to play 40 recitals and appear as guest conductor with the Warsaw Philharmonic. He was invited to remain in Warsaw as first conductor, but carried out his original plan of returning for a permanent residence in the United States.” (Kansas City Star, May 14, 1937.)[11] The real reason for returning to Poland, however, was to be at the side of his ailing father-in-law Emil Młynarski who dies on April 15, 1935. A review of one of Łabuński’s concerts, written by Mateusz Gliński, the editor of the magazine Muzyka, read, “Today, (Łabuński) can be looked upon as one of our leading pianists.”[12]

1935: In August, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia confers an honorary doctorate upon him.[13] During that same month, Łabuński writes three consecutive Sunday articles about European life for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the first of which appears on Sunday, August 4. On December 29, Łabuński is the featured soloist for Paderewski’s Polish Fantasy on Original Themes for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 19 with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, Artur Rodziński conducting; the concert marks the Diamond Jubilee of Paderewski’s birth.[14] Four easy piano pieces for children are published by Towarzystwo Wydawnicze Muzyki Polskiej in Warsaw under the title of Łatwy utwory, and, following the war, are reprinted by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne in Cracow. The March of the Toy Soldiers, Waltz of the Doll, Dance of the Cowboys, and Toccatina entertain a generation of young Polish pianists.[15]

1936: His brother Feliks Roderick immigrates to the United States.

1937: In January, John Thompson, Director of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music and the famous author of the piano teaching series that bears his name, offers Łabuński a teaching position.[16] Wiktor gives his first public performance in Kansas City at the Atkins Auditorium of the Nelson Gallery of Art in an all-Chopin recital on May 14. He returns to Kansas City in September to head the piano department of the Conservatory of Music.[17]

1937-41: Piano Professor and Piano Department Head of the Conservatory of Music of Kansas City. He also gives an annual series of piano lecture recitals at the home of Henry J. Haskell, publisher of the Kansas City Star and at onetime Chairman of the Board for the Kansas City Conservatory. The Łabuński family resides at 5801 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri.

1939: Łabuński performs his Concerto in C Major for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 16 with the Kansas City Philharmonic, Karl Krueger cond., on February 16 and 17 at the Municipal Auditorium’s Music Hall. The concerto’s three movements are Polish in its formal characteristics: homage to Chopin framed within Polish dance forms. They are: I. Krakowiak, II. Nocturne, and III. Mazurek. On July 11, 1939 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Łabuński performs Paderewski’s Polish Fantasy on Original Themes for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 19 with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, Jerzy Bojanowski cond.[18] The Polish pianist and composer becomes an American citizen.

1940: A peak year in Łabuński’s career. In April, the pianist-composer completes his Symphony No. 1 in G minor which was due to be premiered by the Rochester Symphony Orchestra under Dr. Howard Hanson.[19] The first performance, however, takes place with the Kansas City Concert Orchestra (a federally funded WPA orchestra) on August 18 with the composer conducting.[20] The concert is repeated three times.[21] He signs a two-year contract with the Musical Artists’ Bureau in New York. The manuscripts of his Piano Concerto and Symphony are copied and placed in the Fleischer Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia. In October, he premieres his Variations on an Original Theme during a recital at Kansas City’s Atkins Auditorium. In November, he appears as soloist with the Kansas City Philharmonic performing Glazunov’s 1st Piano Concerto with Karl Kruger conducting. That same season sees him performing Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto.[22]

1941-58: Director of the Kansas City Conservatory and Professor of Piano.

1942: In Chicago, another performance of Paderewski’s Polish Fantasy on Original Themes for Piano and Orchestra with Łabuński as soloist takes place at a Grant Park Summer Concert with Jerzy Bojanowski and his orchestra on August 24.[23]

1943: Łabuński’s Four Variations on a Theme by Paganini for solo piano, a winning composition in a contest sponsored by the Society of American Musicians, is published by Carl Fischer in New York. As of July 2004, the work was still in print and found in the publisher’s online catalogue. Reminiscence, a work for solo piano, is published by G. Schirmer in New York. Sometime during the 1943-44 concert season a performance of two movements from Łabuński’s Symphony takes place with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.[24]

Autographed copy of Łabuński’s Four Variations on a Theme by Paganini; courtesy of the Music Reading Room, Warsaw University Library.

1945: The premiere of Łabuński’s Variations for Piano and Orchestra takes place in Kansas City. The composition is an orchestrated version of the 1923 work for piano solo

1947: A performance of the Variations for Piano and Orchestra takes place in Knoxville.[25] The solo piano piece Second Impromptu is published by Century Music Publishing Co. in New York; the work is dedicated to the Hungarian pianist Andor Földes. Łabuński is a juror at the Rachmaninoff Competition in Los Angeles. While staying with his brother-in-law Artur Rubinstein, he meets Igor Stravinsky.

1949: In Kansas City, to mark the centennial of Chopin’s death, Łabuński performs nearly 100 works by Chopin in five concerts with the assistance of New York Times critic Olin Downes who comments on the works.

1952: Performs Paderewski’s Polish Fantasy on Original Themes for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 19 with the Milwaukee “Stars” Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jerzy Bojanowski on Sunday, May 14, 1952 at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theatre.[26] Sometime during the early 1950’s, Łabuński performs the Polish Fantasy again with Vladimir Golschmann conducting the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.[27]

1954: Performs the premiere of his Patterns (1952, revised 1962), five short pieces for piano dedicated to Artur Rubinstein, in April at Atkins Auditorium.[28] As director of the Conservatory, Łabuński invites the Russian ballerina Tatiana Dokoudovska to form the Conservatory’s dance department.

1955: Town Hall recital in October, Łabuński’s first New York recital since 1928. The program includes works by Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Schumann and his own Patterns.

1956: Łabuński composes Six Piano Pieces (unpublished and later revised in 1962). No. 5—Rustic Dance—can be found in the Polish Music Center Collection.

1957: Łabuński performs Paderewski’s Polish Fantasy for piano and orchestra with the Kansas City Philharmonic, Hans Schwieger cond., on January 29. The world premiere performance of his Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra takes place with the Kansas City Philharmonic on May 15. An additional performance takes place at the graduation ceremony of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music with its student orchestra and the Nettleton Twins performing under the direction of Dr. Francis Buebendorf on May 31.[29]

1958: At the end of the 1957-58 academic year, Łabuński retires and becomes artist-in-residence and professor emeritus at the Conservatory. Wiktor’s position as director is replaced with a governing body of three Conservatory faculty members, elected by the faculty itself, until it is incorporated into the University of Kansas City in 1959.[30]

1959: Łabuński takes on the position of a Russian language instructor at the Kansas City Metropolitan Junior College. Pianist Rudolph Ganz invites Łabuński to serve as juror with him for the first Rudolph Ganz Midwest Biennial Award for Pianists, held at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.[31] In what is believed to be the first triple simulcast using both radio and television broadcasting facilities in the United States, the Kansas City Philharmonic orchestra performs Łabuński’s Concertino in C minor for Piano with 12-year old pianist Milton Granger and conductor Hans Schwieger on December 13. The performance is simultaneously broadcast on KCMO, KCMO-FM and Channel 5 in order to create a stereophonic effect.

1960: On February 13, Łabuński performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in an arrangement for piano and orchestra by American composer Wallingford Riegger with the Kansas City Philharmonic, Hans Schwieger cond.

1962: The 25th anniversary of his arrival in Kansas City is celebrated with an all-Chopin recital.

1963: Łabuński celebrates the 50th anniversary of his artistic career by performing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3 in C minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 37. The anniversary concert is given under the baton of Hans Schwieger with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra. Schwieger’s teacher Herman Abendroth conducted a performance of the same concerto with Łabuński performing with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in 1925.

1965: On April 13, 1965, Łabuński’s 70th birthday, Kansas City Mayor Ilus W. Davis proclaims that day as “Wiktor Łabuński Day.”

1967: In December to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his being a Kansas Citian, the composer conducts his Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra and pianists Gerald Kemner and Walter Cook.

1968: Wanda Labuńska dies on May 7 at the age of 71.

1970: Wiktor performs Chopin’s Andante spinato and Grande Polonaise in E-flat Major, Op. 22 with the Kansas City Civic Orchestra.[32]

1971: The Kansas City Musical Club presents Łabuński with their annual award for outstanding contributions to music in Kansas City.

1973: Rockhurst College (Kansas City, Missouri) presents him with their Pro Meritisaward.

1974: Wiktor Łabuński dies at the age of 78 on January 26 in a nursing home in Lenexa, Kansas.

During his career in North America, Łabuński performed in 25 American states and in Canada and was the featured soloist or conductor with the orchestras of Chicago (Grant Park), Cleveland, Kansas City, Knoxville, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Toronto and Tulsa. He gave over 200 recitals in Kansas City alone.

In addition to the influential role he played in the lives of two generations of Polish and American classical musicians, Wiktor Łabuński also had a hand in training one of Broadway’s most outstanding composers: John Kander. A Kansas Citian and the composer of the award-winning musicals Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Chicago, Kander studied piano with Wiktor while he was in high school. In an interview for the Kansas City Star, Kander was quoted as saying, “Łabuński exposed me to a lot of music that I would have never heard, and he helped me to hear better.”[33]

Acknowledgements and Sources

I would like to thank the following people for their assistance in helping me prepare this paper: the Kansas City Conservatory of Music graduates who so kindly shared their reminiscences about Wiktor Łabuński with me; Mary Beveridge, Manager of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library for sending me many photocopies of press clippings and programs from the Special Collections’ Wiktor Łabuński File and the Kansas City Philharmonic scrapbooks; Laura Gayle Green, music/media librarian of the Music Library and Cynthia G. Edwards, Senior Archives Specialist, University Archives, University of Missouri-Kansas City; David Clark, Archivist, Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri; Marcia Crossley Whitcomb of Denver, Colorado for helping me solicit contributions for this article and for often being my personal Kansas City Conservatory resource person; Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM) in Cracow for permission to reprint Valse de la poupée; Ruch Muzyczny in Warsaw for the Łabuński photos; the Music Reading Room of Warsaw University Library for the autographed cover of Four Variations on a Theme by Paganini; Gino Francesconi, Archivist & Museum Director, Carnegie Hall, New York; Joanne M. Seitter, CA, Archivist, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia; Steve Sundell, Librarian, Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Jane Thomas, Reader Service, Librarian, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee; Christopher Slavik, Archivist, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Carol Jacobs, Archivist, the Cleveland Orchestra; Gwen Pappas, Public Affairs Department, Minnesota Orchestra; Ellen Connolly, Executive Assistant, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; John M. Hein, Head, Technical Services Division, University of North Florida Library, Jacksonville; Ronald A. Brown, pianist and former Łabuński student, for the hospitality shown to me while I was doing research in Kansas City; the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York, without whose financial help to research Polish composers who immigrated to the United States this tribute to Wiktor Łabuński would never have been possible.


  • Adams, Robert D. W. Adams. Program Notes for Łabuński’s Concerto in C Major for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 16. Program for the Kansas City Philharmonic Ninth Subscription Concert, February 16 and 17, 1939.
  • Belanger, Richard J. Wiktor Labunski: Polish-American Musician in Kansas City, 1937-1974. Dissertation. Columbia University Teachers College: New York, 1982.
  • Chominski, Józef (ed.) “Wiktor Łabuński” in Słownik Muzyków Polskich(Dictionary of Polish Musicians) Vol. II. Cracow: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, 1964, p. 342.
  • Conservatory of Music of the University of Missouri—Kansas City. A Bibliography of Faculty Compositions. Kansas City: 1969, pp. 13-14.
  • Dybowski, Stanisław. “Wiktor Łabuński” in Słownik Pianistów Polskich(Dictionary of Polish Pianists). Warsaw: Selene, 2003, pp. 377-381.
  • Gliński, Mateusz. Concert Review. Muzyka 10-12 (December 1934), p. 375.
  • Kansas City Philharmonic Scrapbooks. Missouri Valley Special Collection, Kansas City Public Library.
  • Łabuński, Wiktor. “Abroad, Public Pays Bill for Radio, Gets Propaganda.” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 18, 1935: Section V, p. 5.
  • —. “The College Teacher of Piano Appeals to the Private Teacher,” reprint found in Volume of Proceedings of the Music Teachers National Association for 1947, pp. 162-168.
  • —. “Depression, for Europeans Meant Tightening the Belt.” Memphis Commercial Appeal, Section V (August 11, 1935), p. 5 .
  • —. “Kolacja w Pullmanie,” (A Visit to Paderewski’s Pullman). Zycie muzyczne i teatralne 2 no. 5/6 (May-June 1935), p. 28-29. (English trans. by Maria Piłatowicz in Polish Music Journal, Vol. 4 no. 2, Winter 2001. )
  • —. “Memories of Russia’s Ordeal, Kansas Citian Was Buffeted by Revolution.” The Kansas City Times(November 7, 1967).
  • —. “Mid-Western Perspective: An Educator looks to Europe—Serious learning should be goal”. The Kansas City Star(June 4, 1967).
  • —.”O szkolnictwie muzycznym w Ameryce” (About Musical Schooling in America). Muzyka, Vol. VI (June 30, 1929), pp. 350-351.
  • —. Memoirs(an untitled and unpublished 902-page typewritten manuscript written in the 1960s). University of Missouri-Kansas City Archives.
  • —.”Pomówmy o krytyce” (Let’s Talk about Criticism). Muzyka, Vol. XII (1935), pp. 228-230.
  • —. “War Current Runs Strong in Europe, Says Memphian.” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 4, 1935: Section V, p. 5.
  • Slonimsky, Nicolas. Slonimsky Collection. Box 147, Folder 7. Library of Congress, Washington. DC.
  • —. “Wiktor Labunski” in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians5th ed. New York: G. Schirmer, 1958, p. 892.
  • —. “Wiktor Labunski” in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians6th ed. New York: Schirmer Books, 1978, pp. 954-955.
  • Truman, Harry S. Letter to Wiktor Łabuński. January 16, 1958. Archives: Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri.
  • Waliszewska, Wanda. O Wiktorze Łabuńskim(About Wiktor Łabuński). Ruch Muzyczny December no. 23, 1968.

Press Clippings from The Kansas City Star (KCS) or The Kansas City Times(KCT):


[1]. Łabuński’s orchestral music includes a symphony and four works for piano and orchestra. [Back]

[2]. According to Belanger, Łabuński returned to Europe sometime after he retired as Director of the Kansas City Conservatory. He does not give the date, however, nor does he mention if the trip to Europe included Poland. He only mentions that during that trip Łabuński met with his sister Nelly for the first time in 30 years. Regarding Warsaw’s International Chopin competition: Even though Wiktor never served as a juror at one of the competitions, one his former students, Blanka Uribe, won an honorable mention at the 1965 competition, the one in which Martha Argerich took first place. [Back]

[3]. Dybowski, p. 377. [Back]

[4]. Although the basic music reference sources do not mention Roch Hill as one of Łabuński’s teachers, Jocelyn Dougherty of The Kansas City Star wrote in the article Every Note a New Musical Trial on February 10, 1961 that Łabuński was not only a student of his but that the two still corresponded with each other at that time. The article was based on an interview with Łabuński. Likewise, music critic John Haskins of The Kansas City Star wrote on December 17, 1967, that Łabuński had also taken some lessons with the pianist-composer Eugen d’Albert. [Back]

[5]. In a letter to Nicholas Slonimsky dated October 18, 1957, Łabuński gives his piano teachers as having been Roch Hill, Felix Blumenfeld and Wassili Safanoff. [Back]

[6]. Dybowski, p. 378. [Back]

[7]. A photocopy of the Toccata manuscript exists in the library of the Polish Composers’ Union in Warsaw, but it bears the date “1957,” which would have been the year that Josef Hofmann died. [Back]

[8]. In Poland during this time, there was no monthly or weekly magazine by this title given by Łabuński in a 1961 Kansas City newspaper interview. There was, however, a daily newspaper published under this title of Ilustrowany Kuryier Codzienny in Cracow during that period. [Back]

[9]. Courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra Archives. [Back]

[10]. From correspondence between Łabuński and Mary Bok, the founder and president of the Curtis Institute of Music, one can ascertain that Łabuński grew weary of Memphis. For one thing, he dreaded the unbearable summer heat. Secondly, because of the economic depression, the College of Music had financial problems. Finally, Łabuński became frustrated when he ran into trouble with the musicians’ union by trying to form a symphonic orchestra which would have been paid by splitting the gross income taken from ticket sales. The union insisted on set guaranteed fees. This would not be the last time that Łabuński had problems seeing eye to eye with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). In either December 1957 or January 1958, Łabuński asked former United States President Harry S. Truman to intervene in a matter involving James Petrillo, the controversial president of the AFM from 1940 to 1958. President Truman wrote back, “…there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.” (Archives: Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri; Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). [Back]

[11]. Belanger lists these concerts as having been orchestral concerts, p. 45. [Back]

[12]. “…może on być dziś uważany za jednego z naszych czołowych pianistów.” [Back]

[13]. Based on correspondence between Łabuński and Mary Bok, it is known that Łabuński earlier inquired about taking an examination in order to receive an American Bachelor’s degree of music. Łabuński felt that an American degree would help further his position as a music administrator. Pianist Josef Hofmann, director of the Curtis Institute, and Mary Bok answered his request by surprising him with an honorary doctorate. [Back]

[14]. Courtesy of the Cleveland Orchestra Archives. [Back]

[15]. The third and last edition was printed in 1956. [Back]

[16]. Belanger, p. 46. [Back]

[17]. The Kansas City Conservatory of Music was founded in 1906. [Back]

[18]. Courtesy of the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [Back]

[19]. The Kansas City Star, April 7, 1940. However, according to the Rochester Symphony Orchestra Archives, there is no record of Łabuński’s Symphony being performed in either the 1939-40 or 1940-41 season. Similarly, the Eastman School of Music has no record of Hanson conducting the composition there. [Back]

[20]. Slominsky states that only the second movement was performed at this concert. [Back]

[21]. Belanger, 57. [Back]

[22]. Ibid. [Back]

[23]. Courtesy of the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [Back]

[24]. This is based on a clipping from the “St. Louis Symphony Journal” found in the Wiktor Łabuński folder in the Slonimsky Collection. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, which claims to be America’s oldest symphony orchestra, does not have an archivist that can confirm the date of this performance. It is very possible that Łabuński conducted this performance. [Back]

[25]. Slonimsky Collection. [Back]

[26]. Courtesy of the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [Back]

[27]. Taken from an undated press clipping “Paderewski Piece Is a Soloist’s Choice” in scrapbook no. 19 (1956-57) of the Kansas City Philharmonic. [Back]

[28]. A photocopy of the Patterns manuscript, originally owned by Virginia French Burkhart, has been donated to the Polish Music Center by Julianne McLean. [Back]

[29]. Slonimsky Collection. [Back]

[30]. The Impromptu (The Conservatory of Music Yearbook). Kansas City, Missouri: Intercollegiate Press, 1958. In 1963, the Conservatory, along with the University of Kansas City, became incorporated into the University of Missouri-Kansas City. [Back]

[31]. Courtesy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Archives. [Back]

[32]. Belanger, p. 101. [Back]

[33]. KCS, October 6, 2002. [Back]


Born This Month

  • 1 September 1900 – Kazimierz WILKOMIRSKI, cellist, conductor, teacher (died in 1990)
  • 5 September 1924 – Krystyna MOSZUMAŃSKA-NAZAR, composer
  • 5 September 1938 – Piotr LACHERT, pianist, composer, pedagogue
  • 6 September 1916 – Tadeusz DOBRZANSKI, composer and conductor
  • 7 September 1943 – Elżbieta STEFAŃSKA, harpsichordist
  • 9 September 1921 – Andrzej DOBROWOLSKI, composer (died in 1989)
  • 9 September 1923 – Andrzej BACHLEDA, tenor
  • 13 September 1896 – Tadeusz SZELIGOWSKI (died 10 January 1963), composer
  • 14 September 1937 – Jan ASTRIAB, composer
  • 14 September 1914 – Michal SPISAK, composer (died 29 January 1965, Paris)
  • 16 September 1895 – Karol RATHAUS, composer, pianist (died 21 November 1954, New York)
  • 16 September 1891 – Czeslaw MAREK, composer, pianist
  • 18 September 1919 – Edward BURY, composer and theory teacher
  • 18 September 1928 – Adam WALACINSKI, composer and music critic
  • 18 September 1883 – Ludomir RÓŻYCKI (died 1 January 1953), composer
  • 19 September 1938 – Zygmunt KRAUZE, composer and pianist
  • 22 September 1940 – Edward BOGUSLAWSKI, composer
  • 23 September 1912 – Irena PFEIFFER, composer, conductor.
  • 24 September 1914 – Andrzej PANUFNIK (died 27 October 1991)
  • 30 September 1942 – Andrzej DUTKIEWICZ, pianist and composer
  • 30 September 1947 – Jan OLESZKOWICZ, composer


Died This Month

  • 13 September 1977 – Leopold STOKOWSKI (born 18 April 1882), conductor and composer
  • 15 September 1895 – Jan KLECZYNSKI (b. 8 June 1857), pianist and music critic
  • 15 September 1944 – Bronislaw WOLFSTAHL, composer, pianist, conductor (b. 22 July 1883)
  • 18 September 1857 – Karol KURPINSKI (b. 6 March 1785), composer and conductor
  • 26 September 1944 – Seweryn BARBAG (b. 4 September 1891), musicologist.
  • 29 September 1954 – Alfred GRADSTEIN (born 30 October 1904), composer, and social activist
  • 27 September 1943 – Wacław GIEBUROWSKI (born 6 February 1878), priest, choral conductor and musicologist
  • 28 September 1939 – Halina SZMOLC-FITELBERG (born 25 December 1892), dancer (Diaghilev ensemble, Grand Theatre)
  • 28 September 1956 – Walerian BIERDAJEW, conductor and teacher (b. 7 March 1885)
  • 29 September 1861 – Tekla BADARZEWSKA-BARANOWSKA (b. 1834), composer of “The Maiden’s Prayer”


Czesław Miłosz

According to the Los Angeles Times(Sunday, August 15, 2004), “Czesław Miłosz, the Nobel Prize-winning poet who gained international acclaim by conveying the great spiritual and political struggles in postwar Europe and beyond, died Saturday in Krakow, Poland. He was 93. Miłosz, who suffered from cardiovascular problems, died at his home, the Polish news agency PAP reported.” Miłosz was one of the most respected thinkers of his time. Although born in Lituania, Poland was his heritage and became is homeland; his translations of Polish texts helped to gain international regard for the writers and the country. The enormity of his collections of writings (including poetry as well as novels and essays) and the depth of his thoughts and his faith has been inspirational around the world.

Bogusław Madey

Professor Bogusław Madey, composer, pianist, teacher and conductor of the Grand Theatre National Opera for many years, died on Monday 16 August at the age of 72.