With the winter pandemic surge seemingly behind us and with spring giving way to the high summer months, the hopes for fair weather and smooth sailing ahead make so many PMC friends feel much encouraged about the prospects for returning to some kind of a new normal. This is especially true for many artists who suffered a cascade of cancelled concerts, indefinitely postponed premieres of new works and all kinds of educational activities that were severely curtailed or halted altogether for well over a year. 

Nonetheless, not only during these difficult times but also in the future, the music has and will continue to accompany and positively transform our lives. In the coming week, we will be posting vignettes about artist friends of the PMC who have demonstrated how they’ve bravely kept being creative and how they continue to participate in the cultural lives of their communities. Meet two of these musicians below.

Baczewska Back Onstage

Baczewska performing at the 2017 Paderewski Festival

Versatile and refined pianist Magdalena Baczewska-Stern (who is also a noted harpsichord virtuoso) has been a friend of the Polish Music Center since her successful California debut at the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles in 2017. Born in Poland and based in New York City, Ms. Baczewska-Stern has been very active throughout 2020, posting her Bach@Home series on her YouTube channel. More recently, she has released a new solo album with music by W.A. Mozart that is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, as well as YouTube

Outside of the virtual realm, earlier this spring Ms. Baczewska-Stern gave a live recital at the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York. Her all-Chopin program commemorated Chopin’s birthday and was given to a socially-distanced and highly selective audience of the diplomatic corps and international press. 

A more recent and also live recital—as well as Magdalena’s first post-pandemic public performance—took place on May 22 at the historic Jamesport Meeting House. For this appearance Ms. Baczewska-Stern selected a fascinating program of works by Mozart and Chopin as well as compositions by such Black American composers as Margaret Bonds and Thomas ‘Blind Tom’ Wiggins. For more information on this live-streamed recital please click here.

In her May press release, the artist pointedly wrote, “As the gorgeous spring weather brightens up our days, there seems to be an increasing feeling of hope that the worst of the pandemic is now truly behind us. Looking forward to seeing the reopening of cultural life that we have missed so much, I am pleased to share [these musical] updates with you.” 

Ms. Baczewska-Stern also shared the news of being awarded the “Culture, Science and Education Initiative Grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. The Department of Cooperation with the Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad supports activities undertaken by the Polish community in order to shape and strengthen a positive image of Poland in the world.”

Congratulations, Magdalena! It’s wonderful to have this news from you and we’d like to encourage all of our readers to check every link on your website!

Vnukowski Channeling Chopin

Daniel VnukowskiSince the onset of the Covid pandemic, Polish-Canadian pianist Daniel Vnukowski has been actively live-streaming concerts from his home base. Vnukowski even wrote an article for the LA Times entitled “As a concert pianist, the stage is my life. But the pandemic taught me to love the livestream.” Built around many interesting repertoire choices, his virtual broadcasts have proven very successful and have reached over half a million viewers worldwide.

More recently, Maestro Vnukowski came up with an idea to celebrate this year’s summer solstice—the day when the sun reaches its zenith—with two programs about one of his favorite composers, Fryderyk Chopin. Clearly, Chopin’s music represents for Vnukowski the apogee of creative and pianistic achievement and with that in mind, two of Vnukowski’s “Chopin Solstice” programs will be aired online later this month. 

In the first broadcast, Vnukowski will invite his worldwide audience to a virtual discussion with the distinguished musicologist and Chopin scholar, Dr. Alan Walker. For this free program (RSVP is required), Maestro Vnukowski will somewhat unusually assume the role of an obnoxious 19th century music critic. Scheduled for 7 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 23, this program promises to not only be very entertaining but also will provide different perspectives for discussing and examining Chopin’s genius, a point that was obviously beyond question to many of his friends and contemporaries. The great German poet, Heinrich Heine said of Chopin and his music that “Poland gave him the knightly spirit and the suffering of the times, France—panache and grace, and Germany gave him romantic depth.” French painter, Eugène Delacroix simply stated that, “Chopin is the truest artist I have ever met in my life.”

Right on the heels of discussing Chopin and his music, there will also be a chance to hear Vnukowski live a few days later. His all-Chopin recital will reach its zenith (and conclusion) with one of the great masterpieces, Ballade in F minor, Op. 52. This virtual performance will take place on Saturday, June 26 at 3 p.m. EDT and has a $12 ticket price. Event times for both programs are given for the Eastern Time zone. For more details please visit collingwoodfestival.com/summer-solstice.


[Sources: press releases, music.columbia.edu, collingwoodfestival.com; Image source (header): latimes.com]