A review by Marek Zebrowski

Cellist Jan Kalinowski and pianist Marek Szlezer—also known as the Cracow Duo—are quite familiar to audiences in California after their numerous appearances at USC, the Holocaust Museum, and the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, among others. Their latest Los Angeles performance was on March 10 in Ramo Hall on the USC Campus. This concert was part of the second half of the Cracow Duo’s 2023-2024 U.S. tour, which began last fall with the Oct. 31 concert at the Morgan Library in New York and an engagement at the Paderewski Festival on Nov. 3.

After a winter break for the holidays, the Cracow Duo were back in the U.S. in early March to perform in Atlanta, New York, El Paso, Encinitas (CA), as well as in Bemidji and Grand Rapids (MN). Their USC recital program opened with a sparkling rendition of Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise, Op. 3. This brilliant and charming salon piece received an elegant and highly assured treatment from both performers for whom this Polonaise was always one of their indisputable stage trademarks. With their next selection, Rachmaninov’s celebrated Vocalise, Kalinowski and Szlezer demonstrated their abundant lyrical gifts in a highly satisfactory interpretation of this all-time favorite.

Since their USC program bore the title “From Polonaise to Tango,” the LA audience on that sunny March  afternoon was treated to the evocative and suave performances of José Bragato’s Milontan and Astor Piazzolla’s Ave Maria. The closing work on the program was Aleksander Tansman’s Fantaisie for Cello and Piano, where the Cracow Duo demonstrated in equal measure their probing musicianship and admirable poise by delivering the closing section of the Fantaisie with breathtaking gusto. Two encores capped another memorable concert of these two very talented artists, whose worldwide career continues to blossom.

The Cracow Duo’s 2023-2024 US tour was part of the Polish Music on Stage program coordinated by the National Institute of Music and Dance (NIMiT) and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (MKiDN). Other organizers and sponsors included the Polish Institute New York, POLAM Federal Credit Union, Porta Musicae Artistic Association, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles, and the USC Polish Music Center.

Read an interview with the Cracow Duo conducted by Bożena U. Zaremba during their concert event in Altanta. Available in English or in Polish: Two Different Personalities, One Common Goal – Interview with Cracow Duo (chopinatlanta.org) or Dwie odmienne osobowości, jeden wspólny cel (Culture Avenue)