April 1999

Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 5, no. 4

News Flash

New Name: USC Thornton School Of Music

On 23 March 1999, USC President, Steven B. Sample and Dean of USC School of Music, Larry Livingston announced the largest gift ever given to an American music school – $25 million donated to the USC School of Music Endowment Fund by renowned philanthropist, Flora Thornton. The School was renamed to honor her and the announcement was celebrated in a special ceremony, the details of which were known only to the select few before the day of the event.

During her speech, Ms. Thornton said that one of her tasks now is the distribution of the inheritance from her late husband to various charitable causes. Why music? Ms. Thornton believes that music and the arts in general provide people with spiritual respite and beauty that is more and more necessary in our stressful and difficult times. We are as delighted about this wonderful development as all the students, faculty members and staff at the USC Thornton School of Music. Perhaps even more so: the special articles about the naming of our School of Music after Ms. Thornton (in Los Angeles Times  and New York Times ) included quotes from Polish composer, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki who praised the “wonderful performers of the best orchestra he ever worked with” – that is the USC student orchestra with whom he prepared North America’s first performance of Symphony no. 3 under his baton (3 October 1997). As organizers of the Górecki Autumn  that included this concert as its highlight, we are happy to be remembered during this momentous event for our home institution.

Ms. Thornton pursued the career of a singer before her marriage to Mr. Charles B. “Tex” Thornton, the leader of Litton Industries, and after his death in 1981 she became a patron of the arts. Before this donation she created a scholarship for students of voice at USC and became a personal friend of the School. During her remarks at the ceremony, Ms. Thornton expressed a belief that it is the role of the arts, especially music, to re-introduce beauty, tranquility, and harmony to the modern world, so chaotic and filled with violence. She emphasized that taking time to listen and to perform music makes the world a better place to live in.


The Chopin Year

The National Philharmonic in Poland has planned 16 concerts for the Chopin Year. Evgeni Kissin, Krystian Zimerman and Murray Perahia are among the invited artists. Chopin in jazz form will be heard in the fall in concerts by Adam Makowicz, Urszula Dudziak and Hanna Banaszak [reports musicologist Zbigniew Granat in the Feb 26th issue of Nowy Dziennik of New York].

Among other events is the reproduction of Chopin’s first public recital (as well as his last public concert in Warsaw) prepared by Teatr Wielki in Warsaw. There will be a joint concert by Bella Davidovich and Halina Czerny-Stefanska as well as concerts of Chopin’s music on restored instruments of Chopin’s era (along with concerts of chamber and symphonic music of composers of that era). France also, is planning to present a month of recitals dedicated to all of the works by Chopin to be presented by pianists from all over the world, including: Luisada, Laforet, Ohlsson, Czerny-Stefanska, Valdemosa. The Chopin Society of Paris will present a replica of Chopin’s funeral mass.

Chopin Symposium In Geneva

Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, the eminent Chopin scholar from Switzerland, has organized a symposium about the music of one of Poland’s greatest composers. It was held at the University of Geneva on 3-6 February 1999. The participants came from Switzerland, France, Poland, Great Britain, and the U.S.. The first session presented the research for a new edition of Chopin’s music prepared by Peters Music Publishers and conducted by Zofia Chechlińska, Krzysztof Grabowski, John Rink Jean Jacques Egeldinger, and Jeffrey Kallberg. Jim Samson compared etudes by Chopin and Liszt, and David Winston and Pierre Goy presented 19th century instruments (by Hofmann, Pleyel, Erard). Dominique Merlet discussed the use of pedal in Chopin’s music and gave master classes for the students in Geneva Conservatory of Music. Yves Gerard, Jean-Michel Nectoux and Irena Poniatowska focused on the reception of Chopin’s music in France (Paris Conservtoire, Marcel Proust, Liszt’s biography of Chopin).

Chopin Among Friends

Prof. Irena Poniatowska, active in the Chopin Academy of Poland, has edited four volumes in a series of studies, conference proceedings and documents entitled, “Chopin w Kręgu Przyjaciół” (Chopin in the Circle of his Friends). The first volume consists of two studies, Chopin-Liszt (by Poniatowska) and Chopin-Bellini (by Wojciech Nowik); the second by Sophie Ruhlmann, focuses on the friendship of Chopin and Franchomme. The third part of the series presents the proceedings of a scholarly session entitled “Chopin-Schumann-Clara Wieck Schumann” that took place in December 1996. This volume is fully bi-lingual, with page-by-page juxtaposition of Polish and German versions of the same texts. The fourth volume focuses on Chopin and Polish composers (Elsner, Dobrzyński, Lipiński) as well as Chopin’s rubato (studies by Jan Ekier, Piotr Kamiński, Krystyna Juszyńska and Piotr Rogowski).

The studies and documents are an important addition to Chopin literature in Poland; the volumes may be obtained from the Polish Chopin Academy in Warsaw.

Amadeus Orchestra – Homeless?

The Polish media recently reported a scandal in Poznań. The world-class orchestra “Amadeus” directed by Agnieszka Duczmal was given a short notice to vacate their offices and recording studio in the building belonging to the State Treasury (they have been given till the end of March). This space will be converted into offices for the District Inspector of Commerce that administers this building and need to house more clerks because of a recent reform of the administration system. The recording studio includes state of the art recording equipment and belongs to Radio Mercury. It would not be easy, and very costly, to rebuild it elsewhere. This cost and inconvenience seem unimportant to bureaucrats because, so far, the requests by Ms. Duczmal and Mr. Piotr Frydryszek (president of the radio station) that the decision be changed or at least its realization postponed, have fallen on deaf ears. It seems that the current post-Solidarity government, busily reforming the territorial structure of state administration has forgotten about some of its most important treasures, which attract international attention to their country and city. We wish Ms. Duczmal good luck in her struggle for the survival of the orchestra.

Polish Early Music Catalog By PWM

Polish Music Publishers [PWM EDITION – www.pwm.com.pl] has issued a catalog of early music, scores and books available from them. In the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, these materials may be ordered from Theodore Presser. Contact sales@presser.com

The catalog is a valuable resource for musicians and scholars searching information about such compositions as Ogiński’s Polonaise Farewell to the Homeland or Mikołaj Zieleński’s monumental choral pieces. The listings are all bi-lingual, in Polish and English. The medieval and renaissance choral repertoire includes lively Melodies for Polish Psalter  by Mikołaj Gomółka (16th c.) – 150 compositions for mixed choir, monumental masses by Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, Marcin Leopolita, and Bartłomiej Pękiel, as well as motets by Wacław z Szamotuł.

A large selection of vocal-instrumental works includes spectacular polychoral pieces by Mikołaj Zieleński, as well as Baroque compositions by Pękiel, Gorczycki, Szarzyński. There are only two stage works in the catalog, by Maciej Kamieński and Karol Kurpiński, but the selection of instrumental pieces and chamber music is very impressive, with keyboard pieces by Kurpiński, Szymanowska, violin compositions by Karol Lipiński, Józef Elsner, and others.

East-West Festival In Poland

The VIII International “East-West” Music Festival took place in March at Zielona Gora. During the 2-week meeting the Philharmonic Symphony of Zielona-Gora, the “Resonans con tutti” choir and soloists inaugurated the proceedings with music of Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (Lithuanian Rhapsody), Wojciech Kilar (Koscielec1909) and Karol Szymanowski (Stabat Mater). Other participants included cellist Ivan Monighetti, Berlin Philharmonic, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra from Vilnius, Russian pianist Aleksi Bowinow, and singers from Denmark and Sweden.

Skrowaczewski In San Diego

Stanisław Skrowaczewski astounded the audience in his recent performance with the San Diego Symphony in a program that included Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 1, with pianist Evelyn Chen, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and a Rossini overture.

The headline “Skrowaczewski’s wizardry enchants” by Valerie Scher, music critic, in the San Diego Union-Tribune on March 1st, served to introduce an impressive and laudatory review of the concert. She wrote, “Skrowaczewski demonstrated that he is, in the best sense, a maestro of the old school, whose meticulous approach recalls that of the Cleveland Orchestra’s George Szell. Let’s hope the symphony invites Skrowaczewski to conduct here again, and soon”. Other phrases “Beethoven’s Fifth…exceptionally vibrant performance…his body language was so expressive…unfailingly interesting to watch…conducting from memory, without use of score …musical ideas…often revelatory”. A reception for the maestro was organized by Salon Artystyczny, an affiliate of the American Council for Polish Culture, at the Marriott Hotel in San Diego.

Kosciuszko Foundation Ball

The Kosciuszko Foundation Annual Ball pays tribute this year to Poland’s greatest composer. “Chopin at the Waldorf” will be held on 24 April under the patronage of Maestro and Mrs. Krzysztof Penderecki. The Honorary Committee includes Van Clibrun, Marilyn Horne, Maestro Skrowaczewski, Abbey Simon, Marta Istomin of the Manhattan School of Music, Prof. Andrzej Chorosinski, rector of the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and Prof. Julian Gembalski, rector of the Szymanwoski Academy of Music in Katowice. Ball Chairpersons June LeBell of WQXR- FM and David Dubal of Juilliard have been working closely with the foundation in their Chamber Music and Chopin Anniversary Series. Mr. Dubal presented a weekly series of Chopin recitals at the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York.

With Fire And Sword

Krzesimir Dębski composed the music to the latest film of Jerzy Hoffman, “Ogniem i Mieczem” (With Fire and Sword) based on an historical novel by Noble winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz (he received this award for Quo Vadis). The CD of the music to this film has already sold more than 120,000 copies in Poland. The film is scheduled to be shown in Los Angeles on Poland’s national holiday, the anniversary of the May 3rd Constitution. The screening is sponsored by the Polish Consulate, Polish American Congress, PolAm and others Polish-American organizations.

Fire In The Mountains

On 23 March 1999 Dr. Timothy Cooley (Asst. Prof. of Ethnomusicology, University of California, Santa Barbara) gave a lecture at USC School of Music on “Constructing Authenticity in the Polish Tatras.” In the lecture he illustrated with video excerpts and musical recordings, Dr. Cooley pointed out the role of Polish intelligentsia in the creation of current musical repertoire and performance styles of the górale of the Tatra Mountains.

There is an enormous difference between songs and dances found in the mid-19th century collection by Oskar Kolberg (volumes 45 and 46 of his works) and those collected at the turn of the 20th century, and especially, by Stanisław Mierczyński in the 1920s. This difference, Dr. Cooley explained, may be attributed to the formative influence of educated Poles who travelled to the mountains and enjoyed their “tourist” experience which included listening to specially selected folk ensembles.

Dr. Cooley is the foremost American authority on górale music; a collection of archival recordings from the Chicago area (and from Poland) included his program notes. The CD entitled, “Fire in the Mountains” is available from Yazoo.

Chopin At The Embassy

Juyeon Kang, last year’s winner of the 5th Joseph Hofmann Piano Competition held in South Carolina performed a recital of music by Chopin, Hofmann, and Mozart at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C.. She played on the Paderewski piano housed at the Embassy. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Ms. Kang is pursuing her Doctorate in Piano Performance and Pedagogy of Music Theory.

The Panufniks In London

Lady Camilla Panufnik had an exhibition of her photographs of Andrzej Panufnik at the Polish Cultural Institute in London, 12 Febuary – 7 March (it had previously been seen abroad, including Warsaw). The composer’s daughter, Roxanna Panufnik will be featured on the program of BBC Singers at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 24 April. Her Deus, Deus Meus will also be performed.

Lutoslawski Performances In The UK

Lutoslawski’s Symphony no.3 has been performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle. The concerts took place at the Royal Festival Hall, London (6 March) and at the Symphony Hall, Birningham (12 March). Symphony no.4 will be performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, at Cardiff on 24 June.

Press Review

by Wanda Wilk

Roman Markowicz reports on the films shown at the Lincoln Center Great Performers series recently. Although the highlight of the festival was the 3-hour film, “Richter, the Enigma” by Bruno Montsaingeona, several Polish pianists were shown in videos of some sort (some without sound): Artur Rubinstein (fragments of his 1964 Moscow All-Chopin recital), Ignacy Friedman, Josef Hofmann (playing Rachmaninov’s Prelude), Ignace Jan Paderewski, Mieczyslaw Horszowski (recital in Japan) and Henryk Neuhaus (related to Szymanowski).

A full page article on the front of “Przegląd Polski” a weekly supplement to the Nowy Dziennik is devoted to composer Krzysztof Penderecki and his Violin Concerto “Metamorphoses” which just won 2 Grammy awards. The articles is by Zbigniew Granat (in Polish).

New Books

Newest books in Polish from PWM (Polish Music Publishers) include:

  • Bacewicz by Małgorzata Gasiorowska.
  • Tadeusz Baird by Izabela Grzenkowicz. The sub-title “Może jestem za mało muzykiem” [Maybe I am not enough of a musician] is rather a modest statement for such a great composer.
  • Karol Szymanowski: Liryka i ekstaza (Lyricism and ecstasy) by Tadeusz Zieliński.
  • Rozmowy z Wojciechem Kilarem (Conversations with…) by Krystyna Podobinska & Leszek Polony. The subtitle quotes the composer as being happy with the gift of life.


Japanese cellist Danjulo Ishizaka, a student at the Hans Eisler Hochschule in Berlin, won 1st Prize in the II International Witold Lutosławski Cello Competition in Poland. He also received a special prize for the best rendition of Lutosławski’s Grave. Ishizaka is a winner of several international competitions, including the Tchaikovsky for younger performers.

Recent Conferences

Poles At The Music Library Association

Report by Barbara Zakrzewska-Nikiporczyk

The 68th Annual Meeting of the American Music Library Association took place on 17-20 March, 1999, in Los Angeles. Almost 500 participants representing different kinds of music libraries from every state met at the Biltmore Hotel. As usual, during the different sessions of particular committees or subcommittee, there were many opportunity to discuss problems connected with library automation, cataloging of music collections in the US MARC format, bibliographic control and instruction, electronic reference services, different library systems , information sharing, legislation, preservation of the documents and sheet music, statistics, subject access, technical services, and music librarianship in general.

This year three music librarians from Poland were invited for the conference. How did it happen? The answer is simple – these three librarians are currently working in the U.S. as catalogers of music collections:

  • Marlena Frackowski – ethnomusicologist graduated from the Institute of Musicology, Warsaw University, is now employed in Westminster Choir College of Rider University.
  • Stanisław Hrabia – musicologist from Krakow, who received the Kosciuszko Foundation scholarship for the cataloging of the music collections of the Polish Library, is working at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Dr. Barbara Zakrzewska-Nikiporczyk – music librarian and composer from Poznan University Library, who received the Kosciuszko Foundation fellowship for the cataloging of the collections of the Polish Music reference Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

It is not easy to find a position as a music cataloger in the U.S. – even for American candidates – so the employment of these three professionals from Poland in this country is a great success. All three librarians are involved in different research projects, giving papers at musicological and library conferences, collaborating with international music centers in the field of music bibliography. Marlena Frackowski has worked in the U.S. for over ten years; her field is research on music collections (in 1989 she published the article “The Laura Boulton Collection” in the Resound Quarterly vol. VIII no 3), electronic music databases (in 1998 she gave a paper at the MLA conference in Boston; the paper was entitled “Musica International: A choral score database for everybody”) and ethnomusicology as well (in 1996, during the 40th annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology she read her paper “Ethnomusicology in Poland”). Ms. Frackowski has been engaged in the organizational work within MLA, as a member of the Preservation Committee since 1997, and roundtable coordinator of discussions devoted to World Music.

Stanisław Hrabia when still in Poland (at the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow) worked on electronic databases created in the ISIS database, and later in the US MARC format within the VTLS library system. Recently he paid special attention to the creation of the authority files in the field of music, which in Poland are based on the French system of classification, Rameau. In 1997 he received a Kosciuszko Foundation fellowship to catalog the music holdings of the Polish Alliance Collection at the University of Pittsburgh. After the conclusion of the grant period, he remained at the library, continuing the project of cataloging rare prints and other Polish material held in the collection.

Barbara Zakrzewska-Nikiporczyk (i.e. your reporter) had been representing Poland during several conferences of the International Association of Music Libraries. Within the IAML she served as a member of the Bibliography Commission and is collaborating with two international projects: RILM (Repertuar International de la Litterature Musicale) and RIPM (Repertoir International de la Presse Musicale). She already prepared and published one volume within the RIPM series – “Ruch Muzyczny 1857-1863.” Her RIPM team received a grant from the Committee of Scholarly Research (Komitet Badań Naukowych) to create bibliographies of Polish music periodicals from the 19th century. The project will start in the summer of 1999.

Sonneck Society For American Music

Report by Maria Anna Harley

The 1999 Meeting of the Sonneck Society for American Music took place on 11-14 March 1999 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Society was formerly known as the “Sonneck Society” to honor Oscar Sonneck from the Library of Congress whose unflinching devotion to American music provided an inspiration to the Society’s founders. The name change took place during this Meeting. Why should we mention this event here? Because the program included a session on “Polish Immigrants” consisting of two papers, by Dr.Linda Schubert and yours truly, Maria Anna Harley. Dr. Schubert presented an expanded version of her paper originally prepared for the International Conference “Polish/Jewish/Music!” held at USC in November 1998. Entitled, “Dolphins, Cowboys and Mutants in the Basement: The Film Scores of Henry Vars,” the paper presented the contributions of Poland’s beloved film-music composer to the American movie industry. Dr. Schubert’s research was greatly aided by Ms. Elizabeth Vars, the late composer’s widow who gave her access to scores and documents previously not available to the public.

Dr. Schubert noted the great popularity of Vars in Poland and his role in bringing influences from American jazz to Polish popular music in the 1920s and 1930s. The second phase in his film scoring career, when he was one of the orchestrators and composers of the Hollywood film and TV industry, is marked by such popular series as “Flipper” (children’s movie and TV series about a friendly dolphin) that continues to be broadcasted internationally. It is my great joy to see this work done by an American scholar, with no personal links to Poland, but with a great knowledge of film music and its history.

My presentation, entitled “Poles without the Polka: Cultural Identity of Polish Composers Emigrating to the U.S. during and after World War II,” surveyed the tensions between the various groups of relatively recent immigrants from Poland and their attitudes towards the Polish-American culture created by those arriving earlier, especially at the turn of the century. This New World culture includes an appropriation of the Bohemian “polka” as the main Polish-American dance, and the creation of a mythical, ethnically, culturally and religiously uniform “Old Polish Nation” (purely Polish and Roman-Catholic). “Poles without the Polka” of the title consist of two distinct groups of immigrants: (1) refuges of Polish-Jewish background who survived the war or permanently settled in the U.S. (Tansman, Kaper, Ryterband, Rathaus, Vars) and who were often distant from the Polish-American community (except for Vars and Ryterband), (2) trained professionals leaving the Polish People’s Republic in search of better working opportunities (Ptaszynska, jazz musicians – Dudziak, Oleszkiewicz, Makowicz, Urbaniak).

The second group seems closer to their professional peers than to Poles in Polish-American communities, though they are enthusiastically welcomed by the latter. Ptaszynska and Dudziak pursued projects relating directly to Polish-American culture (settings of Polish anthems and patriotic works of the former, Polish Christmas carols concert tours of the latter). The thesis about the absence of “polka” from the culture of recently arriving Poles was supported with an opinion survey conducted among the Helena Modjeska Polish Culture Club of Los Angeles, grouping professionals of double citizenship (Polish and American) and strong attachment to Polish culture. I concluded that the dislike of the polka expressed by members of the club may be due to class consciousness of Poles arriving in recent years (i.e. attachment to “high art” culture of the gentry rather than “low art” of the peasants and urban folk who created the polka tradition). Both papers were very well received and will lead to further research projects bringing the Polish immigrant experience into the spotlight of American music studies.

Music And Postmodernism At Stony Brook

The conference entitled “Postmodernism and Music” was sponsored by the Greater New York Chapter of AMS and the Department of Music at SUNY Stony Brook. It was held on 6-7 March, 1999, and consisted of scholarly papers on topics ranging from the soundtrack of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers to the implications of intertextual analysis of etudes by Lutoslawski and Chopin (that paper was given by Michael Klein, a former Wilk Prize Winner and a professor of music theory). There were also panel discussions, performances, and a keynote lecture by Jonathan Kramer, one of the leading proponents of postmodern ideas in musicology. Papers from the conference will be published in a book of collected essays on musical postmodernism by Garland in their new series on “Music and the 20th Century.”

During this conference, Luke B. Howard (Australian expert on Górecki, active in the U.S.) presented a paper on “Production vs. Reception in Postmodernism: A Case Study of Górecki’s Influence in British Commercial Pop Music.” In this text he discussed a phenomenon created by the immense popularity of Henryk Górecki’s Third Symphony in 1993, i.e. its proliferation by British pop musicians–including Test Department, William Orbit, Goldie, Pale Saints, and Lamb–who have quoted or directly referenced Gorecki’s music. The paper surveyed the numerous musical borrowings in both the Symphony and related pop songs, and the relationship of this phenomenon to his notion of “the postmodern.”

Recent Performances

19 Feb: A concert – Without Chains – was given in St. John’s, Smith Square (in London) on 19 February by Ann Martin-Davis (piano), Susan Legg (mezzo-soprano and piano), Duncan Prescott (clarinet) and Melanie Ragge (oboe), mainly of Lutosławski, to follow up their recent and highly successful CD of Lutoslawski chamber music (inc. the complete piano music) on ASV CD DCA 1046 (notes by Adrian Thomas). The concert included: Paganini VariationsFive SongsTwo StudiesBukolikiDance Preludes, and Epitaph. Also performed were two works by Roxanna Panufnik, the late composer’s talented daughter: A Wind at Rooks Haven (for clarinet and mezzo soprano) (London premiere) and Disastrously Beautiful (for piano). Ragge and Martin-Davis commissioned and gave the world premiere of Maciej Zieliński’s Lutosławski: In Memoriam (for oboe and piano.).

7 Mar: The 32nd Annual Chopin Concert sponsored by the Polish Heritage Society of Philadelphia was held on 7 March featuring pianist Jacek Zganiacz.

14 Mar: Wendy Chen performed music by Bach/Busoni, Chopin, Janacek and Rachmaninoff in the Colburn School of the Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles.

Also including Chopin’s music in their performances in the L.A. area were: Mario Feninger (28 March) at the Westwood United Methodist Church; Norman Krieger (28 March) at USC’s Newman Recital Hall and Cellist Margaret Moores and pianist Andrew Harley (7 March) at the Westwood United Methodist Church.

17 Mar: On the anniversary of Chopin’s first public recital in 1830 a re-enactment of the program was performed by Polish pianists Krzysztof Jabłoński and Janusz Olejniczak. The program included the Piano Concerto in F minor, Fantasia on Polish Themes for piano and orchestra and the Overture to the opera, “Leszek Bialy” by Chopin’s teacher Józef Elsner. On this anniversary program Jacek Kasprzyk also conducted the Choir and orchestra of the Teatr Wielki National Opera in Szymanowski’s Third symphony, “Song of the Night.”

17 Mar: Russian pianist Katia Skanavi performed the music of Chopin, Bach, Carl Vine & Handel at Whittier College. She was a finalist in the 1997 Van Cliburn Int’l Competition. Daniel Cariaga wrote a favorable review in the LA Times.

24 Mar: Cardiff University Contemporary Music Group, Wales, UK follow(ed) up their monographic Górecki concert of Spring 1997 with a programme on 24 Mar 1999 including three works by Lutosławski: Mini-Overture, Chain I and Slides.

27 Mar: The Long Beach Symphony led by Joann Falletta included “Dance” by Polish-Jewish composer, Karol Rathaus (1895-1954). Rathaus survived the war in New York where he taught composition at CUNY, Queens College. PMRC presented a special session devoted to Rathaus’s music at the International Conference “Polish/Jewish/Music!” held at USC on 15-16 November 1998).

27 Mar: Frank Fetta conducted the Culver City-Marina Del Rey- Westchester Symphony in a concert of music by Mozart, Bruch, Sarasate, Chopin, Wieniawski & Ravel. Sally Kikuchi, piano; Yum Mai, Timothy Braun and Sakura Tsai, violins.

Report From Paderewski Festival

by Maria Anna Harley

The Seventh Annual Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, California (the U.S. home of the Polish pianist, composer, prime minister and vintner) took place on 19-21 March 1999. The Festival’s organizers, Ms. Virginia Paterson and Ms. Carolyn Goodrich, both highly dedicated volunteers (who also work for the Paso Robles Arts and Culture Foundation), prepared a rich and varied program that included concerts, tours of historic monuments connected to Paderewski, and a youth piano competition. The two evening concerts were offered by the PODHALE Polish Folk Dance Company led by John Sobanski, Polish-American dancer and choreographer (Friday, 19 March) and by Polish pianist, Karol Radziwonowicz who travelled to Paso Robles especially for this occasion.

I mentioned the Polish Folk Dance Company Podhale in the previous Newsletter. Actually, it was the group’s second appearance at the Festival. The full-evening program of the senior and junior groups presented suites of songs and dances from various areas of Poland, focusing on what the program book called Poland’s “five national dances” including: polonaise, kujawiak, oberek, mazur, and krakowiak. While the ethnographic accuracy of this statement leaves room for discussion (what is a national dance, anyway?) the colorful costumes, great stage appearance and professional quality of the spectacle thoroughly delighted the audience. John Sobanski was the choreographer of four of these sets of folkloric dances (named not after individual dance types but after the cities, villages and regions from which they originated). Four other sets were based on the choreography by Witold Zapała who spent 40 years working for the Polish Folk Dance CompanyMazowsze and who recently trained the Podhale group in some elements of the Mazowsze repertoire. It is interesting to note the strong connection between Podhaleand its model and source of choreography and music, Mazowsze. John Sobanski considers performing and travelling with Mazowsze a highlight of his professional training (as described in the Festival program).

I should remind our readers here that this group, created by Mira Zimińska-Sygietyńska and Tadeusz Sygietyński, began its stage career in 1950 at the height of the Stalinist regime in Poland as the “emblematic” folk music and dance ensemble of the Polish People’s Republic. The “artistically arranged” folk songs and dances were transformed into elaborate stage settings, and the melodic and harmonic irregularities of the original music replaced by grandiose, yet conventional arrangements for symphony orchestra and large mixed choir. Thus, the new “socialist” government was elevating the humble folklore to the level of national art, placing “peasant songs” on a par with classical symphonies, operas or ballets. A note on an old LP of “State Folk Ensemble of Song and Dance – Mazowsze” explains: “the songs of ‘Mazowsze’ have nothing in common with the museum-quality and beauty of the authentic folk song: only the words and the general outlines of the melodies remain [from the originals]”.

Despite its distance from the “true folk” (or perhaps because of it) the international fame and popularity of Mazowsze contributed to the promotion of Polish culture abroad and guaranteed the ensemble’s well-being. Mazowsze survived the fall of the “socialist” government in Poland and continued to perpetuate its brand of musical folklorism in a new, global marketplace. New recordings feature religious chants instead of mass songs, and performances are still sold out. I attended one in 1995 in Warsaw and was thoroughly impressed with the professional preparation and liveliness of the spectacle. The Californian Podhale has wonderful dancers and may, one day, became an American Mazowsze. What it lacks at the moment is its own group of musicians and singers, and this absence is the most noticeable in live performance supported with poor-quality recordings played too loud from mediocre sound systems. There is nothing as good as live music and we hope that this excellent ensemble finds suitable collaborators for high-profile events, such as the Paderewski Festival.

Nonetheless, audiences at Paso Robles had ample opportunity to hear live music, composed by Paderewski himself during the next concert. Mr. Radziwonowicz performed a solo recital consisting of the music of Ignacy Jan Paderewski in the first half of the program and of Fryderyk Chopin (the closing segment). This choice highlighted both the Paderewski theme of the festival and the celebrations of the Chopin Year (150th anniversary of his death).

I talked to Mr. Radziwonowicz about this program before the concert and he explained that he considered programming Paderewski’s monumental Sonata op.21 and Variations op.23, that he considers the virtuoso pianist-composer’s greatest works, but he decided not to include them in the recital, as, perhaps, too complicated. Paderewski himself, after composing the Sonata wrote to a friend: “I have just finished my best piece. Unfortunately it will not be very popular because it is filled with difficulties!”. Mr. Radziwonowicz compared this Sonata with the best works of Brahms, but for the program selected a rich variety of shorter pieces, presenting the full range of Paderewski’s piano repertoire. The program included Legende op.16 no.5, 5 Songs of the Wayfarer  op.8, the beloved Minuet  and Krakowiak, both from op. 14 no.1, 6 (Humoreski Koncertowe), followed by Barcarolle and Waltz-Capriccio from op.10 (no. 5, 6) and to conclude, 2 Mazurkas from op.9 (no.2, 4) and a Polonaise from the same set (no.6). The Chopin part of the program consisted of Ballade in F minor op.2, Nocturne in B major op.62, no.1, 4 Mazurkas op.30, Impromptu in C-sharp minor op.66, and Andante Spianato & Grand Polonaise in E flat major op.22. This rich program was wonderfully performed and enthusiastically received by the rapt audience who demanded three encores from the Polish pianist.

Radziwonowicz’s connections to the music of both Paderewski and Chopin are rich and varied. He is the president of the Paderewski Society in Poland and the only artist in the world who recorded complete works by Paderewski.

When asked about his interest in the music of the Polish virtuoso, Radziwonowicz replied:

“Paderewski’s music is very difficult to play, it is extremely virtuosic. There is, of course, the problem with his reception due to the fact that too many weak performers tackle his music, one should only mention the generations of children struggling with the Minuet. Incidentally, this enormously popular piece is among Paderewski’s weakest composition and its very popularity hampers the reputation of the composer. One could see what a great virtuoso Paderewski was only when one plays his music – it is under the fingers, so to speak, that the beauty, difficulty, and complexity of his music may be discovered. But this demands lots of practice time and hard work – only when the greatest musicians play this music may the audience be delighted with the results and truly discover this music. As Paderewski himself was fond of saying: ‘Who wants to play as a master has to practice like a student and who practices like a master will end up playing like a student.’ Performing Paderewski means long hours at the piano.”

In response to my question about the Chopin Year, Mr. Radziwonowicz pointed out his recent, and completely unique recording of Chopin’s works for piano and orchestra, in a version for piano and string quintet. This recording project, consisting now of 3 CDs presenting the orchestral parts transcribed for the quintet by Tomasz Radziwonowicz (the pianist’s brother) and performed by I Solisti di Varsavia, was inspired by a remark of Jan Weber (the late, greatly revered music critic) that Chopin performed with an orchestra two times during his lifetime and the majority of the performances were in a chamber setting (with quintets, mixed sextets, septets and so forth). In addition, during our short conversation I was able to find out that Mr. Radziwonowicz is a very talented photographer, and that his works in this adorn the covers of his CDs and serve as material for the work of his wife, artist Ewa Gierach-Radziwonowicz. The Paderewski Festival’s appearance of Mr. Radziwonowicz was a great artistic success and we hope that such high quality of artists will continue to enrich this worthwhile event. My joy was marred by only one worry: Mr. Radziwonowicz had to cancel his planned appearances in Los Angeles and San Diego, including a lecture in our own The Heritage of Chopin series and return to Poland sooner than it was originally expected. We will be delighted to have him with us during another North American tour and the sooner the better. However, it seems that Mr. Radziwonowicz’s calendar is filling up very quickly, with upcoming performances in Poland, Canada, Columbia, Japan, and France.

Finally, to conclude this report, I should state that Paderewski lovers now have a chance of hearing the great virtuoso himself. New recordings are transcribed from pianola rolls and issued by Genesis Recordings; one volume of the series dedicated to historical recordings of the legends of piano performance features Paderewski. One does not need to remind anyone of the central position occupied by Paderewski in this pantheon of great pianists. Let me end with many thanks to Ms. Carolyn Goodrich and Victoria Peterson for organizing this wonderful event that made the celebration of Paderewski possible. Their efforts present in the best light the cultural heritage of their charming town.

Calendar Of Events

APR 13: Polish Rhapsody. Chamber Music of Bacewicz & Panufnik. Wigmore Hall, London. Ewa Poblocka, piano; Andrzej Bauer, cello; Trio of the 21st Century; Silesian String Quartet.

APR 13: Piano recital by Krystian Zimerman. Music of Chopin & Schumann. Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Center. Tuesday 8:00 p.m. Upbeat live lecture preceding concert.

APR 15-18: Martha Argerich, piano performing Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 1, Emmanuel Krivine, conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Th, F, S at 8:00 p.m. Sunday 2:30 p.m.

APR 17: Ewa Podleś, contralto with Garrick Ohlsson, piano. Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, U. of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Part of The Polish Roundtable: Ten Years Later International Conference organized by the Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies in collaboration with the Copernicus Foundation at the University of Michigan.

APR 18: Music of Tansman, Szalowski, Thuille & Weaver. Warsaw Wind Quintet with Michiko Otaki, piano. Kosciuszko Foundation, NY. WQXR radio broadcast April 24 Sat, 9 p.m.

Friends Of Polish Music

Report by the President, Wanda Wilk

The Friends of Polish Music are happy to welcome their first dues-paying “international” member: Alina Baird, director of the ZKP (Polish Composers’ Union) for many years. She is also the widow of the great Polish composer, Tadeusz Baird (1928- 1981), who with his colleague Kazimierz Serocki, initiated the “Warsaw Autumn” International Contemporary Music Festival in 1956. Mrs. Baird elected to become a patron member. In light of her position and stature in the world of music in Poland, I view this gesture as an important acknowledgement of a job well-done to the FPM. She had previously donated (in 1988) two manuscripts of her late husband: “Cassazione per orchestra” and “Variations without a theme.” We are indeed indebted to Mrs. Baird for her generosity and support.

In response to our recent notice announcing the “Heritage of Chopin” Series at the USC School of Music, we received many renewal membership dues along with a few “new” members. We would like to welcome the following:

  • Sustaining Memberships: Maxine Burch, Dorota Dabrowska, Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Koval (of Ojai), Barbara Martinoff, the Modjeska Cultural Club, Walter Morris (of San Francisco), Dr. & Mrs. William Thomson (former Dean of the USC School of Music) and Elizabeth Vars (widow of the late composer Henry Vars).
  • Regular Memberships: Anna Giermek Briscoe; Lucy Borik; Bruce Alan Brown (prof. music history & literature @ USC); Marty & Betsy Cepielik (ed. of New of Polonia), Grazyna Dabrowska; Florence Duling; Mr. & Mrs. Z. Grzywacz; Dr. & Mrs. Kenneth A. Harris (benefactor); Mr. & Mrs. Walter Krauze; Mr. & Mrs. Jerzy Modlinski; Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Morrissey; Mr. & Mrs. Czeslaw Olechno-Huszcza; Mr. & Mrs. Edward Pawlowski; Mr. & Mrs. Antoni Puchalski; Mr. & Mrs. Jerzy Pujdak; Mr. & Mrs. Jerome Simons (of Desert Hot Springs); Mr. & Mrs. Richard Widerynski and Anna Wlodarczyk.

Additional donations were received for the Michal Wesolowski recital of 20 Feb by those who couldn’t be there from Regina Kobzi, Helena Kolodziey, Ewa Kazmierczak, and Dr. & Mrs. Michal Zawadzki.

If you have not renewed your 1999 membership as yet, please do so at this time. We will also greatly welcome any new members. Your support is very important to us and we need your support in this very worthwhile project. Finally, you may visit the Friends of Polish Music site: ../ourfriends/friends.html.


A New Super Star: The Pope’s CD Released by Sony

Abba Pater is the first music recording to feature the voice of Pope John Paul II, and was released by the Sony Corporation in time for Holy Week. It consists of eleven messages delivered by the Pope in various countries and in various languages throughout the world since 1980, with music composed by Leonardo De Amicis and Stefano Mainetti, and performed by two orchestras and three different choirs.

The program notes state that Abba Pater proposes a pilgrimage that is universal…led by the Pope himself, one that is open to all people through a variety of expressions, languages, voices, and sounds….by the “Pilgrim” Pope, who extends his invitation to all humanity, and who embraces all humanity, on the threshold of the Third Millenium.” (Fr. Pasquale Borgomeo, Sj, General Director, Vatican Radio).

The Catholic church in Poland has inspired centuries of profound works by her greatest composers. The Pope himself stimulated countless musical compositions, either composed for him, or dedicated to him afterwards (e.g. Henryk Gorecki’s Beatus Vir). Mark Swed pointed out this fact in the March 31 Los Angeles Times(Calendar Section) while discussing the positive role of Easter and Christianity as an inspiration for countless talented composers. However, he greeted the new CD without much excitement. Swed made the following comment about Abba Pater:

“Rather than expect art to make the pope’s message meaningful, Vatican Radio, which produced the CD, has appearently decided that the way to get the pope’s words into the most houses is to use a commercial-sounding background, however much it may, in parts, resemble the typical soundtrack of a Euro-trashy romp on the Riviera.”

Chopin Recordings

There are numerous new releases of Chopin’s music. Two recordings of all the Etudes by Chopin have just been released and reviewed in the American Record Guide and in Fanfare:

ARABESQUE 6718. Etudes, all. Garrick Ohlsson, piano. Vol. 10 of this pianist’s Complete Works of Chopin. Allen Linkowski (ARG) concludes his review with “I still find much to admire in Ohlsson’s magnificent achievement.”

LIVE CLASSICS Live 382. Etudes, all. Elisso Virssaladze, (Wirssaladze). piano. [ed. note: the spelling of her last name differs in the sources]. This recording by the Georgian pianist in a live 1985 Moscow recital is reviewed by Harold C. Schonberg in the American Record Guide and also in Fanfare by Michael Ullman, who compares both Ohlsson and Virssaladze). Again, all the critics prefer Ohlsson’s to the Russian pianist, whose Schumann playing is legendary and who was described by Richter as “the greatest Schumann player of the present day.” Although they acknowledge her technique, they prefer other recordings of Chopin.

CRYSTONYX 1003. Chopin: Piano Pieces. Robert DeGaetano, piano. Arved Ashby (ARG) prefers Zimerman or Perahia, but still calls this “a very fine recital …the recording itself is impeccable in its own substantial – and again, Rubinsteinian – way.”

DOREMI 7724. Chopin: Scherzos, Polonaise-Fantasy, Barcarolle, Waltzes, Mazurkas. Sviatoslav Richter, piano.

This recording is a compilation of several performances (Warsaw, 1954; Carnegie Hall, 1965; Mazurkas, Helsinki 1976; Barcarolle and Waltzes, Salzburg, 1977. Because Richter was always nervous in New York, this is not the best that is available of Richter’s playing. Alexander Morin (ARG) believes that it “is a skippable disc except for Richter fanatics.”
Peter J. Rabinowitz of Fanfare appears to like it somewhat more than Morin and though bringing out its flaws, he concludes that this is a major addition to the Richter discography.

SELENE 9301.7-8 (2 CDs). Chopin. The Complete Nocturnes. Jerzy Sterczynski, piano.

This was recorded in 1989 by the new Polish label Selene. The artist is a professor at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw. Michael Ullman (Fanfare) calls him a “deliberately Romantic player” and does not place “his Nocturnes in the top rank.”

MUSIC & ARTS CD-1029 (2 CDs). Chopin. Piano Music. Guiomar Novaes, piano.

This is a reissue of a Town Hall live performance from 26 November, 1949 and a rather sloppy one according to Peter J. Rabinowitz, who found several things wrong it.

Other Recordings

NAXOS 553779. Lutoslawski: Concerto for orchestra; 3 Poems; Mi-parti; Overture. Polish Radio Symphony, Antoni Wit, cond.

Two reviews of this recording come up with “two thumbs up.” Yes, very enthusiastic reviews by Raymond Tuttle (Fanfare) and Mark Lehman (ARG). “Stunning music…stunningly performed and (almost) stunningly recorded. Five whole pages of intelligent annotation by Andrzej Chłopecki….disc is packed with worthy music…exciting, confident, idiomatic performances recorded in clear, high-impact, natural sound…
This is the continuing Naxos Lutoslawski series (all with Antoni Wit and same orchestra) that has won acclaim from Arved Ashby, David Raymond, David Moore and now Tuttle, and Lehman. And all at “Naxos’s super-bargain price”.

MARSTON 52014 (2 CDs).

Volume six of The Complete Josef Hofmann is among the most interesting of the series. Alexander Morin (ARG) concludes “an extraordinary artist at the height of his powers.” From a recital (April 1938) at the Curtis Institute of Music, which includes four Chopin pieces, Beethoven, and Schumann.

ELF 1002. Wind Songs. Waters, Schubert, Orff. Peggy Balensuela, mezz, Indiana State Festival Chorus & Faculty Winds.

This recording is of interest because Richard Zielinski (a Wilk Prize winner for his research on Szymanowski’s “Stabat Mater”) is mentioned in the review by Michael Carter for preparing the large ISU Festival Chorus so well. The choral performance is “musically responsive and dramatically effective in Visions of War by James Waters.

Penderecki Recordings

Penderecki’s latest compositions, the Violin Concerto and Credo were both reviewed in the March/April issue of Fanfare:

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 289 453-507-2. Penderecki. Violin Concerto No. 2 Metamorphoses. Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin. London SO, composer conducting. This disc won two Grammys last month. Walter Simmons summarized “a release of the finest quality, recommended to the really serious listener.”

HANSSLER CD. Penderecki. Credo. Helmuth Rilling, cond. Oregon Bach Festival. Reviewed by Raymond Tuttle, who admits growing up under the influence of Penderecki’s avant-garde scores. Thus, he does not see it as very “forward-looking.” However, “I expect that my appreciation for this work and this CD will only increase with time. For now, I am more than a little bemused by Penderecki’s Credo.”

Interview With Janina Fiałkowska

Maria Anna Harley; 21 November 1998, Evanston, Il.

Harley: I am so glad to be able to talk to you here, during the Polish Music Festival at Northwestern University in Evanston during which you are a featured artist. Would you like to share some impressions of the festival with me?

Fiałkowska: This festival is very exciting for me, first of all because I get to go to concerts which I rarely get to go to. I always have to go to my concerts, which is so boring, but to hear all this music… I’ve been to two concerts already and it’s just thrilling. I haven’t heard anything that I haven’t liked, and some things I like more than others. For example, to hear Szymanowski’s Harnasie was a special treat. I mean you never get to hear it live. I have only heard it on recordings.

Harley: I have heard it twice in live performance, but I was living in Poland at the time, and every couple of years you could witness another version of this ballet. I saw it staged, and I heard it in the concert hall. It was very good.

Fiałkowska: It’s something that Simon Rattle has done – perform Harnasie.

Harley: Yes, he loves Szymanowski.

Fiałkowska: To hear Harnasie was great fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed the violin recital, especially the Paderewski’s Sonata, and the Lutosławski work for violin and piano, Recitativo e Arioso. In fact, the latter one was my favorite – that amusing, little piece.

Harley: It is a little piece, but Andrzej Grabiec played it so well; we did not just get the notes but also his whimsical interpretation. The music sounded capricious, witty. It is hard to describe the performance, but I loved every second of it. However, the whole festival began with your Chopin recital – locating Chopin at the heart of Polish music, and you as the paradigmatic Chopin performer. I also know that you just released a CD of Chopin’s Etudes op.24. These two facts motivate my question: what’s your approach to Chopin? Do you belong to the so-called “Polish School of Chopin Performance,” to any other school, or are you just on your own?

Fiałkowska: Well, I will tell you. I think that I have been extrodinarily fortunate in my upbringing – my musical upbringing – because I started off in the [Alfred] Cortot School; who was one of the greatest Chopin performers. My mother and my first two teachers were all sort of descendents of Cortot; either they had studied with him, or studied with pupils of him. From Cortot I went to the Russian School, and I studied with a musical descendant of Joseph Lhevinne, Anton Rubinstein (great Chopin players) this was Sascha Gorodnitzki at Juilliard. Finally, I ended up with Arthur Rubinstein who probably was the greatest Chopin pianist – for me – of all time, and I was fortunate enough to be his protégé for the last eight years of his life. So I had a chance to discuss the music and to hear him play Chopin in the house, and then get all his remarks about my Chopin.

Plus the fact that, the biggest and most important (sort of the first) experience in my musical life was hearing Arthur Rubinstein playing the Chopin Concerto in E minor – I was twelve then, I heard the music at a concert in Montreal. This was my epiphany. This was when I first realized three main things: one, what a pianist can do; two, what music can do; and three, what Chopin can do. So Chopin has always been the most important composer for me, and it just so happens that I am of a Polish heritage – that somewhat helps, too. I should clarify what I said. I do think that this heritage helps me to play Chopin only in that: we Poles, concentrate, and – that awful, overused word – we focus so much on Chopin as part of our national heritage. Perhaps it doesn’t give us a better insight, but because he is so much a part of our life – we live with him so much, we live with his rhythm so much – I think that, maybe, this focus gives us a slight edge.

Harley: I see.

Fiałkowska: I’ll never say that just because your Polish you’ll play Chopin better than anyone else. I say that initially you’ll have a little bit of an edge because you’ll already know the rhythms on which he based his music so strongly; the feeling that one so much identifies with – if one is born in Polonia for example – the feeling that it gives you. Also, everywhere I go I play so much Chopin now. It’s because of my name that I’m asked to do it a lot. And often non-Poles or journalists in interviews say, “Well, because your Polish, that’s why you play Chopin.” Well – you know – if I said yes, then my answer would imply that I couldn’t play Mozart or Debussy, so I don’t. I’m just saying that I feel this special kinship because from very early times I have thought about Chopin.

If you work as hard as I do and you think about it – next year is 150 years since his death and every recital I play, every single recital, is either all Chopin or fifty percent Chopin, at least that’s what I’m asked to do – you can imagine how deeply I’m getting into this man’s psyche. Unless, of course, I’m a total idiot and can’t comprehend what I do. This is the most exciting thing. I have been on the road for – how long now?, nearly thirty years?, no, twenty-five – and there’s so much complexity, and so much subtlety to his music that I can still see forty years from now finding new treasures in his music. But the closer I get to understanding the music, the closer I get to understanding the man, and I love this man. This is a complete passion for me. Of course I’ve read all about him. Again, you don’t have to know about him, but it helps. Frankly I think he’s a totally remarkable human being to have survived such illness…

Harley: …and create…

Fiałkowska: …and create, and just survive the strange life that he had with such integrity, and keeping his own persona all the way through. Anyway, I love Chopin; what can I say, I really do.

Harley: Great! Besides Chopin, you also like Szymanowski, am I right?

Fiałkowska: Szymanowski is a different ball game. I came to Szymanowski only because of Arthur Rubinstein. At that time, I didn’t know anything about Szymanowski – I just knew the name. Arthur Rubinstein was Szymanowski’s best friend, he and Kochański, and they were kind of a terrible trio.

Harley: I’ve seen pictures of them together, those three.

Fiałkowska: Yes, and Rubinstein first of all got me to play Szymanowski’s Symphonie Concertante [The Fourth Symphony] which is very accessible and not too difficult because Szymanowski wrote it for himself to play, as you know.

Harley: Right.

Fiałkowska: Also, it’s from his later period so it’s basically folk oriented and has beautiful melodies. I enjoyed playing it. But when I started playing it with an orchestra I realized how difficult it is to put together and pull off a satisfying performance. The first time I played it was in 1978. I have played it with two London orchestras, I have played it with Cleveland, I have played it in Montreal, but I never, ever, ever got what I though was the ultimate performance of it. I never thought that I could convince the audience, until last year.

Harley: Oh really, where was that?

Fiałkowska: I played it with – guess who – Stanisław Skrowaczewski in Minneapolis, and it just suddenly…well, because the conductor understood the music, and he cared terribly about the music, and the orchestra of course is top notch…and it worked! And it worked so well. Here I was with Skrowaczewski discussing the music and getting all excited because we knew we had something special. But then we were saying: “the cadenza, the cadenza, you know its just slightly weak, this cadenza.” So I turned to Skrowaczewski – who is a great composer himself – and I said, “could you do something about it?”

Harley: And he rewrote the cadenza for you?

Fiałkowska: He didn’t re-write it. He used what was there, and added a lyrical part, which he took from Szymanowski. Well, it makes all the difference, and now I can’t wait to play it again.

Harley: When is this version going to be recorded?

Fiałkowska: I don’t know…I hope…wouldn’t that be nice.

Harley: I know that you have a solo CD out?

Fiałkowska: …of Szymanowski, yes.

Harley: What do you like about his music? You said that you liked some pieces and not others.

Fiałkowska: Everything that I recorded I like very much. I find its just that he’s, well… For example I just recently played in Germany the op. 10, Theme and Variations, and it’s just that it’s too difficult. ../ourfriends/friends.html also, it’s just too difficult. The more you know the music, the more you love the music, but I think it’s too hard for an audience – unless they know it – and I think that it took years off my life getting ready to perform the pieces. I’ve been working on them for five, six years – actually, I learned them for the “Szymanowski Year” in London in 1990. I learned three recitals worth of Szymanowski music, and I played them all in London. Even though I’ve worked on the Opus 10, for example, for six years, I’m never going to completely get it because it’s so complicated… The Masques are hard as well…I mean they are not only difficult technically, but emotionally.

And maybe I’m crazy, but I find them most neurotic, most upsetting – even the Theme and Variations op. 10, which doesn’t sound upsetting or seem to give you a reason for it, even that I find upsetting after a while. I get completely…see, I’m getting nervous just thinking about it. And this is wonderful. I think music should have this kind of impact, but you know I have to take it in doses, because I feel in this music, unbelievable pain. This man was not a happy man; he was a mightily disturbed man. This is what I feel.

Harley: He was in his early days, but later on he must have reconciled something in his life because his music doesn’t sound as painful in his latter pieces.

Fiałkowska: Yes, that’s what I think. Yes, but please… In Germany I played Metopes, and I played Theme and Variations. . . It’s still … it’s so traumatic! However, I’m playing Metopes next year in London (again!) with the two Lutosławski Etudes which are so wonderful, effective, brilliant. What a clever man Lutosławski is! I don’t think there is any neurosis in that at all. I mean his music is just a jewel. I’m planning to record his etudes. This is my next recording project.

Harley: Only the Lutosławski? That’s a rather smallish CD…What else does this project include?

Fiałkowska: Well, because I did the twenty-four Chopin Etudes, I figured that I still had the remaining etudes of Chopin to do. I should have actually put them on the initial CD, but I didn’t. Then, I will have the fifteen Moszkowski “Etudes”. I’m afraid I’m a big champion of Moszkowski; I recorded his “Concerto”.

Harley: I am afraid that I don’t know this piece at all.

Fiałkowska: Oh, that’s too bad! What a fantastic work; this is a fantastic piece. On the same recording I have Chopin’s Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise and I also play a piece by Peter Paul Koprowski – he is a Polish Canadian, just like me – his Sovenir de Pologne for Piano and Orchestra is a very good piece. In my new project I would have the fifteen Moszkowski’s Etudes, of which by today I actually only played one or two, so it’s a lot of work. Then I have the op.33 by Szymanowski, then the Lutosławski that I just mentioned. I want to have a collection of all Polish etudes after Chopin, all the etudes, that I like, in any case.

Harley: Perhaps you should add etudes by Maria Szymanowska, Grażyna Bacewicz and Paweł Szymański, to mention just three names absent on your list.

Fiałkowska: I do not know these pieces. Tell me more about them.

Harley: Maria Szymanowska is now becoming well-known in the West, primarily in the “woman-composer” circles. In Polish musicology she has usually been described as an important forerunner of Chopin. She was a world-famous virtuosa, the court Pianist of the Tsarina, and the author of a collection of etudes or preludes that foreshadow those by Chopin. She also wrote nocturnes, mazurkas, polonaises, songs and chamber music, but the etudes, published as Vingt Excercizi in 1820, seem to be the most interesting part of her output.

Fiałkowska: Maria Szymanowska…that’s very interesting. I would like to see the music. I think I should add it to my collection. It will be great! There is a music critic in Toronto, she is an incredible feminist (and this is not a bad thing!) so she will be happy to hear about that. She is so positive about women composers and artists. I’m glad to hear about it as well.

Harley: I will be happy to send you copies of what I have of the early editions. In Poland, PWM issued Szymanowska’s Album for Piano including a selection of the etudes and you should also get that. I am so pleased with your interest. You know, I am a feminist myself and I make a point of mentioning Szymanowska, Bacewicz and people like that whenever possible. I think that women composers do need the help, somehow, from feminists.

At one time Bacewicz’s importance in Poland was completely overshadowed by that of her male colleagues; it was only thanks to her sister Wanda who is a poet and a guardian of Grazyna’s memory, and who really worked very hard for years, that knowledge about Grazyna’s music has gradually been disseminated. Right now she is becoming a big name: her double anniversary in 1999 will be celebrated by the PWM (her only publisher; being a woman, she was not offered a contract from the West, like her male colleagues), and the Polish Radio. This happens gradually, it takes time.

Fiałkowska: I have to say, even after hearing just a few things, that of all the contemporary composers she’s just up there with the best for me. I like her music and I definitely don’t want to promote someone, just because.

Harley: Exactly.

Fiałkowska: I want to promote them because I think they are wonderful – otherwise I won’t play well, that’s the problem. Sometimes I’m forced to learn a piece by someone in the second half of the 20th. century (I will not mention any names), and it will always come up if I don’t like it. At least I have been in a position for the last few years that I can say, “No, I won’t do it”, but to hear that Bacewicz wrote Etudes for Piano is really exciting. Let me think though, you told me about Maria Szymanowska, Bacewicz, and Paweł…who?

Harley: Paweł Szymański, born in 1954. His music is often described in terms of a Polish version of “post-modernism” though he prefers the term “sur-conventionalism” as a label for his style of playing with musical conventions, with elements of different musical languages and gestures of the past. The Polish premiere of his Piano Concerto was greeted with rave reviews; Szymanski was picked by Lutoslawski as the most promising composer of the younger generation and is the only Pole commissioned to write a piece for the opening of Disney Hall, the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His music is published by Chester.

Fiałkowska: That sounds interesting enough. What about the etudes?

Harley: I have a recording of his two studies performed by Sandor Estenyi, a Hungarian pianist who settled in Warsaw and is one of the pillars of the Warsaw Autumn (a very solid musician, able to play anything at all, even all sorts of nonsense, which starts to make sense when presented with his exceptional technique and detached expression). I truly love his music.

Fiałkowska: This is good, perhaps I will add it on. I’m very excited about this project because it is the kind of idea that should work: who needs another set of Beethoven sonatas?

Harley: That is what I think, too.

Fiałkowska: I don’t care if I play it well. There are already great versions – even if there were one, but there are like twenty great versions of the whole set – so why bother. But even with the Chopin etudes, yes there are many recordings, but I think that actualy there are only two or maybe three truly great versions, so there is room for more attempts!!

Harley: I wish you good luck with this project. I will send you all the information that you need. Right now though, this is all the time that we have. Perhaps we will meet again and continue talking. Thank you very much for this conversation.


Born This Month

  • 1 April 1872 – Tadeusz JOTEYKO, composer (d. 20 August 1932)
  • 3 April 1904 – Maria WIŁKOMIRSKA, pianist professor of piano in Lodz and Warsaw
  • 4 April 1941 – Aleksander GLINKOWSKI, composer
  • 8 April 1890 – Zbigniew DRZEWIECKI, pianist and professor of piano, organizer of Chopin Competitions, president of Chopin Society
  • 9 April 1880 – Stanisław LIPSKI, pianist and composer (d. 6 October 1937)
  • 9 April 1951 – Andrzej KZANOWSKI, composer (d. 1990)
  • 13 April 1890 – Ludwik BRONARSKI, musicologist
  • 18 April 1903 – Tadeusz KWIECINSKI, composer (d. 11 July 1960)
  • 21 April 1907 – Antoni SZAŁOWSKI, composer (d. 21 March 1973)
  • 29 April 1880 – Adolf CHYBINSKI, musicologist, professor of universities in Lwow and Poznan (d. 31 October 1952)


Died This Month

  • 5 April 1935 – Emil MŁYNARSKI, conductor, violininst, composer, music director of the Warsaw Opera, (b. 18 August 1870)
  • 9 April 1944 – Bolesław WALLEK-WALEWSKI, conductor and composer, active in Krakow, Warsaw and Poznan (b. 23 January 1885)
  • 11 April 1938 – Bronisława WÓJCIK-KEUPRULIAN, musicologist, professor of Lwow University, specialist in Chopin and Armenian music (b. 6 August 1890)
  • 12 April 1956 – Tadeusz STRUMIŁŁO, musicologist, professor of Jagiellonian University, with Z. Szweykowski discovered over 200 compositions of 18th, 19th c. (b. 10 July 1929)
  • 15 April 1945 – Feliks WRÓBEL, composer and music theorist (b. 15 May 1894)
  • 18 April 1854 – Józef ELSNER, composer, founder of Warsaw Conservatory, teacher of Chopin (b. 1 June 1769)
  • 24 April 1845 – Anna WOŁKOW-STANIUKIEWICZ, soprano, singer of Warsaw Opera (b. 26 August 1808)
  • 25 April 1951 – Jerzy FITELBERG, composer, son of conductor Grzegorz, since 1933 lived in Paris, 1940 in New York (b. 20 May 1903)
  • 28 April 1928 – Henryk MELCER-SZCZAWINSKI, pianist, teacher, conductor, professor and chair of the Warsaw Conservatory of Music (b. 21 September 1869)