June 2000

Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 6, no. 6

News Flash

Winners Of Fryderyki 1999

The yearly awards for best recordings made in Poland in 1999 have just been announced. The winners of the awards in individual categories are listed below; note that the award is called “Fryderyk” (first name of Chopin) and the plural form is “Fryderyki” – hence the name of this award appearing in various listings, e.g. on the site “Meloman” [Music lover] at www.meloman.pl.

Chamber Music

  • “The Best of Fryderyk Chopin.” Piotr Paleczny (piano), Kwartet Prima Vista.
  • Sound engineering: Małgorzata Polańska, Lech Tołwiński. Issued by DUX.

Early Music

  • Vivaldi – “Cztery Pory Roku” [The Four Seasons].
  • Konstanty Andrzej Kulka (violin), Władysław Kłosiewicz (harpsichord), Prima Vista Quartet.
  • Sound engineering: Małgorzata Polańska, Lech Tołwiński. DUX 0200.

Symphonic Music

  • “… dyryguje Witold Rowicki” [Witold Rowicki conducts].
  • Music by Fryderyk Chopin, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Stanisław Moniuszko, Henryk Wieniawski, Władysław Zeleński, Ludomir Różycki, Zygmunt Noskowski, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Kazimierz Serocki, Witold Lutosławski, Karol Szymanowski, Tadeusz Baird, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wojciech Kilar, Grażyna Bacewicz, Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev. Soloists: Martha Argerich, Arturo Moreira-Lima, Sviatoslav Richter, Witold Małcuzynski, Jan Ekier (piano); Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Wanda Wilkomirska (violin), Jadwiga Dzikówna, Maria Koninska-Opacka, Stefania Woytowicz (soprano), Krystyna Szczepanska (alto), Andrzej Hiolski (baritone). Orchestras: Symphonic Orchestra of the Nationa Philharmonic, Great Symphonic Orchestra of the Warsaw Philharmonic, Symphonic Orchestra of the Polish Radio in Krakow, Chorus of the State Philharmonic in Krakow. Conducted by Witold Rowicki. Sound engineering: Janusz Urbański, Antoni Karużas, Kazimierz Dobrzyński. Polskie Nagrania (5CD).

Music for Solo Instruments

  • Johann Sebastian Bach – Das wohltemperierte Klavier. Urszula Bartkiewicz (harpsichord).
  • Sound Engineering: Małgorzata Polańska, Marcin Domzal. Acte Prealable (4CD)

Contemporary Music

  • String Quartets by Bacewicz, Bujarski, Górecki, Lasoń, Łukaszewski. Dafó String Quartet.
  • Sound Engineering: Małgorzata Polańska, Lech Tołwiński. DUX / PWM

Vocal Music

  • “Rossini Gala” with Ewa Podles (contralto),
  • Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra, cond. Wojciech Michniewski.
  • Sound Engineering: Małgorzata Polańska, Marcin Domzal. DUX 0124

Congratulations to all the winners. Special award for the largest number of awards should be given to Małlgorzata Polańska. Her recording company issued 3 of the awarded discs (or 4 if the PWM/DUX production is also counted); she personally made recordings for 5 of the awarded CDs, including an issue of Acte Prealable and the PWM/DUX co-production. It is a great pity for lovers of Polish music living in North America that recordings by DUX are not currently available here. Hopefully this situation will be solved soon. For more information about Dux contact the company at:

Morskie Oko 2, 02-511 Warszawa, Poland. Tel/Fax: 4822- 849-11-31; 849-18-59; cell phone: 48 601 30-39-47; e-mail: dux@pol.pl.


Ruminski At The Met

Polish-American basso, Valerian Ruminski, signed contract as a new artist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and will make his debut with the prestigious “Met” in December, 2000 in Bizet’s famous opera, “Carmen.” He is also under contract with the New York City Opera Company, where he appeared in “Carmen,” and “La Boheme.” The new season will find him in “Rigoletto” in November and in “Don Giovanni” in the spring of 2001. For more information about Ruminski see below: “Artist of the Month.”

Bacewicz And Gorecki In New York

Glass Farm Concerts presents pianist Yvonne Troxler in a recital of Bacewicz, Gorecki and Debussy. The concert will take place on Saturday, July 22, 2000; 8:00 p.m.; at Glass Farm Concerts, 438 West 37th Street, #4H (between 9th & 10th Aves), New York, NY 10018.

The program consists of:

  • GRAZYNA BACEWICZ, Sonata No. 2 for Piano (1953)
  • HENRYK GORECKI, Piano Sonata, op. 6 (1956)
  • CLAUDE DEBUSSY, Preludes Book I (1910)

YVONNE TROXLER (PIANO) performs both as a soloist and a chamber musician. Her interest spans from classical to contemporary music, and she performs in the US and Europe. Close collaboration with composers is an important part of her work as an interpreter of contemporary music. This led her to numerous first performances and to many radio broadcasts. She has participated in such festivals as Tage für Neue Musik, Giessen; 25 Jahre Ensemble 13, Karlsruhe; Festival für Elektronische Musik, Basel; and Tage für Neue Musik, Zürich. In June 2000, she performed in Poland at the art event “Construction in Process VII”.

Born in Luzern, Switzerland, Troxler studied with Peter Efler and Karl Engel in Switzerland and Leonard Hokanson in the US. She was the winner of a grant to attend the International Mozart Academy in Prague. She is currently a faculty member of the Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City.

GLASS FARM CONCERTS provides one of the few opportunities in New York City to experience innovative new and classical music up close and in context. Past performances have included the works of Erkki Sven Tuur and Frederic Rzewski, and musicians Matthew Gold, David Taylor and Daniel Schnyder. The series is founded and directed by Yvonne Troxler and Maureen Donahue. For more information call (212) 244-6422 or send an email to glassfarm@yahoo.com.

Gorecki’s Third Symphony In Buffalo

Herman Trotter’s review of the Gorecki Symphony No. 3 performance of 18 -19 Feb by the Buffalo Philharmonic appeared in the May/June 2000 issue of American Record Guide. The music critic was ecstatic in his praise of soprano Anne- Lise Bernsten, who according to him “scored a double victory in Buffalo’s Kleinhans Music Hall […] with the Buffalo Philharmonic and guest conductor Alessandri Siciliani. Most important was the fact that she won over a large percentage of the Philharmonic audience; but from a personal point of view, I was elated to find at last the ideal interpreter of this hypnotic work. Despite Buffalo’s 40-year reputation as a modern-music Mecca, there are still many Philhamonirc regulars who regard with suspicion any work by a composer whose name they do not know. But after the performance of the three sublimely slow movements of this symphony the doubters were almost swooning with delight.”

“Berntsen’s voice has a lovely purity and a lofted spiritual quality. But more important, her near-vibratoless tone production is able to project the music’s reach into the heavens considerably more convincingly and with a more sustaining concentration” than the other soloists who have recorded this symphony. “Berntsen truly understands and projects the type of austere, arched cantilation that Gorecki almost certainly had in mind when he composed this beautifully timeless work […] she also has the rich lower range for the opening of the central movement’s prayer.” [WW]

Chopin Portrait In London

Giles Peppiatt, the head cataloguer of drawings for the auctioneers Bonhams of London (est.1793), informs us about a rare Chopin treat. Bonhams is due to be auctioning on 14th June (lot 46) a portrait of Frederick Chopin by his pupil and friend Teofil A. J. Kwiatowski (1809-1849). The work can be viewed on the auctioneers’ website: www.bonhams.com. For more information contact Mr. Peppiatt, at: g.peppiatt@bonhams.com.

Ochman’s 40th Anniversary

A new production of Verdi’s La Traviata staged by internationally renown Polish tenor Wieslaw Ochman took place on the stage of the Silesian Opera in Bytom Saturday, May 27. This production marked the 40th anniversary of the singer’s operatic debut which took place at the Silesian Opera in 1960. The other co-producers of the premiere included set designer Jadwiga Maria Jarosiewicz, choreographer Jaroslaw Swita and music director Tadeusz Serafin.

This Silesian premiere and anniversary was highlighted by three generous gestures on the part of Mr. Ochmann. Not only did Mr. Ochman refuse an honorarium for his stage directing services, but he also donated $25,000 to the opera company. This money came from an auction of paintings by the Polish painter Beksinski which was held in New York under the patronage of the Nasza Czestochowa Society. To top that, Mr. Ochman has pledged another $30,000 for the Silesian Opera. That money will go for the purchase of lighting and electrical equipment which will enable to opera house to project supertitles in Polish during performances.

Roxanna Panufnik’s Opera – A Popular Success

Roxanna Panufnik. Photo credit Keith Saunders.

The three premiere performances of The Music Programme, the first opera by Roxanna Panufnik staged at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw (April 2000) were so over-subscribed, that the opera house scheduled a further 6 performances in the next season (3 in the Autumn and 3 in the Spring). For more critical voices about the opera see below in our discussion of recent performances.

Pueri Cantores Congress In Cracow

The second national congress of the Polish chapter of Pueri Cantores, an international society of church boy choirs, will take place in Cracow from June 23 to 25 as part of the Kraków 2000 celebration. Over twenty Polish boy choirs will take part in this event which will feature the world premieres of a new setting of the Mass ordinary in Latin for chorus and brass quintet by Marian Sawa and a setting of the psalm Jubilate Deo omnis terra for chorus and organ by Józef Swider. The Congress begins with Mass celebrated in the Wawel Castle Cathedral and closes with Mass celebrated by Franciszek Cardinal Macharski in the newly restored Mariacki Basilica, located in Cracow’s Renaissance market square. [JH]

Italian Piano Duo Plays Moszkowski

An Italian four hands piano duo added compositions by Maurycy Moszkowski to its repertoire. The duo now performs: Five Valzer op. 8, Hispanish Dances op. 12, German Rounds op. 25, Polish Dances op. 55, New Hispanish Dances op. 65, Kaleidoskop op. 74. For more information and concert data contact Antonietta Loffredo at: carm.ant@tin.it.

California Organist Performs In Poland

On Sunday, June18, at 5:00 p.m. Polish organist Andrzej Zahorski, who for many years has been residing in the San Francisco area, will present a recital at Warsaw’s famed Holy Cross Church. The program will include works by Josef G. Rheinberger, Felix Nowowiejski, Mieczyslaw Surzynski, Hendrik Andriessen and J. S. Bach.

A graduate of the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, where Mr. Zahorski studied with Andrzej Chorosinski and Joachim Grubich, Zahorski also received a doctoral degree at Stanford University in the historical performance practices and musical analysis under Kimberly Marshal and Robert Bates. Currently, Mr. Zahorski is the director of music at St. Jarlath Church in Oakland, California.

Chopin Competition in Trouble?

On 17 May 2000 GAzeta Wyborcza daily in Warsaw reported about uncertain fate of the International Piano Chopin Competition. Until that time the Chopin Society has still not signed an agreement with the Ministry of Culture for funding. The latter will not send one until they get a budget from the Society. The former is only able to tell that the whole show will cost about five million zloties (about $4,250,000). The Ministry gave the Society an ultumatum a week earlier that a budget had to be submited by Monday or else they could count on NO money from them at all. The two powers were supposed to get together and resolve their issues.

Internet News

Sembrich And Opera Museum Online

Anita Behr Richards, Administrative Director of M.S.M.A., Inc, invites visitors to www.opermuseum.com where information about Marcelina Sembrich Kochanska may be found.

New Discussion List For Online Journals

Dr. Steven Sweeney-Turner set up a new discussion list for people involved in, or thinking about setting up online journals, academic or otherwise. If you’re interested, you can join by going to: http://www.egroups.com/group/online-journals.

Publications & Books

Szymanowski’s Love Songs

You can find the score and English translation to Szymanowski’s “Love Songs of Hafiz, Op. 24” in Stephen C. Downes book, Szymanowski as Post-Wagnerian. The Love Songs of Hafiz. Published by Garland Publishers, NY/London. 1994.An excellent book, it is “a corrected and slightly revised version” of Downes PhD thesis (Goldsmith’s College, London, 1992). The author won the Student Prize of the Stefan & Wanda Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music in 1988 for “Tonal Processes in Szymanowski’s Piano Sonata in A, Op. 21.”

Szymanowski composed the six “Love Songs” to Hans Bethge’s paraphrases of poems by the 14th c. Persian Hafiz. As Dr. Downes writes “The German poet was unable to read Persian. His sources for the paraphrases were 19th c. translations by Hammer-Pugstall (1812-13) and G. F. Daumer (1852)…In turning to Hafiz, Bethge was following a long tradition of Oriental inspiration in German letters.”

The text to the six poems is in German with English translation. The book also contains an extensive bibliography, which should be of great help to anyone researching the great Polish composer. There is even a reference to an article in the Journal of Music Theory by Bill Thomson, former Dean of the School of Music at USC. Dr. Thomson was greatly instrumental in facilitating the establishment of the Polish Music Reference Center in 1985. Finally, the author even gives credit to Wanda Wilk, then director of the PMRC for “showing interest in this work and sending valuable bibliographical information.”

Liszt’s “Polish” Oratorio Published

Liszt’s last great project, an unfinished oratorio, St. Stanislaus, is now available for the first time in published form. It is based on the life of Stanislaus, the patron saint of Poland (who, as Bishop, died a martyr’s death for daring to stand up to the Polish King, Boleslaus II in 1049.)Liszt worked on the oratorio throughout the last twelve years of his life. Until now, most of the music remained unpublished and unperformed because the manuscripts were widely scattered at his death. “Completed scores exist for the first and the last of the four scenes that Liszt projected for the oratorio and they can be read and performed as self-standing pieces.” Scene 1 contains two Polonaises.

A critical edition of the extant music and libretto is now available for $75 as volume 26 of the recent Researches in the Music of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries” from AR Editions. You may find them on the net at: areditions.com. The volume entitled “St. Stanislaus” was edited by Paul Munson. [WW]

Muzyka21 – Correction

In the March issue of our Newsletter we have reported that the F. Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw is the publisher of Muzyka21, new music journal in Poland. Several readers wrote to correct this information and state that this journal is published solely by Mr. Jan Jarnicki, who also directs a recording company “Acte Prealable” dedicated to less-known pieces by Polish composers. We apologize for this mistake. For more information about “Muzyka21” or “Acte Prealable” contact:

Jan A. Jarnicki, Acte Préalable sp. z o.o.

skr. pocztowa 71; 02-792 Warszawa, Poland
e-mail: actepre@polbox.com


Chopin For Children

A Chopin Competition for children up to age 14 was held June 16-18 during the Festival of Polish Culture at Holy Cross Roman Catholic church in Maspeth, NY. Children performed an original Chopin piano work or an arrangement for voice or any instrument.


Skubiszewski Wins In Australia

Cezary Skubiszewski recieved APRA(Australian Performing Rights Association) 2000 Music Award for Best Film Score for “Two Hands”. In November 1999 he also recieved Award for Best Original Film Score (Two Hands) from Australian Guild of Screen Composers. Cezary Skuboszewski is a Polish composer living in Melbourne, Australia. He has recieved number of music awards in Australia and overseas. His other film credits include music to films “Lilian’s Story”, “The Sound of One Hand Clapping”, “The Wogboy” and “Strange Fits of Passion”and the symphony “Home at Last”. He just competed music for Fox-USA film “Bootmen”.

For more information contact:

Warner/Chappell Australia
3 Talavera Road. North Ryde NSW 2113
Sydney Australia
Fax 02 9855 4099
Phone 02 9855 4000

Recent Performances

More On Roxanna Panufnik’s Opera

In May 1999 issue of the Newsletter we have quoted some negative critical opinions about Panufnik’s The Music Programme premiered in April at the National Opera in Warsaw. To balance the picture let us quote excerpts from positive evaluations, which strongly outnumber the criticisms.

Maciej Weryński writes in the daily Życie:

This is a genuine, ambitious chamber opera, accessible to an averagely informed public, and revealing all its charm to a listener who is acquainted with the history of music and has listened widely. (…) …broad seams of humour, interesting harmonic ideas and the rich musical imagination of the composer. And above all miraculous play is made with the conventions of the world of opera, with its simplifications and identically symbolic treatment of reality and sound. (…) Krzysztof Warlikowski (stage director), making his debut on the opera stage, has adapted to the music and effectively emphasised its structure. The conductor, Wojciech Michniewski has succeeded very well under extremely difficult technical conditions in controlling the musicians, and his sense of humour is also visible in every bar.

Bartosz Kamiński writes in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza:

(the instrumentation) …is crafted with considerable imagination and mastery.(…) Undoubtedly deserving of the greatest praise among the seven-strong international cast is Heather Shipp in the role of Eleanor – she combines a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice with excellent technique and talented acting into a convincing and expressive whole. It is specifically through use of the voice, in the prayer-like hymn that the camp residents intone, that Roxanna Panufnik pays homage to art, which enables man to experience the absolute.

Jacek Marczyński writes in Rzeczpospolita:

Roxanna Panufnik knows how to write vocal music. She understands the potential of the human voice and takes care to expose it in an attractive way, which is something contemporary composers often neglect. (…) (Krzysztof Warlikowski) …has put together a show that is genuinely intriguing, disturbing and grotesque all at once. On the small stage the stifling, hot climate of Africa where the action takes place can be vividly felt. The action is well-paced and has a couple of surprises up its sleeve for the viewer. And most importantly, the one-dimensional heroes turn out to be people with enigmatic mentality, as the director has managed to differentiate them most excellently.(…) One must pick out Adam Kruszewski (Ludvik Kastostis) for his excellently-sketched maximalist composer and husband devoured by jealousy of his unfaithful wife. Nor would this show be the same without Wojciech Michniewski, who conducts the musicians and singers lightly and with a dash of humour, and has brilliantly got inside the climate of playfulness suggested by Roxanna Panufnik.

Ewa Solińska writes in Życie Warszawy:

Pani Roxanna is able to compose using a contemporary language, and she is not shy of melody. Her composing has been complemented by the deft construction of the libretto, fine direction, and a conventional, knowing and slightly kitsch staging. The noble, optimistic message of the work manifests itself unobtrusively, and gets across to each member of the audience. (…) A lot of credit must go to the soloists, who portray the characters of doomed people who only feel happy in the microcosm of their musical camp. The vocalists succeed in authentically amusing the viewers, but also in moving them; especially those, like Roxanna Panufnik, to whom music really is the most intimate thing.

3rd Festival Of University Choirs

In Poland: The III International “Universitas Cantat 2000 Fetival” was held in Poznan and featured 500 singers from 14 European and American university choirs. The combined singers performed together in a final concert in a work “Beati Estis” composed by Zbigniew Kozuba, composer from Poznań.

14th Warsaw Musical Meetings

The 14th Warsaw Musical Meetings features well-known as well as rarely performed contemporary works combined with early music. Held at the Royal Castle, the inaugural concert featured cellist Tomasz Strahl and the Wilanow quartet. Composers represented in the program: Maciej Malecki, Maria Pokrzywinska, Romuald Twardowski, Wlodzimierz Kotonski, Krzesimier Debski. Performers: baritone Jerzy Artysz, pianist /composer Zygmunt Krauze, Ensmeble Nonstrom, Schola Cantorum Gedanensis, II Tempo, and others.

7th Copernican Festival In Torun

During the 7th Festival dedicated to Polish astronomer Mikolaj Kopernik (better known as Copernicus) several contemporary compositions were performed: Gorecki’s “Copernican Symphony,” Penderecki’s “Cosmogonia” and Koszewski’s choral work, “Niccalao Copernico Dedicatum.”

10th Festival Of Sacred Music

Penderecki’s “Credo” inaugurated the 10th International Sacred Music Festival “Gaude Mater” with the composer leading a quintet of five soloists, a children’s choir, mixed choir and orchestra. This year’s festival was dedicated to the Pope in honor of his 80th birthday.

Early Music In New York

The Slavic Arts Ensemble presented a Spring Concert with music by 17th century Polish composer Jarzebski on 7 May in Brooklyn and 18 May at the Polish Consulate, Manhattan. The ensemble includes: Mateusz Wolski and Mieczyslaw Gubernat, violin, Maurycy Banaszek, viola, Rafal Jezierski, cello and Leszek Cesarczyk, guitar.

Penderecki String Quartet

An all-Polish program by the Penderecki String Quartet with pianist Heather Toews featured music by Penderecki, Szymanowski and Zarebski at the Kosciuszko Foundation. The program was broadcast over station WQXR on 27 May. The Quartet was founded in Poland in 1981 and is currently ensemble in residence at the Wilfried Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. In addition to touring (they often performed in California), the Quartet made numerous recordings of a repertoire ranging from classic to contemporary music.

Chopin In Atlanta

Susan Elliott’s review of the Atlanta Symphony in May praised both Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the orchestra conducted by Robert Spano for bringing out the “poetic Chopin to a highly satisfying end…the orchestra sneaking in under the soloist in studied, subtle support.” (symphony.net)

3rd May Celebration With Music

Music by Wieniawski, Szymanowski, Bacewicz & Lutosławski was performed in a concert honoring Poland’s Constitution Day of May 3 sponsored by the Polish Cultural Institute in Winona. Featured soloists: Marta Szlubowska Kirk, violin and Ned Kirk, piano The Kirks are on the faculty of St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota.

Polish May In California

During the month of May, Polish musis appeared on many concert programs in California. Here is a sample:

  • Harp music featuring works by Wojciech Dlugoraj and Jakub Polak was performed by Mrs. Lilliana Osses-Adams at the 34th anniversary celebration of the Polish Arts & Culture Foundation at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon (San Francisco).
  • Music by Chopin was performed in several places: by Gary Mattison in Irvine and N. Hollywood; Joaguin Achucarro and the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra in Pasadena; Jonathan Bass in La Jolla; Mitsuko Uchido at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A. (her concert is mentioned separately).
  • Polish-American Duo, Maestrini, Piotr Jandula (viola) and Janet Kocyan (piano) performed a wonderful concert of music by Schumann, Mozart, Wieniawski, Rachmaninoff, and Franck at the Los Angeles Harbor College School of Music in Wilmington, CA on Saturday, May 6th, 2000.
  • Music by Górecki was heard at the First Presbyterian Church in Monrovia featuring the Anglican Chorale with James Person, conducting.
  • Music by Lutosławski was heard during the Ventura Chamber Music Festival with David Peck, clarinet and Edith Orloff, piano.
  • Music by Wieniawski was performed by David Senske, violin and the La Mirada Symphony conducted by Leon Guide.

Calendar Of Events

June 13: 70th anniversary of Wladyslaw Slowinski – Acte Prealable will release two CD’s with his works: Works for string quartet with Wilanów Quartet, Chamber works with Elzbieta Gajewska, Wladyslaw Klosiewicz and Wilanów Quartet. Warsaw.

June 14: Diploma recital of Magdalena Adamek – pianist, with a CD-material of works of Milosz Magin. Warsaw.

June 23-25: Polish Fest in Milwaukee. See www.polishfest.org

July 16: Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra. Boston Symphony. Seiji Ozawa, cond. 2:30 p.m.

July 25: Penderecki. Quartet for clarinet, violin, viola and cello. Academy of the West. Lobero Theatre. Santa Barbara. 8:00 p.m. www.musicacademy.org (Violist McInnes from USC performing).

July 27: Szymanowski: “La Fontaine d’Arethuse” Ida Haendel, v. Itamar Golan, p. Ozawa Hall. Boston. 8:30 p.m.

August 1: Chopin Piano Concerto no. 2. Louis Lortie, piano. LA Philharmonic, Thomas Dausgaard, cond. Hollywood Bowl.

August 16: Chopin: Scherzo no. 4. Nelson Freire, piano. Ozawa Hall. Boston. 8:30.


Newest Releases

DG 465 790-2/4 CDs. Selected 20th century violin works. Anne-Sophie Mutter, v. Violin Concertos and works for solo violin. Penderecki and Lutoslawski compositions written specifically for the artist.

NIMBUS N1 8819. Grand Piano. Josef Hofmann. Chopin and Encores.

Chopin Recordings Reviewed

Five Chopin recordings were reviewed in the May/June 2000 issue of the “American Records Guide”:

  1. NAXOS 501501. Chopin Piano Music, All. Idil Beret, p.
  2. ETCETERA 1231. Chopin. Piano Pieces. Helge Antoni, p.
  3. CYPRES 9609. Chopin. Piano Pieces. Vladimir Sverdlvov, p.
  4. DECCA 466 357. Chopin. Jean-Yves Thibaudet, p.
  5. ELAN 82402. Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2. Santiago Rodriguez, p.

NAXOS recording: This mammoth collection of 15 discs (17 hours) was “recorded from 1990 to 1992 and in 1995 it was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque Chopin.” Although John Beversluis compliments Idil Biret in his review for recording the complete music of Chopin “no mean achievement, and I admire the dedication and hard work that went into these performances” he is not completely sold on this set. “But in the end Ms Biret is not a true Chopinist. I fear that her set will neither inculcate the love of Chopin in those who do not have it nor supply fresh insights for those who do.”

ETCETERA recording: Walden Hughes reviews this disc of Piano Pieces by both Chopin and John Field performed by Helge Antoni, which “allows direct comparison between the styles” of both composers. “Chopin was influenced strongly and directly by Field’s style, most noticeably in the nocturnes. The works presented in this recording bear this out but also evidence somewhat wider influence by including several waltzes by both composers…Most of the compositions offered on this disc…emphasize the elegant poetic beauty of Field and Chopin. While Field’s compositions don’t have the poignant expressive charm and sophisticated refinement of Chopin’s, it’s fascinating to listen to them together and hear how inspired Chopin was. Antoni conveys these works with passionate eloquence and polished grace.”

CYPRES and DECCA recordings: Arthur Houle and Walden Hughes collaborated on these two discs. They write, “With so many mixed Chopin recordings available it is appropriate to ask why more are needed. Sverdlov and Thibaudet fully justify these additions, each in his own way.” They continue to point out the strong points of each artist, the Russian Sverdlov who won Frist Prize in the Moscow Piano Competition at age 15 and Thibaudet, who presents four of the works on a Broadwood piano Chopin played when he visited England in 1848. They concluded with “This inspiring collection (Thibaudet) conveys a convincing sense of the dramatic. Color and evocative imagery come through with remarkable finesse and clarity.”

ELAN recording: Donald Vroon, editor of the American Record Guide and Allen Linkowski reviewed this disc which also featured the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto with the Berlin Symphony conducted by Stephen Gunzenhauser. They believe that the soloist Santiago Rodriguez is “one of the finest pianists around, but he continues to record with second-rate orchestras and conductors. Some of us would like to hear him teamed up with great ones. Still, his concerto recordings are impressive, his musical personality strong enough to carry the day…Rodgriguez plays the Chopin very beautifully – II is especially poignant – but the orchestra sounds coarse and ill-defined. These are exciting performances but not among the very best.”

Godowsky And Tansman

PRO PIANO 224529. Godowsky & Tansman. Esther Budiardjo, p.

An interesting disc of exotic music by two Polish composers who had toured the Far East during their lives. The “forgotten music” of Godowsky’s “Java Suite” (world premiere recording) and Tansman’s “Exotique, La Flue de Bambou; Le Gamelang de Bali” received a “splendid” performance by Esther Budiardjo. Harold Schonberg calls her a “powerful pianist who employs her superb technique with taste. She is completely on top of the music, playing with strong rhythm and assured technique.”

It is also reviewed in Gramophone May 2000; this review sheds some light on the soloist. The music critic writes “Esther Budiardjo, herself Javanese (though resident in America) resolves some formidable problems with such natural grace that you are able to concentrate exclusively on the music of an exotic land, seen and heard through the eyes and ears of a clearly enchanted-but richly cosmopolitan-composer/pianist. Bryce Morrison sums it up with “Budiardjo has fully mastered this exotic and cosmopolitan music, and here gives a compelling and individual account.”

Polish-Swiss Marek

KOCH 6518 Marek. Piano works, Volume 1.

Mark L. Lehman reviews this “4th installment in Koch’s ongoing series of music by Czeslaw Marek (1891-1985)…Polish by birth but Swiss by adoption, Marek wrote most of his music in the artistically progressive period between the world wars. He absorbed influences from many middle-European sources, past and present, including Chopin, Dvorak, Mahler, Busoni, Debussy, Janacek, Szymanowski, Kodaly, and Bartok – and the resulting music ranges through old-fashioned romanticism,, Florent Schmitt-style opulence, gentle impressionism, severe neoclassicism, Janacekian folklore, even Kurt Weill-ish jazz-inspired dance sequences.”

He concludes “At any rate the music on this disc that I most enjoyed was Marek, the poet, the dreamer, the painter, the Marek of the Triptychon fantasias and the Two Meditations. The superb French pianist Marie-Catherine Girod plays with perfect assurance and admirable refinement.”

Penderecki On NAXOS

NAXOS 554491. Penderecki. 3rd Symphony, Threnody, Fluorescenses, De natura sonoris II.

NAXOS 554567. Penderecki. Symphony No. 1 & 5.

Arved Ashby likes Penderecki’s turn-around “neo-romantic style, one of the first and most courageous about-faces of recent decades…the finest music on this pair of discs is the Third Symphony…I’m sure much of the surprising palatability of this music has a lot to do with Antoni Wit’s lucid and magnificent performances. So often in the past – and this included the composer’s own renditions- Penderecki has been marred by opaque and blotted orchestral textures. Wit pulls everything into focus, with a transparency I haven’t heard in this music before.” The Polish Radio Symphony of Katowice recorded both discs.

Szymanowski On KOCH

KOCH BBC 1004. Szymanowski. Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin, Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess. Jean Paul Fouchecourt, tenor. Valdine Anderson, sop. BBC Welsh Orchestra, Tadakai Otaka, cond.

This disc contains two Szymanowski song cycles as well as Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and Debussy’s “Jeux.” John P. McKelvey describes them as “broadcast proms performances recorded in 1998 in Albert Hall, a huge cavern with little or no reflected sound. It is a difficult recording site…(sound) less rich in presence and ambience than might otherwise have been the case. The rarely performed Szymanowski items, if not totally inspired, are interesting, colorfully scored, and definitely worth hearing.”

Polish Romantic Violin

ALBANY 338. Polish Romantic Violin. Tyrone Greive, v. Ellen Burmeister, p.

Joseph Magil found this disc of music by Polish composers Rutkowski, Kochanski, Szymanowski, Poldowski and Karlowicz “interesting enough” but found the soloist to be “the biggest drawback with this recital…not quite technically up to the music’s challenges.”

Szymanowski On DECCA

DECCA 455 488-2DH. Szymanowski, Bartok & Enescu. Ida Haendel, violin. Bonus Disc, “Ida Haendel: The Decca years, 1940-47.”

This disc is a recording of the same program the violinist performed at a recital over 60 years ago in 1936. An additional bonus disc is a “carefully restored collection of Haendel’s 78 rpm recordings for the same company. The Polish born violinist plays Szymanowski’s “Three Mythes,” accompanied by Vladimir Ashkenazy, whose playing is compared unfavorably with the piano accompaniments of Jerzy Marchwinski and Krystian Zimerman of the same music on other discs. Rob Cowan writes, “Viewed as a showcase of what a fine violinist could still achieve in her early seventies, the later Decca recital is something of an inspiration.” Reviewed in Gramphone May & June 2000

Godowski’s Versions Of Chopin

HYPERION CDA 67411/2. Godowsky. 53 Studies on Chopin’s Etudes. Marc-Andre Hamelin, piano.

“Phenomenal” playing by Marc-Andre and a “dazzling performance of these controversial studies effortlessly eclipses other recordings and crowns his already awe- inspiring discography.” So wrote Bryce Morrison. “Rarely can such a gargantuan task – truly a labour of Hercules – have been accomplished with such strength, grace and agility, with an ease bordering on nonchalance. His virtuosity is pre-eminent because it is so musical, and it is impossible to think of another living pianist who could have carried off this enterprise with comparable success.” For more interesting accolades see the May 2000 issue.

Opening Day – New Label

Opening Day Recordings is a new company in Canada, which features Canadian Artists and Composers. You can visit them on the internet at openingday.com They have also spun off a new sister label called Opening Night, “Where the serious musician comes to play after hours.”

Among their recordings you may see Janina Fialkowska’s Chopin (ODR 9312) latest solo disc recorded in August `97 at the Ford Centre, North York, Ontario. It includes Chopin’s 24 Etudes, Op. 10 and 25. You can also enjoy her in role as accompanist to bass- baritone Daniel Lichti in “Daniel Lichti Sings Brahms & Schumann.” ODR 9311. An interview with Fialkowska appeared in the May 1999 issue of our Newsletter.

Top 20 Classical Chart

The Independent Classical Music Retailers in the U.K. publishes a top 20 list montly. The chart for April includes only one entry with music by Polish composers: Evgeny Kissin’s rendition of the Chopin Preludes on RCA Red Seal.

Artist Of The Month


by Wanda Wilk

Mr. Ruminski was born in Cheektowaga near Buffalo, NY (the home of the Polish American Journal) and was adopted by a Polish family as an only child. He recalls fondly his early days and his father, who died when he was ten. Music was always a part of his life in a home filled with the sounds of Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra and some classical music. He sang in the church choir where he was the “shining star.” When he auditioned for the high school choir, he “had a rich baritone voice far beyond his years, ” according to Frank Scinta, the organist and choir director.

After graduating from high school he went to Alaska to work in the fish canneries to make enough money to get started in a musical career. He wasn’t sure in which direction to go, as a songwriter, keyboard player or singer in different styles -pop, nightclub, opera, he recalled in an interview for the World Tribune. He had changed his name of Martin Matthew Ruminski to Martin Matthews, believing this would help him in his career. After two years in Los Angeles, where he worked as a shoe salesman, he joined the Buddhist movement. He credits the discipline and inner peace he had found with the success that he has achieved thus far in his life.

Soon his former high school teacher called with an offer to sing in a production of “Carousel” in Buffalo. He left sunny California for the winter cold of Buffalo and started on his road to success. With advice from his mentor he enrolled in SUNY at Buffalo. After graduating from the university, once again he followed the advice of his voice teacher and auditioned for and won a full scholarship to the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, an intensive four year opera- intensive program.

He decided to honor his deceased father by adopting his name as his own. He became Valerian Ruminski in 1997. Between September ’97 and May ’98 he won five major voice competitions taking first, second and third places for a total of fifteen thousand dollars. He soon travelled for more competitions to France and Poland taking his mother with him.

Valerian Ruminski is a rare “coloratura basso cantante” (high bass who sings florid music), who specializes in Baroque music (Lully to Handel) and plans to record a Baroque CD in the near future. Mr. Ruminski has sung numerous roles in several opera companies, which include the Chautauqua Opera, the Greater Buffalo Opera, Santa Fe Opera, New Israeli Opera and Utah Opera.

According to program notes of a recent recital sponsored by the Kopernik Memorial Association, the 32 year-old basso has “garnered many prizes, awards and grants including the 1999 Lincoln Center Martin E. Segal Award for Outstanding Young Artist, nominated by the NY City Opera and presented by Beverly Sills.” He appeared on TV last November along with Placido Domingo in the “Tucker Gala” telecast on PBS. This annual gala is sponsored by the Richard Tucker Foundation and shown throughout the U.S. on public TV.

Hailed as one of the most promising opera stars, Valerian has a busy schedule ahead. Angelenos can look forward to hearing him on September 10th at the Colburn Center for the Performing Arts located downtown on Grand Avenue in a recital with pianist Persis Vehar. Included in the program will be the premiere of a new cycle of six songs written by Ms. Vehar for Mr. Ruminski, to the poetry of Charles Bukowski, America’s most important underground literary figure. Polish Californians: Remember to save the date – September 10, 2000!

From the Mailbox

A Paderewski Story

We have received several copies of this story, called “The Piano Lesson,” that apparently circulates the Internet. It seems a nice apocryphal narration about a famed virtuoso, but for the benefit of the Internet community of Polish music lovers it would be good to find its sources and bibliography. We hope to hear from our readers who know more than we do about the following account of a music lesson on the stage. Please send your responses and remarks to polmusic@usc.edu.

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took the small boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that her son was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit.” “Keep playing.” Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato.

Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was mesmerized.


Born This Month

  • June 1, 1909 – Maria Dziewulska, composer and theoretician
  • June 4, 1845 – Aleksander Poliński, music historian (d. 1916)
  • June 4, 1784 – Adam Czarnocki, music etnographer (d. 1825)
  • June 5, 1865 – Felicjan Szopski, composer and music critic (d.1939)
  • June 6, 1929 – Bogusław Schaeffer, composer, writer
  • June 12, 1897 – Aleksander Tansman, composer and pianist,
  • June 16, 1923 – Henryk Czyż, conductor and composer
  • June 17, 1930 – Romuald Twardowski, composer
  • June 28, 1895 – Kazimierz Sikorski, composer and teacher
  • June 28, 1904 – Włodzimierz Poźniak, musicologist


Died This Month

  • June 4, 1872 – Stanisław Moniuszko (“father” of Polish national opera),
  • June 5, 1964 – Henryk Sztompka, pianist, Chopin specialist, teacher
  • June 30, 1957 – Michał Świerzyński, composer and choral conductor