May 2001

Polish Music Center Newsletter Vol. 7, no. 5

News Flash

Chopin Competition Winners

Top Prize Winners of the 2001 Kościuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition:

  • I Prize: Esther Park, 16-year-old student from Ridgefield Park High School, studying with Yoheved Kaplinsky of the Juilliard School of Music, received the $5000 scholarship prize.
  • II Prize: Amy Yang, 16, sophomore at Bellaire High School, Texas.
  • III Prize: Magdalena Baczewska, 20-year-old, student of Jerome Rose at the Mannes College of Music in New York.

Contestants ranging in age from 16 to 22, from all over the U.S.A. competed in this annual competition before a jury chaired by world-famous concert pianist Abbey Simon. All contestants were required to prepare a full recital program, including works of Chopin and Szymanowski, and representing all historical styles.


Polish Culture At The University Of Chicago

“Poland, Music, Lyric, Nation” was the title of an international symposium held in April at the University of Chicago, and co-sponsored by the Fricke Institute for the Humanities and the Department of Music. The main organizers of the symposium, professor of ethnomusicology and Jewish Studies, Philip Bohlman, and Professor of Composition, Marta Ptaszynska, invited a small, selective group of scholars and guests to discuss current issues in Polish culture, focusing on music and poetry. The guests included film-director Krzysztof Zanussi, who presented two of his films, distinguished poet, Adam Zagajewski, who read a number of new poems, both in English and in Polish, composers Zygmunt Krauze (who gave a solo piano recital, with three of this works, pieces by Tomasz Sikorski, Boguslaw Schaeffer, and improvisations on works by Chopin, Szymanowski and Lutoslawski), and Krzysztof Meyer (who participated in a panel and had a work on the program of the closing concert), and musicologists, Prof. Anna Czekanowska of the University of Warsaw in Poland (who gave a keynote address), Dr. Danuta Gwizdalanka (Cologne, Germany), Dr. Timothy Cooley (University of California, Santa Barbara), and myself. Dr. Cooley, Gwizdalanka, and Trochimczyk were members of an academic panel dedicated to “(Post)modern Polish Music” and held on Saturday, 21 April.

The panel was preceded by a very welcome surprise: The Krzeptowski Kapela of Chicago (led by the great grandson of Jan Sabala- Krzeptowski, one of the key figures in Gorale music), offered to give a live-demonstration of their music and performed a number of tunes before the symposium, as well as during the paper by Tim Cooley who had the best audio-visual aid any scholar would wish for, the presence of “gorale” with their original folk instruments, in their original costumes. The string band included the standard four string instruments, plus several children, who were learning the repertoire from their elders. The performance was touching in its raw energy, emotional intensity, and occasional out-of-tune notes – all in the character of the music. The musicians played the instruments and sang the tunes in two-part harmony, with harsh timbres of the “outdoor” voices. Moreover, the wife of the band-leader and the vice-president of Zwiazek Podhalan in Chicago, Maria Krzeptowska, was also present, adding her exclamations where appropriate.

At the end of their performance, the gorale gave huge bouquets of flowers to Profs. Cooley and Ptaszynska, thanking them for their efforts in finally bringing the gorale music to the great University of Chicago. It was very touching and all the scholars felt both grateful and embarrassed, for we should have thanked the musicians for their gift of music, rather than the other way around. Another gorale performance, at the reception organized for the participants of the symposium by the Polish Consulate, was far less successful: the band had an accordion at their disposal, included a professionally trained violinist who could play with a vibrato and a lush, beautiful sound (entirely inappropriate for gorale music) and enriched the repertoire with the Hungarian csardas, the Russian romance and the Masovian mazurkas and polkas.

The symposium covered a number of areas, from the role of tourism and social organizations in the history of the gorale music (Cooley), through the hidden meanings and cultural signification of a cabaret-singer popular in the 1960s and 1970s, Ewa Demarczyk whose songs mourned the victims of the war, including the victims of the Holocaust – those latter ones surreptitiously through the choice of texts by Julian Tuwim, a Polish poet of Jewish roots (Trochimczyk), and the political choices faced by composers during the postwar period, from 1945 to 1989, who had to deal with a repressive phase of Stalinism in the early 1950s, followed by an increased support for abstract arts, especially music, through the reminder of the period (Gwizdalanka).

Another symposium consisted entirely of student given by graduate students at the University of Chicago. All the papers were of professional quality and that was the best testimony to the quality of education that these students received at the department of musicology, clearly one of the best in the country.

The most important part of a music event is, of course, the music itself and it could be heard in Chicago during a number of concerts which were both well-prepared and attended. I could only be present at a part of the proceedings so I heard only a part of the music presented. Zygmunt Krauze’s piano recital was fascinating, in its connection of avant-garde music (including three pieces by Krauze himself, Refrain, Stone Music and Gloves Music) with his original improvisations on compositions by Chopin, Szymanowski and Lutoslawski. The art of improvisation nearly died out in contemporary concert music and Krauze’s approach is both fresh and creative: as a composer he is able to avoid harmonic and motivic cliches, while maintaining links between the improvisations and the works on which the are based. A similar program was presented at the Santa Barbara festival “In Solidarity” and this concert is discussed below.

The festival started from recorded music presented in two films produced and introduced at the symposium by Malgorzata Pietkiewicz of the Polish TV) and ended with a live, grand concert directed by Barbara Schubert. Ms. Pietkiewicz’s presentations were fascinating because of their excellent quality and potential for the promotion of Polish music worldwide. A one-hour program surveyed the whole history of Polish music, from Bogurodzica, a medieval religious and national anthem, to the contemporary works by Gorecki and Lutoslawski, ending with the last sounds of the “Seven Gates of Jerusalem” by Krzysztof Penderecki. While watching this survey I was both amazed at the knowledge and skill of the producer/writer/editor (Ms. Pietkiewicz herself) and her deep knowledge of Polish music that allowed her to pick the best of the best, and prepare an engaging, lively, and informative program. Pity that due to budgetary shortages it will not be available on video or CDROM in all the Polish consulates and centers. The number of such centers has recently increased, from new Polish Institutes worldwide, to “Adam Mickiewicz Institute” and other cultural centers in Poland. Inevitably the centers double the work and compete with each other for projects while a central, large and historically-solid institution, such as national TV does not even have enough funds to secure copyright permissions in order to sell copies of such wonderful films.

The second film by Ms. Pietkiewicz was coproduced with European arts channel and broadcast several times already. This is the best short biography and history of music of Chopin that I have ever seen; its success is due to excellent text by Prof. Mieczyslaw Tomaszewski, high-quality visual layer, with images filmed on site in numerous European towns and Polish villages; and an array of documentary sources presented, as well as artistic editing, which created smooth transitions betwee music, narration, and readings from letters, diaries, etc. One moment remains in memory: a cut from a voice singing a melody to this melody’s arrangement by Chopin, from phrase to phrase, music editing could not be better.

Similar words of praise should be reserved for the grand event closing the conference, i.e. concert of Contemporary Chamber Players, led by the University of Chicago’s resident conductor, Barbara Schubert in a program entitled “Crosscurrents: East of the Wall.”

The program, partly suggested by Marta Ptaszynska, partly based on suggestions from the Polish Music Center (it was in planning for over a year!) and finalized by the conductor, was centered on Witold Lutosławski’s “Paroles tissees” (1965) for tenor and chamber ensemble. The Lutosławski provided the closure to the memorable afternoon including also the music by Lutosławski’s favorite colleagues, Tadeusz Baird (“Five Songs for Mezzo-Soprano” to texts by Poswiatowska), Marta Ptaszynska (“La vovella d’inverno”), Pawel Szymanski (“Appendix”), Marek Stachowski (“Chamber Concerto”), and Krzysztof Meyer (“Concerto for Harp, Cello and Strings,” op. 64). This was a wonderful choice of Polish music of the highest quality, some works presented in the U.S. for the first time.

The concert was preceded with a panel discussion chaired by Marta Ptaszynska and dealing with social and political circumstances for the activities of composers in Poland, from socialist realism in the 1950s, to an emphasis on religion in the 1990s. The participants included Danuta Gwizdalanka, Anna Czekanowska, Krzysztof Meyer, and the “reporter” – Maja Trochimczyk who had to rush to catch her plane home.

Szpilman’s American Premiere

Sunday, 29 April 2001, a day at the end of the “Month of National Rememberance” in Poland (dedicated to the memory of all the victims of the Nazi Germany) and the Shoah rememberance, was also the date of a memorable concert given by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, confidently and enthusiastically led by conductor Noreen Green. The program of this concert, entitled, “Remembrances: Reflections on the Holocaust” contained works connected to this event either by theme or the identity of the composer. The most notable, from the Polish point of view, was the American premiere of the Piano Concertino composed in 1940 in the Warsaw Ghetto by pianost composer and song-writer, Władysław Szpilman (1911-2000).

Szpilman himself was supposed to attend the concert but, sadly, died before. He was ably represented by his son, Andrzej Szpilman who now lives in Germany. The Concertino, like most of the music on the program, was surprisingly cheerful – a direct comparison could be made with the Rhapsody with Blue by George Gershwin (American -Jewish composer with family roots in Poland). Thus, it sounded neither Polish, nor Jewish, but American to contemporary ears. Thus, it attested to the knowledge and liking of American music in pre-war Poland. The audience of the Valley Beth Shalom temple was filled with over 1000 people, enthusiastically applauding each item on the program.

The Concertino was very ably played by young Artur Abadi (16 year old!); another memorable soloist was Ariella Vaccarino, USC graduate who, with great intensity and expressivity (and a rich, attractive voice), sung solos in several of the less interesting film music scores. There was also a new piece by Robert Elfman, a 20 year old student of composition from USC (“We Will Tell Them”) documenting his will to remember the victims of the Holocaust as celebrated in the “March of the Living” held in Poland (Mr. Elfman participated at the age of 17).

Andrzej Szpilman visited the PMC earlier on; he brought a 5-CD package issued by the Polish Radio as a gift to our Center. The set contains a recording of the concertino by Władysław Szpilman himself, dating back to 1969, and done with the orchestra of the Polish Radio conducted by Stefan Rachon. 1969 – is a year after the anti-semitic “purges” of Poland in 1968 when numerous Polish Jews decided to leave the country. Amazingly, Mr. Szpilman was able to stay and continue his illustrious career as a musician, performer, composer and a well-respected contributor to Polish culture. The CDs document his career as a performer, composer of concert pieces, popular songs, and children’s music.

While surveying the contents of the CDs I noticed that my son’s favorite childhood’s story “Lata Ptaszek Po Ulicy” (Little Bird Flies around the Street) is included in the set. I did not know that these Polish songs were also written by a Polish-Jewish composer. I knew many other titles that I could sing along – Szpilman melodic gift was well appreciated in his home country. Please note that another copy of the CD set will be used as a gift to a PMC supporter – see Discography for a special offer by Wanda Wilk.

The Music Of Czesław Marek

The music of Czesław Marek (1891-1985), a nearly-forgotten Polish composer has a new chance of being recognized for its beauty thanks to the efforts of a British composer living in Paris, Gary Brain. Marek was born in Przemyśl and received most of his musical education in this area until the Germans forced him to flee. He found refuge in to Vienna and managed to obtain composition lessons with Mahler’s most favorite student Karl Weigl. In the end Marek was forced to flee again and this time he chose Switzerland where he married and settled for the rest of his life (he had no children). Gary Brain writes:

It is interesting to note that Marek nearly went to study with Schoenberg, but instead rebuked all modern trends and remained faithful to his own style which of course was out of fashion during the postwar period. Thus his music was forgotten. A music publisher, writer and a great lover of “neglected” composers, Martin Anderson brought me a pile of scores to peruse. I knew I was looking at masterpieces. Koch, the huge German/American record company, agreed to record the complete works with Gary Brain and one of the most famous orchestras in the world today – London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. […] I think his mighty “SINFONIA” in the first CD is a masterpiece, very difficult but all his music is romantic, the style is similar to Strauss and/or Mahler. In the end it is unmistakebly Marek.

Gary Brain has conducted some of the world’s finest orchestras (such as the Philharmonia at the Aldeburgh Festival) and appeared all over Europe frequently (London, Germany, Spain, France, Finland, St Petersburg, Russia, Germany , Norway, Sweden & Iceland. At present he would like to find a way of performing these 20th-century masterpieces in Poland where the music has yet to be heard. The recordings received universal praise, the first volume received the first prize in the Deutsche Schallplatten Echo competition (for the best orchestral CD in 1997); the third volume was selected by “Gramophone” as the CD of the month. Before being able to hear some of the extraordinary music in live concerts (and who needs more Wagner?), it is possible to find the following recordings in the record stores:

  • CZESLAW MAREK, VOL 1 Koch 3-6439-2
  • CZESLAW MAREK, VOL 2 Koch 3-6440-2; featuring the young German violinst Ingolf Turban in a solo part;
  • CESLAW MAREK, VOL 3 Koch 3-6441-2. It is a series of orchestral Polish songs sung by a brilliant young Polish composer Elzbieta Szmytka, plus some choral works for male choir & orchestra.

Polish Singers Alliance Convention In May

We remind our readers by repeating this item from the previous newsletter. The Polish Singers Alliance of America, founded in 1889 and “home base” to as many as 329 Polonia choruses over the years, will stage its 46th International Convention during a “Choral Resort Mini-Vacation” in Johnstown PA over the Memorial Day weekend.

Delegates from singing societies in the United States and Canada will meet in business sessions May 24th and 25th at the Living and Learning Center of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. The triennial convention deliberates about developments in the PSAA, considers constitutional changes, and elects new officers to guide the organization for the next three years.

On Saturday, May 26th at 2pm, competition will be held among male, female and mixed choruses, with the coveted Cardinal Hlond Trophy awarded every three years to that group winning the highest point total from five judges. For information about the convention, make contact with Joan Ludwig in Johnstown PA (814-536-7209) e-mail ; or PSAA Secretary Barbara Blyskal in Staten Island NY (718-720-6089) e-mail .

Guests interested in the bus excursion from Buffalo should make contact with Dan Kij (716-822-5258) e-mail . Reservations are limited.

35th Anniversary In San Francisco

Congratulations to Wanda Tomczykowska, founder and director of the Polish Arts & Culture Foundation of San Francisco and the 35th anniversary of the organization! One of the many projects honoring this event will be a large exhibit in honor of the International Paderewski Year at the San Francisco Public Library in the Civic Center to be displayed from 1 August to 17 September.

Wilk Prizes: New Deadline In June!

The 2001 edition of the Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music will be held in the Essay categories. Professional prize will be given for the best paper on Polish music written by a scholar who completed his studies ($1000), while the prize of $500 will be given to a best paper by a student. More information about the rules and past winners of the competition may be found at the PMC web site: Wilk Prizes. The new deadline for submissions is June 30 and the competition will now be finalized and held in the same year. The winners will be announced after October 30, 2001 and the prize winning papers published in the online Polish Music Journal

Polish Festival In Santa Barbara

by Maja Trochimczyk

Thanks to Bill Kraft, professor of composition at UC Santa Barbara [who was the first composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1981) and who founded the New Music Group in L.A.] this year’s festival was devoted to Polish composers. L.A. Times music critic Mark Swed wrote an excellent review of the opening recital of the festival by Polish composer and pianist Zygmunt Krauze, who according to Swed “gave a splendid survey of piano music by Polish composers beginning with Chopin, Szymanowski and Lutoslawski, followed by his own works and those of Serocki, Schaeffer, Dobrowolski and Tomasz Sikorski on Wednesday night at the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on the UCSB campus.”

Swed called Krauze a “major” composer of our times and had many compliments for his talents as a performer/composer whose “Gloves Music” and “Stone Music” could transform visual action into fascinating sounds. Swed reviewed the solo recital of the composer, while Krauze’s chamber music was presented during the Saturday night concert. including Piano Quintet, Quatuor por la naissance, Pne piano Eight Hands and Soundscape, the latter work for “an amazing assortment of bells, glasses, zithers, harmonicas, and more. The latter work, a 1975 piece expressed Krauze’s fascination with folk music that resulted in the creation of eponymously called collage of folk-melodies “Folk Music” and “Aus aller welt stammende.” Unlike composers who quote melodies or motives, Krauze cites also the rough sonorities of folklore, at times by using rare instruments, such as used in “Soundscape” – along with recordings of singing in a Polish village – at the church, tavern and playground.

During the Festival, Krauze was the composer in residence and gave a number of lectures and private lessons, that completely filled his calendar. Students enthusiastically crowded around him, relishing a chance of meeting one of the foremost composer-performers of our times. As the founder of the  Warsztat Muzyczny (Music Workshop) Krauze premiered countless contemporary works and appeared in a wide-ranging repertoire by others; this exposure however, did not harm the development of his very individual and strong artistic voice. Marta Ptaszynska, who just completed her own festival at the University of Chicago, could not come for health reasons; the other distinguished guest, Prof. Włodzimierz Kotonski played a role more of an ethnomusicologist than a composer.

It was surprising to me, since I nearly forgot that the list of Kotonski’s publications, includes, in addition to monumental books on electronic music and percussion instruments (standards of the literature of these subjects), also articles and books on the music of the Podhale area in the Tatra mountains. Kotonski’s keynote address on the Podhale music dealt with the basic forms known historically and recent changes caused by the modernisation and loss of cultural isolation of that area. The address was followed by a brief discussion by all present and led by Prof. Timothy Cooley who organized the panel and performed in a “kapela goralska” that played a number of tunes at the beginning of the Sunday symposium-concert. The program of the “concert” part included works that clearly had nothing to do with folklore, most notably the American premiere of Kotonski’s “Variable Structures” (2000), and pieces inspired by the songs and dances of different areas in Poland. Inspirations for Witold Lutoslawski’s “Bukoliki” and Grazyna Bacewicz’s “Mazovian dance” came from the central and northern parts of Poland, traditionally associated with the creation of the concept of “national identity” in music (it should be not surprising if one were to consider that the national anthem is a mazurka). I discussed issues associated with the use of this folklore both in Polish musical tradition, and in ideologically charged postwar culture in a short presentation preceding this part of the concert.

The most touching piece on the program, and the most personal, was a piano work by Jerry Haladyna, a composition faculty member at UCSB whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Bukowina Tatrzanska. He took for his model a song “Gorale za chlebem” (“Highlanders, following the bread/in search of bread”) that describes the emigre experience and used it in a work for solo piano. This piece played by the composer after an archival recording of a 1920s kapela playing the original song, was, perhaps, the only one truly and deeply connected to the theme of the festival, “In Solidarity – New Music from Poland and America.” It was an expression of solidarity of Mr. Haladyna with the generation of his parents, and a new piece coming in parts from both Poland and from America.

One last word is due to the performers (not-composers) among whom the Polish cellist Jakub Omsky, now living in Santa Barbara, was the most memorable. The festival’s promotional materials described him as a “sensational” musician; apart from playing in the Sunday concert-symposium, Omsky gave a solo recital. Its program included some of the loveliest Polish pieces for cello, from Marta Ptaszyńska’s “Moonflowers” to Lutoslawski’s “Sacher Variations” and Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Per Slava.” Unfortunately I could not be there and the words of praise that I am posting here come from “hearsay” – Prof. Wlodzimierz Kotonski was delighted with the musicality and technique of this young maverick. We hope to see and hear more of him soon.


National Heritage Awards

The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Awards 2000 in Music went to composer Andrzej Nikodemowicz and violinist Andrzej Kulka. An Honorary Award was presented to the Mazowsze National Folk and Song Ensemble.

“Fryderyk” Recording Awards

Some of the “Fryderyk” Awards for 2000 went to:

For opera: Andrzej Hiolski who died last year.

For choral music: recording of Penderecki’s “Seven Gates of Jerusalem” by the National Philharmonic SO under Kazimierz Kord.

Honorary Mention: the late composer Władysław Szpilman for both his serious music as well as the many “hit” songs which are so popular. His widow received the statuette, but turned it over to the president of Polish Radio, Ryszard Miazkow with whom the late composer worked before and after WWII. Polish Radio just released a five-CD package, “Władysław Szpilman, Pianist. A Musical Portrait.”

Calendar Of Events

MAY 1: Juliana Gondek, soprano. UCLA Faculty Recital. Music of Chopin included. 8:00 p.m. ($10, $7).

MAY 6: Chopin Piano Concerto. Paweł Skrzypek, piano and Hubert Salwarowski. Polish American Club of Greater Sacramento. 327 Main St., Roseville, CA (916) 782-7171. In celebration of Polish Constitution Day.

MAY 18: “Halka,” Moniuszko’s opera. Viennese version. Polish Theatre Institute of New York. Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre. Washington, D.C. $35. Info: Irena Radwańska (301) 267-5122.

MAY 20: Kościuszko Foundation Music Series. Connecticut Chamber Virtuosi founded by Andrzej Anweiler. 3:00 p.m.

MAY 25: Szymanowski String Quartet No. 2. Berlin Philharmonic Quartet. Bath Festival (

Recent Performances

Penderecki Quartet In Los Angeles

by Maja Trochimczyk

On 9 April 2001 the Penderecki Quartet (ensemble in residence at the Wilfried Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada) gave a program of modern quartets in the Bing Theater of the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. The Quartet presented a selective program consisting of: Henryk Gorecki’s String Quartet No. 2, Giacinto Scelsi’s String Quartet No. .., and the Black Angels for four amplified instruments by George Crumb. The evening was of an exceptional artistic quality, due both to the merits of the compositions presented on the program and the value of the performance. The second program was more conservative as it coupled string quartets by Haydn, Brahms and Bartok.

Henryk Gorecki’s Quartet no. 2 is best known in its interpretation by the Kronos Quartet (available on CD). The Penderecki Quartet played it differently, with more romantic feeling, fuller, richer sound, greater tempo contrasts. It was an unforgettable interpretation and we hope that it will be soon available on a CD. Scelsi, a rich Italian count, did not need the public or critical appraisal to survive, so he could compose as he pleased. In this quartet, he decided to have all the instruments playing with scordatura, i.e. mistuning of strings, with the tuning changing the standard arrangements of fifths into thirds and sixths. The instrumentalists often played empty strings, without vibrato and the eerie sonorities created unusual, harsh and haunting textures. Crumb’s Black Angels is a classic; with its strong theatrical component, it requires the performers to be truly extraordinary to be convincing. The Penderecki Quartet did exactly that – when humming and playing at the same time, reciting, playing on glasses with bows, or extinguishing candles on a side-table.

A word of explanation is due about the quartet’s name: it was founded by four Polish musicians in Canada who asked Penderecki to allow them to use his name. In time, only one Polish musician remained on board; the Quartet continues to perform and record new music. Its members are now on the faculty of the Wilfried Laurier University and in charge of its chamber music program.

In California

The great Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha “continues to bring high style to her broad repertory” according to Times music critic Daniel Cariaga. Writing about her latest recital in Royce Hall at UCLA, “Music of Chopin and Spanish composer comprised the latest Larrocha survey, beginning with four masterpieces polished to a shine: the Nocturne in B, the Barcarolle, the Berceuse and the A-flat Polonaise Fantasy.” He continued, “Only one other pianist in recent memory combined in his Chopin playing the utter spontaneity and perfectly sculptured profile that Larrocha produces so effortlessly; that pianist was the late Artur Rubinstein.”

On 29 April Pianist Richard Goode gave a recital at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of music by Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. The Chopin included Nocturne, six Mazurkas and the Barcarolle in F sharp.

Two days later the Culver City-Marina del Rey-Westchester Symphony conducted by Frank Fetta presented music by Chopin, Verdi and others in Culver City.

Fermo Roscigno and Junko Jeno Garrett included Chopin in their piano recitals at Cal State Long Beach during the week of April 22nd.

Leonard Stein presented 4 Szymanowski Mazurkas in his Piano Spheres Series in Pasadena.

On the U.S. East Coast

An “Evening of Romantic Music” was presented by students of the Stryjniak Music School of New Jersey, performing works by Chopin and Szymanowski. At the Polish Consulate at Madison Ave. & 37th St., New York.

Pianist Mitsuko Uchida performed Chopin’s Piano Sonata in B minor at Carnegie Hall, NY. April 27.

Chopin was heard in the concert presented by four pianists from Lithuania who are presently studying or teaching in the U.S. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 17 April. Gabrielius Alekna is the first Lithuanian to be accepted into the DMA program at Juilliard. Andrius Zlabys graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music founded by the Polish pianist Josef Hoffman.

In Poland

Nowy Dziennik (20 April) reported that Jozef Elsner’s “Passion” closed the XXIII Festival of “Old Music in Historic Places” in Warsaw. Jacek Kaspszyk conducted the Warsaw Symphony Orchestra and the Choir of the Warsaw Chamber Opera. The entire festival had been devoted to Elsner, Chopin’s teacher. Among the works heard: Sonata for violin and piano, Songs, Quartet in d-minor and Septet in D major.

A seven-day festival “Beethoven and Music of the 20th c. – A Century of Apocalypse and Hope” featured 28 musical works; not only of Beethoven, but also of Bartok, Ravel, Schonberg, Stravinsky, Mahler, Szymanowski (Stabat Mater) and Penderecki (Credo).

Around The World

Vadim Gluzman performed Wieniawski’s “fantaisie brillante on themes from Faust” with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra conducted by Allesandro Siciliani in Australia. Sachio Fujioka conducted the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Lutoslawski’s “Concerto for Orchestra” on Arpil 20 and 21.


by Wanda Wilk

Szpilman – Special Offer!

If there is enough interest, we may be able to make this special offer: For a $100 donation to the Friends of Polish Music (a support group for the Polish Music Center), you can receive the Szpilman Portrait of 5 CDs as a premium gift! Let us know right away. Reserve your copy by e-mailing me:

The 5 CD set is a selection of music from Polish Radio archives which show Władysław Szpilman as a composer, a solo performer and chamber music artist playing with Poland’s leading string artists.

PRCD 241 – Piosenki [Songs]. A selection of 19 songs “hits” performed by Poland’s leading singers, such as, Irena Santor, Mieczysław Fogg, Rena Rolska, Slawa Przybylska and others.

PRCD 242 – Pianista [Pianist]. Szpilman’s talent as a concert pianist is evident in performing music by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Schumann and himself.

PRCD 243 – Violin and Piano Sonatas by Brahms, Grieg and Franck. Bronisław Gimpel, violin; Szpilman, piano.

PRCD 244 – Piano Quintets by Brahms and Schumann. Szpilman, p., Bronisław Gimpel, v., Tadeusz Wroński, v., Stefan Kamasa, va., Aleksander Ciechanski, cello.

PRCD 245 – [For children]. Songs and musical fables for children from the archives of Polish Radio recorded 1962-75. Many soloists with a majority of Halina Mickiewicz, singer and the Kraków Polish Radio Orchestra under Jerzy Gent, cond.

Szymanowski Recordings

The May 2001 issue of Gramophone has a special 4-page feature “Best of Szymanowski on Disc” by Michael Oliver (p. 36). He begins the article with “It has taken over half a century for Szymanowski’s true stature to reveal itself.” He provides a Select Discography list of 21 CDs, which lists all his four symphonies and violin concertos on five different CDs. The opera King Roger, which he calls “Szymanowski’s most personal work and surely his masterpiece” is represented on two of them and the ballet, “Harnasie” also on two different discs. His chamber music and piano music is on 8 of them, while the vocal music is on 7 different CDs which include 3 different recordings of the Stabat Mater (two Polish ones and the award-winning one by Sir Simon Rattle).

He also discusses other earlier recordings ones by famous violinists and pianists, which “have vanished (Sviatoslav Richter and Mieczysław Horszowski” and also those who have lately started to record the complete piano works: Martin Jones and Martin Roscoe and compares them with Paweł Kamasa and Raymond Clarke.

“Martin Roscoe’s slightly more intimate accounts on Naxos make an excellent alternative, but his series stopped after only three discs. His cycle can be valuably completed, or Jones’s usefully supplemented, by Paweł Kamasa’s outstandingly beautiful account of all 22 Mazurkas on Koch Schwann, a demonstration that they are among the masterpieces of 20th century keyboard music, and by Raymond Clarke’s eloquent survey of all three Sonatas on Athene.” This is, indeed, a very important article for all lovers of Szymanowski’s music.

Newest Releases

NAXOS has announced their newest release NAXOS 8.555375 of Gorecki’s Second Symphony and “Beatus Vir” by the Polish National Radio and Symphony Orchestra.

Look up for Tansman’s Cello Concerto, Fantasy and Ten Commandments performed by the Hanover Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yinon. Koch Schwann 36405-2

A new DVD Video “Mystery of Chopin – the Strange Case of Delfina Potocka.” Arthaus 100-176. See:

Paderewski And The Common Man

by Joseph A. Herter

Starting in June, with the 60th anniversary of Paderewski’s death, and ending in November, the month in which this immortal Pole was born, many tributes will be given in his memory both by famous statesmen and musicians.In the Paderewski Archives in the capital’s State Archives, however, countless tributes can be found tucked away between the pages of scrapbooks and among letters that Paderewski kept.

Some of the most interesting tributes are those written by non-politicians and non-musicians: the common man. Here is an editorial from the Saturday Evening Star in Jackson, Michigan, dating from 1916. At that time the city had a population of around 31,000. A hundred Jacksonites took the 30-mile trip to Ann Arbor to hear the legendary pianist play at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium. You cannot fail to catch the enthusiasm of this nonprofessional music lover as he describes the previous night’s concert in the most delightful of down-to-earth terms. It makes you imagine to what heights Paderewski let his listeners soar as they heard his music played.

I went over to Ann Arbor last night to listen to Paderewski. I had never heard or seen the great artist, and was glad to join the audience of 6,000 in extending the glad hand. And the way he skated over those keys fully earned the applause – ‘Pade’ is sure some skater on the piano ice. In the opening of a Schubert Fantasia he struck right out – you wouldn’t think the old man could strike so hard – and when he hit the high spots he smoothed them down, and in his lower notes he was gentle as the evening zephyr. He caressed and toyed with Schubert as a cat toys with a mouse. The round lasted twenty-seven minutes and it was all in favor of the Pole, and the great auditorium thundered with applause at the finish. Later, and for two hours, with but ten minutes’ rest, he wooed and hammered that piano, and often he pounded like a nailer. But those capable of judging said that it was grand, delightful – and I reckon it was. At least it was worth the price to see a hundred of Jackson’s music-lovers in raptures over the artist’s performance.

Nearly 25 years later, towards the end of the first year of World War II, a very moving fan letter can be found from a Methodist minister at the Victory Methodist Church in Dayton, Ohio. Less than a half year later, America would join the conflict as well. Here this man of the cloth’s testimony shows how Paderewski served for many Americans as the personification of civil righteousness and the champion for “the cause which is Right.” The letter is dated July 9, 1940.

Dear Sir and Friend:

This letter, as are perhaps many that you receive, is from one who has never had the privilege of seeing you or meeting you personally. Quite a number of months ago, when you were in United States, my family and I had the privilege of hearing you play over the radio that lovely “Minuet in G.” I am not a professional musician. I do not even know how to play the piano, yet the memory of the beautiful and exquisite way in which you played that number has lingered with me thru the months. We enjoyed immensely all the other pieces you played that Sunday afternoon as well, but the Minuet was the best of all. Ever since that time I have wished to write you just to say to you that you gave my family and me a deep joy and great inspiration with your splendid music that day. In these dark and troubled days, I know your heart is bowed with deep grief and is perhaps far from your lovely music, but I wanted you to know that we have appreciated your gift of the lovely rendition of that matchless music, and that we are praying for you and your Country, that Right shall ultimately prevail, and that, thru all that comes, you and your people shall have the strength of God to bravely and successfully carry on.

Sincerely yours, [signature]

Rev. E. J. A. St. Louis

After reading these tributes, can one not feel a bit of envy at those who were able to share the “Paderewski experience”?


Born This Month

  • 2 May 1846: Zygmunt NOSKOWSKI (d. 23 July 1909), composer.
  • 2 May 1913: Florian DĄBROWSKI, composer and teacher.
  • 5 May 1819: Stanisław MONIUSZKO (d. 4 June 1872).
  • 5 May 1909: Grażyna BACEWICZ (d. 17 January 1969), composer, violinist, and pianist.
  • 12 May 1805: Jan Nepomucen BOBROWICZ (d. 2 November 1881), guitarist and composer.
  • 17 May 1943: Joanna BRUZDOWICZ, composer living in Belgium.
  • 18 May 1905: Włodzimierz ORMICKI, composer, conductor, music theoretician.
  • 20 May 1903: Jerzy FITELBERG (d. 25 April 1951), composer, son of the famous conductor.
  • 28 May 1836: Jan KARŁOWICZ (d. 14 June 1903), father of composer Mieczysław.
  • 29 May 1903: Marian NEUTEICH (d. 1943, Warsaw), composer and cellist.
  • 31 May 1932: Bogusław MADEY, conductor and composer.
  • 31 May 1913: Irena GARZTECKA (d. 14 November 1963), composer and pianist.


Died This Month

  • 1 May 1948: Marcel POPŁAWSKI (b. 1882), composer and teacher, studied law and engineering before turning to composition.
  • 4 May 1896: Józef SIKORSKI (b. 1813), composer and music theorist.
  • 6 May 1892: Nikodem BIERNACKI (b. 1826), violinist and composer.
  • 10 May 1964: Hanna SKALSKA-SZEMIOTH (b. 29 April 1921), composer, student of Sikorski.
  • 13 May 1958: Eugeniusz MOSSAKOWSKI (b. 1885), opera singer (baritone).
  • 21 May 1848: Felix JANIEWICZ (b. 1762), violinist, conductor, and composer.
  • 23 May 1957: Alicja SIMON (b.1879), musicologist.
  • 25 May 1917: Edward RESZKE (b. 1853), opera singer (bass), brother of Jan.