Given the current pandemic situation, the New York-based Polish pianist Magdalena Baczewska continues to perform in the virtual realm. Using her home as a musical salon, over the past few months she has been posting a series of topical interviews and performances that provide delightful and illuminating insights into the repertoire she performs.
Although the idea of “at home” concerts these days may seem to be necessary given widespread bans on public performance, Baczewska actually follows a tradition that was established well over a century ago by Paderewski, who gave a series of “at home” concerts for a select audience in London. Of course, the most prestigious “at home” invitation for Paderewski came from Queen Victoria, who heard him in private for the first time in 1891 at Windsor Palace. Many years later in his Memoirs, Paderewski remembered that:
The “at homes” were very popular and played rather an important part in the season of every artist who came to London. Although they were financially satisfactory, or I should say became so, they were not altogether an unmixed blessing. I had countless propositions to play in private houses in London, so many that it even became a difficulty to decide which to accept. I played in several places, but it was very hard, I found, because it was a form of entertainment that was not considered very seriously by the guests. […]
I actually accomplished two things then, and I claim the credit for it. First of all, I educated those fashionable audiences in how to listen to music, and the proper attitude toward an artist. Many of them afterward said, “What a change in the audiences now at the ‘at homes’! No more talking, thank God!”
Secondly, I accomplished another thing for the benefit of my colleagues, because I raised the prices for these private appearances everywhere.
In case a guide how to listen to music is needed, look no further than Magdalena Baczewska’s website. There you will find links to several enjoyable introductions to keyboard literature, ably prefaced by the artist. Here, for example, is a link of Baczewska discussing and performing Maurice Ravel’s Jeaux d’eau: www.magdalenanyc.com/post/river-gods-cascades-and-brooks-in-two-themes.
A quick historical perspective on the Pavane, including Baczewska’s harpsichord performance of this stately court dance from the Baroque era and Ravel’s Pavane on her Steinway, can be found here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkQF47JCG-4&feature=youtu.be.
Another little gem is Baczewska’s talk on piano technique, using the example of Chopin’s Waltz, Op. 64 no. 2, available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Dqg7SOBCo
And, to come back to Paderewski’s point, unlike London in the Victorian era, these performances on YouTube are free for you to enjoy “at home!”