Marek Szlezer (b. 1981) is one of the most sought-after Polish pianists. His career began with the Grand Prix at the Rome International Piano Competition at the age of 12. Since then, he has studied at the École Normale de Musique in Paris, Kraków Music Academy and the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth in Belgium with Ewa Bukojemska, Abdel Rahman El Bach, Dmitri Bashkirov and Marcella Crudeli. A recipient of grants from Polish and foreign foundations, the City of Kraków and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Szlezer is a prizewinner of many prestigious competitions in Poland and abroad, including the First Prize at the National Chopin Competition in Warsaw and the Special Prize of the Chopin National Edition. Marek Szlezer had the honor to play a concert on Chopin’s original piano at Jagiellonian University on the night Poland entered the European Union. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, Palais des Beaux Arts, Salle Cortot, Wigmore Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Alfred Newman Hall and NCPA with such leading orchestras as the English Chamber Orchestra and the National Polish Radio Symphonic Orchestra. After discovering piano music by Jadwiga Sarnecka, Marek Szlezer recorded a selection of her compositions for the DUX label. He has also authored research papers about the piano works of Polish composers, published by Polish Music Publishers and Euphonium, and has published books and articles about Polish music. He has recorded several albums (DUX, EMI, Amadeus and Moderato Classics among others), receiving enthusiastic critical acclaim from Gramophone, Kulturspiegel, The Strad, Pizzicato, Fanfare, and American Record’s Guide among others. He holds a Professorship of Piano at Kraków Music Academy, where he received his PhD in 2009 and postdoctoral degree in music in 2015.
The first complete edition of six Ballads for piano solo composed by Jadwiga Sarnecka (1873? -1913) has been published by the Eufonium publishing house. This recent edition was based entirely on the composer’s extant manuscripts preserved at the Jagiellonian University Library, which were researched and edited by Marek Szlezer, a Krakow-based pianist and scholar. According to Szlezer: “The project took me quite a lot of time and effort, because Sarnecka had a pretty nasty habit of constantly changing details from one autograph to another… Plus, her late manuscripts bear witness to an almost painful physical endeavor to complete her vision (all her family had been decimated by tuberculosis for which she suffered greatly since adolescence…)”
Considered the most eminent female composer of Polish early modernism, Sarnecka wrote seven Ballads. Ballad No. 7, her last work, remained incomplete and has not been included in the new edition. These works remained unpublished during the composer’s lifetime. For her Ballad No. 4, Sarnecka was awarded a prize at the competition organized to commemorate the centenary of Chopin’s birth in 1910. The Grand Prix of this same competition was awarded to Karol Szymanowski for his Piano Sonata No. 1.
Sarnecka was the only Polish composer to further develop the form of the piano Ballad after Chopin, and she frequented the form on a regular basis. Her dissonant and original language was inspired mainly by the output of Schumann, Brahms, and Reger. Her Ballads were retained by critics of the early 20th century as the most representative of Sarnecka’s style.
[Sources: facebook.com, editor’s notes]