Polish Royal Opera - Aleksander i Apelles - Karol Kurpiński - 10 March 2018

It is always of great interest in life to stumble over a rare, normally inaccessible and forgotten work of art. An apple on the moon. In this case it was a small chamber opera by the eminent Polish composer Karol Kazimierz Kurpiński (1785-1857) that had not been performed in repertory for some two hundred years.  
Outside of his native land, his name would certainly only be known to a few specialist musicologists in western countries despite being the most prominent Polish composer before Fryderyk Chopin. Born in Włoszakowice, a small villagein west-central Poland, some sixty kilometers from Poznań, he was the son of the local organist and the daughter of a village civil servant. From 1800 to 1808 he played the violin in the orchestra of Count Feliks Polanowski at his seat near Lwów. Later in 1810 he held the post of assistant conductor until 1824 at the National Theater in Warsaw alongside Josef Elsner, Fryderyk Chopin's teacher and also an opera composer of note. At that time he …

Chopin's Birthday - 208th Anniversary on 1st March 2018 - a Charming Day spent both at Żelazowa Wola and in Warsaw

I decided to make the effort to attend the birthday recital at Żelazowa Wola on an uncompromisingly and rather abnormal freezing day on 1st March (-10C). Brrrr....

The romantic intimacy I remember of my first visit to the dwórek and hamlet in the early 1990s has rather disappeared with a quite understandable development of the site to cope with the freedom of the global touristic movement that Poland now enjoys - restaurant, ticket hall, shop, recital and lecture theatre - the full unfolding of facilities for visitors but with the inevitable loss of some of the romantic poetry and mystery of the domain. 

I would like to quote my first impressions of what was for me a deeply poetic place. In an access of nostalgia the extract comes from my book about Poland entitled A Country in the Moon (Granta -London 2008).

                                                                          *  *  *  *  *
In late spring, in a despondent frame of mind, I decided to raise my spirits with a visit to…

Martha Argerich and Friends - POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews - Warsaw - 17th February 2018

This desperately moving and emotionally committed concert was enough to impel the very stones to pity. As a demonstration of the healing power of music and an unflinching  confrontation of historical memory, it was unsurpassed. The performances will remain in my mind as one of the more profound musical experiences of my life. 
Although short in duration and modest in scope, this inspiring first POLIN Music Festival entitled Roots'n'Fruits ranfrom 16-18 February  in Warsaw at the Museum for Polish Jews. The festival is hopefully the bud of a beautiful flower of historical regeneration and reconciliation in Poland. The opening concert of the festival was dedicated to the great philanthropist Zygmunt Rolat who has always cultivated the deepest respect and understanding between cultures.
This chamber concert opened with the Variations on a Theme by Paganini (1941) for two pianos by Witold Lutosławski. This work set the retrospective moral tone of the evening. The premiere of the pie…