Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Pic-Nic at the Country House of Otwock Wielki near Warsaw, Poland 3 May 2015

Click on photographs to enlarge - far superior rendition

We had a lovely day at the Palace of Otwock Wielki on May 3rd  'Constitution Day'. 

Cupid strikes! Detail from a restored tapestry in the palace

The Lake
For more details and photographs  see:  


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

17th International Fryderyk Chopin Competition, Warsaw, 2015

Jan Ignacy Paderewski

With the tremendous advances in technology in the last five years and the sterling efforts of the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute in providing live streaming of the entire competition, I feel a detailed blog of the competition as I last presented it in 2010 is now redundant. 

You will be able to judge every stage of the competition for yourselves without me wittering on about performances. My opinions expressed in 2010 of Chopin, pianists, performing and competitions have scarcely changed. I may keep the blog as a type of occasional personal internet journal instead of writing it in longhand as I once did years ago. One can convert these long festival and competition blogs into printed books at modest cost which I have done.

I receive so little feedback or appreciation of my musical blogs apart from my closest friends I really cannot see the point of engaging in this exhausting task anymore. Not being a Polish Professor of Music has really done for my critical credibility here.  

As a creative artist and writer I have never considered myself 'a critic' or 'journalist' and share most of the negative appraisals of those occupations. I have always attempted to give a balanced expression of my feelings that stem from a great love of music, in particular the piano and pianists. I did study the piano and harpsichord seriously in London for many years but sensibly accepted the fact I lacked sufficient talent for a professional career and so wandered in the groves of academe with the greatest of pleasure. In short my opinions are simply those of a trained musician and informed mélomane.
I have always believed together with Joseph Addison, the distinguished and influential 17th century English essayist, that

A true critic ought to dwell rather upon excellencies than imperfections, to discover the concealed beauties of a writer [read 'musician'], and communicate to the world such things as are worth their observation.

I have always tried to observe this policy.

However in the back of my mind lurks the phrase 'too many words' to paraphrase Emperor Joseph II from the film Amadeus.

The Preliminary Rounds of the competition are now available streamed live on this link:

I expect when the Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Festival and the Chopin and His Europe International Music Festival are inevitably live-streamed I shall stop commenting on them in detail also.

ANZAC Day Service in Poland – 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli Landings commemorated in Warsaw

Click on photos to enlarge - a far superior rendition

The Saxon Gardens Warsaw on a perfect Spring Day, 25 April, 2015

Many Australians would find it surprising perhaps to discover that an Anzac Day Service has taken place here in Warsaw for some years. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landing, the Embassies of New Zealand and Australia, with support from the Warsaw Garrison, held a Service of Remembrance at 1145 hours on Saturday 25 April 2015 at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier, Pl. Piłsudskiego in Warsaw.

I have always felt that the broad notion of 'allies betrayed' has bound Poles, Australians and New Zealanders together in spirit however complex and many-sided the actual historical truth. The three nationalities, allies in war but apparently so different, share a love of risk, a healthy disdain for authority, a sense of comradeship and committed emotional sentiment in many campaigns of war which required formidable heroism against impossible odds. In fact during World War II Poles, Australians and New Zealanders fought side by side at the appalling Battle of Monte Cassino. The Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade fought alongside Australian troops at the Siege of Tobruk. One surviving members of the Brigade took part in this year's special 100th Anniversary ceremony. We even had a military band this year!

Here are some photographs of the ceremony.

The Australian and New Zealand forces representatives

Poles are keen on detailed and accurate re-enactments and commemorations of past battles from the medieval Battle of Grunwald in 1410, through 19th century Napoleonic battles to WW II and it seems even to this commemoration. 

This trio are part of a Living History Group known as  "Commonwealth Forces". They re-enact non-British troops fighting during the both world conflicts - primarily Australian soldiers (AIF). This specific interest means that the group consists of only 15 people in the whole country. The trio came from the attractive and outstandingly musical town of Bydgoszcz. Uniforms, equipment and armament come from their own collections, vehicles from the collection of their friends. Nothing is hired from commercial outlets. 

How amazing is that!

Three Polish members of the Living History Group known as  
"Commonwealth Forces". 

The Australian Ambassador to Poland H. E. Jean Dunn enjoys a convivial moment with three members of the Polish Living History Group 'Commonwealth Forces'.

At this event I always reflect deeply on the nature of children confronted with such a commemoration and the contemporary horrors that are unforgivably murdering and maiming such innocents

See this link for my personal connection with ANZAC Day that always makes the Gallipoli Anniversary of immense significance to me


Two young boys wonder at the wreaths laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pilsudski Square Warsaw at the 2014 ceremony. Let us fervently hope they never have to face any war that has given rise to such memorials

Home to watch in the evening the masterpiece Gallipoli (1981) directed by Peter Weir, a film which encapsulates everything concerning the spirit of ANZAC and many of the qualities that being an Australian male entails. As Mel Gibson who starred in it points out in an interview, a film that entertains, educates and uplifts spiritually - in short a complete work of art.

A balanced documentary view of the Dardanelles Campaign from both sides by Tolga Ornek is assembled on a more recent DVD narrated by Jeremy Irons and Sam Neil. Entitled Gallipoli: The Frontline Experience it contains an immense amount of contemporary and harrowing footage (118 minutes) without the glamour that a commercial feature film unavoidably gives to the battle. www.goentertain.tv  GRDA 4020

If one has a strong enough stomach one can read in excruciating detail of the full communication and slaughterous shambles and incompetence of the various landings on the peninsula by ANZACS, the British and the French as well as the often ignored but enormous Turkish casualties in the recent book Gallipoli by Peter Hart (London 2011). The many personal accounts that the author selects from the diaries and letters of officers and men brings this book gruelingly alive and immediate. Compulsive reading. 

Another book I discovered this year is War Dairies : A Chaplain at Gallipoli. The Great War Diaries of Kenneth Best (Imperial War Museum Publication, London 2011). These unmatched dairies have the immediacy of a movie and an unflinching candour, in particular concerning the British class distinctions that often soiled relations between officers and men.

Naturally the classic account Gallipoli by Alan Moorehead (London 1956) remains the touchstone appraisal of the campaign.

Incidentally and more generally, a recent particularly interesting and properly researched  book I have just read concerns Poland and its historical relationship with Australia. 

Much new information to me was  contained in this account.

The Poles &  Australia by Malgorzata Klatt 
Australian Scholarly Publishing (9 November 2014)

and also available on Kindle at