74th Duszniki Zdrój International Chopin Piano Festival, 2 - 10 August 2019
|Fryderyk Chopin and one of his muses, the Baroness Aurore Lucile Dupon|
Deansgate - Manchester
The composer performed at the Midland Hotel, Manchester in 1848
Artist: Robert Sobociński (2011)
And so the 10th anniversary of my internet coverage of the Duszniki Zdrój International Chopin Festival comes to and end. I so much look forward to the 75th anniversary of this remarkable festival next year!
Saturday, August 10 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM
Final PIANO RECITAL
It is rather rare to have an English pianist at Duszniki, certainly one that is a Wykehamist
and was a chorister at New College Oxford. All the foremost English musicians were once choristers it seems to me! He has had a worldwide career ranging over many continents and a wide repertoire that includes 60 concertos. He has made many renowned recordings and is an outstanding chamber musician. Since 2001 he has been piano professor at the Royal Academy of Music and serves on many prestigious competition juries.
Nachtstücke Op. 23 (1839)
Mehr langsam, oft zurückhaltend (a dark nocturnal march)
Markiert und lebhaft - symbolic twins: Florestan (manic and stormy) and Eusebius (gentle and introspective)
Mit grosser Lebhaftigkeit (a virtuosic waltz)
Ad libitum – C Einfach (a lullaby or fond parting)
In the autumn of 1838 Schumann moved to Vienna wanting to publish Neue Zeitschrift für Musik journal. He was also hoping to set up a home for himself and his fiancée, Clara Wieck. Both intentions came to nothing and he left the city in April 1839. He told Clara about his compositional life and about a cycle of pieces which he had begun to compose:
I wrote to you about a premonition. I had it in the days from 24th to 27th March, during my new composition. There is a passage which keeps coming back, to which I kept returning. It is as though someone were sighing with a heavy heart: ‘Oh God!’ While composing, I kept seeing funeral processions, coffins, unhappy, despairing people, and when I had finished and had long sought a title I kept coming to Leichenphantasie [corpse-fantasy]. Isn’t that curious? While I was composing I was often so overcome that tears came forth and I really didn’t know why and had no reason for them. Then Therese’s letter arrived, and it stood clearly before me. The strangeness continued, as Schumann recounted in another letter to Clara: "Last Saturday, at half past two in the morning, while I was still on the road, I heard a chorale played by trombones." [His brother Eduard had died at that very moment]
He borrowed the title from his literary hero E.T.A.Hoffmann. Given this imaginative material and its rather lugubrious subject, I felt disappointed that Ian Fountain did not make much more of the cycle expressively. Perhaps I am doing him a disservice, but character pieces should be precisely that - many different characters in different moods and situations strut about on the stage before us decked in their personal finery. Although enjoyable I simply did not feel the difference sufficiently marked.
Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
Overture to “Tannhäuser”, Concert Paraphrase for Piano S. 442 (1847–1849) /Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)
I found his performance of this grand virtuoso piece rather troublesome and would not wish to appear mean-spirited by too much criticism of the solecisms in this formidably demanding piece. I did wonder why he had chosen it in his design of the programme. He tackled it with tremendous verve and commitment as well as a commanding technique. However I feel the work calls for far more than this. One must be able to rise above it technically, soaring like an like an eagle and command it to your will. No mean task but not quite accomplished here despite an outstanding attempt.
César Franck (1822–1890)
Prélude, Choral et Fugue FWV 21 (1884)
Choral. Poco più lento – Poco allegro
Fugue. Tempo I
This Franck work was well described by Adrian Corleonis as ‘an elaborately figured, chromatically inflected, and texturally rich essay in which doubt and faith, darkness and light, oscillate until a final ecstatic resolution.’
After hearing a piece by Emmanuel Chabrier in April 1880, the Dix pièces pittoresques, Franck observed 'We have just heard something quite extraordinary -- music which links our era with that of Couperin and Rameau.' The forms Prélude, Choral and Fugue here are clearly symbolic of their Bach inspired counterparts. The motives are obviously related to the Bach Cantata 'Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen', and also the 'Crucifixus' from the B minor Mass. César Franck transforms these with his own unique solutions and cyclical form.
The influence of the organ and his many years composing sacred texts are obvious here. The pianist Stephen Hough in a note remarked "Alfred Cortot described the Fugue in the context of the whole work as 'emanating from a psychological necessity rather than from a principle of musical composition' (La musique française de piano; PUF, 1930)." The work was finally premiered in January 1885.
Ian Fountain gave one of the most magnificent, powerful and authoritative performances of this work I have heard for a very long time. He managed to extract a full, all stops out, opulent organ timbre, texture and density from the piano as well as great delicacy when required. His technique commanded the piece with a tone and touch that were appropriately noble and grand in all respects, raising deep spiritual emotions from this secular musical construction. The nervously agitated toccata-like Prelude had an irresistible rhythmic forward momentum and the emotions of anguish and pain leading to personal redemption in the Choral were magnificently expressed. Fountain transmuted the work into a great spiritual journey from darkness into the light of dawn. Finally in the complex and embattled Fugue, suffering is resolved into the triumphant Choral theme once again – like a great chiming of bells. The most outstanding piece in his entire programme. A monumental performance....
Nocturnes Op. 48 (1841) No. 1 in C minor No. 2 in F sharp minor
Both these Nocturnes were expressive and suggestive of all the tender and heroic emotions. The musicologist Tadeusz Zielinski described the melody of the Nocturne in C minor as ‘sounds like a lofty, inspired song filled with the gravity of its message, genuine pathos and a tragic majesty’ and the writer Ferdynand Hoesick as: a true ‘Eroica’ among Chopin’s nocturnes. Ian Fountain accomplished all of this with great sensitivity and sensibility.
The effect of the F-sharp minor Nocturne and indeed Chopin's music as a whole was exquisitely described by Andre Gide and realized for us by Fountain:
‘What is most exquisite and most individual in Chopin’s art, wherein it differs most wonderfully from all others, I see in just that non-interruption of the phrase; the insensible, the imperceptible gliding from one melodic proposition to another, which leaves or gives to a number of his compositions the fluid appearance of streams.’
Scherzo in E major Op. 54 (1842–1843)
Oddly I felt this less successful than the nocturnes in his recital. The Scherzo in E major Op. 54 called up images of dancing gremlins and water sprites - a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream full of whimsy and mercurial changes of mood. A demanding work both pianistically and emotionally. For me Ian Fountain could have been lighter and slightly more 'neurotic' in its shifting consciousness and as I see it the play of light on water, the glittering dance of jeu perle. A few solecisms crept it as the underestimated technical demands are so high. The cantabile central section sang the tender yearning song gracefully and movingly with fine legato and beautiful tone colours. Two domains dominate this pianistic poem which delights with the immaculate beauty of its sound - the expression of play and the expression of love.
As encores he played an affecting Chopin Mazurka in C-sharp minor Op. 63 No. 3 with fine idiomatic understanding and subtle rubato. This was followed by a spirited Tarantella and finally a hauntingly beautiful Nocturne in E major Op. 62 No. 2. A beautiful conclusion to a concert full of variety and interest.
Saturday, August 10 CHOPIN’S MANOR 4:00 PM
This extraordinarily young participant in the festival (14) has accomplished astonishing achievements in the classical music piano world having won over 40 awards at international competitions already. She has been invited to the International Piano Academy on Lake Como where she participated in masterclasses with Dmitri Bashkirov, Stanislaw Ioudenitch and Willian Nabore.
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 1 (1835)
This nocturne was performed with both tenderness and żal
Polonaise in F sharp minor Op. 44 (1840–1841)
The F sharp minor Polonaise Op.44 was for me a fine interpretation but not particularly expressive. Excellent phrasing and graduations of controlled tempo. So measured, not dynamically overpowering but rather noble and deeply tragic. The mazurka within was not sentimentalized and so appeared a melancholic bitter commentary on the vanished joys and lost worlds of lyrical happiness before the anger and żal at the inevitability of loss arises. The lines of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas sprang to my mind
Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Historically an outcry of patriotism against a ruined land, this pianist carefully moulded a conception in glowing tone. For me her understanding of the fatalistic implications of this great work was rather limited but at such a tender age? I felt this to be a good, solid polonaise in terms of nobility and the emotional warmth of the lyrical central section. She breathes the phrases well and gives time to the listener to follow the musical story with which by this time she would be so familiar.
Tarantella in A flat major Op. 43 (1841)
'I hope I’ll not write anything worse in a hurry’ – Chopin’s rather unflattering assessment of the Tarantella. Shortly after arriving in Nohant, Chopin wrote to Julian Fontana with the manuscript of the Tarantella (to be copied): ‘Take a look at the of Rossini songs […] where the Tarantella () appears. I don’t know if it was written in 6/8 or 2/8. Both versions are in use, but I’d prefer it to be like the Rossini’ It does have a feeling of frenzy from the growing effects of the poisonous tarantula bite but lacks the characteristic joyfulness and gaiety of the Italian dance. I thought Gevorgyan could have had a far more sprightly approach with the sprung rhythms.
Grande Valse Brillante in A flat major Op. 34 No. 1 (1835)
In this great Chopin waltz, the 'call to the floor' is an exuberant announcement. That such a young pianist can approach the work at all is extraordinary in itself. Yet with her accomplished technique the whole work could have been more buoyant and lighter in touch with far more affected elegance reflecting this age of rather artificial but refined gestures. The waltz rhythm was not sufficiently pronounced for me and again I advise young pianists to take dancing lessons - so instructive rhythmically.
Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915)
Waltz in A flat major Op. 38 (1903)
This is a lovely waltz truly post-Romantic in nature with little of Scriabin's later more personal style. The work is attractively accessible and eloquent of another age but does abandon itself to ecstasy. Gevorgyan was charming in this work but seldom profound. She only betrayed a little harshness in the more passionate passages. It was advanced for its time I am sure. The opening is so heady with that seductive opulence of Scriabin, the colours and perfumes of a tropical plant hothouse.
3 Preludes Op. 35 (1903)
The Preludes were agitated, yet charming, sensitive and tender with her soft touch and glowing tone. Their brevity and intensity of expressive emotional content reminds one unavoidably of Scriabin's creation of more experimental and harmonically advanced works moving on from the Chopin Preludes as an influence.
Deux poèmes Op. 32 (1903)
The familiarity of Op.32 No.1 Andante cantabile is so seductive tonally and melodically with its constantly repeated inspiration and assertion of the implied melodic statement 'I am'. It was such a joy to hear this piece once again. Scriabin was known for the delicacy and subtlety of his playing. The con fiduca of the second Allegro con eleganzza, con fiducia refers to maintaining faith in oneself. The preciosity and early maturity of this pianist was evident in these small works of Scriabin, harmonically dense and increasingly emotionally assertive of his identity.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
Dumka in C minor Andantino cantabile Op. 59 (1886)
This piece is one of Tchaikovsky's most successful solo piano works, written for concert rather than salon performance. The Dumka was the result of a commission from the Parisian music publisher Felix Mackar. The dumka is a narrative Slavic folk song that swings precipitously from melancholy to exuberance. The folk ballad here has an affecting melody which Gevorgyan brought out well but I felt she was rather lost in the exciting con anima and Moderato con fuoco sections and lost the dumka theme itself in the welter of notes. I felt she had difficulty in plumbing the Russian soul of the work. In a gesture of gross unfairness to a 14 year old, may I suggest a particularly fine performance that understands the structure of the work by Mikhail Pletnev.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847)
Variations serieuses Op. 54 (1841)
Again in impressive virtuoso performance of this commanding piano work. I yearned for more poetry and sensibility in this deeply tragic work.
On July 15, 1841 Mendelssohm wrote to his friend Karl Klingemann : "Do you know what I am composing now ? A set of variations for piano, eighteen in one stroke on a theme in D minor : and this gives me divine pleasure… it seems that I have to make up for the fact that I had not written any before." were written to assist the financing of the Beethoven monument in Bonn.
The great pianist Paul Badura-Skoda illuminatingly wrote of this work:
The title is an understatement. These variations are not only "serious", they are tragic : a suffering man lays his soul bare. This is not the happy [latin felix] Mendelssohn we know from other works, but a man who has suffered setbacks and disillusions. Yet he rarely puts his deeper emotions in words, he rather expresses them in music, too eloquent for words as he once stated in a letter. The theme itself bears witness to his state of mind : Its sighs and chromaticisms remind us of Bach’s Weinen, Klagen... (Crying and Lamenting Cantata BWV 12), and it is perhaps not by coincidence that the agitated, tormented final presto quotes a motif (Blute nur, du liebes Herz) from the Saint Matthew Passion, which Mendelssohn had resurrected from its oblivion in 1829, hundred years after its first performance.
Although certainly in her brilliant fingers and mind, I think we should allow Gevorgyan to continue to enjoy what is hopefully a still illusioned youth!
Paul Hindemith (1895–1963)
Suite “1922” Op. 26 (1922)
Hutchinsons 5, Luft-Akt, Marsch
This was the first time I had heard this piece but it seemed fiendishly complex to me and difficult to recognize the kernals on which Hindemith was working. I would say that Gevorgyan should be congratulated on having the temerity, musical imagination and sheer technique to embark on such an advanced work at such a tender age.
The Suite '1922' has five movements which stylize various American popular dance themes, each featuring Hindemith's characteristically cavalier use of traditional harmony and Satie-like instructions to the performer: 'Regard the piano here as an interesting percussion instrument ...' (Hyperion)
Her first encore indicates the self-confidence of [prodigious natural musical talent: 'I will play my own composition entitled 'Unforgivable'. This turned out to be a calm, quiet piece of rumination with a feeling of improvisation. Charming, interesting and pleasantly innocuous. Her next encore La Campanella was technically and musically scintillating - a glittering virtuoso performance that brought the house down in Duszniki. She then played a piece entitled Music Box which I would describe as 'cute'. The little tune in the treble warbles away and then as the spring winds down so the music slows until when about to stop it suddenly starts up again a tempo as the music box is rewound. So entertaining and amusing to finish an afternoon recital.
Here we have a truly precocious talent of enormous musical range and variety that shows immense promise.
Friday, August 9 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM
Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Arabeske in C major Op. 18 (1838–1839)
Fantasy in C major Op. 17 (1836–1838)
Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen
Mässig. Durchaus energisch
Langsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten
This delicate, fey lady is a phenomenon and an extraordinary pianist. During the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Competition, Warsaw, 1-23 October 2015 she was placed 3rd. At that time I had the curious vision of an immensely precocious Chopin savant whilst listening and watching her. Without doubt hers was one of the most extraordinary Chopin recitals and concerto performances I have ever experienced. This pianist seems to be in touch with some force outside of herself, transfigured by music electromagnetically if that does not sound too fanciful.
Nadia Boulanger was once asked what made a great as opposed to an excellent performance of a piano work. She answered 'I cannot tell you that. It is something I cannot describe in words. A magical element descends.'
This remark could not be more appropriate applied to the magical performance given by Kate Liu of Schumann and Prokofiev this evening. She began with the Schumann Arabesque Op. 18. When Schumann wrote the Arabesque in 1839, he was still cruelly separated from his future wife Clara. Her father violently opposed the relationship with Schumann and the risks he felt this posed to her career as an outstanding pianist. Robert was only able to communicate with her through letters and 'concealed' musical harmonies in his compositions. Any music he wrote at this time would have been drenched in frustrated longing. This work fluctuates between lyrical dream and militant anger.
Her first sound emerged diaphanously from a dream already begun, perhaps already lived. Superb cantabile and childish simplicity began to carry us melodically aloft. She gently allowed the emergence and release of Schumann's two 'best friends', the extrovert Florestan and the more poetic Eusebius, the curious doppelgänger personalities that flowered directly from his literary obsessions. She adopted a particularly slow and internally reflective tempo but the music breathed. The breath of young idealistic illusioned love facing the obstacles of separation. Once she spoke self-effacingly in an interview of 'love on a summer's day in grassy fields' referring to the Chopin E minor concerto during the 2015 Chopin competition. After her soulful preparation of the first movement, the Romanza. Larghetto became an eloquent love song with all the character of a Chopin 'nocturne'. Here, by the coda of the Arabesque, Liu had cast some sort of spell over us with this delicate work, preparing an enchanted atmosphere for the entry of the monumental Fantasy.
This work originated in the desire to create a monument to Beethoven in Bonn. Schumann thought that by composing a work that he could sell, he could financially assist in the construction of this memorial to his beloved composer. Although he abandoned any such title such as 'sonata', the work is close to being one. However an important air of improvisation hovers over the form which Kate Liu fully exploited.
Rather than analyze this performance in any musicological sense, I will try and paint a picture of the ebb and flow of my own waves of emotion as the piece progressed, a picture of the sea of my own response as it undulated in the currents. Liu cultivated a deeply introspective lyricism from the outset interrupted by darkest night, perhaps almost too fiercely emotional at times as anguish carried her away. However she never inflated her dynamic or exceeded the boundaries of 'good taste' even in her significant slowing of the tempo and hesitations pregnant with poetic implications and meaning. Someone I spoke to later objected to this approach, feeling that Schumann belongs to the world of German metaphysicians and should not be approached as if he were a romantic Chopin.
References to Clara abound in this work despite the Beethovenian intentions. Robert cannot help himself. He uses a line from a Beethoven song where the original text reads “Then accept these songs, beloved, which l sang for you alone.” Clearly a musical love token for Clara. The Fantasy score is actually headed with a literary reference, a motto from Schlegel’s poetry: “Through all the tones in Earth's many-colored dream, there sounds one soft long-drawn note for the secret listener.” Schumann admitted as much in a letter to Clara.
In Liu one senses a passionate mind approaching the music - mercurial, labile, intellectual emotions - in short, she depicted the conflicted and preoccupied thoughts of Schumann in love. Her silences are as pregnant with meaning as sound. We were taken on an emotional journey immersed in a series of intense revelations and admissions, the work drifting away from conventional imprisoning form and becoming in the end a type of philosophical, intellectual and emotional meditation. Can this loss of formal cohesion, this deeply personal, consistent approach be justified ? Many in the audience did not think so, however I did.
Great art should disturb the surface of conventional life, not confirm its comfortable nature. It should make you question your values and perceptions, enable you to see familiar things differently, reveal new previously hidden joys through another pair of uniquely gifted eyes - or mind, ears and fingers as in this case.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)
Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major Op. 84 (1939–1944)
After the interval she concluded her recital with a work by Prokofiev, the last of the so-called 'War Sonatas', that masterpiece, the Piano Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major Op.84. Mira Mendelson, who was Prokofiev’s partner for some twelve years and to whom he dedicated this sonata, wrote of these sonatas: 'In 1939 Prokofiev began to write three piano sonatas…working on all ten movements at once, and only later did he lay aside the Seventh and Eighth and concentrated on the Sixth.' Prokofiev spent five years (1939-1944) completing this set of sonatas expressing his personal anguish.
Some of the material for the sonata came from incidental music he composed for Eugene Onegin Op. 71 and for a cinema production of The Queen of Spades Op. 70. Liu captured perfectly the deep individual melancholy, that suppressed and not so suppressed suffering of individual isolation, powerlessness and desolation in the face of war which suffuses the opening movement Andante dolce. A deeply moving account. The indication to the second movement is the curious Andante sognando (dream-like) which is predominantly lyrical, harmonically predictable and rather like seeing a waltz in a distant ballroom from a garden though shifting mists, lovers fitfully passing the golden illuminated windows of a mansion. Liu captured completely this type of perfect poetic imagery. The final Vivace was an absolute triumph of lightness, glorious tonal quality, timbre and fine articulation - also in contrast to the Andante dolce, an expression of unrelenting anger at the nature of war. The inexorable forward movement of the movement exhausted her emotionally and physically.
With the encores she played - the three Chopin Mazurkas Op.59 - we were again drawn into her enchanted world of poetic dreams in an unforgettable rendition of these ‘most beautiful sounds that it is possible to produce from the piano’ (Ludwig Bronarski) Let me allow Mieczyslaw Tomaszewski to describe the third of these Mazurkas in F sharp minor which 'drags one into the whirl of a Mazurian dance from the very first bars, with its sweeping, unconstrained gestures, its verve, élan, exuberance, and also, more importantly, the occasional suppressing of that vigour and momentum, in order to yield up music that is tender, subtle, delicate...' Kate Liu accomplished this.
The recital inhabited a fragile, poetic, individual musical world unlike any other....
Friday, August 9 CHOPIN’S MANOR 4:00 PM
'George Harliono is very talented, he's got a phenomenal career ahead of him' said the eminent Russian pianist Denis Matsuev. Here we were about to hear another prodigious young pianist who has appeared with great conductors, alongside famous pianists and has been awarded many prestigious prizes (including the Gina Bachauer Piano Competition and the Dinu Lipatti Piano Competition in Bucharest). Most significantly he studies with Professor Vanessa Latarche at the Royal College of Music in London and has taken masterclasses with Dmitri Bashkirov, Lang Lang and Vladimir Ovchinikov.
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Preludes Op. 28 (1838–39)
No. 1 in C major
No. 4 in E minor
No. 7 in A major
No. 16 in B flat minor
No. 20 in C minor
No. 23 in F major
No. 24 in D minor
On opening with the Chopin Preludes one noticed immediately his fine tone, touch and immaculate articulation. I wonder what governed his choice of Preludes other than different moods and colours? The C major he approached with some serenity as is its due, but perhaps rather too much pedal. The E minor was as it is expected to be with judicious phrasing. The A major was a charming rendition but I felt the B-flat minor began with far too dynamic an opening. The C minor and F major were rather straightforward but the D minor was excellent in its expression of passionate despair 'which concludes fortissimo in frightful depths where one touches the floor of Hell' in the words of Andre Gide in his Notes on Chopin.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Piano Sonata in F minor Op. 57 “Appassionata” (1804–1806)
Andante con moto
Allegro ma non troppo. Presto
Beethoven had no interest in the title Appassionata given to this sonata by his publisher. The first movement unfolds a deeply tragic history from the outset with silences as pregnant with meaning as any tragic utterance that follows. The Andante con moto is a dream of lyrical life shattered by grim destiny. The sonata goes one dimension deeper than mere passion with the first blows of the unremitting tragic finale - rare in Beethoven. Donald Tovey writes 'In the Sonata Appassionata the very beginning of the finale is in itself a final stroke of fate, after which there is not a moment's doubt that the tragic passion is rushing deathwards.'
This was a finely executed sonata pianistically, embracing the classical tradition note-perfectly. However these very qualities of expressive restraint and emotional balance diminished the profoundly unredeemable tragic utterance that infuses this sonata.
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Études Op. 25 (1835–1837)
No. 5 in E minor
I felt this account was emotionally misguided and not in keeping with the conception.
No. 12 in C minor
Here I felt far too much rather savage virtuoso display in what can be transformed into an expressive exercise with a deeper musical meaning.
Ballade in G minor Op. 23 (1835–1836)
Again I am afraid Harliono again approached the work more as a virtuoso exercise than expressing the inner world of the balladic narrative form. His approach seemed, to me at least, without a proper understanding of the internal musical narrative. In a way a Chopin Ballade is like a small opera wherein the protagonist wanders through moods and emotional landscapes of varying degrees of emotional intensity as the 'story' progresses and reaches its fulfillment.
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
Petrushka K 12 (1910–11)
The Shrovetide FairThursday, August 8 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM
The puppets - The Moor, the Ballerina, Petrushka and the Charlatan
Photo © Dave Morgan
Petrushka tells the story of the loves and jealousies of three puppets. The burlesque ballet was composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1910–11 and revised in 1947. The libretto was written together with the set and costume designer Alexandre Benois. Michael Fokine choreographed the ballet. The première of Petrushka was performed by the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 13 June 1911. Vaslav Nijinsky played Petrushka with Tamara Karsavina as the Ballerina, Alexander Orlov the Moor and Enrico Cecchetti the Charlatan.
1. The Shrove-Tide Fair 2. Russian Dance
The Shrove-Tide Fair set design by Alexandre Benois
4. The Blackamoor 5. Waltz (Blackamoor and Ballerina)
6. The Shrove-Tide Fair (Towards Evening) 7. Wet-Nurses’ Dance 8. Peasant with Bear 9. Gypsies and a Rake Vendor 10. Dance of the Coachmen 11. Masqueraders 12. The Scuffle (Blackamoor and Petrushka) 13. Death of Petrushka 14. Police and the Juggler 15. Apparition of Petrushka’s Double
In 1921, Stravinsky transcribed a piano arrangement for Arthur Rubinstein entitled Trois mouvements de Petrouchka. This three movement piano work has recently particularly become popular among young pianists. Harliono gave an energetic, exuberant, enthusiastic and overwhelmingly powerful account of great virtuosity. 'Youth! Ah the joy of it!' as Joseph Conrad once said. Petrushka's Room was quite wonderful. Yes on occasion the view was mannered and theatrical but possibly a valid conception given the subject. I was hoping for longer breathed lines in the phrasing and there were too many hints of the prosaic. I must confess to tiring from the unyielding dynamics within his conception of this work. How is one to conceive of this piece expressively with poetry?
Unlike too many young musicians of prodigious talent, I predict Harliono will have a fabulously successful career as a pianist. He has immense self-confidence with the instrument, augmented by that touch of vanity indispensable for a successful concert artist. He possesses a rare and intense communicative ability with the audience, good looks, charisma, brilliant keyboard technique and a gift for programming. Increased expressive depth will hopefully come with maturity.
This was clear in his three encores which went down a storm with the Duszniki audience. First (I think) the Strauss/Grünfeld [Kissin] - Paraphrase on Die Fledermaus which glittered with charm and launched us into another earlier period of glistening pianistic virtuosity and sheer musical delight. His wild flourish at the conclusion brought one into the seductive world of infectious showmanship. Then into the Piazolla Libertango which had everyone foot-tapping and another precipitous flourish to conclude. To quieten us the Siloti /Bach Prelude in B minor. We all left the hall in a state of elation at being taken back into a rarer pianistic world where musical pleasure ruled above philosophy.
Meccore String Quartet
Wojciech Koprowski – I violin Aleksandra Bryła – II violin Michał Bryła – viola Tomasz Daroch – cello
Tomasz Januchta – double bass
CHARLES RICHARD-HAMELIN piano
Edward Grieg (1843–1907)
String Quartet in G minor Op. 27 (1877–1878)
Un poco Andante. Allegro molto ed agitato
Romanza. Andantino – Allegro agitato
Intermezzo. Allegro molto marcato – Più vivo e scherzandoFinale. Lento – Presto al saltarello
To say the quartet erupted onto the stage with tremendous energy, commitment and musicality is somewhat of an understatement.
On hearing Grieg’s quartet, Franz Liszt observed: ‘It is a long time since I have encountered a new composition, especially a string quartet, which has intrigued me as greatly as this distinctive and admirable work by Grieg.’ One might imagine it as a bridge spanning Beethoven and Debussy. The Norwegian decided to build the whole quartet on the melody of his Ibsen song Spillemaend (‘Minstrel’, Op 25 No 1) which underpins the thematic content of all the four movements. The tremendous sound produced by the quartet, so full of driving energy, passion, cohesion and refinement, was partly as a result of the density of the string writing. The work is almost orchestral in its mainly homophonic opulence - fortissimo double-stopping simultaneously on more than one instrument for instance. Grieg described the quartet in this way: ‘It aims at breadth, to soar, and above all at a vigorous sound for the instruments for which it is written.’ An immediate and deserved standing ovation...
Piano Quintet in A major Op. 11 4 D. 667 “Trout” (1819)
Tema con variazione. AndantinoFinale. Allegro giusto
Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet is loved universally and must be the most popular chamber music piece ever written. The young Schubert had made a summer trip to the Austrian Alps and was overwhelmed by its natural beauty. One tends to forget in a world without electricity, chemical pollution or industrial noise how unsullied Nature must have profoundly inspired all the human senses - smell, touch, and sound transformed into music.
Schubert decided to use themes from his song ‘Die Forelle’ (’The Trout’, D550) as the basis for the lyrical and renowned fourth movement of his Quintet. The work is in five movements, and unusual in being written to include a double bass to replace the more usual second violin. The sound texture is as clear as a joyful mountain stream, the ravishing melodies painting mountain landscapes and invigorating crystal air. The dashing, flashing piano accompaniment in the fourth movement so vividly paints a portrait of a trout wiggling with the energy of life.
This was a fine performance full of infectious energy and musicality with a magnificent sense of string ensemble. Richard-Hamelin acquitted himself well in this chamber work although the high demands of the piano part, and perhaps its unfamiliarity, seemed to tempt him to embark more on a solo excursion than seamlessly blend with the ensemble. Such an enjoyable evening!
However the supreme magic was to come. As an encore they played the special edition of the Romanza. Larghetto of the Chopin E minor Piano Concerto Op.11. The authors of the transcription are the famous pianist and International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition laureate – Kevin Kenner and the composer and cello player Krzysztof Dombek.
The main aim of these versions of the two Chopin Piano Concertos is to create a reduction of the full orchestral score in order to accommodate the small ensemble's particular requirements and at the same time to remain as close as possible to the original. At the time there was a practice of performing concertos by Chopin himself accompanied by the chamber ensemble. The transcription was based on the National Edition of Chopin's works edited by professor Jan Ekier. (PWM notes).
A sigh of ecstasy passed through the audience like a summer zephyr. The most beautiful and poetic expression of the yearning of young, still illusioned love, hypnotized us all so unexpectedly. Richard-Hamelin is in many ways unsurpassed in expressing the poetry, nuances, delicacy and romantic cantabile of this sublime movement. Together with the extended Meccore Quartet, it left us all in an elevated state of heart as we wandered out into the summer night of this small Polish spa.
Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Humoresque Op. 20 (1839)
Einfach und zart
Mit einigem Pomp
The opening paragraph of his biography in the programme book, together with a list of all the First Prizes he has won competitions, reads :
Pianist Aristo Sham has already dazzled audiences on five continents, in countries ranging from Singapore and Argentina, to Slovenia and Morocco, to China and Iceland.
Contained within this sentence is much of the aesthetic philosophy of modern performance. To 'dazzle' as an aim of any youthful prodigy combined with a career built on prominent and prestigious competition awards carried within a wide international purview. All praiseworthy priorities and worthy aspirations in this commodified modern world.
However this philosophy sits rather uncomfortably with the writer of the period E.T.A. Hoffmann who constantly inspired Schumann and who put it most clearly when he stated that “[Music] is the most romantic of all the arts… for its sole subject is the infinite.” We have moved a long distance philosophically from the source of this music.
Also the composer himself concerning this piano cycle, Humoreske, Op. 20 writes in a letter to Clara Wieck “The whole week I sat at the piano in a state and composed, wrote, laughed, and cried; now you can find all this beautifully painted in my Opus 20, the great Humoreske.” In another letter to Ernst Becker “The Humoreske, I think, will please you; it is, however, a little funny and perhaps my most melancholy work.” In one more to Simon de Sire “Everything comes to me on its own, and it even seems to me sometimes that I could play forever and never come to an end.” During the composition of this work he suffered intense psychological struggles.
The work consists of a series of interlinked 'humours' or 'moods' that express various human states. The German music writer Carl Kossmaly (1812-1893) describes Humoresque in these terms:
"...the great variety of content and form, the continual and quick, although always natural and unforced succession of the most varied images, imaginary ideas and sentiments, fantastic and dreamlike phenomena swell and fade into one another, and not only maintain but continually increase one’s interest from beginning to end.”
And further: [Humoreske] gradually communicates itself to the listener and fills him with a feeling of satisfaction that is as perfect, blissful, and profound as can be elicited only by those melodies that spring from the deepest, most secret source of the heart and from that genuine enthusiasm which transcends earthly bounds – then we believe that we shall not have missed the truth but instead come rather close to it, even if in our own way.
(quotes above from James Andrew Naumann, B.M., M.M Ohio State University THESIS).
Certainly this was a brilliant, 'dazzling' performance in every way, exciting in its prodigious pianism. However I felt rather emotionally unmoved by this complex interwoven work of many shades, colours and moods. The philosophy of composition and reception indicated above may explain why a virtuoso approach is not appropriate to this work, however glittering. A more heartfelt emotion is required.
Carl Vine (b. 1954)
Piano Sonata No. 1 (1990)
This sonata by the Australian composer Carl Vine is arguably the greatest in this form since that of Elliot Carter. I can do no better than the description in the first printed edition:
"A complex and challenging piano sonata composed by Carl Vine for the Sydney Dance Company in 1991. The piece was first performed by Michael Harvey in North Melbourne in June 1991. The music is full of rich chordal movements, unusual flowing harmonies and tonalities, with great extremes of dynamic and energy. Reflecting the physical origins of the piece as a dance, the music is dotted with very strict changes of tempo which require exact adherence, rather than the Rubato approach that typifies many piano interpretations."
Sham handled this unrelentingly virtuoso work with spectacular élan and panache that was riveting in power and effect from beginning to end.
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Scherzo in B minor Op. 20 (1834–1835)
The hectic, almost feverish fury of this scherzo suited his superbly articulated technique, glistening tone and light touch. Phrasing and dynamics were impressive in building up to the stunning coda of the work. However I felt the beautiful cantabile central section where Chopin quotes from an old Polish Christmas song (Lulajże Jezuniu) was not as eloquent as it could have been under the fingers of this young tyro and he could have reached for more expressiveness overall.
Nocturne in E major Op. 62 No. 2 (1846)
In this work one can always sense beneath the calm exterior of the melody, winding its gentle lento sostenuto arabesque, the need to erupt in agitation. This is the sudden expression of previously contained high emotional tension imprisoned in the the central section. Such is often the case in Chopin nocturnes. And then the return to the gentle melody.... as James Huneker might have observed of it, the behaviour of Chopin ''a genius but a gentleman". Chopin the dreamer armed with a sword. I felt only a modicum of this painted veil in this performance.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)
Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major Op. 82 (1939–40)
Tempo di valzer, lentissimoVivace
Sham was far more at home in the pianistic demands of this piece, a deeply despairing and bleak Prokofiev work. In the first of the three 'War Sonatas' the composer expresses his true feelings after completing his somewhat sanitized work in the shadow of Stalin.
The opening declamatory Allegro moderato was dynamically overwhelming and technically brilliant in its emotional extremes. Yet the expression of fierce anger, terror and the horrors of war escaped the pianist at times. The ironically 'happy' Allegretto was a delight of lightness evoking a dance. The Tempo di valzer was also a comparatively light delight but missing some of that mysterious nostalgic yearning that permeates the stormy centre of the movement. The fourth movement Vivace was taken at a breathtaking tempo, yet retained some expressiveness at the plaintiff return of the first theme. Desperate, violent anger and the frustration of individual powerlessness in the face of the destruction of war is present in the violent coda that concludes the work. I felt this was rather beyond the youth of this pianist.
A great performance was at Duszniki in 2015 by the brilliant Ukrainian/Australian Alexander Gavrylyuk.
This was a most extraordinary and brilliant virtuoso recital by Aristo Sham and was most thought provoking for the listener. Sham being so young, in ensuing years he simply requires maturity of the right musical variety for him to become an outstanding artist.
Wednesday, August 7 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM
Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Images oubliées (1894)
Souvenir du Louvre
Quelques aspects de «Nous n’irons plus au bois parce qu’il fait un temps insupportable»
Debussy describes these pieces self-effacingly as “not for brilliantly lit salons ... but rather conversations between the piano and oneself." Richard-Hamelin imparted a lovely sense of improvisation to the gentle piece. For the second Image: "In saraband tempo, that is, solemn and slow, even a bit like an old portrait, souvenir of the Louvre, etc..." Here Richard-Hamelin's colours came to the fore, embracing the fluctuating moods with his gentle touch. The third piece is headed: “Some aspects of the song 'Nous n'irons plus au bois', because the weather is dreadful”. Above the barrage of arpeggios, Debussy continues ironically: “Here the harps imitate to perfection peacocks spreading their tails - or the peacocks imitate harps (as you like it!) and the sky cheers up again in summer clothing.” A fine rendition of this work without overt virtuoso display but intensely descriptive nevertheless.
George Enescu (1881-1955)
Suite No. 1 in G minor Op. 3 “Dans le style ancien” (1897)
Grave Fugue. Allegro moderato
Unlike many I found this piece a vastly entertaining and interesting work. Perhaps it is because, unlike professional pianists, I have spent so much time in the baroque environment playing music of the 'ancient period' on the harpsichord. I found the 'pastiche' perfectly accurate in spirit and undisturbed by unacceptable distortions that often occur when modern composers attempt to resuscitate the body of the eighteenth century suite. The Fugue was highly entertaining as a piece as was the Finale with its extremely humorous, seemingly never ending, "Scarlatti routine". A most enjoyable tongue-in-cheek work but probably not so enjoyable if you are a pianist immersed in your nineteenth century world.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847)
Fantasy in F-sharp minor Op. 28 "Sonate écossaise" (1833)
Con moto agitato - Andante - com moto agitato
Allegro con moto
The first version of this work was written in 1828 before his first visit to Scotland in 1829. This was the period of his 'Scottish' Symphony inspired at Holyrood Chapel in Edinburgh and also for the 'Hebrides' Overture when he visited on the remote island of Staffa off the coast of Mull in the Hebrides. He played the Fantasy for Goethe after his return and finally published it without the Scottish association. Incidentally Goethe seems not to have been terribly fond of music from reports of Mendelssohn's stay as a young man with the writer in Weimar.
The work is one of the finest of his solo virtuoso piano pieces. In a way one might consider it a challenge to Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata - Quasi una Fantasia. Certainly it partly overturns the 'accepted wisdom' that Mendelssohn makes few intellectual or philosophical demands on a virtuoso pianist and that he can launch himself into it with abandon. Post-war musical culture and taste in so many ways has been unfair to the composer, always placing him tantalizingly below the acknowledged immortal composers. Yet during the 1830s and 1840s he was canonized by Goethe, Heine and Schumann as the Mozart of the nineteenth century. At this time he was reading Sir Walter Scott and 'Ossian', that great forgery.
Richard-Hamelin approached the work with tremendous energy and understanding of the Scottish folk elements - cascading arpeggios, runs of scales and octaves, the sweet melancholy of the Andante and a high voltage virtuosic finale. At the close of the first movement he used the open pedal to create the misty, indistinct harmonic effect Mendelssohn clearly intended to depict the Scottish moors. However I felt the curious inaccessible magic so characteristic of Mendelssohn's piano music escaped him a little but this too remains a mystery I cannot articulate. What is it I wonder ? The American pianist Murray Perahia captures it well.
Mendelssohn's sketch of Killiecrankie in Scotland
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)
Morceaux de Fantaisie Op. 3 (1892)
Because of the immense popularity of the Prélude, these pieces are seldom performed as a group. In the 1920s in New York, Rachmaninoff heard the Paul Whiteman Band jazzed up the work which he loved and in London in a restaurant. Soon he had international fame based on it. A blessing and a curse, as when a concert pianist audiences would not stop applauding until he had offered it as an encore. Rachmaninoff was only nineteen when he composed them and they demonstrate the wide emotional range of his musical imagination even at such a young age.
Richard-Hamelin played the Élégie almost as a softly spoken reminiscence or nocturne. The famous Prélude was presented as a spine-tingling, tragic monument and although perhaps too fortissimo at times for me, he never broke through the sound ceiling of the instrument. There was a beautiful cantabile within the Mélodie and the jaunty, amusing rhythm of the Polichinelle was rather infectious and fun (the tenor Mikhail Slonov, suggested the title). After Tchaikovsky praised him in an interview with a music critic, in a joyful mood he composed Sérénade.
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante in E flat major Op. 22 (1830–1835)
Perhaps there is something awry in my judgement of performances of the much performed Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante in E-flat major Op.22 (1830-1835). To my mind on so many occasions, pianists of renown and established virtuosi have failed to come to full terms with this deceptive work, too often underestimated in difficulty. The piece is so difficult to get just right and excite the audience to adulation which it was clearly designed to do! It is a bravura concert work in the style brillant originally written for piano and orchestra begun during his last years in Warsaw. The piano part is often performed on its own coupled with the Andante introduction.
In many ways it is the apotheosis of Chopin's writing in this spectacularly virtuosic early style reminiscent even of Liszt. He wrote the introductory Andante spianato ('smooth') for one of Habeneck's concerts de conservatoire in Paris in 1835 where he performed both. Chopin often performed the Andante on its own in more intimate company.
The Andante was lyrical and poetic with a wonderful singing bel canto line never allowing us to forget that Chopin loved the operas of Bellini. I felt Richard-Hamelin performed the work supremely well pianistically of course but the Grande Polonaise lacked that incandescent display of diamond-like sparkle, dangerous tempo and perfect dynamic control so vital to its nature. I remember so many attempting with this work to 'bring it off' perfectly. An early recording by the brilliant Polish pianist Wojciech Switala for Katowice Radio dominates every other performance I have ever heard. Breathtaking perfection.
As you may well realize alongside the festival are endlessly illuminating masterclasses every morning from 09.30 - 13.45 with eminent Professor/pianists.
Professor Stanislaw Ioudenitch originally from Tashkent is a fine pianist as well as pedagogue in constant demand for masterclasses. He won the Gold Medal at the XI Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001 and has performed with the greatest contemporary conductors (Conlon,Gergiev, Pletnev, Spivakov, Kogan, Franz) and orchestras. A former student of N. Vasinkina, D. Bashkirov, L. Fleisher, Fou Ts'ong and R. Tureck......and you cannot have a collection of tutors more esteemed than this group surely!
He made some, for me, fascinating comments apart from giving the student visual clues as to interpretation to assist the imagination in the realization of effects.
'In Romantic music emotion is everything.' (exactly what Chopin himself once said).
He quoted the son of Arthur Schnabel who was his teacher
'Emotions are the most important thing in Romantic music.'
He then suggested the extraordinary exercise that the student play a single note in as many ways as possible and make us believe in it. 'Remember something in your own emotional experience and call it up into consciousness. '
What is the composer's thought in this Ballade do you think? He then asked the student to play one phrase thinking about his life, not the notes or technique.
Another arresting thought: 'Think of the hand and arm as a lung that breathes.'
'Legato is an illusion on the piano you must consciously create.'
'Simplicity is our friend.'
'Putting an accent there is not our friend.'
Marvellous lessons for us all.....
Professor Francisco J. Cruz Plaza with the talented and accomplished young Polish pianist Daniel Ziomko working on the three pieces that make up
'Images' Book 1 by Claude Debussy
“Reflets dans l’eau”, “Hommage à Rameau”, and “Mouvement”
Professor Francisco J. Cruz Plaza is considered an outstanding Bach interpreter. Among others he studied with Charles Rosen and Norman del Mar. Bella Davidovich invited him to New York to play the Well-Tempered Kalvier at the Julliard and he made his debut with the Goldberg Variations. By critics he has been placed in the same Bach sound world as that created by Michelangeli and Gould. He has played Bach on many world tours and is absolutely committed to the education of young musicians.
He spent much of the time in his masterclasses demonstrating how different melodic and polyphonic lines should be articulated in Bach and Chopin, their balance and actual sound in the harmonic development. He sang a great deal to indicate how a melodic line should progress in a phrase which is of course the finest way of demonstration in Bach (as Gould demonstrated too) and Chopin who often observed the same belief in his lessons and obsession with opera. For me Bach is the greatest harmonist who ever composed. The Cruz Plaza approach was not so much intellectual and obsession with detail but, shall we say, using the senses and the physical body to approach the true organic feeling within the polyphony of Bach. His philosophy for advanced pianos students is 'Just relax and play the piece.' In the Debussy it was similar - not dry intellectual analysis but listening and relaxing into the creation of unemphatic impressionistic sound.
SOO-BEEN LEE violin
MARCIN SIKORSKI piano
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858–1931)
Poème élégiaque Op. 12 (1893)
Lee plays a Giuseppe Guadagnini violin on loan from the Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation which gives an added lustre and richness to the sound of this glorious piece. The violin sometimes sounded like a viola. Ysaÿe was no longer so concerned with virtuoso display and he dedicated the work Gabriel Fauré. Ernest Chausson was greatly influenced by the Poème élégiaque in the composition of his own renowned Poème which he would write together with Ysaÿe three years later.
Lee was rhapsodic and ardent in her playing - so passionately committed emotionally to this music. The extremes of mood were perfectly managed. Quite wonderful.
Henryk Wieniawski (1835–1880)
Variations on an Original Theme in A major Op. 15 (1854)
This wonderful instrument in such artistic hands was deeply affecting in this set of untypical variations. Her approach to the theme recalled my heart to a more civilized sensibility than we are suffering under today where money and power seem to rule everything everywhere. Listening I felt, with perhaps imagined nostalgia, a society of respect, manners and accepted codes of behaviour. The left hand pizzicato variations were supremely accomplished, as was the double stopping, harmonics, cadenzas and brilliant conclusion.
Edward Grieg (1843–1907)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major Op. 13 (1867)
This uplifting and sunny piece exuded the greatest happiness which is hardly surprising as it was written in the three weeks of Grieg‘s honeymoon. The influence and introduction of Norwegian folk elements had by now become second nature with Grieg. The Second Violin Sonata was dedicated to Johan Svendsen, a musical colleague.
Lee gave us an optimistic and sunny outlook with superb phrasing, glowing cantabile so like the human voice in song and deep musicality. The Lento doloroso moved me so much, in fact the entire piece is overflowing with sublime, eloquent melodies. Her harmonic transitions have such beauty and inevitability.
Georges Bizet (1838–1875)
Carmen Fantasy Op. 3 (1876) /Jenő Hubay (1858–1937)
What a marvelous joyful and familiar work this is! Needless to say perhaps Lee was wearing a rather fetching red dress for obvious reasons. The Toreador aria was so amusing and the rest of the work a celebration of the joy of life in music.
Her encore was the affecting arrangement by Sarasate of the Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No.2. So successful an arrangement that moved one almost to tears.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6 CHOPIN’S MANOR 10:00 PM
Candlelit concert with the participation of 74th Duszniki-Zdrój International Chopin Festival participants and the Master Class tutors
The host of the evening Róża Światczyńska, writer, radio presenter and music journalist from Dwojka (Polish National Radio 2 - the classical music station)
On her left and behind, the Artistic Director of the festival Piotr Paleczny
Programme for the 'Nocturne'
The Nokturn was professionally hosted by Róża Światczyńska, writer, radio presenter and music journalist from Dwojka (Polish National Radio 2 - the national classical music station). Radio presenters from Dwojka have broadcast selected recitals live from the Duszniki Festival for very many years.
The Theme of the evening was Chopin and the Muses which enabled some speculation about the nature of love for the composer, his relationships and aspects of his life. Informative letters and quotations were read and thought about. Some of the pianists were interviewed by Róża immediately after they performed with a simultaneous English translation.
I cannot examine every piece but there were highlights. Richard-Hamelin gave us the most poetic Schumann Arabesque imaginable. Soo-Been Lee and Martin Sikorski performed a deeply affecting Nocturne Op.9 No.2 arranged for violin and piano by Sarasate as did Yasuko Furumi in the lyrical Op.27 No.1 The brilliant young pianist prodigy Aristo Sham brought delightful elegance and innocent sparkle to Mozart's Rondo in D major K.485. Tomasz Ritter occupied our attention with a Polish composer unknown to most outside Poland with a Polonaise by Karol Kurpinski. Janusz Olejniczak presented his absolute mastery of the lyricism and poetry contained within the Chopin mazurkas with two moving examples: Op. 24 No. 1 and 2. The masterclass professor Stanislaw Ioudenitch gave us two idiomatic Chopin waltzes. Finally the emotional and refined Kate Liu offered an elegant yet emotionally moving Nocturne in E major Op.62 No.2. The beginning seemed to materialize from a dream world, live its life and then dissolve back into it pianissimo.
A magical evening of music and nostalgia in an attempt to recapture some of the charm of the Chopin salon.
Kate Liu at the Nokturn
A handout (below) was also given to English speakers which will give you some idea how this rather ground-breaking evening was designed. It was particularly successful and altered the usual conventional manner of proceeding.
6 August 2019
Chopin and his Muses
1. F.CHOPIN - Prelude C minor Op. 28 No. 20 (1838-39)
R. SCHUMANN – Arabesque C major Op. 18 (1839)
Even if Chopin had not written anything but the preludes, he would have deserved immortality anyway.
These poetic preludes are similar to those of a great contemporary poet that rock the soul in golden dreams and raise it to ideal regions.
Each of them is a prelude to a meditation […] Music that eludes the world of matter and allows us to free ourselves from it.
2. F. CHOPIN - Nocturne E flat major Op. 9 No.2 (1831)
The third finger is a grand chanteur
Chopin’s pupil, Mme Courty
He played four nocturnes that I didn't know, and how charming and incredibly beautiful. His playing is a complete reflection of Rubini's vocal style, Malibran and de la Grisi: He says so himself. He models himself faithfully on the principle of imitating the great singers in the art of the piano. He has given the instrument the secret of expressing breath
Chopin’s pupil, Emilie von Gretsch
3. F. CHOPIN – Waltz A-flat major WN 47 (‘Les Adieux’, 1835); Waltz A-flat major WN 28 ( 1829)
Felix repeatedly asked me to play that Waltz (the last thing you played and gave to us). They enjoyed listening as I enjoyed playing, for it brought back the 'brother' who had just left.
A letter from Maria Wodzińska to Chopin (Sept.1835)
4. F. CHOPIN - Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.1 (1836)
This is a dream - a dream that becomes a dance of longing. He chooses sadness because he cannot find the joy he loves.
A Lepizig reviewer (Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung 1836)
4. W.A. MOZART - Rondo D-dur KV 485 (1786)
Chopin is the most beautiful, brilliant composer, and today one can only set him alongside Mozart, Beethoven or Rossini
In Chopin’s eyes Mozart was the ideal type, the poet par excellence, because he condescended more rarely than any other composer to go down the slope leading from what is beautiful to what is commonplace.
From Liszt's monograph of Chopin
Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. Anyone who wants to achieve this immediately will never achieve it. You cannot begin from the end. It is no simple matter. You have to study a lot, a lot, to reach this goal. '
One of Chopin’s lady pupils - Friederike Streicher
6. K. KURPIŃSKI- Polonaise D minor (1820)
F.CHOPIN- Nocturne C minor Op.48 No.1 - (1841)
a true ‘Eroica’ among Chopin’s nocturnes.
We had an earth tremor here, the second in thirty years […] as the song of Rancogne’s father goes: [Chopin] had all his poor nerves on end. Our village women were of the opinion that the Devil had a hand in it’.
George Sand in a letter to Eugène Delacroix 7 July 1841
7 F. CHOPIN – Mazurkas Op. 24 No. 1 and No. 2
At times, through an open window overlooking the garden, mixed with the singing of nightingales and the fragrance of rose blossoms the melodies of Chopin’s music reach me, because he never stops working here…
Eugène Delacroix in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Pierret (1841)
Chopin composed two wonderful mazurkas that are worth more than 40 romances and express more than all the literature of the century
George Sand in a letter to Delacroix (Summer 1842)
Prof. Irena Poniatowska (Wdzięk afektu, Warszawa 2017)
I.J. Paderewski innate national arrhythmia
Prof. Andrzej Szczeklik our heart works in rubato rhythm
8. F. CHOPIN - Nocturne B major Op. 32 No. 1 - (1836 - 37)
‘the drum-beat of tragedy’
9. F. CHOPIN – Waltz A minor Op. 34 No. 2 – Grande Valse Brillante (1837)
sorrow and murky forlornness
‘You have reached the heights of suffering and poetry; the melancholy of your works penetrates deep into the heart; with you the listener is alone, even amidst the crowd; it is no longer the piano it is – the soul, and what a soul! […] Only art as you, Sir, feel it is capable of bringing together people divided by the practical side of life; people love and understand one another through Chopin’.
Marquise Astolphe de Custine (undated)
F. CHOPIN - Waltz D-flat major Op. 64 No. 1 „Minute” (1840 or 1846)
Today the sun is shining beautifully so they went for a walk; I didn't feel like it and I'm taking advantage of this moment to spend time with you. The little dog Marquis stayed with me and he is lying on my sofa. An extraordinary creature: his fur is like a witch-doctor's feathers. Every day S cares for him and he is as intelligent as possible
Chopin in a letter to his family 1 October 1846
10. F. CHOPIN - Nocturne E major Op. 62 No. 2 (1846)
Franchomme [...] has arranged my sonata with the March [Op.35] for orchestra. Yesterday he brought me a Nocturne which he has adapted to the words O Salutaris - it goes well as a song
Chopin in a letter to his family 8 June 1847
The melody of the second of the Nocturnes from 1846, in the key of E major, proceeds – slowly and with a stifled voice. It stifles the emotions here, which are present beneath the ostensibly calm declamation, wending its way over accompaniment chords measured out with demureness and implacable consistency. The narrative emerges from silence and returns to silence, after relishing a plenitude of sound.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6 HOTEL “IMPRESJA” 7:00 PM
Concert performed by active participants of the 18th Master Class Artists:
I am afraid I was unable to attend this recital as I was preparing English texts for the Nokturn in the evening.
Tuesday, August 6 CHOPIN’S MANOR 4:00 PM
ADAM KAŁDUŃSKI and MATEUSZ KRZYŻOWSKI
I am afraid I was unable to attend this recital as I was preparing English texts for the Nokturn in the evening.
Monday, August 5 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM
Piano Recital BEHZOD ABDURAIMOV
The reputation of this pianist as a towering virtuoso preceded him to the platform. His technique is indeed overwhelming as was his sound in this small Dworek - so few pianists here alter their dynamics to fit the hall which can so easily be accomplished.
Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)
Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde Richard Wagner transcribed by Liszt
This was a performance that in some way did not fully embrace this passionate utterance of Wagner and the emotional, psychic and erotic implications of the tragic ecstasy of the Liebestod. On the pianistic level one could not criticize yet I was unhappy about the interrupted breath of the phrases and forward momentum to the 'all too human' climacteric of this work.
Piano Sonata in B minor S. 178 (1852–1853)
Certainly an overwhelmingly virtuoso and powerful account of the work. His approach was to perform it predominantly as a virtuoso work. His almost aggressive dynamic often bordered on the harsh rather than a rich fullness of sound. Many young pianists have the sonata in their miraculous fingers but have little inkling of the dark even malign Mephistophilian heart within. The sulphur of hell wafts over the Horowitz recording of 1932.
The manner in which a pianist opens this masterpiece tells you everything about the conception that will evolve. The haunted repeated octave seemed of just the right duration (a terrible duration battle lies in wait for pianists here - Krystian Zimerman drove his recording engineers mad repeating it hundreds of times before being satisfied). His duration and dynamic boded well for the outcome but...
Just to have this vast work in your fingers is a massive achievement but what you do with this is another matter altogether, what you have to say about this work. This is a profound piece, too often played as some type of virtuoso's display platform, hectic fantasy or dream fantasy when it is actually in many respects a philosophical dialogue between different fundamental aspects of the human spirit as symbolized by Faust, Mephistopheles and Gretchen. Liszt was tremendously influenced by literature and poetry in his compositions and in particular Goethe’s Faust, the dramatic spiritual battle between Faust and Mephistopheles with Gretchen hovering about as a seductive, lyrical feminine interlude. And it is a far more complex musical and structural argument than this overwhelmingly pianistic account would indicate. To begin analyzing his approach in detail would be mean-spirited of me but a full understanding the profound emotional and literary narrative is vital to its convincing performance. Only partly achieved...
Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (1874)
Promenade – No. 1 “The Gnome”
No. 2 “The Old Castle”
No. 3 “Tuileries (Children’s Quarrel after Games)”
No. 4 “Cattle”
No. 5 “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks”
No. 6 “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle”
No. 7 “Limoges. The Market (The Great News)”
No. 8 “Catacombs (Roman Tomb): With the dead in a dead language”
No. 9 “The Hut on Hen’s Legs (Baba Yaga)”
No. 10 “The Bogatyr Gates (In the Capital in Kiev)”
After the interval, the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition. I have heard this work at Duszniki on may occasions.
Modest Mussorgsky by Viktor Hartmann
This was a powerful and on occasion idiomatic interpretation of the work with many moments of fine pianistic colour and detail. The tempo adopted for the Promenade should bear in mind that this is a portrait of a man walking around an art exhibition (the pictures painted by Mussorgsky's friend, the artist and architect Viktor Hartmann). The composer is reminiscing on this past friendship now suddenly and tragically cut short when the young artist died suddenly of an aneurysm. The visitor walks at a fairly regular pace but perhaps not always as his mood fluctuates between grief and elated remembrance of happy times spent together. This is always a challenge for the pianist but for me this Promenade was at the proper tempo although it seems I personally wander far more slowly and far less heavily (I am slim not obese) around art galleries than this pianist!
The imagined art exhibition above was of Hatmann's drawings and watercolours (not strong oil paintings) and I feel this should be considered when approaching the dynamic range of any performance in order to avoid undue heaviness. The Gnome was grotesque certainly but inflated in dynamics for this hall. The Old Castle beautifully atmospheric as was the pleasant relaxing social and picturesque domain of the Paris Tuileries. The Cattle were amusingly ponderous, but became giants in dynamic inflation. I found the Балет невылупившихся птенцов (Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks) as performed by Baryshevskyi particularly amusing. I liked the implied cimbalom instrument timbre in the Jewish portraits. The Limoges Market simply did not make sense to me as did not present it as a scene of idle chatter. Too many szforzandos....The Catacombs were again gloomily atmospheric and successful. The Hut on Hen's Legs was virtuosic but not sufficiently terrifying.Particularly in this work the final movement Богатырские ворота (В стольном городе во Киеве) The Bogatyr Gates which depicts the Great Gate of Kiev begs for a monumental sound. However in this over-pedalled performance I simply could not hear the great orthodox peal of bells.
The rich Jew and the poor Jew “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle"
Gentlemen visiting the Catacombs under Paris
“Catacombs (Roman Tomb): With the dead in a dead language”
"The Hut on Hen’s Legs (Baba Yaga)”
The bass of the Steinway at Duszniki is very resonant and in such a work the temptation to overwhelm the audience with sound proves irresistible to many young virtuosi. I am afraid I felt this with Abduraimov.
I shall never forget the shattering performance here some years ago by the inspired Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin when we could distinctly hear the Orthodox bells tolling.
His encores were very fine. An affecting and tender Tchaikovsky Lullaby Op. 16 (arranged by Rachmaninoff). Prokofiev Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet (arranged by Pletnev) and an excellent and glitteringly sonorous Liszt La Campanella but with a terribly overplayed trill that went through my head like manic doorbell....
PIANO RECITAL YASUKO FURUMI
This was a recital in great contrast to what we have heard before in the festival. Everything was in fine proportion. She cultivated a deep feeling for the historical period atmosphere of the works in question without resorting to period instruments. A recital of the highest quality, refinement, virtuosity and finesse.
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Piano Sonata in C major Hob. XVI/48 (1789)
Andante con espressione
I really have nothing of any negative significance to say. The performance was full of refinement, elegance, charm and delightful sparkle from her superb tone, touch, articulation and brilliant pedalling. There were many eighteenth-century musical gestures of high civilization which are always welcome in Haydn. The only observation I would make is that a feeling of spontaneity and wit were absent, qualities in Haydn that class him as a gentleman. Perhaps more reading around the historical and social context, how people behaved and what was expected of the aristocracy in terms of behavior and taste might give it a more personal view.
Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)
Transcendental Études S. 139 (1851)
No. 11 in D flat major, “Harmonies du soir”
No. 10 in F minor, Allegro agitato molto
What a contrast in sound world and aesthetic to Haydn. These two studies were fine indeed and demonstrated the extraordinary control Furumi has over the sound she is producing and the intentions of Liszt. Her pedalling in both was quite remarkable, of course underlining the comment Chopin made on the art as being 'a study for life'. She seemed able to simultaneously sustain two lines of completely different sound textures - a pure cantabile in the right and a rumbling diffuse base in the left with skillful use of the pedal.
There is little doubt that the Harmonies du Soir is one of the great masterpieces of the declaration and yearnings of Romantic love in nineteenth century piano literature. The titles of these pieces leave open many possible interpretations to the listener. This is merely my own. I find in this work the presage of the passions that inspire that sublime arc of tension and release contained in the Liebestod of Tristan und Isolde. Wagner’s debt to the harmonic adventurism of Liszt is never in doubt to my mind. The difference here is that life and not death inhabits this particular panorama of love.
Softly the bells toll at dusk as the lover wanders in a pastoral reverie, perhaps in a park in Weimar, passing by Goethe’s summer house, wood smoke in the air and the burble of the nearby Ilm river. He begins to dwell on his feelings for the seductive other who has captured his heart in a net. We begin to inexorably move into his ‘human, all to human’ mind as he imagines his beloved, we feel his fears and apprehensions, experience his almost coarse desire, his passions rising and falling in waves of increasing ecstasy, finally reaching an apotheosis. These debilitating emotions slowly fade as he returns to the calm of evening, ‘calm again now my heart’ as if the soft wings of a night moth had settled over him. Furumi controlled the tone colour sensitively and managed the transition from pastoral idyll to rhapsodic oceanic waves of sound with excellent control and judgement. Then the elegiac return to the calm reflective soul as the night harmonies close over us in a dream. A truly fine performance but once again slightly missing in the communication of the fluctuating passions of a lover.
The tenth is a tremendously powerful and emotional work despite not having the support of a title. But then F-minor and F-sharp minor are my favourite keys. Here Liszt embraces Chopin. His respect for the Chopin Études is as well known as Chopin’s admiration of Liszt’s performance of them. At times Liszt lays his own composition over the Chopin Étude Op. 10 No.9, borrowing and augmenting the idiom of the Polish composer. This was a commanding and intense virtuoso interpretation. It amazed me to see this diminutive Japanese lady totally dominating the keyboard writing of one of the greatest composers for the instrument, and in such a magnificent way.
Ballade No. 2 in B minor S. 171 (1853)
This Ballade is one of Liszt's greatest piano works and continues his thoughts in the key of B minor in the spring of 1853 after the composition of the great sonata. The immense narrative is based on Gottfried Bürger’s notoriously Gothic ballad Lenore (1773). The ballad profoundly influenced the development of wild and even gruesome Romantic literature in Europe. The English writer and Liszt fanatic Sacheverell Sitwell found in the work ‘great happenings on an epic scale, barbarian invasions, cities in flames—tragedies of public, rather than private, import' This was tremendously authoritative and commanding performance of work that would make most pianists blanche with fear. Her pedalling was miraculous with formidable control of dynamics, timbre and tone. She has grasped the narrative content of this passionate, varied work as well as the violently shifting moods which is a significant achievement in itself.
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
6 Polish Songs S. 480 (1857–1860)
Mädchens Wunsch (The Wish) Ferenc Liszt
Meine Freuden (My Darling) (1811–1886)
These arrangements were sensitively performed with great refinement and tenderness..
Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor Op. 14 (1853)
Andantino de Clara Wieck
This sonata entitled 'Concert sans orchestre' is rarely performed and I was anxious to hear it live. Composed in the summer of 1836, which was considered by Schumann as the 'darkest period' in his life. He was completely separated from Clara at the time. In many ways to mind it his greatest sonata and the fraught gestation of its compositions where Scherzo movements were included and discarded like leaves in the autumn wind. The opening Allegro is so dense in its 'toccata-like' writing spectacular culmination and coda, but Furumi managed an enviable transparency and clarity. Such unbridled passion lies in this music!
Clara seated at a Pleyel pianino and Robert Schumann in later happier times
The central variations (or ‘Quasi Variazioni’ as Schumann carefully refers to them) are arguably the most beautiful of Schumann's sonata movements, full of lovelorn yearning. A perfect expression of love confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This was a sensitive musical expression certainly, superb in tone and touch, but one must ask (perhaps unfairly) if more experience of life is needed to penetrate the true depths of this tortuous frustration of the heart. Also retaining the emotional kernals of her theme that lies at the heart of the Prestissimo possibile needs such agile fingers coupled with musical and harmonic understanding. Perhaps on occasion I felt a degree of emotional penetration of this suffering was missing although that did not detract too much from this very satisfying and charming recital.
Sunday, August 4 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM
Here we have a pianist of the utmost individuality and a self-consistent unique view of Chopin and his oeuvre. He belongs to the last great tradition of Polish pianists that once dominated piano playing and Chopin interpretation.
As this is the same programme offered at the Nohant Festival I shall repeat my comments with amendments as necessary for this evening's performance.
Set the intimate, reflective, refined and nostalgic tone of the recital perfectly. Such a masterpiece and so moving with the luminous tone, perfect rubato and velvet touch of this pianist.
The melancholic cantilena was deeply moving in tone and sensitivity. Janusz had us in the palm of his hand as we were moved by the music rather than astonished - surely preferable in all of Chopin.
I have always been particularity fond of the polonaise as I learned it at the age of 12 sailing with my family on an Italian ship of the Lloyd Triestino line from Australia to Genoa in Italy in the mid 1960s. Chopin seems to have taken this Polonaise with him from Majorca to Paris. In 1837, Heinrich Heine spoke of Chopin: ‘Poland gave him a chivalrous soul and the suffering of its history’. The A major Polonaise might be said to express that ‘chivalrous soul’, and the C minor Polonaise the historical suffering of the Polish nation.
A tremendously dramatic, brilliantly passionate, intense yet lyrical reading of irresistible forward momentum, rather like a Ballade. He may have overdone climacteric fortissimos on occasion but it held together as a coherent vision of the work.
Mieczyslaw Tomaszewski writes of this scherzo: 'The new style, all Chopin’s own, which might be called a specifically Chopinian dynamic romanticism, not only revealed itself, but established itself. It manifested itself à la Janus, with two faces: the deep-felt lyricism of the Nocturnes Op.27 and the concentrated drama of the Scherzo in B flat minor.'
Arthur Hedley thought about the work’s ecstatic lyricism, before concluding in a way even more appropriate today in the age of recording: ‘Excessive performance may have dimmed the brightness of this work, but should not blind us to its merits as thrilling and convincing music.’
Nocturne in C minor no. 1, Op. 48 No 1 (1841)
This Nocturne was composed at Nohant in the summer of 1841. Olejniczak adopted a tempo of what one might call mournful, majestic despair that permeates this piece. The great bass notes in the first section fell like statements of paradise lost, the central section a nostalgic and yearning chorale leading into the passionate utterance and agitation of the final section with an almost abnegation of life and final resignation to fate. His rubato is organically generated from within his heart, replete with refinement, instinctive taste and idiomatic understanding of le climat de Chopin.
Just perfect Chopin, reminiscent of Dinu Lipatti yet possessing his own voice. In the A-flat major Op. 69 No 1, in some editions marked dolente, the deep, haunting nostalgia for the dance and his joyful youth in Warsaw seemed to fade into the dusk of memory, age and recollection. Absolutely magical rubato and an expression of universal yearning as time passes and time erases touch...'L'Adieu'...
Ballade No 1 in G minor, Op. 23 (1831 or 1834/5)
A magnificent reading of this tumultuous work. The atmosphere, character and style of the G minor Ballade position it so closely to the B minor Scherzo above the choice was inspired I felt. One of the finest accounts I had ever heard.
A profound essay on the gestation and significance of this Ballade by Mieczyslaw Tomeszewski can be found here:
So few pianists have any idea how to play a Chopin waltz with period feel and more importantly early nineteenth century sensibility in 2019. Here we had divine understanding of the Chopin waltz...enough said.
Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major ('Heroic') Op. 53 (1842)
Composed at Nohant in the summer of 1842.
This was an imperious, majestic and dramatic account by Olejniczak, not unlike a Ballade in this interpretation. It contained in the words of German musicologist and composer ‘everything that the polonaise contains in terms of sparkle, distinction, strength and enthusiasm was expressed in this masterpiece in the most exhilarating way possible’.
His approach also justified the view of the modern Polish musicologist, music critic and composer ‘the most perfect work in the history of the genre’.
The Scale of Love (1717-1718) - Jean-Antoine Watteau (National Gallery, London)
One of his encores was Le Rossignol en Amour (The Nightingale in Love) from Pièces de clavecin Book III of Francois Couperin.
A mobile phone sounded in the hall seconds before the conclusion of the work and he picked out an echo of it's ring tone instantly on the piano, almost as part of the Couperin piece. Brilliant timing! Highly amusing moment of communication with the audience. A Duszniki Moment?
Sunday, August 4 CHOPIN’S MANOR 4:00 PM
Piano Recital TOMASZ RITTER
Winner of the 1st International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments, Warsaw 2018
Just a few general observations. Here is part of what I wrote of his Stage I performance in the competition on 6 September 2018:
Tomasz Ritter has had a distinguished career associated with both the harpsichord and the historical piano with his outstanding teachers. He has won prestigious prizes and performed with fine orchestras under well-known conductors. I expected his recital to be remarkable and so it was.
He began unexpectedly with a stylish rendition of the Kurpiński polonaise on the Buchholtz with most attractive phrasing which added greatly to the period feel. The Chopin polonaise was possessed of the same charm, elegance and nobility. From the tone and touch he was clearly experienced playing earlier historical instruments. The phrasing again revealed great sensibility and expressiveness using the evocative colour spectrum of the instrument to great effect. He has fine control of touch, tone, dynamics and articulation - a nuanced performance.
The Chopin Etude on the 1842 Pleyel was highly expressive and indicated the presence of an authentic individual voice. He brilliantly modulated from this study into the Ballade seamlessly at pianissimo (E minor to F minor was it?). This was a magnificent performance of this masterpiece with finely drawn internal cantabile lines, the bel canto radiant. The musical narrative was musically coherent and unfolded like the wings of a moth at dusk. So much detail and nuance were organically revealed here, growing from within not merely applied to the surface. He wound up the drama like a tight watch spring to the passionate coda and then the relaxation and final triumphant statement chord of faith suffused with resignation which concludes the work.
In view of these remarks, I must confess to being somewhat disappointed in the first half of this recital for reasons which probably emerge from his youth and inexperience.
Many young pianists design programmes that make them feel comfortable, able to establish their musical credentials and provide an intellectual and pianistic challenge. Fair enough but this does not always suit audiences who are hoping for more accessible, familiar music and an evening perhaps of relaxation and pleasure. Audiences are not always yearning for the dark night of the souls and existential speculation. Their entire lives are not bound up with the outer limits of demanding keyboard works as might be in the case of the pianist.
In view of his win in the extraordinary Chopin competition on period instruments mentioned above, why was their not one piece of Chopin performed here at Duszniki, a type of iconic shrine to the composer? Everyone was looking forward to it. I felt the programme he offered was certainly musically interesting but not appropriate for this particular festival. These remarks do not detract from his excellent musicianship in any way which is outstanding. Once he began the second half of the programme on the 1847 Broadwood matters fell more relevantly into place.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
Toccata in D minor BWV 913 (1708)
This was originally intended by Bach for the organ and like most of his seven toccatas is composed in several sections that blend together rather seamlessly. Here Bach is experimenting with the Italian keyboard tradition. It has been described as 'electric' as it involves an improvisatory quality which was not always obvious in this performance. The rather 'tempestuous' Bach was also not present in this performance of an harmonically exploratory virtuoso work. I felt it was over-pedalled and lacked transparent articulation which would have revealed more clearly the polyphonic lines in the fugal passages.
Paweł Szymański (b. 1954)
Two Études for Piano (1986)
Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)
For Alina (1976)
'Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.'
Some clarification from the pianist might have assisted the audience in recognizing the intentions of this style. One cannot assume such knowledge on the part of listeners.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)
Toccata in D minor Op. 11 (1912)
The logic in the choice here is that this toccata is an extension of the toccatas of Bach and other earlier composers. This piece is an extremely difficult and rather frenetic showpiece is very popular with virtuoso pianists.
The 1847 Broadwood
Jan Vaclav Hugo Vořišek (1791–1825)
Sonata quasi una fantasia in B flat minor Op. 20 (1825)
I must confess to not being over-familiar with this Bohemian composer who was a close friend of Schubert, studied under Moscheles and Hummel and had met Beethoven. An interesting fragment is that the first recorded use of the term 'Impromptu' as a musical term occurred in 1817, in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, an idea of the publisher to describe a piano piece by Voříšek. He died so young at 34. This interesting work looks towards the influence of Beethoven and also forward to Chopin and explores the Romantic possibilities of the piano. Supported by Salieri, he became first organist of the Imperial Chapel in 1824. His works are unjustly neglected but he is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. As this was really an introduction to Vořišek for me, I can only say that Ritter gave an account that convinced me of its worth as a recital work of high quality that deserves recognition.
Allegro con brio
Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Fantasiestücke Op. 12 (1837)
Des Abends (In the Evening)
Sehr innig zu spielen Aufschwung (Upswing)
Sehr rasch Warum? (Why?)
Langsam und zart Grillen (Whims)
Mit Humor In der Nacht (In the Night)
Mit Leidenschaft Fabel (Fable)
Langsam Traumes Wirren (Dream’s Confusions)
Ausserst leghaft Ende vom Lied (End of the Song) Mit gutem Humor
Schumann, ever influenced by literature, was inspired by the novellas entitled Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier by his beloved author of horror tales and the gothic, E.T.A Hofmann. Incidentally, Hofmann came to live in Warsaw from 1804 to 1807. He assimilated well into Polish society. The years spent in Prussian Poland were some of the happiest of his life. In Warsaw he found the same atmosphere he had enjoyed in Berlin.I could analyse each piece in turn but overall felt more characterization was possible although it was a fine performance which benefited from the period instrument, my reservations above being considered. Das Abends(In the Evening) so lyrical and sensitive a portrait of Eusebius/Schumann himself, is suffused with the dreamy light of dusk. Then Aufschwung (Soaring) representing Florestan (Beethoven - Fidelio) and his wilder passions. Warum(Why?) sensitively questioning and Grillen (Whims) showed good control of rhythm, degrees of staccato and inner contrasts of tone. In der Nacht (In the Night)brings together Eusebius and Florestan alternating passion with night-time serenity. Fabel (Fable) again brings out the whimsical, mercurial aspects of Schumann and Ritter captured this although I did not feel a great deal of humour in his rendition of its shifting moods. The difficult and intense rhythms of Traumes Wirren (Dream's Confusions) were accomplished and blended seamlessly into the final Ende von Lied (End of the Song) marked Mit guten Humor - the joy of wedding bells followed by the painful anxiety Schumann noted. Bu this time the inadequate damping was too inefficient for comfort.
As his first encore he chose the keyboard setting of Robert Johnson's (1583-1633) Pavane by Giles Farnaby (1563-1640). And then quite a treat and perhaps the most successful item on the programme, the 32 Variations on an Original Theme WoO 80 by Beethoven. A short thematic fragment is subjected to rather succinct and concentrated variations in this powerful and justly renowned work. It was highly successful performance and even exciting on the Broadwood with Ritter's instinctual feel for period style and the the clear influence of his gifted teacher Alexei Lubimov - one of the greatest world authorities on early performance practice and period instruments.
Saturday, August 3 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM
Piano Recital ALEXANDRE KANTOROW
This recital was without doubt one of the truly great piano recitals at Duszniki Zdroj, if not the greatest. I believe it was his first public concert after winning the competition. An authentic 'Duszniki Moment'. This unassuming young man has all the nascent qualities of a great artist in the process of maturing. He is only 22 and in possession of a gift and talent bordering on genius.
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943)
Piano Sonata No. 1 in D Minor Op. 28 (1907)
Rachmaninoff wrote to his friend Nikita Morozov on 8 May 1907:
'The Sonata is without any doubt wild and endlessly long. I think about 45 minutes. I was drawn into such dimensions by a programme or rather by some leading idea. It is three contrasting characters from a work of world literature. Of course, no programme will be given to the public, although I am beginning to think that if I were to reveal the programme, the Sonata would become much more comprehensible. No one will ever play this composition because of its difficulty and length but also, and maybe more importantly, because of its dubious musical merit. At some point I thought to re-work this Sonata into a symphony, but that proved to be impossible due to the purely pianistic nature of writing'.
It is said that Rachmaninoff withdrew this reference to literature and certainly the music contains other associations.
The 'literature' he referred to is Goethe's Faust (possibly with elements of Lord Byron's Manfred) and there is convincing evidence to believe that this plan to write a sonata around Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles was never entirely abandoned. of course there are other musical elements present as it is not programme music. The pianist Konstantin Igumnov, who gave its premiere performance in Moscow, Leipzig and Berlin, visited Rachmaninoff in November 1908 after the Leipzig recital, the composer told him that 'when composing it, he had in mind Goethe’s “Faust” and that the 1st movement related to Faust, the 2nd one to Gretchen and the 3rd was the flight to the Brocken and Mephistopheles.'
Faust in the opening monologue of the play:
In me there are two souls, alas, and their
Division tears my life in two.
One loves the world, it clutches her, it binds
Itself to her, clinging with furious lust;
The other longs to soar beyond the dust
Into the realm of high ancestral minds.
A man whose soul is rent between the hedonistic pleasures of the earth and spiritual aspirations - Sacrum et Profanum. Exploring this all to human dichotomy, Rachmaninoff builds almost unbearable tension.
In the Allegro moderato as Faust wrestles with his soul and temptations. Kantorow constructed and extraordinary edifice of unique sound, each note of each the massive chord weighted perfectly against the others to create a richness of great magnificence and splendour, rather like an organ His tone is liquid gold and even in passages of immense dynamic power he did not break the sound ceiling of the instrument. There was superb delicacy here. The delineation of eloquent melody and the dense polyphony of Rachmaninoff's writing was miraculously transparent.
The Lento second movement could well be interpreted as a lyrical poem expressing the love of Gretchen for Faust. Kantorow was so poetic here yet managing the dense polyphony once again with great artistry, tenderness and delicacy. His melodic understanding was paramount. The legato cantabile tone was sublime, the execution carrying with it an uncanny feeling of lyrical improvisation. A fervent and impassioned love song...
The wildness of the immense final movement Allegro molto with its references to a terrifying Dies Irae and death can well associate this massive declamation to Mephistopheles and insidious and destructive evil. Kantorow built a Chartres Cathedral of sound here with immense structural walls embroidered with the most delicate of decoration relieved by moments of refined reflection. Are we exploring the darker significance of Walpurgis Night? Kantarow extracted and expressed a diabolism seldom encountered in any piano recital. All my remarks are assuming his towering technical ability and nervous pianistic concentration of a remarkable kind. Overwhelming.
Walpurgisnacht Kreling: Goethe's Faust. X. Walpurgisnacht, 1874 - 77
Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)
Nocturne in D-flat major Op. 63 (1894)
Known for his songs and solo piano works, Fauré wrote this beautiful and profound piece after a long dry spell of some eight years where he had not written a keyboard composition. Alfred Cortot considered it a masterpiece. Kantarow gave us a poetic and sensitive rendition of the work. The only reservation I had was programming it after the Rachmaninoff (from which I was still recovering!) and could not turn my full musical attention to the Fauré. Perhaps it should have preceded it as a gentle introduction to the recital....
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Piano Sonata in A major Op. 2 No. 2 (1794–1795)
We then heard the seldom performed youthful but harmonically new and exploratory Beethoven Piano Sonata in A major (1770–1827) Op. 2 No. 2 (1794–1795). I heard this difficult work performed in recital in Duszniki last year by RÈMI GENIET. This was also a fine performance that indicated he understood the classical style of the work (dedicated to Haydn) and the harmonic originality of Beethoven's modulations. He experimented a great deal with articulation and tempo in the manner of improvisation. The staccato he introduced in the left hand in the Largo appasionato however, tended to reduce the lyricism of the passion for me. His golden tone and refined touch and articulation were often evident. However a little more delightful Viennese charm in the Rondo (the lightweight charm he brought to the Scherzo in fact) would have been appropriate in this Haydnesque movement. I was hoping for the deeper classically disciplined expressiveness that comes with time. I know as a young man I hated to be told that by older musicians but it is true except in the rarest of cases where musical maturity emerges fully formed in youth. Yehudi Menuhin springs to mind.
During my researches before writing this review, I came across the most inspirational, humorous and insightful lecture on this sonata (in fact all the sonatas of Beethoven) given by Sir Andràs Schiff in 2006. His original conclusion is that Beethoven intended that the three sonatas of Op. 2 make up a type of 'Trio under Op.2' - No. 1 being 'dramatic', No. 2 being 'lyrical and tender', and No.3 'a brilliant concert piece full of humour'. Schiff nearly always thinks of the piano in orchestral terms, especially the Beethoven sonatas. Not imitating orchestral instruments but associating with them in his mind. Kantarow seemed to do much the same but far less conventionally and with much more variety than the warmly classically inclined Sir Andràs Schiff.
Allegretto Rondo Grazioso
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
The Firebird K 10 (1910)
This work is most familiar from the orchestral version. The piano reduction Stravinsky made is rarely performed. The work almost defies translation from the orchestral version.
The ballet is a mixture the stories of the Firebird and Kashchei the Immortal, two of Russia’s most well-known legendary stories or fairy tales. Prince Ivan comes into an enchanted garden and captures the Firebird. The bird wants to be released and promises Ivan it will assist him in the realization of his desires.
Ivan falls in love with one of the thirteen princesses he meets. She informs him that he is in the realm of Kashchei the Immortal, a powerful wizard who captures and imprisons passing travelers making them slaves. Ignoring her warning, Ivan approaches Kashchei to request her hand in marriage. Kashchei orders his magic creatures to attack the prince and tries to turn Ivan to stone. The Firebird comes to Ivan’s aid, enticing the creatures into a dance and then putting them to sleep. The bird bewitches Kashchei in the same manner.
Kantorow was possessed of some sort of force of nature as he embarked on the Danse infernale of this piece. The screech at the beginning as the bird precipitously attacks was deeply disturbing. Then the 'infernal' dance rhythms with their relentless intensity begin to wear the attackers down. This movement is of immense pianistic difficulty with leaps at fortissimo and huge glissandi. One could easily visualise the bird in its various tempestuous rhythmic transformations during this demented attacking dance.
The creatures then fall asleep as depicted in the Berceuse. Kantarow created and hallucinogenic, hypnotic atmosphere during this sleeping, poetic dream - a magical word beyond. The triumphal wedding celebrations of the Finale developed in overwhelming dynamic joy and the clamorous ringing of orthodox bells flooded us with Russian emotional storms - magnificent, almost possessed yet under control and unprecedented in my experience of the sound capabilities of the piano.
The encores were Tchaikovsky's Méditation Op. 72 No 5 which Kantarow played with ardent depth and glowing cantabile which developed into deep expressive, passionate rhapsodic feeling.
He then spoke to the audience: 'I am feeling rather tired so I will only play Liszt Chasse-neige as an encore.' We did smile and some laughed with pleasure at such an understatement.
It was the greatest performance of this work I have ever heard - the icy flurries of wind- driven snow in the left hand are indescribable in the lightness of their electrical virtuosity. The control and gradual culmination and augmentation of pent up cataclysmic energy towards the conclusion was beyond ordinary mortal comprehension. I have never heard such a terrifying sound from the piano - a force of Nature unleashed.
J.M.W.Turner Valle d'Aosta Snowstorm, Avalanche....
This was surely one of the great recitals that is of the most value at Duszniki. The first exposure to the birth of a great and immensely gifted musical talent is priceless. It will be fascinating to see how Kantarow develops. We already have the extraordinary precedents of Daniil Trifonov, Seong-Jin Cho and Igor Levit.
Saturday, August 3 Chopin’s Manor 4:00 PM
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Nocturne in D flat major Op. 27 No. 2 (1835)
This was a pleasant gentle introduction to the recital which had all the required nuances, poetry and emotional contrasts.
Scherzo in B flat minor Op. 31 (1836–1837)
A rather dramatic, dynamic approach to this renowned work was without a great deal of poetic element for me in the lyrical, cantabile episodes. However it contained some original elements. I feel the existential question that Chopin poses at the very outset, one that he found his pupils found almost impossible to produce to his satisfaction, was in this case not entirely successful. Secure pianism of a high order from Marcinkowska but with a rather limited range of natural expressiveness in what I consider almost a type of Ballade.
Chopin greatly expanded the original musical content of the 'scherzo' (meaning at the time 'jest') to a work of extraordinary power and expressive range. He willfully did this with many genres of the day. Schumann penetratingly observed 'How is gravity to clothe itself if humour wears such dark veils?' The B-flat minor was written during a period of convalescence Chopin was taking in Marseilles. The powerful expanded drama of this work is packed with unexpected gestures of a strange and often bizarre character. The effect of the scherzo on the conventional contemporary audiences can only be guessed at, but this so-called 'governess scherzo' (many governesses played it during the nineteenth century) became rather quickly famous.
Waltz in A flat major Op. 34 No. 1 (1835)
Waltz in E flat major Op. 18 (1833)
Waltz in A flat major Op. 42 (1840)
Capturing the true spirit, elegance, brilliance and refinement of the Chopin waltz is a challenge for many modern pianists. Here I felt the waltz rhythm was not sufficiently captured in the left hand as it fell victim to the pedal. Even though these waltzes are not meant to be danced, pianists should learn to dance some of the accepted ballroom dances of the period (waltzes, mazurkas, polonaises) to learn what physical feelings are aroused within during your movements. Also the formality of say the 'call to the floor' in the Grande Polonaise - a type of fanfare to announce the beginning of the waltz for those who might dance. Chopin often introduces this symbolically in reduced form but here it is quite extended. It is a revelation almost as important as singing for understanding the spirit, especially the Chopin rubato and rhythm of mazurkas. I experienced this many years ago when attending the Vienna Opera Ball. Chopin accompanied dances into the small hours throughout his life as a young man in Warsaw almost to the detriment of his health. This was one reason he came to Bad Reinherz (Duszniki Zdroj) for 'rehab'. The pianist for me who is the nonpareil of beauty in the performance of the Chopin waltz is Dinu Lipatti.
Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante in E flat major Op. 22 (1830–1835)
The difficulties of performing this work convincingly are manifold and often underestimated by even the finest of pianists. I am afraid I did not find the Andante spianato particularly poetic but rather straightforward. The Andante was not always attached permanently to the Grand Polonaise. Chopin himself often liked to perform this Andante alone as a reflective, lyrical solo work. The Grande Polonaise was played accurately and well but for me lacked any real panache, style, élan or elegance which is vital in executing the style brillante. It is a great pity she seemed not to imagine the context in which such a piece might have been performed. We were never lifted off the dull plains to the sunny lyrical uplands. The Grande Polonaise did not have contrasts of tone and attack. This work is a fascinating piece of theater in many respects. It is not deeply philosophical but an utterly enjoyable brilliant confection written by a high-spirited young Pole named Fryderyk Chopin, a lover of dancing and acting.
A concert given by Fryderyk Chopin in the salon of Duke Antoni Radziwiłł in 1829 by Henryk Siemiradzki.
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
“Gaspard de la Nuit” (1908)
After the interval a rather disappointing treatment of Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel. 'Gaspard' is the Persian guardian of the treasures and so 'The Treasurer of the Night' creates allusions to someone controlling everything that is jewel-like, dark, mysterious. the work was inspired by poems of Aloysius Bertrand, the French Romantic prose poet.
In Ondine Marcinkowska controlled did not create a sufficiently luminous tone and delicate touch to create the sense of water enclosing the seductive water sprite. Technically this is an enormous challenge for any pianist but the requirement to create visual illusions was not really mastered.
Listen! – Listen! – It is I, it is Ondine who brushes drops of water on the resonant panes of your windows lit by the gloomy rays of the moon;
Le Gibet was not as haunting and horrifying as one might want under her fingers.
What do I see stirring around that gibbet?
Ah! that which I hear, was it the north wind that screeches in the night, or the hanged one who utters a sigh on the fork of the gibbet?
Scarbo, one of the most difficult pieces in keyboard literature, was presented by Marcinkowski as a virtuoso display piece. I thought she should have been more thoughtfully inventive and create the atmosphere surrounding a goblin that is terrifying a sleeper in his bed. The climaxes were sufficiently not terrifying! Excessive dynamic destroyed the insidious atmosphere of this movement I am afraid to say.
Oh! how often have I heard and seen him, Scarbo, when at midnight the moon glitters in the sky like a silver shield on an azure banner strewn with golden bees.
How often have I heard his laughter buzz in the shadow of my alcove, and his fingernail grate on the silk of the curtains of my bed!
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
The Nutcracker Suite Op. 71a (1892) (Mikhail Pletnev)
Dance of the Sugar – Plum Fairy
Russian Dance (Trepak)
The performance of this charming and exotic work was accomplished and authoritative. However I feel one must remember the childlike innocence of this ballet. It was inspired after all by the E.T.A. Hoffmann short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. I felt the need for variety of expression, orchestral effects and a much lighter hand particularly in the almost too familiar climactic Andante maestoso. All of the dances could have displayed their nature and exotic characteristic features rather more - as if through the eyes of a child. Pletnev’s superb arrangement, is a transcription in the great virtuoso transcription tradition but this should not tempt one out of elegant expressiveness entirely.
Konstantin Ivanov's original sketch for the set of The Nutcracker (1892)
Friday, August 2 Chopin’s Manor 8:00 PM
Piano Duo LUCAS & ARTHUR JUSSEN
The exuberance of youth erupted onto the stage as the brothers Lucas and Arthur energetically ran up the short flight of steps to the Steinways. They have tremendous communicative ability, self-confidence and radiant smiles. Handsome and dressed in slightly military style they are extremely companionable for an audience. So how was the musicality of their performance, given their legendary status as four hand musicians so early in life? Recordings with Deutsche Grammophon on the bestseller lists......
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Eight variations on a theme by Count Waldstein for piano for four hands Op. (Wo0) 67 (1792)
Andante con moto – Variazioni
Beethoven wrote only a few variations for duet. The Count Waldstein referred to in the title is the same Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, after whom the Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major is known. These variations were written sometime in 1792, the year the composer left Bonn at the age of 22 to study in Vienna with 'Papa' Haydn. These are a rather simple, if charming set of variations. Beethoven can compose far more complex structures in accordance with his obsession with variation form.
However this was an excellent introduction to the almost uncannily accurate synchronization and symbiosis of these two young musicians. They have a fine tone, slightly unsubtle touch, a sense of classical style (at least in this work) and appear to move, even sway together at emotional moments, as one organism. Certainly a novelty for me. On occasion I felt their musical phrasing was not all it could have been.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Sonata for piano for four hands in D major KV 381 (123a) (1773–1774)
This charming work (really a reduction of an 'Italian' orchestral piece) was composed sometime towards June 1772. This was the year in which Mozart returned to Italy with his father Leopold to open of his opera (and one of my favourites) Lucio Silla, K. 135. Mozart wrote it for himself and his accomplished pianist sister Nannerl to play.
I was less happy with this full blooded dynamic interpretation which seemed to be lacking in sufficient expressive refinement, delightful 'conversational' affectation, elegance and classical restraint that I feel is so important in Mozart. The Andante should surely have sung more and be phrased more ardently as an operatic aria. So much of Mozart is operatic rather than purely instrumental as envisioned here. The work was somewhat stylishly accomplished in the final movement Allegro molto but again, as they play so closely together almost as one being, the witty 'conversational' exchanges between two high spirited young individual voices (Mozart and his sister Nannerl) in this movement seemed rather lost. One should read the Mozart letters to his family to fully realize the happy relationship between these two siblings.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847)
Andante and Allegro brillant A major Op. 92 for piano for four hands (1841)
Ah! At last some Mendelssohn at Duszniki and so deserved here! The Andante is surely a 'Song without Words' which was charming enough but for me could have had far more musical yearning within it for a loving embrace, such an expression of the need for heartfelt affection from a beloved, not unlike a love letter sent in hope. Not tormented, just in the manner of a sentimental reflection. The Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo could not help invading my mind as I listen to the glittering cascade in the Allegro of philosophically undemanding music so suitable for upper middle class salons of the day and none the worse for that. There is a reason Mendelssohn is adored in England. They played at an exciting tempo and in glistening on ice 'brillant' style. For me the most satisfying work on the programme.
Felix Mendelssohn at Duszniki Zdroj in 1823
I often walk to to what is now the rehabilitation centre of Stalowy Zdrój on the outskirts of Duszniki and familiarize myself with the Felix Mendelssohn connections with the spa.
The iron ore deposits of what was known as Bad Reinerz (now Duszniki Zdroj) and its surroundings have been exploited since the beginning of the 15th century. Protestant miners emigrated here during the religious turmoil of the Thirty Years War when mining was established at the end of the 17th century. A molten iron and a hammer mill was established in 1822 by Nathan Mendelssohn (an instrument maker). With his brother Joseph Mendelssohn's financial help he revived the mining industry. I have often wondered if it was at this mill that the the tragedy occurred for which Chopin gave his charity concert.
Joseph was a successful banker as well as being another uncle of the composer Felix Mendelssohn. The Mendelssohns were a wealthy and well-established Jewish family. However the iron company had no lasting success because of severe flood damage in 1827 and 1829. Nathan Mendelssohn abandoned the operation at the end of 1829.
Felix Mendelssohn came to stay with his uncles in Duszniki in 1823 three years prior to Chopin's stay. A concert was held in Duszniki in which the main protagonist was the fourteen-year-old Mendelssohn. The young pianist did without the accompaniment of the semi-amateur ensemble that normally performed and decided to improvise solo on themes from Mozart and Weber to great acclaim.
I will leave you with some photographs of buildings still standing that resulted from my initial explorations.
Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Fantasy in F minor for piano for four hands D 940 Op. 103 (1828)
Allegro molto moderato
Scherzo. Allegro vivace
Finale. Allegro molto moderato
The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog c.1818 Caspar David Friedrich
I felt the Jussen Duo gave an accomplished enough performance but their feeling for the breathed lines of lyrical song, intimacy of expression and poetic sensitiveness needs development. May I say they are rather young and enjoying life so much to be fully engaged with a work of such shifting dark mood landscapes. I hope that with personal maturity ('Youth! Ah the joy of it!' as Joseph Conrad wrote) they will be able more deeply to explore the travails of experience, expressed with such anguish by Schubert in his Lieder later in his short life. This work is a close relation of that regretful melancholy.
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) K 15 (1910–1913) Version for two pianos
Adoration of the Earth
Augurs of spring
Ritual of abduction
Originally Le Sacre du Printemps and his other ballet music was was arranged by Stravinsky for four hands - the market recognizing that most households only possessed one instrument. One of the most famous images of Stravinsky is of him sitting at an upright piano in a Swiss pensionat in Clarens on Lake Geneva pounding out The Rite of Spring to the horror of the residents. It was on the piano in fact that this revolutionary 'scandalous' music was first heard. Not surprisingly the two piano version is superior.
The four hand version Stravinsky played with Claude Debussy at a private party at the home of French critic Louis Laloy. The critic wrote in his memoirs:
Debussy agreed to play the bass. Stravinsky asked if he could take his collar off. His sight was not improved by his glasses, and pointing his nose to the keyboard and sometimes humming a part that had been omitted from the arrangement, he led into a welter of sound the supple, agile hands of his friend. Debussy followed without a hitch and seemed to make light of the difficulty. When they had finished there was no question of embracing, nor even of compliments. We were dumbfounded, overwhelmed by this hurricane which had come from the depths of the ages and which had taken life by the roots.
Debussy commented that this music haunted him 'like a beautiful nightmare.'
Its rhythmic complexity and dynamic range requires formidable digital technique, stamina and concentration on the part of the pianists. In this case the uncanny synchronicity of these brothers made an extraordinary impact in the Dworek. Naturally much of the ravishing orchestral colour was lost and we are not distracted by watching the extraordinary choreography. However pianist colour was sometimes retained. Nevertheless it was an arresting sight and sound hearing these brothers play with such powerful dynamism. Some of the monumentally percussive fortissimo synchronized sounds were quite terrifying and some I have never before heard.
The two piano work is the distilled essence of the ballet. I must admit my own aural stamina was severely taxed by the two pianos in the small Dworek without the distraction of the erotic pagan stage action. This two piano version acquires great concentration without the wild and barbaric action danced on the stage as a diversion from the overwhelming sound as realized by these pianists. This version indicates that Stravinsky conceived the works as a series of granite blocks of sound as if quarried from a cliff-face, something like Michelangelo might have accomplished sculpting the giants but expressed in musical architecture. There were of course sometimes sensitively polished gems. I felt however that far more expressiveness and less 'pounding' at cruel dynamic levels in that small hall would have been more appropriate.
As encores they played a quiet arrangement of Bach by Gyorgy Kurtaga of Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Actus Tragicus) and finally an entertaining crowd-pleaser, a pot-pourri of well known classical melodies (including Mozart Symphony No 40), arranged by Igora Romy.
This recital was a fascinating pianistic experience of our times manifested in unique ways I have never before encountered.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Lately we have been witnessing a boom of young, interesting pianistic talents emerging all around the world. Some of these artists cause a great deal of interest among worldwide concert agents, famous conductors and music lovers. According to our long-lasting tradition we will be able to admire some of these great young pianists at the Duszniki Festival! During this year’s edition, which is my 27th meeting with you, we will hear quite a number of these “new faces” of the world’s pianism. I am sure that some of these young artists will soon become great stars, impatiently awaited in the most renowned concert venues of the world. With great pleasure I invite you to the recitals of the young artists, hoping that they will win your interest and kind reception and that all our artistic appetites will be satisfied by these young talents!
There will be a plenty of opportunities to be deeply moved during the festival. The emotions will be provided by this year’s Duszniki debutants, such as the Lucas and Arthur Jussen Duo, Alexandre Kantorov, Yasuko Furumi, Behzod Abduraimow, Aristo Sham, the Meccore String Quartet, George Harliono and Eva Gevorgyan – a group of young yet strong artistic personalities with a great deal of talent! Polish pianism will be proudly represented by Janusz Olejniczak, Tomasz Ritter, Joanna Marcinkowska, Elżbieta Karaś-Krasztel and the six laureates of the Polish Chopin Piano Competition, organized annually by The Frederic Chopin Institute.
With great interest we are awaiting the return of the great Korean violinist SooBeen Lee, performing this year with Marcin Sikorski, and the final recital of the Festival, the prominent British pianist Ian Fountain. I suppose the artists whose performances will bring us particularly strong emotions are the laureates of the Chopin Competition. Those most-loved by the Warsaw public and long-awaited in Duszniki being Kate Liu and
Charles Richard-Hamelin! As a youthful saying goes, 'It will be a blast!'
We also want to warmly welcome to Duszniki our excellent pedagogues, the professors conducting the Festival’s master classes. This year’s guest, Professor Stanislav Ioudenitch, is the winner of the 11th Van Cliburn Competition in 2001 currently teaching piano classes at Park University, USA, and at the Piano Academy Lake Como in Italy. The great talent of Bezhod Abduraimov blossomed under the tuition of Professor Ioudenitch. This is another recital we will experience during this year’s Festival. The other visiting Professor is Francisco Cruz Plaza, an artist of a multi-faceted artistic personality, taught by masters such as Bella Davidovich, Sir Norman del Mar and Claudio Abbado. The pianist has worked as a visiting professor at many renowned universities such as Columbia, Harvard, Yale and Cambridge. He has travelled the globe giving recitals and presenting lectures. He is a respected interpreter of J.S. Bach – his recordings of The Art of Fugue and the English Suites have gained many awards. Professor Cruz Plaza is also an unremitting mentor of young pianists, working in many foundations supporting music. He is the artistic director of the project entitled “European Piano Series” at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Working with such distinguished teachers will be a priceless and inspiring experience for all of the master class participants.
I deeply believe that this year’s 74th Chopin Festival will stay in our memories for a long time. I wish you many unforgettable emotions awoken by the music, deep artistic satisfaction, strong feelings and inner peace. May we listen to all the concerts and fully experience the electrical atmosphere which is so typical of our Festival!
Prof. Piotr Paleczny (Artistic Director)
Headaches and swollen glands necessitated the application of leeches to his neck. The family doctors (there were a number) agreed his condition might possibly be serious. The idea gained in popularity with the Skarbeks of Żelazowa Wola (Countess Ludwika herself was suffering from tuberculosis) and three family groups set off at intervals on the arduous 450 km journey by carriage from Warsaw to Bad Reinerz over rough roads serviced by indifferent accommodation. The route they took through pine forests and agricultural country now passes through industrialized towns.
Frycek arrived at Duszniki Zdrój on 3 August 1826 spending a day en route at Antonin in the honey-coloured timber hunting lodge of Prince Antoni Radziwiłł, respected scion of one of the wealthiest Polish magnate families. He was a fine cellist, composer and singer. This delightful octagonal lodge is built in a beautiful region of forests and lakes. On a later visit he wrote ‘There were two young Eves in this paradise, the exceptionally courteous and good princesses, both musical and sensitive beings.’ Of Wanda Radziwiłł ‘She was young, 17 years old, and truly pretty, and it was so nice to put her little fingers on the right notes.’ While a guest Chopin wrote a Polonaise for piano and cello - ‘brilliant passages, for the salon, for the ladies’.
Chopin sketched by Eliza Radziwill at Antonin en route to Duszniki Zdroj 1826.
Duszniki as a treatment centre has not greatly changed. The Spa Park and the town nestle in the peaceful mountain river valley of the tumbling Bystrzyca Dusznicka. Fresh pine woods flourish on the slopes and the moist micro-climate is wonderfully refreshing. Carefully stepping invalids negotiate the shaded walks that radiate across the park between flowering shrubs, fountains and lawns.
Many famous artists visited Duszniki in the nineteenth century including the composer Felix Mendelssohn. In times past the regimented cures began at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. when people gathered at the well heads. The waters at the Lau-Brunn (now the Pienawa Chopina or Chopin’s Spa) were dispensed by girls with jugs fastened to the ends of poles who also distributed gingerbread to take away the horrible taste (not surprisingly it was considered injurious to lean towards the spring and breathe in the carbon dioxide and methane exhalations).
In a possibly apochryphal story, Chopin was reputed to have developed an affection for a poor ‘girl of the spring’ named Libusza. One tragic day Lisbusza’s father was crushed to death by an iron roller (perhaps in the nearby Mendelssohn iron mill) and she and her brothers were made orphans. In his generous way ‘Chopinek’ or 'Frycek' to his family (an affectionate Polish diminutive of his name) wanted to assist the family and his mother suggested giving a benefit recital. Despite the lack of a decent instrument he agreed and in August 1826 gave two of his first public concerts in a small hall in the town.
Since 1946 this event has been celebrated every August in a week-long International Chopin Piano Festival, the oldest piano music festival in Poland and indeed the world. I have made a point of attending it as often as I can. An original building near where he played has been converted into the charming Dworek Chopina, an intimate concert room. Many of the finest pianists in the world, established artists and even child prodigies including past winners of the always controversial Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition have appeared in these Elysian surroundings.
The Duszniki festival attempts to maintain the intimate nature of the salon and the piano music is not restricted to Chopin. During the day there is time to walk in the peace of the surrounding pine-clad mountains, ‘take the waters’ if you dare or visit splendid castles in the nearby Czech lands. Eccentric characters regularly appear there: the ‘Texan’ Pole who wears cowboy boots, Florida belts and Stetson hats of leopard-skin or enameled in blue, maroon or green. ‘I jus’ love it here but I jus’ hate that goddam music!’ (recitals are broadcast through loudspeakers over the Spa Park); the ethereal girl with the swan neck who seems to have stepped directly from a fête galant by Antoine Watteau; an elderly musician with long grey hair and wearing a voluminous silk cravat materializes and then disappears.
Sviatoslav Richter (far left) on the steps of the Dworek Chopina
1965 Duszniki Zdroj Festival
In the past I have experienced many remarkable musical moments at Duszniki. Grigory Sokolov, arguably the greatest living pianist, gave a magisterial performance of that radical composition the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie. He profoundly recreated the tragic instability of Chopin’s disintegrating world during his final years. The Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk returned to the piano after an horrific car accident that threatened to leave him permanently incapacitated. He has gone on to great things internationally. His theatrical temperament, musical passion and truly astounding virtuosity never fail to astonish.
The soulful young Russian Igor Levit is deeply involved with the music of Schumann. He movingly reminded the audience of the genesis of the Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) written when the composer was on the brink of suicide in a mental institution. After completing the final variation Schumann fell forever silent. The great Liszt super-virtuoso Janina Fialkowska, a true inheritor of the nineteenth century late Romantic school of pianism, courageously returned to the platform here after her career was brought to a dramatic and terrifying halt by the discovery of a tumour in her left arm. Daniil Trifonov utterly possessed by the spirit of Mephistopheles in the greatest performance of the Liszt Mephisto Waltz No:1 I have ever heard. The moments continue...
One remarkable late evening event of the festival is called Nokturn and takes place by candlelight. The audience in evening dress are seated at candlelit tables with wine. A learned Polish professor and Chopin specialist such as the wonderful Polish musicologist Professor Irena Poniatowska might draw our attention to this or that ‘deep’ musical aspect of the Chopin Preludes or perhaps the influence of Mozart on the composer. Sometimes it is a famous actor, music critic, or journalist. The pianists ‘illustrate’ and perform on Steinways atmospherically lit by flickering candelabra.
In spite of the immense popularity of Chopin, this festival manages to recapture the essentially private and esoteric experience of his music, an experience one might consider had been lost forever.
I will be keeping my detailed blog of the pianists as I normally do for this unique festival. I always keenly anticipate coming to the small Polish spa town. One can walk in the morning in the invigorating pine-forested mountains of the former Silesian spa Bad Reinerz or attend a Master Class followed by a late afternoon and evening recital. Of course each day one approaches in trepidation the Chopin Spring to take the smelly waters with a draught from the traditional spouted ceramic drinking cup.
The festival offers one rare moments of bliss and oblivion to escape the constant news of the unhinged, economically fraught and increasingly brutal violence and political trauma in this world of ours.
Introduction to the History of the Festival
The much missed Polish musicologist, academic, music critic, music journalist and essayist who died on 25 March 2019
When, in 1946, Ignacy Potocki, a co-founder of the Lower Silesian Health Resorts, proposed that a music festival named after Frédéric Chopin be held in Duszniki-Zdrój, nobody thought that that annual event would continue for the next seventy-one years. It has, indeed, continued without interruptions until today, rendering famous the name of the Polish genius and his music, as well as the health resort, at the same time enlarging the output of the global musical culture.
It all started very modestly, amid still strong memories of World War II that had ended only a year before. The two-day Chopin celebration was inaugurated with a solemn ceremony (25 August), during which a plaque commemorating Frédéric Chopin’s stay at the resort was un- veiled, followed by a recital by one of the greatest Polish female piano players, a magnificent Chopin expert, Zofia Rabcewiczowa (1870– 1947). In the interval during her concert Paulina Czernicka familiarised the present with the content of unknown letters sent by Chopin to Delfina Potocka, which twenty years later turned out to be … apocrypha. On the next day (26 August), at the concert hall of the Spa House, the audience listened to a performance by Henryk Sztompka (1901–1964), also one of the foremost Chopin experts. At the time Duszniki-Zdrój witnessed an encounter between two heirs of the great traditions of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (Sztompka) and Antoni Rubinstein (Rabcewiczowa). They performed exclusively compositions by the patron of the 1st festival. Interpretations of both pianists, including those, among other works, Sonata in H minor and selected études (Rabcewiczowa), as well as mazurkas, preludes and nocturnes (Sztompka), are now part of Chopin performance history. Those present at the concerts claim that they have never heard those works performed better…
Initially, the festival programme included only Chopin’s music performed by Polish artists. With time, however, the repertoire began to be extended with works by other Polish composers of Chopin’s period. Gradually, in subsequent years, pieces by foreign artists were added and the performers began to include laureates, and then participants, of the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Thus, the event was becoming a forum of the world piano performance. For many artists, even those renowned, performing Chopin’s music on the Duszniki-Zdrój stage is an important point in their musical career.
The event has witnessed concerts by the greatest piano masters. The already dead ones include legendary Raul Koczalski, Witold Małcużyński, Stefan Askenazy, Władysław Kędra, Paweł Lewiecki, Stanisław Szpinalski, Zbigniew Drzewiecki, Jan Ekier, Halina Czerny-Stefańska, Regina Smendzianka, Zbigniew Szymonowicz, Barbara Hesse-Bukowska, Jerzy Lefeld, Klara Langer-Danecka, Tadeusz Żmudziński, Miłosz Magin and others, while the foreign ones e.g. Louis Kentner, František Rauch, Malcolm Frager and Stanislav Neuhaus. Many have made their debut in Duszniki-Zdrój, where they embarked on their international careers, including Adam Harasiewicz, Piotr Paleczny, Janusz Olejniczak, Krystian Zimerman, Ewa Pobłocka or Wojciech Świtała. It is with great sentiment that we remember, until today, the magnificent recitals by Paul Badura-Skoda, Michael Ponti, Joaquin Achucarro, Philippe Entremont, Dang Thai Son, Fou Ts’ong, Eugen Indjic, Cyprien Katsaris, Christian Zacharias and Kevin Kenner, among others. It was also here that the Festival’s artistic director, Piotr Paleczny, had his great successes.
Today the International Chopin Piano Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój is the world’s oldest Chopin festival and oldest piano festival. The originally modest event dedicated to Chopin has, after years of beautiful development, become a unique occasion. It is very often the centre of the world piano art, a place where aesthetical canons in music are built, performance trends are created and artistic careers are launched.
Since 1993, i.e. the 48th Festival, the artistic supervision over the event is exercised by Professor Piotr Paleczny, who himself comes from a beautiful Chopin tradition.
As is well known, Chopin’s favourite student was Karol Mikuli (1819–1897), whose outstanding pupils included Aleksander Michałowski (1851–1938). Aleksander Michałowski was, in turn, a professor of Stefania Allina (1895–1988), who taught Piotr Paleczny…
The Chopin tradition does not end with Paleczny though. It is now continued by his students, who win prizes at international competitions and music reviews, and is further developed by the festival that it shapes. In Duszniki-Zdrój we have the opportunity to meet the most brilliant young pianists from around the world and, at the same time, experience the art of famous performers, whose names give prominence to every festival. It is often here that music lovers are able to listen to a laureate of an international piano competition that was concluded only a few days earlier!
The characteristic feature of Duszniki-Zdrój concerts is their high level and varied programme. Although Chopin’s music remains the core of the repertoire, it is supplemented with works by other composers, creating in various styles and various periods of history. Some pieces may be heard several times, which provides an excellent opportunity to compare their interpretations, ways in which the same text has been read, demonstrations of hitherto undiscovered layers in music… Even though piano music is still the main feature in Duszniki-Zdrój, Chopin’s chamber pieces are not neglected by Piotr Paleczny. Therefore, we are able to listen to his songs, cello works, a piano trio and transcriptions by various authors of the composer’s brilliant works.
A beautiful tradition, initiated by Paleczny, are open lectures and talks on Chopin’s piano art, delivered by outstanding Chopin experts and piano performance researchers, as well as master interpretation classes for selected, talented young musicians, conducted by world-re- nowned professors and famous pianists.