77th Duszniki Zdrój International Piano Festival, 5-13 August 2022, Poland

77th Duszniki International Piano Festival 



Honorary Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda

Calendar of Festival Events

Link to detailed recital programmes, biographies of  artists and Artistic Director's introduction


8 pm

Bruce LIU
Inaugural concert
4 pm

Jonathan FOURNEL
1st Prize at the Queen Elizabeth Competition – Brussels 2021
8 pm

Bomsori KIM – violin
Rafał BLECHACZ – piano


4 pm

1st Prize at the Arthur Rubinstein Competition – Tel Aviv 2021
8 pm

Lucas & Arthur JUSSEN
Piano Duo
4 pm

Dmytro CHONI
1st Prize – Santander 2018
Laureate – Leeds 2021
3rd Prize at the Van CLIBURN Competition 2022
8 pm

DANG Thai Son
4 pm

Chloe Jiyeong MUN
1st Prize – Takamatsu 2014
1st Prize – Genewa 2014
1st Prize – Busoni 2015
6:30 pmCharity concert of the participants
of the 21st Master Course
9 pm

NOKTURN – host of the evening: Marcin MAJCHROWSKI
4 pm

8 pm

4 pm

8 pm

Marcin ZDUNIK – cello
Aleksander DĘBICZ – piano
4 pm

1st Prize – Leeds 2021
8 pm

4 pm

Yunchan LIM
1st Prize at the Van CLIBURN Competition 2022
8 pm

Final concert

Weekend concerts at the FRYDERYK Hotel

6.08. – Saturday
11 pm – Marcin Wieczorek
12 am – Krzysztof Wierciński

7.08. – Sunday
11 pm – Aleksandra Dąbek
12 am – Józef Domżał

13.08. – Saturday
11 pm – Julia Łozowska
12 am – Filip Michalak

21st National Piano Master Course in Duszniki-Zdrój (Master Class)

August 6-9, 2022, from 9.30-13.30 Alexander GAVRYLYUK

10-13 August 2022 from 9.30-13.30 prof. Vanessa LATARCHE

Participation of Russian artists 

Due to the dramatic development of the war – the brutal and bloody aggression of Russia against the independent nation of Ukraine, due to the violation of all provisions of international law – unfortunately, it has become impossible for us to maintain the performances performances by Eva Gevorgyan (8 August), Philipp Lynov (9 August) and a master class by Professor Natalia Trull (6-9 August), scheduled as part of the 77th International Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój.

We would like to stress that we sincerely hope that peace will be restored in the near future!

We believe also that the political situation in Russia and the possibility to travel, will allow us to welcome these and other great Russian artists to our Festival again.

Our decision is in line with the position of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and was taken to express our full solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Recital Reviews

Profile of the Reviewer Michael Moran : https://en.gravatar.c atom/mjcmoran#pic-0

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The opening flower-laying ceremony of the Festival at the Chopin Memorial Duszniki Zdroj

Prof. Piotr Paleczny at the symbolic opening of the Prof. Piotr Paleczny Avenue in the Spa Park at Duszniki Zdroj on 9 August 2022

The Artistic Director Professor Piotr Paleczny laying flowers at the Chopin Memorial on his 30th occasion as Director of the oldest piano festival in the world

Music is an ephemeral art. This Notebook is an invaluable long-term record of past performances at this unique festival now going back 12 years

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Unfortunately for pressing personal reasons I was unable to attend the final two concerts of the festival

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Thomas Adès (ur. 1971 r.) Traced Overhead 

Thomas Adès was born in London in 1971.  Renowned as both composer and performer, he works regularly with the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies and festivals. 

His compositions include three operas : the most recent of which The Exterminating Angel premiered at the 2016 Salzburg Festival and subsequently has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and the Royal Opera House, London all conducted by the composer

This modern impressionist piece takes its meaning and relevance from the title. There was a most remarkable variety of dynamics and articulation as well as many colors and textures in the piece. Much musically pregnant use of silence as a block of sound

Franz Schubert (1797‒1828) 

Piano sonata in E flat major, D. 568 (1825)


Allegro moderato

Kholodenko gave the work a soft and expressively tender opening. The Ländler dances were charming, a lively Austrian folk dance form predominantly performed by couples. Kholodenko always plays in a manner full of musical meaning. Here we were given the strong Viennese sense of early nineteenth century colour, elegance and refinement. A great deal of detail was perceived and revealed in this interpretation with Schubertian songs everywhere!

Andante molto

A gently reflective movement played piano  by Kholodenko True musical speech emerged through the careful and eloquent phrasing by the pianist. There was philosophical depth present here in abundance.

Menuetto: Allegretto -Trio

Again we experienced a charming Viennese flavour to this music as if visiting charming and civilised Demel patisserie and traditional coffee house with a cultured friend, a cultural and culinary institution since 1786. Kholodenko gave us charming affectation without deep philosophy yet retaining much  grace and refinement.

Allegro moderato

The Allegro moderato opening was replete with childish simplicity. So innocent in expression with a few drifting clouds hinting at mortality. Charming melodies expressed by Kholodenko with poetic elegance and poignant emotion. The rural refinement gave one the impression of a pastoral excursion in the Vienna woods accompanied by the Schubertian soul.

 I found the sonata an affecting understated performance, that of a sensitive artist with all the modest gestures of integrity and truth one might expect from a great musician.


Franz Schubert (1797‒1828) Drei Klavierstücke  (3 Pieces for the piano) D.946 (1828)

Schubert did not arrange these late works as a set. This was done by Brahms in 1868. These intimate works are revelations of the state of Schubert's soul from the last year of his life (1828). They are lyrical pieces where the expressiveness has been extremely concentrated.

I felt Kholodenko in the E flat minor - Allegro assai gave us what can only be described as 'perfect Schubert' as the turbulence was expressively offset by extended song-like lyricism. He approached them all as an affirmation of life and the energy, transparent and polyphonic. 

In No. 2 in E flat major again his dynamic balance was deeply expressive. The work was lyrical and full of expressive content, the opening theme reminiscent of a Venetian barcarolle. His awareness of Schubert songs is evident throughout. The emotional disturbance, the perturbation created within the piece and the listener's heart was seriously threatening in character. His eloquent phrasing and sense of structure highlighted Schubert 's tempestuously fluctuating emotional life as his final hour approached.  

The blithe C major Allegro third piece was lively and cheerful in character, somewhat Bohemian, a wanderer in a landscape of mercurial moods. A section of curious immobility is enclosed in the work in a period of static and repetitive rhythm..

Carl Vine (ur. 1954 r.) Sonata No. 1

Vine is an Australian composer of contemporary classical music. Of great interest to me, as a teenager, he was fascinated with the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen which inspired a period of Modernism, which he explored until the mid-1980s. I also became deeply involved with this music in my early twenties travelling to the Stockhausen New Music Courses in Köln in 1968.

From 1975 he has worked as a freelance pianist and composer with a variety of theatre and dance companies, and ensembles. Vine's catalogue includes eight symphonies, twelve concertos, music for film, television and theatre, electronic music and numerous chamber works. From 2000 until 2019 Vine was the Artistic Director of the eminent chamber presenter Musica Viva Australia. Within that role he was also Artistic Director of the Huntington Estate Music Festival from 2006, and of the Musica Viva Festival (Sydney) from 2008.

In 2005 he was awarded the Don Banks Music Award. In the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours List, Vine was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), "for distinguished service to the performing arts as a composer, conductor, academic and artistic director, and to the support and mentoring of emerging performers." Vine currently lectures in composition and orchestration at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

This work had remarkable rhythm and the sheer texture of the staccato sound was arresting. The work is extraordinarily demanding of the virtuosity of the performer. Kholodenko dominated the work with his transcendental keyboard technique. At times the sound he extracted from the composition and piano sounded like electronic music in the left hand rather conventional cascades of notes. Demanding on the listener !

The minimalist  Bagatelle by the Ukrainian composer Valentin  Silvestrov that the great artist Vadym Kholodenko played as an appropriate encore, given the current murderous days, could not have made a greater contrast.



Piano recital

ALIM BEISEMBAYEV First Prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2021 

Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) 

Variations in F minor "Un piccolo divertimento", Hob. XVII:6 (1793)

He brought to the work a fine tone reminiscent of a string of pearls displayed on a fashionable aristocratic neck in a Viennese salon. His command of the classical style was so pure it gave me such refined pleasure. I really cannot imagine a finer performance of this work.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) 

Piano sonata, Op. 111 (1821–1822) 

Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appasionato 

Arietta: Adagio molto semplice cantabile

The Maestoso - Allegro can brio ed appassionato  was grand in scale and rather over emotional in declamation I felt. I prefer are more introverted and philosophical Beethoven at a less virtuosic tempo. I conceive this movement as  noble in stance and tempo. E.T.A. Hoffmann refers to this exploration as the monumental in Beethoven, a composer who 'carves his essential being from the inner kingdom of tones, and reigns over it as its absolute ruler.'  

 'Here it comes!' as Wendell Kretchmar excitedly exclaims at the beginning of his lecture on the sonata in Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus. In the Arietta – Adagio molto semplice e cantabile Beethoven achieves immense significance from the slenderest of means, an innocent fragment perhaps taken from a trite waltz by Diabelli is transformed. The innocence of its life is transfigured by a multitude of vicissitudes and variations into a sweeping chiaroscuro painting, a landscape of human spiritual aspiration and at times physical existence, revealed from beneath the mysterious veil of reality that cloaks us all. As magical a musical prefiguring and revelation as the appearance of the legendary 'Sun of Austerlitz' was for the victory of Napoleon at the Battle of the Three Emperors in 1805. There was a marvellous sense of fatal inevitability in the conclusion with heavenly long trills metaphysical in character - as a whole it made a magnificent impact. A brief celestial flight of the soul followed as if released from the shackles of existence. 


 Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849) 

24 Preludes, Op. 28 (1938–1839)

No. 1 in C major No. 2 in A minor No. 3 in G major No. 4 in E minor No. 5 in D major No. 6 in B minor No. 7 in A major No. 8 in F sharp minor No. 9 in E major No. 10 in C sharp minor No. 11 in B major No. 12 in G sharp minor No. 13 in F sharp major No. 14 in E flat minor No. 15 in D flat major No. 16 in B flat minor No. 17 in A flat major No. 18 in F minor No. 19 in E flat major No. 20 in C minor No. 21 in B flat major No. 22 in G minor No. 23 in F major No. 24 in D minor

I cannot in this limited space appraise each prelude save to say Beisembayev has a personal voice of a superb pianist, a virtuoso performance of a set that Chopin would never have considered performing as a whole. Each prelude, however brief, seems to me to contain entire universe of reference and life experience in essence.

An excellent Scarlatti sonata with great style and panache. A rather too much impactful  La Chasse by Liszt in the created refinement of this  musical environment. His technique in evoking snow flurries was breathtaking.

Wisdom from the Vanessa Latarche Masterclasses

This renowned pedagogue and pianist is Head of Keyboard and Fellow of the Royal College of Music in London. This is in addition to her illustrious concert career, possession of many international awards and valued jury service on many piano competitions of world importance. Her pupils have won renowned piano competitions including Alim Beisembayev who was awarded First Prize at the Leeds 2021 Competition.

'Embrace the Piano'  Vanessa Latarche

Working on the Brahms Variations on a Theme of Paganini Op.35 Book 1 with Julia Łozowska

I made some short notes during this class so please read them in this way and not as an academic exegesis. I would like to cover all the Masterclasses in detail but time does not permit this. The participants all play at an extremely high level of musical and pianistic accomplishment which is recognized by both the audience and professors.

Vanessa made the point to Julia that it was better physically to practice early in the day. One is bright and physically aware in the morning. One is more emotionally aware in the evening. A most interesting observation.

She felt each variation should be distinct in its character and the pianist should communicate a feeling of capriciousness and light touch which increases the fascination for the audience. She felt the shape of a musical phrase should be reflected in the shape of the hand and that the pianist should not bend deeply over the keyboard but sit back 

Concerning trills, they should be played in sections and not one long homogeneous trill. In order to highlight the different voices in polyphony, variation in voice dynamics is effective. Communicate a sense of confidence which is achieved through textual security. 

Hold the reins and take charge! Support your body posture and remain under control. Physically, playing the piano makes demands on the legs so use and develop your core strength. Don't waste energy in creating  facial grimaces.

If you make an error simply move on - it is already in the past!

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Vanessa Latarche and Krzyrztof Wierciński working on the Chopin Nocturne in B major Op.62 No.1 and the Chopin Scherzo in B flat minor Op.31

In musical performance 'go inside the work' and do not simply think 'on top'

In this session there was much discussion of the use of the pedal. A great deal of sensitive feeling comes through the foot. She felt that the performance of the Nocturne was 'too private' and that we as listeners were 'not allowed in'. She felt the performance should be far more open and fresh without 'secrets'. I found this a fascinating observation.

We then moved onto tone production which is so important in creating the atmosphere that surrounds a Chopin Nocturne. The centre of the tone is vital in the creation of a golden tone. Connected to this she then examined the ambiguity of the voicing of some Chopin pedal markings on a modern as opposed to a period instrument. Voicing or pedal change ? 

She felt that playing with a singer was most beneficial for pianists as they must offer the singer detailed support.

Concerning the Scherzo, she observed that the notes of any musical work 'need to lift off the page'. The opening triplet as an existential, even diabolical question. At the time of composition this work must have been deeply shocking and revolutionary. Frederick Niecks quotes Robert Schumann who wrote of the Chopin Scherzos (the Italian word scherzo meaning 'joke') 'How is 'gravity' to clothe itself if 'jest' goes about in dark veils?'. She advised utilizing a degree of capriciousness to create the emotional ambiguity often present at the centre of Chopin's energetic despair. Think horizontally not vertically and harmonically in cantabile and chorale sections.

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Vanessa Latarche working with Filip Michalak on the 
Schumann Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor Op.11

Vanessa Latarche examined the first movement of the Schumann F sharp minor Sonata Op.11 in this Masterclass. She began by telling us that the sonata was based on the nature of love. Schumann told his wife Clara that in light of their cruel enforced separation, the sonata was 'a solitary outcry for you from my heart ... in which your theme appears in every possible shape'. He published it anonymously as 'Pianoforte Sonata, dedicated to Clara by Florestan and Eusebius'.

The first movement is marked: Un poco adagio - Allegro vivace. She told us the story behind the sonata as she considers the personal, historical and cultural context of musical works vital to the fullest understanding and interpretation of them. Piano pedagogues and professors all differ in their approach to the same piece, emphasizing simply technical aspects, sound production or visualizing extra-musical associations which are also so important to complete penetration and understanding. She indicated the intertwining of 'Clara's theme' within the musical fabric. 'Never drop onto a note before you are ready' she advised.

She felt the opening does not immediately proclaim 'this is a sonata' but is an introduction which opened new 'romantic' expressive territory for the composer. She emphasized the two voices of the LH and RH contained within the dramatic and passionate opening theme. She felt that the pianist must know exactly what is in the score and to maintain control of the different voices and their utterance. 'Listen to yourself'.

Vanessa also felt that an enhanced sense of colour was of great importance for the different voices and delineation of the characters of Florestan and Eusebius - the variation in colour was vital to the creation of an  expressive sound texture. She felt that Filip too often said the same thing in the same way. He was reminded 'to play with taste'. She felt he could have made more of the embedded polyphony which of course came from Schumann's adoration of Bach. She also highlighted the 'slight craziness' of Schumann and his whimsical, mercurially changing nature. 

The second movement  of the sonata Aria: Senza passione ma espressivo was lamentably only just begun in this class due to time constraints. Vanessa explained that the movement expressed a different and far deeper view of love. The love of Eusebius - the other more alluring aspect of our doppelgänger composer. The touch should be increasingly refined to match the tenderness and yearning contained in this movement.

This Masterclass I attended by Vanessa Latarche was a revelation in so many ways, a class that 'opened the doors of perception'. Such an engaging, encouraging, deeply musical, enthusiastic and affectionate personality one meets so rarely in life. How fortunate to be a pupil of hers and have her as a musical guide!  



Chamber concert


Jan Sebastian Bach (1685‒1750)

Chorale preludes and improvisations

1. Improvisation 1

2. Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BWV 658

3. Improvisation 2

4. O Lamm Gottes unschuldig, BWV 656

5. Improvisation 3

6. Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659

7. Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 665

8. Improvisation 4

9. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645 

Arranged by Marcin Zdunik and Aleksander Dębicz

These improvisations were especially interesting intellectually rather than significantly musically uplifting and inspiring. However hearing such familiar vocal Bach works transcribed for instrumental performance was a rare and rewarding experience and another lesson in Bach's extraordinary genius and universality


Marcin ZDUNIK (b. 1987) / Aleksander DĘBICZ (b. 1988)

Improvised sonata, Op. 0, No. 0

I felt that the pianist Dębicz could have been slightly more subtle as an instrumentalist, although the cellist Zdunik is clearly an outstanding musician. This work was based on a traditional four movement sonata. The melodies were attractive rather than the harmonic transitions and invention. The final movement was attractively lively. So far the most successful of the improvisations. However I could not help asking myself what was the musical direction and what were the instrumentalists saying with these improvisations, apart from their intrinsic musical interest as variations on familiar material.



Marcin ZDUNIK / Aleksander DĘBICZ

4 Intermezzi

1. Der Lachs

A pleasant, entirely traditionally harmonic composition

 2. Clara

A delightful, rather light salon piece but none the worse for that...

3. Mathilde

A charming musical portrait

4. Spóźniony Pierrot

A sad clown ?

These were all purely traditional harmonic compositions of significant lyrical beauty.

The Chopin Manor at Duszniki


Impromptu. Chopin Improvised

1. Prelude in C major, Op. 28 No. 1

2. Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55 No. 1

3. Nocturne in B major, Op. 9 No. 3

4. Prelude in G sharp minor, Op. 28 No. 12

5. Nocturne in F major, Op. 15 No. 1

6. Mazurek in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4

7. Mazurek in D major, Op. 33 No. 2

There were some tasteful improvisations here even with bucolic humour at times (the Nocturne in B major). The Prelude in G sharp minor was agitated and certainly virtuosic. The Nocturne in F major rather attractively elegiac with a feeling of 'jazzy' Chopin. The Mazurka in A minor was rather lugubrious in its opening. I found some difficulty in tracing the Chopin at the heart of it. 

Both are clearly fine improvisatory musicians. The Mazurka in D major revealed Zdunik to be musically and inventively brilliant in addition to being virtuosic in his remarkable execution. This work was most lively with a true folkloric character.

They were rather wildly received and applauded which surprised me. Perhaps I am missing something!

As a first encore, a jazz fine improvisation on a rather melancholic theme from  Porgy and Bess and the second encore to conclude, was an up tempo, impressive jazz improvisation but I am not sure what this piece was...



Piano recital



Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849) 

Rondo à la Mazur, Op. 5 (1825–1826)

Mazurka de Chopin (1911) Edward Okuń (1872-1945)

This piece was written when Chopin was 16. He dedicated it to the Countess Alexandrine de Moriolles, the daughter of the Comte de Moriolles, who was the tutor to the adopted son of the Grand Duke Constantine, Governor of Warsaw. This rather unpleasant individual often requested Chopin to play for him at the Belvedere Palace. Unable to sleep, on winter nights he would ostentatiously send a sleigh drawn by four-horses harnessed abreast in the Russian style to collect the young pianist from his home. Schumann first heard the Rondo à la mazur in 1836, and he called it 'lovely, enthusiastic and full of grace. He who does not yet know Chopin had best begin the acquaintance with this piece'.

Sorita gave this a charming rendition but slightly lacking in period feel and affectation. I tended to feel the presence of learned, rather conventional emotional expressive gestures rather than spontaneous reactions to the musical context. There is charm, style, élan and panache in this work which could be brought to the fore with a light touch to create le climat de Chopin. Here we have  as a young, carefree, Polish adolescent with character and personality plus, wit, humour, theatrics - a young man striving to please with his massively precocious talent.

3 Mazurkas, Op. 56 (1843–1844) in B major in C major in C minor

The mazurka is the quintessential expression of the Polish national and ethnic identity. Any approach to them is bound to cause comment, sometimes dismissive, sometimes abrasive but never indifferent or detached. One should examine the nature of dancing in Warsaw during the time of Chopin. Almost half of his music is actually dance music of one sort or another and a large proportion of the rest of his compositions contain dances.

Dancing was a passion especially during carnival from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. It was an opulent time, generating a great deal of commercial business, no less than in Vienna or Paris. Dancing - waltzes, polonaises, mazurkas - were a vital part of Warsaw social life, closely woven into the fabric of the city. There was veritable 'Mazurka Fever' in Europe and Russia at this time. The dancers were not restricted to noble families - the intelligentsia  and bourgeoisie also took part in the passion.

Chopin's experience of dance, as a refined gentleman of exquisite manners, would have been predominantly urban ballroom dancing with some experience of peasant hijinks during his summer holidays in Żelazowa Wola, Szafania and elsewhere. Poland was mainly an agricultural society in the early nineteenth century. At this time Warsaw was an extraordinary melange of cultures. Magnificent magnate palaces shared muddy unpaved streets with dilapidated townhouses, szlachta farms, filthy hovels and teeming markets. By 1812 the Napoleonic campaigns had financially crippled the Duchy of Warsaw. Chopin spent his formative years during this turbulent political period and the family often escaped the capital to the refuge of the Mazovian countryside at Żelazowa Wola. Here the fields are alive with birdsong, butterflies and wildflowers. On summer nights the piano was placed in the garden and Chopin would improvise eloquent melodies that floated through the orchards and across the river to the listening villagers gathered beyond.

Of course he was a perfect mimic, actor, practical joker and enthusiastic dancer as a young man, tremendously high-spirited. He once wrote a verse describing how he spent a wild night, half of which was dancing and the other half playing pranks and dances on the piano for his friends. They had great fun! One of his friends took to the floor pretending to be a sheep! On one occasion he even sprained his ankle he was dancing so vigorously! He would play with gusto and 'start thundering out mazurkas, waltzes and polkas'. When tired and wanting to dance, he would pass the piano over to 'a humbler replacement'. Is it surprising his teacher Józef Elzner and his doctors advised a period of 'rehab' at Duszniki Zdrój to preserve his health which had already begun to show the first signs of failing? This advice may not have been the best for him or his sister Emilia and Ludwika Skarbek, as reinfection was always a strong possibility there. Both were dead not long after their return from the so-called 'cure'.

Many of his mazurkas would have come to life on the dance floor as improvisations. Perhaps only later were they committed to the more permanent art form on paper under the influence and advice of the Polish folklorist and composer Oskar Kolberg. Chopin floated between popular and art music quite effortlessly.

George Sand wrote in Les Maîtres Sonneurs (The Master Pipers) 'He gave us the finest dances in the world....so attractive and easy to dance to that we seemed to fly through the air.'

No. 1 in B major

Sorita was idiomatic within its harmonically adventurous and fragmented nature. The mazurka rhythm was clear.

No. 2 in C major

Ferdynand Hoesick described this mazurka that has such a rustic dance feel as follows: ‘The basses bellow, the strings go hell for leather, the lads dance with the lasses and they all but wreck the inn’. I felt Sorita could have been less controlled, more spontaneous, more boisterous and rumbustious!

No. 3 in C minor

I always felt this mazurka as not based in reality but in nostalgic dream and memories. I felt Sorita was most successful in this mazurka, a fragile, refined work which drifts over the Mazovian plain on a summer breeze, fading away to nothing as an autumn leaf falls into a stream and drifts...

Ballade in F major, Op. 38 (1839)

It opened with captivating childish innocence and adorable simplicity of melody. This was followed by explosive passions of the grim reality of war or love, the suffering, the feast of the tigers of experience followed a naive lack of knowledge of the world. I have always felt this work to be traversing the emotional landscape of a broken love affair. Technically in terms of articulation, tone and touch his performance was formidably impressive with occasional lapses of deeper expressiveness as dynamic exaggerations tended to rear their ugly heads. I felt the dynamic contrasts could have been moderated. A convincing, almost operatic, performance of this tragic narrative of a broken life. By definition, authentic passion cannot be controlled.

Largo in E flat major (1847)

I am not fond of this work despite the affecting melody, A Prayer for Poland, but see it mainly but it was clearly of importance to Fryderyk Chopin. In this work, dated to 6 July 1838 (the year is uncertain) Chopin refers to or is based on Jan Nepomucen Kaszewski’s original 1816 melody for the hymn Boże cós Polskę (A Prayer to God to save Poland). It made an imaginative harmonic transition to the Polonaise attacca.

Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 (1842–1843)

Sorita opened this familiar work in a conventionally noble and heroic style which is all one should ask perhaps. All the Chopin polonaises, regardless of when they were written, are connected by the supreme idea of the polonaise-the most important Polish national dance. The polonaise developed in Poland long before Chopin's time, and since the Baroque era it had been a fashionable society dance at many European courts. The most eminent composers frequently wrote polonaises, including Bach, Teleman, Beethoven and Weber. 

The nineteenth-century poet and critic Kazimierz Brodziński wrote :

The polonaise  breathes  and paints the whole national  character; the music of this dance, while admitting much art, combines something  martial with a sweetness marked  by the simplicity  of manners of an agricultural people . . . Our fathers danced it with a marvellous  ability  and  a gravity  full  of  nobleness;  the  dancer, making gliding steps with energy, but without skips, and caressing his moustache, varied his movements  by the position of his sabre, of his cap, and of his tucked-up coat sleeves, distinctive signs of a free man and a warlike citizen.

I felt however as the work progressed Sorita was transforming it into merely a virtuoso 'pianistic' display rather than a felt expressive work of Polish resistance, pride and valiance. The heroics were slightly overdone but then how does any young pianist resist such an irresistible temptation in playing such this rousing work of Chopin. He knows and feels that it is deeply affecting his audience, especially now in a time of war where so much of Chopin's żal and  passionate resistance to Russian oppression has become so intensely relevant.

Charge of Poznań cavalry during November Uprising (1830)
Juliusz Kossak (1824-1899)


 Franz Schubert(1797–1828)

 Piano sonata in A major D.959 (1828)

The late sonatas were written during the last prolific months of Schubert's all too brief life, this one in 1828, mere months before his death. His sonatas were neglected until the twentieth century as they were thought to be inferior to those of Beethoven. Of course they possess the unique voice of a musical genius. Beethoven had died the previous year and in some ways Schubert felt he had inherited his mantle. As Alfred Brendel has pointed out, the three late sonatas (a sonata trilogy in fact), are closely connected motivically and tonally.


The opening suggests chamber music for strings so I felt his rather heavy approach was not really suitable here, even if the movement was greatly affected by the writing of Beethoven. I feel a session playing this Schubert movement on a period instrument would be most instructive concerning overall sonority to be aimed at on a modern Steinway.


Surely this bleak, immortal movement in F sharp minor is the pivot of the sonata on which the whole structure revolves. The mesmeric main theme reminds one of Schubert's Heine songs and Der Leiermann from Winterreise. The melancholic contemplation, even obsession, is ever present. The dynamic contrasts should not be overdone even if Sorita possesses such a fine fingers, tone and refined touch. Such dynamic variations would simply not be possible on an instrument of Schubert's day. His musical conception was modified by the sound palette at his disposal.

Scherzo Allegro vivace - Trio: Un poco più lento

Alfred Brendel found a parallel with this movement and the painting The Third of May, 1808 by Francisco Goya, where the brutality of the firing squad and the defenseless human target are contrasted. I felt this movement was attractively articulated by Sorita with its slight detaché. The movement was light and elegant, perfectly in keeping with Schubert's vision and forcibly uplifting his mood to escape the slough of despond. One must never forget that everything in Schubert is song.

Rondo Allegretto - Presto

The Beethovenian Rondo. Allegretto had a far more positive life outlook than that depicted in the bleak Andantino. Sorita was at times eloquent of the existential uncertainties laid before the passionate, almost desperate grasp at life suffusing the Coda.

I hope with personal maturity and a deeper identification with the tragic life of Schubert, together with the nostalgic yet masculine sonority he was aiming to produce, that this massively gifted pianist will penetrate further into the spiritual core of this uniquely troubled composer.


First of all a delightful Grieg Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. Balanced, light, energetic and joyfully dancing. Then the deeply felt Brahms Intermezzo in A major  Op.118 No.2. Finally a Grande valse brillante by Chopin that was uplifted by perfect waltz rhythm, sparkling articulation, most elegant and stylish in approach with refined touch and tone. This interpretation could not be bettered! These qualities in Chopin waltzes are so rare among young pianists.



8.00 PM

Piano recital


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770‒1827)

Piano Sonata in C sharp minor "Moonlight", Op. 27 No. 2 (1802)

The Elbe in Moonlight
Johann Christian Dahl (1788-1857)

A fascinating performance of this familiar sonata full of the dynamic, mood and tempo contrasts that Beethoven clearly intended. In fact the work became so well known it irritated Beethoven as he felt it overshadowed his other later, more profound musical statements.

Adagio sostenuto

This movement is marked senza sordini (without dampers) and una corda (the hammer moving across via the action by means of a pedal to strike one string rather than three). This would have been sonically possible on the early pianos of Beethoven's time (not today) such as the Graf and would have endowed the movement with a rather disembodied, mysterious and haunted  atmosphere. Moonlight possibly but not the sweet blurred impressionistic romance given the movement on a modern piano. Clouds darkly pass with pain over the face of this moon.

I felt Gavrylyuk understood this perfectly well in his expressive rendering of the movement. Berlioz wrote of the Adagio that it 'is one of those poems that human language does not know how to qualify.' He further defined the piece: 'The left hand softly displays large chords of a solemn, sad character, and the length of these allows the vibrations of the piano to extend gradually over each one of them.' He chose the correct alla breve time signature which prevents the movement descending into cloying sentiment. Many pianists play this movement with indulgent emotion.

Allegretto Trio

A statement of innocence - light, graceful and untroubled. Gavrylyuk adopted a moderate tempo with just a touch of poetic melancholy hovering.

Presto agitato

Here Gavrylyuk approached the Presto agitato with an almost frightening ferocity, an almost suicidal tempo (an act Beethoven actually contemplated during clinical depression). This conception is entirely in keeping with the highly emotional, neurotically agitated conception that pullulated in the brain of Beethoven. Gavrylyuk expressed a towering power and articulated exuberance the like of which I have never heard from any pianist before in this movement. An unforgettable and a truly individual voice exploded before us in this Presto. The motivic energy he summoned was irresistible and became incandescent with the heat of velocity generated from expressed internal passions of the highest rhythmic energy. The dynamic variation he utilized was theatrical and intensely dramatic.

 One of the great performances of this much performed sonata.

Robert Schumann (1810–1856)

Scenes from Childhood (Kinderszenen), Op. 15 (1838)

I shall write my impressions in note form as longer analysis is inappropriate in a brief review of this kind.

Of Foreign Lands and Peoples

Chaming and childlike in its innocence

 A Curious Story

The childish curiosity was winningly clear

Blind Man's Bluff

I could feel the essence of the exciting game and the internal 'blind' force

Pleading Child

The harmonic and plangent harmonic transitions gave us that unique feeling children express when taken over by a desperate desire for something

Happy Enough

Rather too adult and exaggerated for the qualification 'happy enough' - a slight tinge of regret or negative reflection in the title?

An Important Event

Also rather heavy enjoyment for a child I thought!


Such a lyrical piece performed with great sensitivity and beauty by Gavrylyuk. No sentimental dwelling on emotion or mawkish indulgence

At the Fireside

A domestic feeling of being 'At Home' perfectly captured

Knight of the Hobbyhorse

Rather strenuous riding for a mere hobbyhorse in a nursery I felt

Almost Too Serious

Yes, a mood wonderfully expressed

Frightening Child

Falling Asleep

A charming depiction of the internal process of a child falling asleep. Children fall asleep then fight it and suddenly wake and return to the somnolent groves. The piece is a marvellous depiction of this process which Gavrylyuk understood.

The Poet Speaks

And so to conclude a poet penetrates childhood consciousness, music and lyrical meaning. 'The fewer the notes the more difficult to play' 

A fine performance of this work by a pianist who understands children so well

Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)

Venezia e Napoli: Tarantella S.162 (1859)

The virtuosic Tarantella is from the collection Venezia e Napoli (published 1861), a revised version of earlier pieces which he issued as a supplement to his Années de pèlerinage: Deuxième année devoted to his musical impressions of Italy. The work is based on dance melodies by the Neapolitan editor and music publisher Guillaume-Louis Cottrau (1797-1847).

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Bay of Naples (1882)

The English author Sacheverell Sitwell (1897-1988) in his fine book on Liszt, amusingly writes: 

'In any case, the Tarantella is a delightful epitome of the warn Italian south, not to be taken too seriously, except by the pianist who may have wrestle with its appalling difficulties. For this, perhaps the most arduous of all the pieces in the Années de pèlerinage: Deuxième année (supplement), is essentially a concert finale and belongs to that class of Liszt's works which seems calculated to leave the executant paralyzed, or struck down with tetanus, at the close of his performance.'  (p. 72)

Gavrylyuk gave us a simply a spectacular performance with the blazing pyrotechnics that has had us on our feet here for many years. A kaleidoscopic spectrum of contrasting colours, phrasing, dynamics and tonal textures. These musical qualities were enhanced by stylish gestures of immense theatricality. Nineteenth century romantic Latin love and lyrical passions were here depicted at white heat

The sounds he produced fell like stars and pearls around us! Duration and dynamically matched repeated notes a la Horowitz, a pianist he adored. The audience at Duszniki leaped to their feet erupting into wild applause and cheering. Glittering virtuosity from the golden age of pianism, communicated as an artistic quality in its own right, something we have largely forgotten. The heart raced and sheer excitement filled the psyche.


Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849)

Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2 (1835)

Hugo Leichtentritt was a German musicologist and composer who called the cantilena that opens the work ‘achingly beautiful’. I felt Gavrylyuk did not penetrate sufficiently the soul of this nocturne in approaching it rather too aggressively on this occasion. When he performed it in 2015 at Duszniki I wrote: The bel canto and cantabile nature of the Chopin Nocturne in D-flat major Op.27 No.2 was similarly brought off with poetry and sweet melancholy - 'Parting is such sweet sorrow...' On this occasion I felt his apassionato could have been a little more subtle and expressing more of a feeling of improvisation and emotional discovery.

André Gide in his Notes on Chopin, perceptively described music of this genre:

‘[Chopin] seemed to be constantly seeking, inventing, discovering his thought little by little. This kind of charming hesitation, of surprise and delight, ceases to be possible if the work is presented to us, no longer in a state of successive formation, but as an already perfect, precise and objective whole.'

[André Gide, Notes on Chopin, tr. Bernard Frechtman (New York, 1949), p.21].

Polonaise in A major, Op. 40 No. 1 (1838–1839)

Chopin took this polonaise with him from Majorca to Paris. In Paris he prepared the manuscript for publication, joining it with the Polonaise in C minor conceived in the waves of melancholy that beset him in Valldemossa.

In 1837, Heinrich Heine famously commented  ‘Poland gave him a chivalrous soul and the suffering of its history’. The A major Polonaise could be said to contain his ‘chivalrous soul’, and the C minor Polonaise the historical suffering of the Polish nation.

Gavrylyuk captured the military atmosphere and sense of Polish national defiance brilliantly. Was he thinking of his own beleaguered nation of Ukraine? Few pianists manage this convincingly. The military character was solid, unremitting and irresistible. The strong military rhythm expressed power and life and his roaring tremolos surely a military snare drum. A fine, utterly persuasive performance which too often fails and is rarely performed in recital.

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

Intermezzi Op. 117 (1892)

No. 2 in B flat minor

No. 3 in C sharp minor

Brahms in 1897

The Three Intermezzi Op 117 are products of the final phase of Brahms’s creativity and possess the nostalgia for the fading of high summer and the advent of autumn. They are the first group in the profound poetry contained in the short piano pieces that he composed in 1892–3. They were published in four collections, Opp 116 to 119.

Like the quartets they were written very much with Clara Schumann in mind, for she was the first pianist to see them; but their moods are suffused with philosophical acceptance of seasonal change, that every love has its span of life and limited duration, even the forty years of love and friendship with Clara. Op 117 can be considered a triptych of lullabies. All three of these pieces seem to have had some secret significance for him: they were, he told his friend Rudolf von der Leyen, ‘three lullabies for my sorrows’. Eduard Hanslick described these brief autumnal works as 'monologues' of a 'thoroughly personal and subjective character…pensive, graceful, dreamy, resigned, and elegiac.' 

To the Intermezzo No: 2 in B-flat minor Gavrylyuk brought the love yearning of a mature man when the emotions of love have calmed to a calm acceptance, a feeling beyond the passions of youthful doubt and anguished sufferance. There is a brief flaring up of the smouldering embers before they return to the warm, trusted glow of a settled fire.  Beautifully controlled tone, touch, dynamics and colour.

The emotional landscape of the Intermezzo No 3 in C-sharp minor is clear from Brahms's emotive choice of key. Here Gavrylyuk brought an expressive but not cloying masculine strength typical of Brahms as I imagine him, even during this melancholic change of life season and spiritual reflection. He painted an emotional landscape in strong colours that possessed much philosophical depth. This dark work of chiaroscuro beauty is believed to be an unacknowledged setting of another of the German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic Johann Gottfried Herder's translation of Scottish poems, a love-lament beginning ‘Oh woe! Oh woe, deep in the valley …’

Camille Saint Saëns (1835–1921) / Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886) / Vladimir Horowitz (1903–1989)

Danse Macabre, Op. 40

The piece was actually was conceived in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin part. Shortly after the premiere, the piece was transcribed into a piano arrangement by Liszt who knew Saint-Saëns well. The composition was again later transcribed for piano by Vladimir Horowitz.  

I cannot help but feel Gavrylyuk chose this work only partly for piano virtuosic reasons, although he adores Horowitz and approaches his keyboard genius at times. he may have also chosen it but possibly as a not overly serious response to the Covid 19 pandemic which has beset the world and brought mass deaths so much closer and agonized the lives of millions. The cultural impact of mass outbreaks of disease, of pandemics, are not fleeting or temporary. The effect can endure past the initial stages of outbreak, in its deep etching upon the culture and society. This can be seen in the artworks and motifs of Danse Macabre as people attempted to cope with the death surrounding them.

His beginning was an overwhelming and truly macabre declaration as if a funeral bell was tolling. The crescendos he conjured from the piano were beyond credibility. Pandemonium erupted within his fiery and grim imagination and swept all before it.

A tidal wave of enthusiastic approbation followed his recital.

His first encore was the Andante second movement from the italian Concerto of Bach. I was unsure of his second encore. His third encore was the Chopin Etude in E-flat minor Op.10 No.6. His final encore was an affecting piece of 'forbidden' Russian music (in view of the Ukrainian war), the magnificent Vocalise  by Rachmaninoff arranged for solo piano.



Piano recital



Nocturne in C-sharp minor Op. posth

Her refined and elegant touch and tone were evident from the outset of the recital. There was a seamless and affecting flow of nostalgic emotion, so important to communicate in Chopin. A deeply and sensitively performed  account  that that unaccountably moved me less than I had hoped.

Nocturne in F-sharp minor Op.48 No.2

The atmosphere is created by the first two bars followed by the most affecting melody. Tomaszewski writes 'the impression might be that it will last forever.'

‘What is most exquisite and most individual in Chopin’s art, wherein it differs most wonderfully from all others,’ noted André Gide ‘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.’ A characteristic of Chopin during the 1840s, in his last, reflective, post-Romantic phase. This is the source of Wagner’s unendliche Melodie Tomaszewski reveals with his unparalleled Chopinesque perceptions.

Kobayashi sang poignantly as if in an opera and took us into dramatic realms of operatic soundscape. The seminal influence of Bach on Chopin was made clear in her harmonic transitions. She cultivated this nocturne into a grand work and brought the piece off persuasively well. The F sharp minor endless cantabile song was romantically ardent and poetic. The conclusion was as tender and eloquent as a dream.

Fantasie-Impromptu C-sharp minor Op.66

The Fantaisie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op. 66 (1834) requires a high degree of virtuosity to make it into a charming and convincing work. Kobayashi lightly gestured the eloquent polyphony with wonderful control over the cascading notes, a discipline over the tumbling water source of Vistula in the mountains. The middle section with the famous slow, reflective nocturne, was expressively touching. It flowed at a moderato cantabile tempo, weaving a sotto voce melody in D flat major.  She made a grand work of this familiar piece using the rich colour palette of the Shigeru Kawai instrument, the emotional structure fluid and unsettlingly meaningful in a musical sense. A virtuosic conclusion with nostalgic reminiscences.

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

Clara Schumann wrote in her diary after receiving the pieces Op. 118 and Op. 119

'It really is marvelous how things pour from him; it is wonderful how he combines passion and tenderness in the smallest of spaces.

Four Pieces for piano, Op. 119 (1893)

Intermezzo in B minor

This Intermezzo was more a study in sound than a heart yearning for love. It could have been more beautifully unsettled, full of the reflective anguish of past unrequited love, moments of anger and resistance followed by final resignation. In this work moments of Arcadian bliss are followed by happy memories of calm refection cultivated in the consoling refuge of age.

Intermezzo in E minor

I am not sure Kobayashi yet understands the tender dislocation within the Brahms heart. Again I was looking to feel more yearning here, the hopeless desires of maturity that still smoulder in the embers of memory. Does the sun ever emerge from behind the shadowing clouds? Sometimes yes .....

Intermezzo in C major

I can only describe the mood of the Intermezzo in C major  with the opening stanza of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley

To a Skylark

Hail to thee blithe spirit!

Bird thou never wert-

That from heaven or near it

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

I felt this interpretation could have been more joyous, the magical leap of the heart as it unexpectedly catches sight of beloved!

Rhapsody in E flat major

This work could have expressed more nobility and gravitas. Just look at the magnificent head and countenance of the older Brahms! Imagine the emotions of aged and at times frustrated experience, like a great storm settling in the soul, resting philosophically yet still powerfully  in the heart of this unsurpassed artist of the creative intellect.


Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849)

Scherzo in B minor, Op. 20  (1834–1835)

A dramatic opening that heralded a virtuoso pianistic approach to playing the work. Kobayashi interpreted this Chopin Scherzo with immense dynamic contrasts. A degree of great nervous agitation created something of the atmosphere of an 'infernal banquet' required by this dark 'joke' (as the word  'scherzo' is supposed to mean in Italian). However, the lyrical central section (based on the Polish Christmas Carol  Lulajze Jezuniu) was perhaps not quite understood deeply and ardently enough in its deep Polish national significance. Her overwhelming keyboard facility tended to mask a sufficient degree of subtlety of sensibility and heartfelt expression. The return of 'the infernal' after the carol was more expressively grand than psychically demented as I believe it is. The extreme contrasts in mood are extraordinary in this most psychotically revealing work of Chopin.

Scherzo in B flat minor, Op. 31  (1836–1837)

Here we had a great narrative drama, an eruption of dramatic force that lead almost to its own destruction. The work is a perfect example of 'Chopinian dynamic romanticism'. Chopin as a teacher was rarely satisfied with the opening triplet 'question' as he felt it should be uttered. Is this a question by Hamlet with a tempestuous but ambiguous answer ?

Kobayashi opened the work with penetrating existentialism and a question that must be answered. She presented the piece as heroic and the narrative of a grand destiny. Although slightly rushed at times, she offered us an exciting performance with great forward impetus. Her lyrical cantabile Trio was affecting until we were rudely  transported out of the sweet garden back into the crucible of demolishing power by the formidable coda. 

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo - Carnival Scene  (1754-55)

Scherzo in C sharp minor, Op. 39 (1839)

This scherzo opens in a 'Gothic', almost grotesque manner to become a fine and noble account approaching immense grandeur. Dedicated to his muscular pupil Adolf Gutman, this was last work the composer sketched during the Majorca sojourn and in the fraught atmosphere of the monastery at Valldemossa. The religiosity of the chorale was answered with not particularly meaningful jeu perlé cascades of notes, paste diamonds falling on crystal. The sotto voce transition to the minor was haunting and existentially tragic in the face of the abyss of death. Chopin was ill at the time which interrupted and perhaps affected the writing. ‘…questions or cries are hurled into an empty, hollow space – presto con fuoco.’ (Tomaszewski).

Scherzo in E major, Op. 54  (1842–1843)

This is a rarely performed scherzo. This work is not dramatic in the demonic sense of the three previous scherzi, but lighter in ambience. The outer sections are a strange exercise in rather joke-filled fun with a darkly concealed centre of passionate grotesquerie dependent on the accentuation of rhythmic detail. The work mysteriously encloses a deeply felt and ardent nocturne in the form of a longing love poem, suffused with a sense of loss. 

Playfulness with hints of seriousness and gravity underlie the exuberant mood of this scherzo. The emotional ambiguities that run like a vein though the work were given expression. The central section (lento, then sostenuto) in place of the Trio, gives one the impression so often with Chopin, of the ardent, reflective nature of distant love. Kobayashi was poignant in the beautiful cantabile. Kobayashi was far more successful expressively here than in the other scherzi with a truly haunting cantabile. She explored and sang this operatic dream world and movingly expressed the complexity of these labyrinthine emotions. The 'triumph and the will' infused the passionate last chords that closed the work.

Heinrich Heine, a German poet who idolized Chopin, asked himself in a letter from Paris: ‘What is music?’ He answered  ‘It is a marvel. It has a place between thought and what is seen; it is a dim mediator between spirit and matter, allied to and differing from both; it is spirit wanting the measure of time and matter which can dispense with space.’


1. An affectingly executed Arabesque by Schumann

2. Chopin Prelude No.4 in E minor was expressed in a sensitive and touching manner that was quite exceptional, as we came to hear in her performance during the 2020 InternationalChopin Competition in Warsaw.


Tuesday 9 August 2022


The Dworek during the Nokturn with Prof. Piotr Paleczny, the Artistic Director of the Duszniki Festival, seated on the right.

The presenter of the evening, Marcin Majchrowski, is standing on the far left
The Theme of this Nokturn was Chopin and the Romantic Myth

The Nokturn Programme

Chloe Jiyeong Mun  gave a haunting account of the Chopin Prelude - expressive, refined and extremely atmospheric. Her Debussy was highly impressionistic, a result no doubt of her formidable keyboard technique, cultivation of a golden tone and sensitivity coupled with refinement

Aleksander Gavrylyuk presented a Chopin Etude that was deeply moving and    exceptionally expressive. The Nocturne truly sang with cantabile lyricism, was deeply expressive and created the monumental destruction of a dream.

Martin Zdunik and Aleksander Debicz  The Chopin improvisations were highly musical in their inventiveness

Aimi Kobayashi A finely tuned performance of this romantic Schumann masterpiece. A most exuberant and stylish Chopin waltz with recalling the elegance of a Parisian ball

Kyohei Sorita The Chopin Nocturne was sensitive, refined and extremely moving expressively. The Brahms was a heartfelt, sensitive and emotional account of unrequited love that moved my heartstrings in unaccustomed ways

Sorita and Kobayashi then gave us some unaccustomed encores of Schubert's Marche Militaire for four hands which was quite delightful



Piano recital


Robert Schumann (1810–1856)

Scenes from Childhood (Kinderszenen), Op. 15 (1838)

The Three Children of Henry, 1st Marquess of Exeter (1754-1804), by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. (1769-1830)

Of Foreign Lands and Peoples

Mun has a beautiful rounded and refined tone and touch at the instrument. Great simplicity here

A Curious Story

The internal polyphony was finely clarified by the moderate tempo

Blind Man's Bluff

Uplifting feeling of childhood humorous games in this performance

Pleading Child

This sounded quite authentically like 'pleading' - astonishing emotional access

Happy Enough

An Important Event

I felt rather dynamically over-inflated as it is an event seen through the eyes of a child


Poetic interpretation that took us into a world of intense sentiments, clouds of unreality. Glorious sound quality and touch

At the Fireside

A cosy chat and stories told

Knight of the Hobbyhorse

An attractive horse-riding rhythm but somewhat overdone as it is a wooden horse that moves only back and forth

Almost Too Serious

Communicated a true feeling of ambiguity here


Childish ideas are immature and lead to whimsical fears

Child Falling Asleep

Rather an uncanny feeling of disembodiment as a child falls asleep, wakes suddenly and falls asleep again

The Poet Speaks

Presented a deeply poetic, lyrical piece

This remarkable,esoteric film made of Alfred Cortot advising on this work at a masterclass is well worth a few minutes of your time


Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849)

Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49   (1841)

Mun showed a perceptive grasp of the structure of this work. The introduction was calm and reflective followed by a triumphal account overall with much żalanger and resentment.The chorale section was considered and deeply affecting making the re-emergence of emotional tumult all the more powerful with even more żal than on the first occasion, more urgency and building to the climacteric. She introduced an heroic tone and emotional intensity as the work progressed. The conclusion came as the expression of exhaustion of passionate emotions and a sense of resigned despair. A remarkable and formidable performance of this masterpiece.


Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849)

Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1  (1835)

Presented as a sensitive narrative of love

Robert Schumann (1810–1856)

Davidsbundlertänze, Op. 6  (1837)

She created a beautiful opening for this challenging work, the remarkable masterpiece Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the League of David), Op. 6 (1837). This is a set of 18 pieces and one of the great works of Western Romantic piano literature. The Davidsbündler (League of David) was a music society founded by Schumann in his literary musings. The League itself was inspired by real or imagined literary societies such as those created by E.T.A Hoffmann. The major theme was based on a mazurka by Clara Wieck and was inspired by his love of her and hope for their union ('many wedding thoughts') which permeates all the works of this period. Her presence is rather subliminal throughout the whole cycle.

Literature and music had a symbiotic relationship for Schumann and was a source of the unique qualities of his genius. He was famous at this time as a perceptive music critic, even over knowledge of him as a composer. He considered music criticism, extra-musical criticism, to be an art form in itself. In this work it is clear he was gaining in musical self-confidence as a composer with his increasing attraction to the public. The masks of Carnaval are stripped away and the poet's face here revealed.

The pieces are not really dances but musical 'dialogues' concerning contemporary music that take place between Florestan (rasch-quick or hasty) and Eusebius (innig-intimate). Schumann created these characters to represent the active and passive aspects of his personality. The enigmatic description of No.9 reads 'Here Florestan stopped, and his lips trembled sorrowfully.' I cannot analyse here each of the eighteen movements of the work, although I would dearly love to do this. Save to say, Mun gave an energetic, electrical performance of Florestan, together with the other side of the human coin, the tender, 'feminine' cantabile that depicted the gentle lyricism of Eusibius. She captured much of the poetic, mercurial,  impetuous, whimsical and lyrical aspects of Schumann's nature whilst preserving the unity of this cycle that allows us to experience ‘music as landscape’ (Charles Rosen).


Mit Humor



Sehr rasch

Nicht schnell



Balladenmäßig – sehr rasch


Mit Humor

Wild und lustig

Zart und singend


Mit gutem Humor

Wie aus der Ferne

Nicht schnell

Her encore:

1. A profoundly moving piano arrangement of Orfeo ed Euridice, Act II: Dance of the Blessed Spirits by Giovanni Sgambati. As fine as Egon Petri ....

This was an exceptional recital by a sensitive and gifted artist - one of the high points surely of the Duszniki Festival this year


Piano recital


Jan Sebastian Bach (168–1750) / Samuel Feinberg (1890–1962)

Largo in A minor from the Organ Sonata in C major, BWV 529 (1730)

The eminent English musicologist Peter Williams discusses the "ingenious" structure of the movement which he describes as "bright, extrovert, tuneful, restless, intricate". There is "inventive" semiquaver passagework. A pleasant beginning but an unusual one because of its polyphonic complexity.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Mozart's Vienna 1785

Published by Artaria in 1784, interestingly in 2014, Hungarian librarian Balázs Mikusi discovered four pages of Mozart's original score (autograph) of the sonata in Budapest's National Széchényi Library. Until then, only the last page of the autograph had been known to have survived.

Piano sonata in A major, K.331 (1781–1784)

Andante grazioso - Tema con variazione

Menuetto – Trio

Alla Turca. Allegretto

I found his presentation of this sonata stylistically pure and completely charming, elegant, refined and graceful with just the right degree of tasteful affectation. Fine judicious use of the pedal and semi-detaché articulation. The choice of tempo for the Alla Turca seemed beautifully balanced with uplifting energy and life, sparkling and a quite delightful slightly detached left hand articulation.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

Piano Sonata in E major, Op. 109 (1820)

Vivace ma non troppo, sempre legato – Adagio espressivo


Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung. Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo

This sonata was composed in 1820 when Beethoven was completely deaf and suffering ill-health. However, it is an especially lyrical work. Clearly a fine performance, stylistically pure, the work is a profound personal statement by Beethoven which gives an impression of internal life. 

The reflective parts of the Adagio espressivo are of the deepest philosophical introspection which I felt he succeeded in penetrating from the outset an a most soulful and expressive manner. Here was a song full of nostalgic yearning for lost affections. The staccato sections provided a marvellous contrast of sound texture and mood. The sonata breaks nearly all the rules of traditional sonata form.

The Prestissimo emerged as an immaculate yet irresistible force of glowing tone and sparkling articulation. We were presented with the expression of divine nostalgic laments, regrets in life, the meditative preoccupations and loss of love leading to an ultimate resignation under the stronger force of destiny. His staccato articulation throughout was very fine with much colour and nuance relieving the granite. 

Beethoven for me sometimes requires the communication of a feeling of the struggle of human inadequacy against unflinching fate, the anger that this can be generated in the heart and soul when intense lyricism has been experienced, lost and then remembered with yearning. Beethoven for me requires what one might term the condiments of human imperfection, some temperamental roughness and not classical perfection. 

This tougher, more masculine and intellectual approach became clear in the theme and six variations, each with a different character and partly contrapuntal texture, contained within the final movement Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo. The writing  veers between moments of lyrical cantabile and the severely declamatory. The driving rhythmic energy of the fifth variation gives the impression, at least to begin with, of a complex, many-voiced chorale-like fugue. Son built an eloquent conclusion from a peak of powerful armour that resolved into quiet resignation at the conclusion. Beethoven’s approach to the variation form at the conclusion is far freer here than in his previous sonatas.


Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849)

The Pleyel pianino at Valldemossa on which Chopin may have composed the
C minor polonaise Op.40 No.2

Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40 No. 2 (1838–1839)

Son adopted a noble, tragic tempo in this great polonaise with in the Trio, a tragic and sublime, nostalgic sung cantilena. Cruel and brutal destiny hovers overs it and reality erupts once again to destroy the dream.

The polonaise is believed to have been composed in the dark atmosphere of the Carthusian monastery in Valldemossa. It would be difficult to find an alternative to the definition advanced by the writer, historian and musicologist Ferdynand Hoesick who wrote of the ‘gloomy mood’ that emanates from this music, of its melancholy and ‘tragic loftiness’.

Dedicated to Julian Fontana, Chopin wrote:  ‘You have an answer to your honest and genuine letter in the second Polonaise. It’s not my fault that I’m like that poisonous mushroom […] I know I’ve been of no use to anyone – but then I’ve been of precious little use to myself’.

4 Mazurkas, Op. 24 (1833–1835)

G minor

C major

A flat major

B flat minor

Waltz in F minor, Op. 70 No. 2  (1841–1842)

Waltz in A minor, Op. posth. (1847–1849)

Waltz in A flat major, Op. 34 No. 1 (1835)

3 Ecossaises, Op. 72 (1829–1830)

D major

G major

D flat major

I could of course examine the performance of each in turn but of the performance of these works of Chopin I am left with absolutely nothing left to say. They seemed to me to express most of what I deeply feel concerning the music of Chopin in his Waltzes, Mazurkas and the sheer civilized charm and grace in his performance of the three Ecossaises.

Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43  (1841)

Dancing the Tarantella

'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 Recueil of Rossini songs […] where the Tarantella (en la) 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 did have some feeling of frenzy from the growing effects of the poisonous tarantula bite but for me lacked the characteristic joyfulness and gaiety of the Italian dance. I thought Son could have given us a more convincing rhythmic account of the victim of a poisonous spider bite (by the Tarantula) and the growth of the insidious, destructive chemical circulating in the blood. Traditionally the victim became well and truly beside himself, increasingly and madly so by the triumphant conclusion. 

Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53

This performance of the famous work was in many degrees faultless in its majestic nobility and fierce resentful anger. It was clearly the result of the accumulation of many, many years of intimate familiarity with the score, the performance, the teaching, the associative moods and imagery as well as the hearing of this masterpiece (in the espaces imaginaires). Incontrovertibly a political and musical revolutionary demonstration against invasion, territorial hegemony and brutal invasion of one's homeland. More appropriate now than in times of peace and a fine choice by Son to conclude, expressing human significance on many levels of deep musical association.


8 AUGUST 2022


Piano recital


Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

2 Rhapsodies, Op. 79 (1879)

No. 1 in B minor

No. 2 in G minor

Brahms wrote these attractive Rhapsodies in his maturity during his summer stay on the shores of the attractive Lake Wörthersee in Austria, Carinthia's largest lake. I felt the performance spoilt by too exaggerated dynamic contrasts - a fault in so many of the young prize-winners one hears today. This could be a result of the relatively small internal volume of the dworek.

Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849)

Étude in A minor, Op. 25 No. 11 (1835–1837)

A highly accomplished and promising performance from a young pianist with great future potential.

Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)

Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata S. 161/7 (1849)

The Liszt Dante Sonata which always makes my hair stand on end no matter how it is played. For me it is the absolute apex of Romantic expression, a magnificent musical structure second only to his Sonata in B minor expressing a true fear of death and the Christian horror of losing the throw of dice and being thrown into the Inferno. Perhaps one must be a true believer to enter this piece and have at home a skull on the mantle as a momento mori of what is in store for all of us. Dante and Milton combine here in terrifying substance....

Choni showed great passionate energy in this work and conviction in his strong sense of structure. He made excellent use of expressive silence, as important in music as sound. There was an engaging sense of forward momentum in the narrative emotion of the work. The contrast of reflective lyricism was effective and full of attractive details and moments of song. I felt Choni was possessed of great natural musical gifts. Overall there was a feeling of existential anxiety in this performance, perfectly appropriate to Liszt's intentions. Glowing and threatening landscapes of the musical mind.


Claude Debussy (1862–1918)

Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fût (Images II)   (1907)

He accomplished a beautiful impressionistic 'image' of this painting 'And the moon descends on the temple that was...'

L’Isle joyeuse (1904)

The Jersey coastline

L'Isle joyeuse written on the island of Jersey when in a state of heightened emotion - the composer was joyfully embracing a passionate love affair in the summer of 1904 with Emma Bardac, the wife of a rich and prominent banker. His wife, 'Lilly' attempted suicide after Debussy wrote to her telling her the marriage was over. The ensuing scandal was to alienate Debussy from many of his friends, whilst Bardac was disowned by her family. They were eventually married in 1908. Much of La Mer was written on the island. Choni gave us an  impressionistic account of the pieces, maintaining an attractive quality of a summer afternoon's improvisation but also passionate. The expression of the dynamic expression of sensual joy was youthfully impressive!

Debussy and Emma Bardac on Jersey

Valentin Silvestrov (born 1937)

3 Bagatelles, Op. 1  (2005)

I do not write new music. My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists 
Ukrainian composer and pianist Valentin Silvestrov 


I found this a charming, sensitive rather minimalist post-modern piece by the Ukrainian composer.


A darker contrast here, but similar in its simplicity


I imagined in this charming lyrical work, sentimental poetry in countryside, reclining on a rug in sunny summer pastures, in love with a delightful lady

Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983)

A painting by Diego Dayer, born Argentina 1979

Sonata No. 1, Op. 22  (1952)

Alberto Ginastera was commissioned by the Carnegie Institute and the Pennsylvania College for Women to write a piano sonata for the Pittsburgh International Contemporary Music Festival. Ginastera’s intention for the piece was to capture the spirit of Argentine folk music without relying on explicit quotations from existing folk songs.

Allegro marcato

I found this movement exciting but rather too long and unrelenting in its forceful rhythmic projection

Presto misterioso

I really did not hear a great deal of what OI might consider 'mysterious' in any conventional sense.

Adagio molto appasionato

Here was contained Latin passion, but the passions of the dreaming night. Somnambulistic rather after all passion spent

Ruvido ed ostinato

Percussively quite unsettled


An absolutely delightful Soiree de Vienne Concert Paraphrase after Johann Strauss Op.56 by Arthur Grünfeld (1852-1924)

Valentin Silvestrov Bagatelle 1  XIII/II

A most varied and interesting programme that is showing great promise as a discriminating musician and pianist

An original 17th century door-case in Duszniki Zdroj

Masterclass Aleksander Gavrylyuk 

9.30 am Monday August 8th 2022

The masterclasses at Duszniki are always of the greatest interest but I can only attend a few as I am writing performance reviews which of course take time and thought. 

Anna Golka who provides the brilliant, indispensable simultaneous translation from professorial musicological English into Polish at the Duszniki Masterclasses

The session on 8th August began with Julia Lozowska working with Prof. Gavrylyuk on the formidable Brahms Variations on a Theme of Paganini Op.35. he spoke of the importance of the 'inner beauty' of the work, the inner process and filling the internal spaces with inner energy. He indicated there was always a purpose  behind the music and one must envisage from a space at the beginning into which the piece moves. He emphasized the electricity which lies behind the notes and referred to 'a restless search for the light'.

Julia Lozowska working with Prof. Gavrylyuk on the Brahms Variations on a Theme of Paganini Op.35

Pedalling the Brahms Variations on a Theme of Paganini Op.35

In his session with Jozef Domzal he worked on the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie Op.61. He warned that with Chopin it is tempting to emotionally exaggerate the content. He indicated how many gestures in this music resemble phrases written for cello. He also warned that the substantial bass on the modern concert grand can become too substantial and overwhelm Chopin. 

'The left hand has its own lifeline - do not forget!' There are many inner polyphonic movements in Chopin that require presentation as well as the obvious melodic lines.

Much of his advice focused on the physical aspects of performance, the vital need to relax from the shoulder and exercises to improve the muscular memory and the brain's trainable ability to activate muscles. He drew attention to the large and small muscles in the arm and hand, especially the thumb. He indicated how the larger muscles are specific for an increase in the speed of finger and an increase the hand dexterity. The smaller muscles, however intensively practiced, will not achieve this ability. He advised not spending excessive time practicing which Chopin also advised in his own teaching. Again he emphasized 'The inner process is the soul of the music.'

Prof. Gavrylyuk working with Jozef Domzal on the Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie Op.61

Elucidating the function of the muscles of the thumb and their vital role

'Allow the music to lead the process rather than imposing your personality upon it. You should be the conduit for the music.'

In the Masterclass session I attended, he finally worked on a number of the Chopin Preludes with Aleksandra Dębek. The first thing I noticed about her playing was the beautiful tone she produced and her refinement of touch. These aspects are rarely cultivated today but were emphasized as being of predominant importance for Chopin in his teaching and also for the great modern pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus who devoted a long chapter to the cultivation of tone in his book The Art of Piano Playing. Aleksandra has also studied the period piano such as the Pleyel and harpsichord. I feel these are vital complements to a student's approach to performing Chopin 'authentically' with appropriate expressiveness on the modern Steinway or any instrumental development known as the modern  'concert grand piano'.

'Allow the music to lead' Gavrylyuk advised and in one particular case he advised her concerning the musical interpretation of Chopin with the comment: 'If you exclaim impulsively 'I love you' it remains natural in the expression of love, otherwise if prepared and over-cultivated it becomes forced and unnatural.'  

The truth of this reminded me forcibly of the marriage proposal by the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in the nursery at Windsor Castle on 3 February 1981. "We had this ghastly interview the day we announced our engagement," she said, "And this ridiculous [reporter] said, ‘Are you in love?’ I thought, what a thick question. So I said, ‘Yes, of course, we are,’ and Charles turned round and said, ‘Whatever love means.’ And that threw me completely. I thought, what a strange answer. It traumatized me." (Diana: in her Own Words National Geographic Documentaries film 1991) We now know the consequences of that rather unnatural declaration.

Prof Gavrylyuk with Aleksandra Dębek

Dealing with the so-called 'Raindrop' Prelude Op.28 No.15 he referred to the many and varied ways of opening this extraordinarily famous work. He did not refer to the fraught situation of its composition in Valldemossa, a haunting monastery he resided in with George Sand. The concentration was mainly on 'arches of sound', melodic line and how in performance the more simple the melody the more difficult it is to play with such exposed subtlety. Again concentrating on physical aspects, he demonstrated how to place arm weight on the note you wish to emphasize, where the other notes become weightless.

At one point, he played the LH and she played the RH and slower to hear the internal details.



Piano duo


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Sonata for 2 pianos in D major, K.448 (1781)

A great shout greeted their entrance onto the stage - familiarity and anticipation for great entertainment in store.

Allegro con spirito

This rather rare work was composed in the galant style when Mozart was only 25 - close to the age of these two young, lively Dutchmen. Certainly this was a spirited beginning which continued with exuberant energy. I could not help imagining that Mozart may well have loved the irresistible forward impetus of this movement. A fine co-ordinated sound and quite uncanny, almost symbiotic ability, to combine their forces in perfect cohesion.


A charming and civilized consolation to the travails of existence in 2022. Once more a feeling of perfect synchronization on the levels of sound and feeling, although the brothers are not twins. the phrasing was particularly revealing of musical meaning. 

Allegro molto

A lively movement once again with reminiscences of Mozart's Rondo alla Turca

Franz Schubert (1797–1828)

Rondo for piano 4 hands (Grande Rondeau) in A major, D.951 (1828)

A Schubertiade (1897) by Julius Schmid 

This work from 1828 was considered by Alfred Einstein in his book Schubert as 'the apotheosis of all Schubert's compositions for four hands.' (p.282). Compositions for four hands are by their very nature considered sociable in a cultural context. The Schubertiade was a social event perfectly compatible with piano music for four hands. During Schubert's lifetime, these events were generally informal, unadvertised gatherings, held at private homes.The work has also been described as 'leisurely' and 'easygoing' and this duo communicated this almost carefree and gracious attitude within the music in their remarkably charismatic social communication. Schubertian yearning makes a subterranean appearance.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849)

Rondo in C major for 2 pianos, Op. 73 (1828)

With Elsner, composition studies began with the polonaise, but it was immediately followed by rondos and variations (Tomaszewski)

In 1825 the fifteen year old Chopin wrote and published his first rondo. He was composing as a young man in the glittering and Hummel-influenced, modish style brillant. These early works (along with others) are utterly delightful, graceful and charming to my mind and do not deserve to be downgraded by 'serious commentators' as simply youthful, virtuosic pieces demonstrating the ‘classical’ aspect of his compositional training in Warsaw. They are being presently being resuscitated.

This 1828 Rondo in the version for two pianos demonstrated once again the extraordinary audience communication and synchronization of this family duo. The virtuosic display element subverted elegance and refinement in the musical writing at times. I found the cantabile and figurative writing quite wonderful in Chopin's youthful attachment to extrovert display at the keyboard. This was taken full advantage of by the spontaneous  character and electrical energy of these two artists.  A highly entertaining and musical performance that lifted the spirits out of the 'slough of despond' into which the planet has fallen! Wild audience response!


Franz Schubert (1797–1828)

Allegro in A minor D.947 Lebenssturme (Storms of Life)

This work is a sonata-form movement which opened in orchestral-like Beethovenian fashion (Schubert adored the ground Beethoven walked upon). I found the duo was seduced into rather over-declamatory effects on occasion but then again it is a 'love storm' in the Alps and not set entirely on a placid moonlit lagoon in Venice. However, we are transported into a rather visionary, even diaphanous texture for a time until the rather long, customary closing section, which again is 'sociable' in the best four-handed sense. One musical brain was clearly in finely balanced electro-chemical function.

Claude Debussy (1862–1918)

6 Épigraphes Antiques for piano 4 hand (1914–1915)

Background: Claude Debussy standing in the drawing room at Pierre Louÿs house 

National Library of France, RES-VM EST-3 (11) 

Macabre Letter: Pierre Louys to Claude Debussy, May 1901 

National Library of France, Music Department, NLA-45 (53)


Photographic Portrait: Pierre Louÿs around 1890

I was not familiar with this work but on such a sociable moment of four-handed compositions I felt I must take advantage and listened carefully.  This suite was Debussy's only completed composition in 1914. A great deal of the music is taken from the musical accompaniments he had written in 1901 for his friend Pierre Louÿs (1870–1925). He was a French poet and writer, most renowned for lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings. He is known as a writer who sought to 'express pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection' 

One of the less erotic photographs taken by Pierre Louÿs (1870–1925)

Pour invoquer Pan, dieu du vent d'été (To invoke Pan, god of the summer wind)

Played with a beautiful and affecting lyricism

Pour un tombeau sans nom (For a nameless tomb)

Dark and impressionistic lugubriousness

Pour que la nuit soit propice (In order that the night be propitious)

They conjured up haunting, internal, imaginative visions of the night

Pour la danseuse aux crotales (For the dancer with crotales)

This was highly energetic playing and the duo created the image of dancers clashing with their small brass percussion discs (about 10 cm in diameter)

Pour l'égyptienne (For the Egyptian woman)

I felt a certain stasis and mystery of the sphinx in their performance - rather an inaccessible female quality in the Egypt of the day

Pour remercier la pluie au matin (To thank the morning rain)

With their astounding virtuosity they recreated the memory and sound of the morning rain that Debussy composed so realistically. Quite affecting if one loves the natural world to distraction.

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)

La valse version for 2 pianos

A waltz in the public ballroom of the Imperial Palace, Vienna. Watercolor by Wilhelm Gause 1900. Emperor Francis Joseph is on the far right

Diaghilev had requested a four-hand reduction of the original orchestral score. Reports say that Stravinsky when he heard Ravel perform this with Marcelle Meyer in this version, he quietly left the room without a word so amazed was he. Ravel however would not admit to the work being an expression of the profound disillusionment in Europe following the immeasurable human losses and cruel maiming of the Great War. However one must recall in Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus that the composer Adrian Leverkühn, although isolated from the clamour and destruction of the cannons of war, composed the most profound expression of it in his composition Apocalypsis cum Figuris by a type of metaphysical osmosis. Ravel’s note to the score gives one an insight to his intentions:

 'Through rifts in swirling clouds, couples are glimpsed waltzing. As the clouds disperse little by little, one sees an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene becomes progressively brighter. The light from chandeliers bursts forth at fortissimo (letter B in the score). An Imperial Court, around 1855.'

Ravel described his composition as a ‘whirl of destiny’ – his concept was that the work impressionistically begins with clouds that slowly disperse to reveal a whiling crowd of dancers in the Imperial Court of Vienna in 1855. The Houston Symphony Orchestra programme note for the orchestral version performed in 2018 poses the question: Is this a Dance of Death or Delight ? I feel the question encapsulates perfectly the ambiguity inherent in this disturbing work. A composer can sometimes be a barometer that unconsciously registers the movements of history.

The duo opened this work with a sound that was inescapably an ominous premonition of war. The two concert grands began to sound like distant and often not so distant cannons. The recalled waltz rhythm of the beginning of this trance was idiomatic, stylish and understated. The sound created by this remarkable duo is rich and full and yet not breaking through the sound ceiling of their instruments (although the ceiling of the dworek may well have suffered stress!). 

The sense of threat was ever present as the overwhelming energy of the whirling and bursts of light from the chandeliers built into a sound edifice, the like of which was like nothing I have ever heard in my life. The glissandos that sliced through the monumental, energetic sound towards the conclusion was like the merciless cut of a Polish sabre on horseback. A rhapsodic ending with cannons was breathtaking in the extreme.

The tumultuous standing ovation and cheers gave rise to three appropriate encores by Bizet from his piece for four hands entitled Jeux D'enfants. La Toupie (The Spinning Top)  La Poupée (The Doll) and Le Bal (The Ball), 

This was followed by I think their own arrangement of classical standard melodies we could all recognize beneath the ornamentation. Finally a Siloti/Bach transcription.

A remarkable and memorable evening of astonishing natural keyboard gifts. Classical music performed for the sheer musical entertainment value and wish to give unadulterated pleasure to the audience without the sacrifice of interpretative musicality of a high order.



Piano recital


First Prize at the 16th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition  Tel Aviv 2021

Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849)

24 Preludes, Op. 28 (1838–1839)

Even if Chopin had not written anything but the preludes, he would have deserved immortality anyway. 

                                                                                            Anton Rubinstein

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.

                                                                                             Franz Liszt

Each of them is a prelude to a meditation […] Music that eludes the world of matter and allows us to free ourselves from it.

                                                                                              André Gide

In January 1839, after his Pleyel pianino had arrived from Paris, Chopin wrote to Julian Fontana ‘You’ll soon receive the Preludes and the Ballade’. And a few days after, when sending the manuscript of the Preludes‘In a couple of weeks, you’ll receive the Ballade, Polonaises and Scherzo.' So their conception took place in the atmosphere of a haunted monastery, threatened by untamed nature.

It would of course have been impossible for Chopin to have ever considered performing this complete radical cycle in his own musical and cultural environment (not least because of the brevity of many of the pieces). It is unlikely ever to have even occurred to him to do this, the way programmes were designed piecemeal at the time. I tend to feel the performance of them as a cycle is of course possible but not entirely justified. In some of his programmes and others of the period, a few preludes are scattered randomly  through them like diamond dust. Each piece contains within it entire worlds and destinies of the human spirit and deserves individual attention rather than being a brick in a monumental edifice.

It is now well established by structuralists and Bach scholars as a complete and symmetrical work, a masterpiece of integrated yet unrelated ‘fragments’ (in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century sense of that aesthetic term). Each prelude can of course stand on its own as a perfect miniature landscape of emotional feeling and tonal climate. But ‘Why Preludes? Preludes to what?’ André Gide asked rather gratuitously. One possible explanation is that the idea of 'preluding' as an improvisational activity in the same key for a short time before a large keyboard work was to be performed was well established in Chopin's day but has been abandoned in modern times.

The Preludes surely extend the prescient Chopin remark 'I indicate, it's up to the listener to complete the picture'.  

I felt Floristán gave us a fine, virtuoso pianistic account of this popular cycle. He had clearly conceived of them as an integrated group of emotional landscapes. However, for me rather predictably straightforward without what one might term, an 'individual voice'. I will make only a brief comment on some of them as an analysis in detail of all might try your patience although each masterpiece deserves the deepest attention. There was insufficient hint of the haunted nature of some preludes, haunted by the ghosts of Valldemossa and the demons that inhabit our lives. The metaphysical underside of these works, the dark realities and contrasts in emotional turbulence were somewhat left untouched by the brilliant playing.

No. 1 in C major

No. 2 in A minor - few pianists plumb the utter despair in the face of the great reality of death, ultimately faced alone by each of us, that suffuses this spare, desolate masterpiece. Floristán was unsettling but ...

No. 3 in G major - a joyful respite

No. 4 in E minor No. 5 in D major No. 6 in B minor No. 7 in A major - all satisfyingly performed but I was yearning for more individuality, taking me beyond the printed score

No. 8 in F sharp minor - a brilliant account of this prelude

No. 9 in E major No. 10 in C sharp minor No. 11 in B major No. 12 in G sharp minor

No. 13 in F sharp major - the bel canto was alluring and beautiful

No. 14 in E flat minor No. 15 in D flat major No. 16 in B flat minor No. 17 in A flat major No. 18 in F minor

No. 19 in E flat major  No. 20 in C minor No. 21 in B flat major No. 22 in G minor No. 23 in F major

No. 24 in D minor - I think with this work, the heavy hammer of irreversible destiny falls on deeply disturbed emotions that hinge on an awareness and premonition of death. To achieve this requires a particular vision not given to many, but a profound thought  preoccupying Chopin.


Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)

Années de Pèlerinage. Deuxième années. "Italie" S. 161 (1838–1839)


Sposalizio della Vergine (The Marriage of the Virgin) Raphael 1504

Franz Liszt composed Sposalizio, which translates to  Marriage in Italian, after being inspired by Raphael's painting the Marriage of the Virgin of 1504.  Beginning Andante with the indication dolce the work develops into a variety of wedding march which concludes in a rand climax in difficult octaves. As too often with this pianist (and others) the relatively small Dworek found it difficult to accommodate to the almost oppressive dynamic inflation.

 Il pensieroso

Il pensieroso 

LORENZO DE' MEDICI Church of S. Lorenzo, Florence

This work (1838-1839) was inspired by the idealized introspective and melancholy Michelangelo sculpture that the Italian carved for the tombstone of Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino. The sculpture inspired many great artists over the centuries from the epic poem by John Milton to the British/American Painter Thomas Cole's painting Il pensieroso dating from 1845. Michelangelo depicts Lorenzo as an intellectual man lost in deep in thought. The seriousness of the sculpture gives rise to a rather gloomy musical work. I remained unsure why Floristán chose this work for his recital.

Richard Wagner (1813–1883) /Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)

Isoldes Liebestod, S. 447

Rogelio de Egusquiza (1845-1915) Tristan and Iseult (1910)
This Spanish painter, known for his friendship with Richard Wagner,  helped make his works familiar in Spain

One must not forget the constraints of instruments that brought about such transcriptions and the extraordinary service the selfless Liszt performed for keyboard players in the nineteenth century who were without ready access to an organ or the services of an orchestra. We are indeed richly endowed today and tend to forget this when maligning the great Ferenc for his generous transcriptions of everything under the sun.

I felt this was a rather exaggerated musical performance by the Spanish pianist on the level of the psyche, embracing the fulfillment or 'peaceful release' offered by death, carried unresisting on the cresting wave of metaphysical and passionate love. Certainly the incandescent passions and travails of Latin Spanish love were well in evidence.  The building of the erotic curve in a smooth, sensually rising line to the orgasmic climacteric, the apotheosis of the metaphysical symbiosis of love/death that Wagner embraces, is a tremendously demanding pianistic task to express, to discipline and to communicate effectively as he managed to do. 

Wagner's debt to the harmonic adventurism of Liszt, the Tristan chord, is never in doubt to my mind. The work is a musical and personal challenge to depict this merging of the lovers in death, situated predominantly and 'deep darkly' in the mind of Wagner. The contrasts Floristán extracted and expressed were rather too extreme in range for me but perhaps after all is said and done, the heat of 'Spanish love', its transfiguration and expression through music depends on the filter of personal experience. 

Franz Schubert (1797–1828)

Wanderer Fantasy, Op. 15, D.760 (1822)

Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo




This work the composer based on his song Der Wanderer.  This was a competent account of the Fantasy but I yearned for a more melodic and expressive legato line on some occasions. He stayed pretty well at the same dynamic which I found rather tiring. So many opportunities for poetry and expressiveness were missed and the conception of the work came across to me at least as rather prosaic.

I felt he Floristán unfortunately had limited understanding of this work.  Much of his playing could be described in the words of C.P.E Bach in his Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen 1753 (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments) 

‘They overwhelm  our hearing without satisfying it and stun the mind without moving it.’  

The opening indicated he would be approaching this remarkably variegated work as purely a virtuoso piano piece. The dynamics only occasionally fell below forte or fortissimo except in the more lyrical, reflective central sections with rather rushed phrasing. However the ‘interpretation’, such as it was, for me displayed extraordinarily limited understanding of Schubert’s intentions in this piece – the operatic nature of ‘The Wanderer’ passing thorough varied landscapes and the joyful and bitter experiences of life on his great journey through it. He wrote the work in 1822 only six years before his premature death. The work is surely a keyboard version of what might have been another great Schubert song cycle. The main theme in a hardly festive C-sharp minor actually taken from his song Der Wanderer. Perhaps far more background research on such a great work should be done before performance.

I once heard the great pianist Alexander Melnikov at the Chopin i jego Europa Festival in Warsaw give a brilliant account of this work on a Conrad Graf piano which illuminated the shifting landscape and fluctuating moods in an unprecedented manner perfectly suited to Schubert. Conrad Graf (1782-1851) was an Austrian-German piano maker whose instruments were used by Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert and Clara Schumann among others. They were capable of extraordinary sonority and special effects.

Schubert once wrote 'Happiness is where you are not...'  and explaining that the 'Romantic soul is never happy where he is...' Schubert had an inferiority complex concerning Beethoven. The work is marked by grace, grandeur and nobility. At times unsettled, it would calm into glorious song full of human emotion. For me there is far too much use of this work as a showy virtuosic account.


The Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)

Two Danzas Argentinas (Argentine Dances) Op. 2 from a set of three dances for solo piano written in 1937 

No: 2 Danza de la moza donosa (Dance of the Donosa Girl) and No: 3  Danza del gaucho matrero (Dance of the Outlaw Cowboy) has directions such as  furiosamente (furiously), violente (violent), mordento (biting), and salvaggio (wild). Here Ginastera left us in no doubt as how to perform this third dance.

Both were splendidly performed, No:3 simply astounding in its rhythmic  insistence.



Chamber concert


BOMSORI KIM (violin)


Claude Debussy (1862–1918)

Violin sonata in G minor (1917)

Claude Debussy (1862–1918) was already suffering with the cancer which prematurely ended his life, when he began to compose his Violin Sonata in G minor, L140. He began to sketch the work in 1916 and completed it the following year. It was to be his final composition. He wrote rather self-effacingly 'It represents an example of what may be produced by a sick man in time of war’ In this sonata he wished to be rather anti-German by emphasizing his national background by signing the score  ‘Claude Debussy—musicien français’.

The first moment of sound of Bomsori Kim's magnificent violin (a 1774 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini instrument) revealed a profound richness of tone that can imitate a viola. The tension between the body of this brilliant South Korean violinist and her instrument produces a sound that was sheer musical magic.

The violinist’s chosen repertoire reflects her desire to communicate with her audiences through her instrument’s expressive voice: 'I’m not a loud person – I usually don’t talk much in everyday life,” she says. “But that’s why I love playing the violin, because I can speak and communicate through music. I’ve loved singing and ballet since I was a small child and am always moved by hearing voices and watching dancers. I wanted to bring that special spirit of poetry and drama to listeners through my instrument, which can sing freely in these wonderful pieces.' (DG)

Allegro vivo

Ardent playing by both artists with superb musical co-ordination. This music was clearly deeply experienced by the players in a work that suffuses melancholic nostalgia.

Intermède: fantasque et léger

The awful old clouds are dispersed in this movement that sings of the joys of love and yearning.

Finale très animé

The earlier mood returns which surprisingly develops into to an ecstatic conclusion with perfectly co-ordinated phrasing and breathing. These are artists who understand each other intimately in the climate of music. A mood of optimism prevailed despite Debussy’s own tragic health circumstances. 

Karol Szymanowski (1882–1937)

Szymanowski by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

Sonata in D minor, Op. 9  (1904)

Allegro Moderato

Andantino Tranquillo e Dolce

Allegro Molto, quasi Presto

This work was first performed in Warsaw by two renowned musicians, the violinist Paweł Kochański and pianist Artur Rubinstein, on 3rd April 1909. It is the work of a young man but his unique voice is already manifest. He dedicated it to his school friend  Bronisław Gromadzki who was an amateur violinist. The Allegro moderato was played by both artists in an affectingly expressive, ardent yearning with rich and eloquent tone colour from the violin and the intense manner young hearts express in lyrical love and passion. There are two themes: the virtuoso element increasing expressively to con passione, and a  lyrical, dolcissimo, which at times had the qualities of a dream. 

The Andantino tranquillo e dolce is the beating heart of this work. The artists were intensely  lyrical and explored contrasting colours and timbres with the violin pizzicato and the piano staccato. Such a yearning for love's consummation lies within Szymanowski, searching for the stars and the night sky of ecstatic oblivion.

The authority on the music of Szymanowski Tadeusz A. Zieliński wrote of this work:

‘…as such it must be the greatest instrumental work of Szymanowski’s early period. Only [its] unfamiliarity to musicians accounts for the fact that this wonderful ‘poem’ in A major did not become a famous and favourite item in violinists’ repertoires’.

The Finale. Allegro molto, quasi presto supported some fine and remarkable rhapsodic, highly emotional themes. The phrasing of this violinist and pianist was both sensitive and passionate, which made this virtuoso ensemble absolutely captivating. There was an extraordinary musical intimacy and deep communication evidently present here as the work developed rhapsodically. Szymanowski himself was eventually able to describe the Sonata as 'a thing popular in every aspect.'


Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)

The young Gabriel Fauré

Sonata No. 1 in A major for violin and piano, Op. 13 (1875–1876)

Allegro molto


Scherzo: Allegro vivo 

Finale: Allegro quasi presto

In 1872 Camille Saint-Saëns, Fauré’s former piano teacher, introduced him to the great singer Pauline Viardot (so close to Chopin in friendship) and her musical family. Fauré went so far as to dedicate songs to her and fell in love with her daughter Marianne (who would break off their engagementafter a short time together). Fauré dedicated his First Violin Sonata to her son, the violinist and composer Paul Viardot.

Marie Tayau, who established one of the first all-female string quartets, gave the premiere in January 1877, with Fauré at the piano. 'The sonata had more of a success this evening than I could ever have hoped for' Fauré wrote to a friend. 'Saint-Saëns said that he felt that sadness that mothers feel when they see their children are too grown up to need them any more!... Mlle. Tayau’s performance was impeccable.'

Saint-Saëns observed: 'In this sonata you can find everything to tempt a gourmet: new forms, excellent modulations, unusual tone colors, and the use of unexpected rhythms,' he wrote. 'And a magic floats above everything, encompassing the whole work, causing the crowd of usual listeners to accept the unimagined audacity as something quite normal. With this work Monsieur Fauré takes his place among the masters.' (quotations courtesy of the LA Philharmonic)

Kim and Blechacz expressed the ardent melodies of the opening Allegro molto movement with refined and urgent intensity of sound to animate these glorious melodies and transport one into the poetic world of French poetry. The sound of Kim's violin and her profound musicality was simply enthralling both sensually and spiritually. There was much rich, animated musical 'conversation' between these two artists. The romantic theme of the Barcarolle of the Andante was replete with heartfelt love or was this just my own romantic temperament. The vivacious Scherzo: Allegro vivo was fabulously light and spectacular with Kim singing on her glorious violin in the lyrical section. Both artists evidenced highly virtuosic playing to take us into the light, flying, bustling and gliding in the true meaning of the word scherzo. Rhythmic invention, shifting key, colour and metre like a shaken kaleidoscope. Then the yearning, profoundly ardent theme of the Finale: Allegro quasi presto which revealed the deep musical commitment between these two great artists, their ability to articulate the pregnant harmonic functions and transitions, the characteristically French passion lying in wait within the music.

The encores were also deeply moving for me. Two pieces of Chopin arranged persuasively for violin and piano. At first the Nocturne in E-flat major Op.9 No.2 which exploited the ample mahogany tone of her violin. Then such a stylish Syncopation by Fritz Kreisler and finally a tear inducing Chopin Nocturne No. 20 in C minor, Op. posth., Lento con gran espressione.

A most memorable and rewarding concert by true artists who elevated their musical programme to the heights.



Piano recital

JONATHAN FOURNEL First Prize at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels 2021

Fryderyk Chopin (1810‒1849)

Nocturne in B major, Op. 62, No. 1 (1846)

A tuberose at night

‘What is most exquisite and most individual in Chopin’s art, wherein it differs most wonderfully from all others,’ noted André Gide ‘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.’ This is a characteristic of Chopin during the 1840s, in his last, reflective, post-Romantic phase.

The Paris critic Hippolyte Barbedette, one of Chopin’s first biographers, wrote of Chopin's Nocturnes ‘are perhaps his greatest claim to fame; they are his most perfect works’. That is how they were seen in Paris during the mid nineteenth century. Barbedette explained the reason for their success as follows: ‘That loftiness of ideas, purity of form and almost invariably that stamp of dreamy melancholy’

Interestingly in the Anglo-Saxon world, the B major Nocturne has been given the name of an exotic greenhouse flower: ‘Tuberose’. The American art, book, music, and theatre critic James Huneker explains why: ‘the chief tune has charm, a fruity charm’, and its return in the reprise ‘is faint with a sick, rich odor’

The Polish pedagogue and Chopin philosopher Tomaszewski writes of the opening 'The Nocturne in B major opens with what might be described as a bard’s striking of the strings.' For me Fournel opened in a rather mannered style and did not penetrate sufficiently the sensitivity that the night poem deserves, its hesitant uncertainty. He failed to create a sufficiently hypnotic poetic atmosphere of the decorated bel canto song, surely one of the hallmarks of this Nocturne. There is great variety in the mood and writing of this rather untypical Chopin Nocturne. I felt occasionally his phrasing and approach. especially the opening, verged on the cultivated but this is always difficult to judge accurately and objectively in works that rely on such deep emotive expression.

Sonata in B minor, Op. 58 (1844)

Allegro maestoso

Scherzo molto vivace


Finale. Presto non tanto

Here we have one of the greatest masterpieces in the canon of Western piano music. 

The opening Allegro maestoso was dramatic but rather too declamatory and overtly 'pianistic' without sufficient musically expressive dynamic variation, the play of thought. His fortes tended to be harsh and dominant on the Shigeru Kawai grand piano in this relatively small volume Dworek salon. Fournel was revealed as not going to be a particularly poetic, philosophical or lyrical interpreter of this magnificent work. One should feel that Chopin was embracing the cusp of Romanticism, yet at the same time hearkening back to classical restraint - le climat de Chopin as his favourite pupil Marcelina Czartoryska described it. The Trio did have a degree of cantabile that made the piano sing. However, the Scherzo was rather disappointing in its over-straightforward phrasing without enough of  that Mendelssohnian atmosphere of fairy lightness that I feel it needs. The Trio again however displayed some warm Chopin cantabile. 

The transition to the Largo was not sufficiently expressive in the opening with premonitions of what is to come in this extraordinary introspective dream-poem. Here we begin an exquisite extended nocturne-like musical voyage taken through a night of meditation and inturned thought. This great musical narrative of extended and challenging harmonic structure must be presented as a poem of the reflective heart and spirit. I felt Fournel could have brought a more contemplative quality,  created a more mellifluous dream world of searching, yet retaining a sense of directional focus in the wandering harmonic transitions. This is very difficult to achieve in this movement which requires rare musical and personal maturity.

The Finale. Presto ma non tanto  for me failed to produce that irresistible headlong rush with the slowish tempo he adopted. Fournel approached this movement as rather a virtuoso piano work than a rhapsodic narrative Ballade in character. Again dynamic variation of an expressive kind was rather absent. Throughout the sonata, although of course finely played with great virtuosity (as the enthusiastic reception of the audience testified), I kept wondering what Fournel was trying to tell me about this work with any individual sense and voice.

Tomaszewski again who cannot be bettered:

Thereafter, in a constant Presto (ma non troppo) tempo and with the expression of emotional perturbation (agitato), this frenzied, electrifying music, inspired (perhaps) by the finale of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony…’

The pianist must further explore what is buried within the contextual poetry of the musical work (the printed notation is only the roughest of guides to the composer's true creative conception lodged in his brain and inner sound world). Then his next task is to create a perception of this in us the listeners, allowing us to perceive a closer approximation of the composer's true expressive intentions. Fournel's keyboard virtuosity, although spectacular, even astonishing, sacrifices much of Chopin's classicism and restraint on the altar of high Romanticism. A deeper sense and understanding of the structure of the sonata would have assisted in this.


Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5 (1853)

Brahms composed this mighty sonata when he was barely 20 and when the sonata form itself was considered rather an outmoded genre. Of course Brahms idolized Beethoven and the personal expressiveness of his sonatas and perhaps was influenced by these grand conceptions. 

The young Brahms

The sonata is unconventionally in 5 movements.

  1. Allegro maestoso
  2. Andante espressivo
  3. Scherzo. Allegro energico - Trio
  4. Intermezzo. Andante molto
  5. Finale. Allegro moderato ma rubato

For the magnificent, noble opening, Fournel abided by the Brahms direction Allegro maestoso which was ‘majestic’ indeed, symphonic and orchestral as was the composer's intention. However one must remember this is a true Allegro rather than the Adagio maestoso which Fournel tended to adopt without sufficient dynamic variation to build this great cathedral of inspiration and grandeur. Fournel presented the fortissimo chords that cover such a wide range of the keyboard with some control and discipline but was emotionally tempted to move into the realms of harsh sound almost breaking through the sound ceiling of the instrument in intensity. I felt he rather overemphasized the dynamics. The essentially Romantic spirit of the sonata should be fused into a classical edifice, the architecture of which is truly awesome to behold over the approximately 40 minutes duration. 

From the divine sensitivity of the Andante expressivo it was clear Fournel only partially understood the slow movement as one of the greatest declarations of poetic love in music, the two lyrical themes merging symbolically into a passionate expression of sensual rapture.  Brahms yearning in youth for the impossible love of the brilliant Clara Schumann ? I was yearning for more poetic variety of tone and touch indicated by the distinctly Brahmsian tonal palette of the sonata. The Scherzo again was rather too emphatic to express fully this dark waltz that is so musical and dramatic. 

Brahms gave the Intermezzo the title ‘Rückblick‘ which literally means ‘Remembrance’ which winds into a virtuosic and triumphant Finale of the greatest majesty. Here I felt the tempo of the rondo was rather too fast to allow my own emotions as a listener to grow organically in harmony with the music, rather than being imposed upon me by the pianist. I found it difficult to follow sufficiently the significant musical cryptogram that was a personal musical motto of his Hungarian violinist, conductor, teacher friend Joseph Joachim, the F–A–E theme, which stands for Frei aber einsam (free but lonely). The triumphal impact and nature of the virtuosic and rhapsodic harmonic close, of which Brahms was such a symphonic master, could have been more carefully and effectively cultivated in terms of tempo and dynamic variation and expressiveness.

Overall I felt Fournel has not yet developed that true nobility of the Brahmsian soul in his playing, that sufficient amplitude of dynamic expressiveness that is so difficult to achieve. His mastery of the notes and keyboard is clear but the personal and musical maturity hopefully will come. Brahms controls the nature of silence expressively to imbue this great premonitary piano work with the profound musical meaning of his essentially late Romantic intentions. Fournel's sense of structure was not well enough established to completely create this miraculous monumental construction in sound, a Chartres cathedral hewn in stone.

As encores, a sensitive Bach 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'  Jesus bleibet meine Freude and the Bach/Siloti Prelude in B minor

Bruce LIU 

First Prize at the 18th Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw 2021

Inaugural concert 

Chopin Manor 20.00 August 5th 2022

The Dworek was packed to the barrel-vaulted ceiling and almost unbearably hot. This must have exerted great physical pressure on the pianist even though he is clearly young, healthy, fit and and athletic. It is all to easy to underestimate the physical demands of playing great works as one listens, somnambulistically sometimes, in a concert hall. Fortunately the air-conditioning was eventually switched on.

One of the most admirable and brilliant aspects of Liu's playing is his uncanny ability to alter his touch, articulation, colour and dynamics to give a characteristic identity to each different composer. This is rather more noticeable in the hall rather than online.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

French Suite No.5 in G major, BWV 816 (1722)

Here was a case in point where Liu selected a restrained dynamic suitable for the type of small salon that would have accommodated such a refined work on the clavichord or harpsichord. I have not heard him perform the English Suites of Bach, but feel he would instinctively adopt a more robust tone for the more substantial writing. 

He completely grasped the intimate nature of the elegant and graceful Bach French Suite No 5 in G minor BWV 816 written in the French taste. Yet for me despite the refinement of this performance, a truly idiomatic and instinctive grasp of the intimacy, affectation, allure and sheer seductive charm of the French/Italian tradition of the day (regarded as an ideal by Bach incidentally) escaped him a little - a very personal conviction of mine as a lover of the music of Francois Couperin which Bach knew.


Light,  and semi-detaché as this introductory dance should be. The opening was written for Bach's wife.

The Allemande


This characteristic 'flowing' movement usually followed the Allemande. The Baroque German composer, singer, writer and general polymath Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) in Der vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739) wrote rather affectingly of this dance '....chiefly characterized by the passion or mood of sweet expectation. For there is something heartfelt, something longing and also gratifying, in this melody: clearly music on which hopes are built.' Although Liu truly moved the piece like a glistening mountain stream, with fine LH polyphony counterpoint, it was more of an Italian corrente. But this merely is a quibble of tempo based on personal appreciation. 


This rather melancholic yet gracefully reflective, stately French courtly dance (of Spanish origin) lies at the affecting heart of the entire suite. Liu gave this expressive position great significance.


This came as an absolutely delightful and elegant contrast to the Sarabande with eloquent LH counterpoint contrast

The French Gavotte also known as the 'kissing dance'


Of delightful symmetry, yet a dance quicker in tempo than the Gavotte


A rather slower introduction to the delightful Gigue that will conclude the work.


Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749-1818) published a commentary in 1802 some 50 years after Bach's death. We read:

'Six little Suites, consisting of Allemandes, courants, &c. They are generally called French Suites because they are written in the French taste. By design, the composer is here less learned than in his other suites, and has mostly used a pleasing, more predominant melody. In particular the fifth suite deserves to be noticed on this account, in which all the pieces are of the smoothest melody; just as in the last jig none are used but constant intervals, especially sixths and thirds.'

As to be expected, Liu performed this with the greatest contrapuntal internal energy that made one want to leap from the seat and dance, take part in the social occasion rather than stately court life. He articulated the polyphony with extraordinary transparency and gave the movement the required irresistible forward momentum so characteristic of Bach.

Fryderyk Chopin (18101849)

Ballade in F major, Op. 38 (1839)

To present Chopin after Bach indicates the interpretative insight Liu brings to his performances. To follow Bach with Chopin established a vital 'Baroque' connection between the two composers which is of major importance when approaching the Baroque polyphony inherent in the Polish composer's work (in turn influenced by his Silesian teacher Jozef Elsner). Liu brought a certain interpretative 'distance' to the work that is missing from overtly self-centred, declamatory personal performances of Chopin's writing. Remember Vladimir de Pachmann audibly congratulating himself on a well-executed passage in Chopin 'Well done Pachmann!' he was heard to exclaim. 

Penetrating the expressive core of the Chopin Ballades requires an understanding of the influence of a generalized view of the literary, musical and operatic balladic genres of the time. In the structure there are parallels with sonata form but Chopin basically invented an entirely new musical material.

I have always felt it helpful to consider the Chopin Ballades as miniature operas being played out in absolute music, forever exercising one's musical imagination. I have always conceived this work to be an absolute musical narrative of a fraught love affair but others may well see a political narrative given the horrific times Poland was suffering under Russian hegemony - far more likely!).

For everyone, the ballad was an epic work, in which what had been rejected in classical high poetry now came to the fore: a world of extraordinary, inexplicable, mysterious, fantastical and irrational events inspired by the popular imagination. In Romantic poetry, the ballad became a ‘programmatic’ genre. It was here that the real met the surreal. Mickiewicz gave his own definition: ‘The ballad is a tale spun from the incidents of everyday (that is, real) life or from chivalrous stories, animated by the strangeness of the Romantic world, sung in a melancholy tone, in a serious style, simple and natural in its expressions’. (Mieczysław Tomaszewski)

Chopin was working on the F major Ballade in Majorca. In January 1839, after his Pleyel pianino had arrived from Paris, he wrote to Fontana ‘You’ll soon receive the Preludes and the Ballade’. And a few days after, when sending the manuscript of the Preludes: ‘In a couple of weeks, you’ll receive the Ballade, Polonaises and Scherzo.' So the conception took place in the atmosphere of a haunted monastery, threatened by untamed nature. Here was conceived the idea of contrasting a gentle and melodic siciliana with a demonic presto con fuoco – the music of those ‘impassioned episodes’, as Schumann referred to them.

The 'Chopin monastery' at Valldemossa, Majorca

Liu gave us a poetic, on occasion restrained yet passionate performance of the work that expressed the narrative of its imaginative drive and his conception of Chopin as a grand maître of the instrument. This has always struck me about Liu and many other young masters of the instrument. They produce interpretations that closely mirror the ideals of the physical and the powerful, ideal concepts of our own era, rather than 'the moving toyshop of the heart' as the 18th century English poet Alexander Pope observed.

The Leipzig encounter with Chopin Schumann experienced in 1840 is instructive. 'A new Chopin Ballade has appeared’, he noted  in his diary. ‘It is dedicated to me and gives me greater joy than if I’d received an order from some ruler’. He remembered a conversation with Chopin: ‘At that time he also mentioned that certain poems of Mickiewicz had suggested his ballade to him.’  The operative word here is 'suggested' which precluded any confusing concept of programme music.

Ballade in A flat major, Op. 47 (1841)

Chopin often sat in George Sand's garden to compose.
She was a keen horticulturalist as is evident in her garden at the west side of the house

Chopin wrote the Ballade in A flat major during the summer of 1841 at Nohant, the mansion of George Sand. The work contains some of the most magical passages in Chopin, a plethora of themes and moods, some of the greatest moments of passionate fervour culminating in other periods of shattering climatic tension. Penetrating the expressive core of the Chopin Ballades requires an understanding of the influence of a generalized view of the literary, musical and operatic balladic genres of the time - no mean task. In the structure there are parallels with sonata form but Chopin basically invented an entirely new musical material.   

Schumann was captivated by the very ‘breath of poetry’ emanating from this Ballade. Niecks heard in it ‘a quiver of excitement’. ‘Insinuation and persuasion cannot be more irresistible,’ he wrote, ‘grace and affection more seductive’. In the opinion of Jan Kleczyński, it is the third (not the second) Ballade that is ‘evidently inspired by Adam Mickiewicz's tale of Undine. That passionate theme is in the spirit of the song 'Rusalka.' The ending vividly depicts the ultimate drowning, in some abyss, of the fated youth in question’.

A different source is referred to by Zygmunt Noskowski: ‘Those close and contemporary to Chopin’, he wrote in 1902, ‘maintained that the Ballade in A flat major was supposed to represent Heine’s tale of the Lorelei – a supposition that may well be credited when one listens attentively to that wonderful rolling melody, full of charm, alluring and coquettish. Such was surely the song of the enchantress on the banks of the River Rhine’, ends Noskowski, ‘lying in wait for an unwary sailor – a sailor who, bewitched by the seductress’s song, perishes in the river’s treacherous waters’.

But these are simply suppositions but they do indicate how in the Ballades Chopin stimulates ones own private, narrative, experiential and associative imagination - the great magic of his art surely. Everyone has their own Chopin as  have said many times. As we can see, at some points the two suppositions come together; they are archetypically close to each other.  As mentioned above, Chopin shunned the easy assumptions of so-called programme music.

Liu gave us a suitably brilliant and magnificently stimulating performance of this multi-faceted work. 


Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)


Noctuelles (Night Moths)

Ravel dedicated this work to the poet Léon-Paul Fargue. 

Night Moths 

“Les Noctuelles des hangars partent, d’un vol gauche, Cravater d’autres poutres - The night moths launch themselves clumsily from their barnes, to settle on other perches”

Liu was very fine in this fiendishly difficult piece. His impressionistic control and range of colour, nuance and articulated detail was excellent, however if was still yearning for slightly more delicacy and sensitivity. Moths are fragile creatures after all and the light, silent fluttering must be clear. The pianist must move from the rapid delicacy of fluttering wings to the expressive human emotions interwoven between them. In addition, dynamic indications in this piece move suddenly and quickly from one extreme to another.The pianist must indicate the mercurial unpredictability of the wings of night moths fluttering on a still summer night. The differentiation is difficult to manage. This effect was achieved in the inner ears of many visitors who were ravished by the superb sound of the Fazioli instrument.

Oiseaux tristes (Sad Birds)

In his autobiographical sketch Ravel said of this piece: “It evokes birds lost in the oppressiveness of a very dark forest during the hottest hours of summer” 

Ricardo Viñes initially performed this piece on January 6, 1906 and it was also dedicated to him. The work may have been inspired by a story that Viñes told Ravel about meeting Debussy, where he heard the composer say that he wished to write a piece in a form so free that it would feel like an improvisation. His initial epiphany for this piece came during a walk in the forest of Fontainebleau. There are two planes: in the first the birds are singing and below the threatening atmosphere of the dark forest.

Liu accomplished the difficult impressionistic eloquence and delicate expressive resonance of the repeated figuration of the opening fingering to perfection. One could see in the mind's eye the rainbow of birdsong above the dark impenetrable green foliage hovering below. The feeling of highly imaginative improvisation was always abundant.

Une barque sur l’océan (A Boat on the Ocean)

The depiction of water is the concern here. Ravel orchestrated the work but it is far more successful on the piano. Oliver Messiaen commented on this orchestration: 

“There exists an orchestral kind of piano writing which is more orchestral than the orchestra itself and which, with a real orchestra it is impossible to realize”. 

Liu created the impression of almost irresistible ocean currents in his dynamic variation, colour and use of the pedal which gave us a feeling of swells of the sea and breaking white caps in the wind as one sails and undulates over the surface in arabesques. His control and use of colour and nuance, sometimes harsh, sometimes calm and erotic was sensually quite ravishing.

Alborada del gracioso (The Dawn of Graciousness)

This familiar musical movement was inspired of course by Spanish music. Guitar, castanet rhythms and repetitions. It is high in incandescent, passionate southern energy peculiar to the Iberian Peninsula. Rhythmically it was tremendously effective with a true 'biting touch'! The middle section involves a lyrical, improvised song known as the cante jondo, or ‘deep song’. This Tzigane lamenting cante jondo originated in the Spanish Andalusian flamenco vocal tradition and he was imaginative in taking us into the interior of a smoke-filled tavern of formidable, almost flamenco Spanish atmosphere. A magnificent performance as he wound up tension to a conclusion full of fireworks.

La vallée des cloches (The Valley of Bells)

Here we have an impressionistic sound painting depicting different bells sounding through a valley. Each bell has its particular color and register (brought out expressively by Liu). Also he emphasized the characteristic dynamic levels in which the ebb and flow of sound indicated various distances from the source of the bells in their towers. Calm, tender and soothing - Ravel marked the score calme and doux. The piece opens and ends in the same material of the various sounding bells while its middle section contains a long and generous chant.

Ferenc Liszt (1811–1886)

Réminiscences de Don Juan, S.418 (1841)

(Reminisces from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni)

I have always considered the 'reminiscence' to be as defined by the Oxford Dictionary as 'A story told about a past event remembered by the narrator.'  In this case the spectacular virtuosic display we heard from Liu was more like a recreation of the opera itself than a past event remembered through the filter of time. Then again when the Russian critic Vladimir Stasov, attended a Liszt recital of this work in St. Petersburg in 1839 he wrote:

'We had never in our lives heard anything like this; we had never been in the presence of such a brilliant, passionate, demonic temperament, at one moment rushing like a whirlwind, at another pouring forth cascades of tender beauty and grace. Liszt's playing was absolutely overwhelming...'

One cannot help but apply precisely this judgement to the Liu performance of this Fantasie Dramatique. Ferruccio Busoni adored the work, preparing five separate editions if memory serves me correctly. It was the most amazing feat of sheer virtuosic pianism imaginable. He commandeered an orchestral sound from the instrument one rarely, if ever, encounters in the concert hall. 

Sacheverell Sitwell in his uniquely perceptive book Liszt comments: 'The Don Juan Fantasia has an indescribable and sinister virtuosity which is strangely in keeping with the cynical romanticism of its subject....so many expressions of mood and atmosphere.' (p.149) 

I felt that the sinister nature of Liu's performance was not as evil-haunting as it might have been, submerged as it was in this incredible technical display. Fortunately for them, many young pianists have not yet had a 'sinisterly blighted love affair' that upends the soul and heart. This is particularly true if a feeling or the experience of juanesque manipulation of the heart has entered the romantic picture. The Liszt Mephisto Waltz and Faust Symphony are similarly replete with guile and deceit of the most malicious kind. To penetrate to the absolute core of List's sulpherous recreations of the metaphysical, it is useful not only to have keyboard command but the also a strong personal sense of sinful, lustful and erotic excursions of the soul.

I have never particularly liked this work but in many ways last night was rather physically and pianistically overwhelming and altered my opinion. I believe that Liu was also compelled to redefine it for himself, or so a little bird told me. Again as mentioned before, he brought a compositely different sound palette to this composer. The interpretation was full of humour and ironical comment as well as hints of the 'punished reprobate' and hellfire - all this quite apart from the overwhelming pianistic technique that was on display. Certainly what I heard tonight was brilliant and the articulation and energy contained in the Champagne Aria quite magnificent. The insidious and cynical 'seduction' of Zerlina by the worldly Don was wonderfully accomplished and base purely on sexual allure leading to an erotic climacteric of enormous proportions in the musical score. 

The hall erupted into a tumultuous standing ovation and wild cheering which lasted for many minutes despite the obvious physical toll on the pianist in this physical and psychological heat.

As a first encore, the Chopin Lento con gran espressione could not have been a greater contrast in sensibility. I wondered if Liu was making a point here between Liszt and Chopin! Two spectacularly articulated pieces by Rameau (how popular he is becoming on the piano!) followed by a charming rendition of the Chopin The Trois Ecossaises Op.72 No 3 published posthumously by Julian Fontana,

The first time I have seen a pianist throw his rose into the audience rather than the reverse!

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Past Festival Posts

The 76th International Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój, 6-14 August 2021

The 75th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2020

The 74th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2019
The 73rd Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2018

The 72nd Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2017

The 71st Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2016

The 70th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2015

The 69th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2014  

The 68th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2013

The 67th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2012

The 66th. Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2011

The 65th. Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Piano Festival 2010
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In the time of the dreaded Coronavirus, the visit by this immortal composer to Duszniki Zdrój (then Bad Reinerz in Silesia) seems almost appropriate! Of course Chopin himself was no stranger to pandemics, as cholera took Paris twice by the throat during his time there.

If you wish to read about the pandemics that Chopin lived through in Paris, I have done some research: 

Chopin in the Time of Cholera 

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A modicum of the 'ancient' history of Duszniki Zdrój

Part of the way through his studies Joseph Elsner recommended that Chopin ‘take the waters’ or 'go into rehab' not far from where Elsner was born in the small Silesian spa of Bad Reinerz (now Duszniki Zdrój). Originally on the Prussian-Bohemian frontier, the village is now in the south-west of Poland on the border with the Czech Republic. Frycek’s studies and intense partying into the small hours during his third and final year at the Liceum had begun to affect his health. He was a bit of a 'party animal' was Frycek! In his youth he was not the melancholic consumptive of popular myth at all. The virtuosic youthful exuberance of the concertos, rondos and variations reflect this freedom from care.
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. Tuberculosis has however thankfully disappeared. 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.
                                                                                     The Spa Park at Duszniki Zdrój

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. Most likely it was a charity concert for the orphaned children after the loss of their father to illness. 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 
at the 
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. Now the pandemic...

Detail from the wall decoration of the remarkable 17th century paper mill that survives in Duszniki Zdroj. This building is unique in Europe. It is a fascinating place to visit.

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 

Stanisław Dybowski

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.

At the beginning of August every year Duszniki-Zdrój becomes the Chopin centre, attracting music lovers from around the world, young musicians, music critics, art critics and all those who care about Chopin. The multilingual noise in Spa Park clearly indicates where Chopin is being celebrated and where his beloved instrument is being played…
Felix Mendelssohn at Duszniki Zdró1823

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.

The house stayed in by Felix Mendelssohn at Duszniki Zdroj in 1823

The commemorative plaque on the house


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