Polish Independence Day, the 105th Anniversary of Independence and the Armistice of the Great War, 11 November 2022 - The Chopin Soul, Paderewski and Moniuszko - some reminiscences

Reminiscences

The Chopin Soul, Paderewski and Moniuszko

Polish Independence Day
11 November 2023
105th Anniversary of the Armistice of the Great War

Pencil drawing of Fryderyk Chopin by Francois-Xavier Winterhalter 2 May 1847 

These thoughts come in the midst of the increasing horrors of war in the Middle East, echoes of the Covid pandemic which has thankfully passed and the brutal continuation of a murderous war in Ukraine. These are the greatest calamities to strike the world since the two world wars. 

One must never forget, in fact remember with even greater intensity, the immense sacrifices that were made then so that we can live in freedom. Yes, and given the freedom to embrace the miraculous advances in medical science and peace offered by the European Union. 

On a day celebrating the 105th Anniversary of Poland regaining independence (a country that for 123 years existed not on maps but as a virtual reality in the mind of its citizens), I feel I should express a few thoughts on the music of Fryderyk Chopin in this context. 

Today is also the 105th anniversary of the Armistice of the Great War on 'the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month' 1918 and to remind the old and perhaps educate the young of the historical significance of this day through the towering figure of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) - composer, pianist, politician and statesman - at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. It is difficult for us to even imagine how the hugely charismatic Paderewski, like some type of pianistic god, a moral beacon for the world, dominated the artistic and ethical firmament of those days. 

I would also like to reflect on a wartime incident concerning Polish officers and troops interned in Switzerland during my great uncle's musical career. He was the brilliant and rather glamorous Australian concert pianist Edward Cahill (1885-1975), who had a close connection, even obsession with the music of Chopin. He played his compositions for many of the crowned heads of Europe and South-East Asia and befriended Paderewski during WW II. 

I also hope to indicate a veritable renaissance in Polish classical music and the constant rediscoveries of great new works.

The music of Fryderyk Chopin has always been a haven of spiritual refuge to the Polish nation under oppression be it Tsarist Russia, Nazi Germany, the Soviets or the period of communist hegemony. The collective memory and final victory of the country over oppression was expressed by a chorus of ghosts without number in Chopin’s passionate and melancholic vision. What then is the emotional significance of Chopin for contemporary Poland?

All ages interpret the productions of genius through their own aesthetic and historical filters. In modern times the historical and cultural context in which Chopin composed is often ignored or imagined in crude ‘Hollywood’ terms. Following his emotional flight into exile before the rape of his native land by Russia in 1830, he encountered as well as the elegant salons, the assault of the pestilential filth  of the Paris streets of that time. The raging cholera pandemics of 1832 and 1849 had killed many of his friends. This together with his exile, his own illness and the political convulsions of 1830 and 1848 strengthened his tragic view of the transience of life. We are mercifully far today from the source of his suffering.

However the passing of time has created a musical disconnection. Chopin is one of the most difficult of composers to interpret and begs for a cultivated mind of sensibility, poetry and a very particular form of spiritual unease in the face of human mortality. He occupies a discomforting position among composers, his feminine sensibility finely balancing a masculine lyric strength. His is a restrained sentiment that eschews sugared sentimentality. 

A proper understanding of his early Polish cultural milieu and noble historical style (including the contemporary instruments he used) needs to be acquired by any young modern performer. In Paris Chopin himself commented that in otherwise excellent performances of his work the ‘Polish element’ was missing. The resistance to political tyranny that runs like a red thread through his compositions, the fraught emotions of oppression and disinheritance he expressed in exile gave rise to the complex Polish emotion of żal (melancholic nostalgia and bitter remorse which at times can lead to a type of internal fury of protest). Such feelings have to be imagined by most young Polish pianists who were born, grew up and today live in an atmosphere of democratic freedom.

In response to the infinite repetitions possible with modern recordings and the modish concern with his sexual proclivities, various redefinitions of the composer have taken place since his death in 1849. Most prominent is the emphasis on the physical aspects of his virtuosity as expressed on behemoth Yamaha or Steinway instruments. The world young artists have inherited is loud, cruel and violent, a world dominated by technology that prizes physical power, speed and the body above intelligence, morality and the soul. Playing can certainly be physically exhilarating, but poetic thought, sensibility, refinement and elegance, even patriotism and morality once prized in all art, have become almost an embarrassment in the face of the muscular, the sportif and the overtly sexual in performance. Having almost exhausted the patriotic, aesthetic, literary, ideological, philosophical and musicological appreciation of Chopin we inevitably turn to the easy seductions of the physical.

‘Technique is money’ one Asian professor recently remarked to me in a furtive aside at a Chopin master-class in Duszniki Zdrój, a spa town on the Polish Czech border where there the oldest Chopin piano festival in the world takes place annually. A young pianist from New York is advertised as having ‘the fastest fingers on the planet’ by an esteemed Russian professor. I have seen assistants sponging down sweating pianists between pieces like prize-fighters between bouts, the pianist wiping down the keyboard prior to playing as if it were a piece of sports tackle. George Sand was once amused at Chopin’s horror when he suspected he may actually have been sweating in the summer heat at her French country retreat in Nohant. Too often a form of making war on the piano has become the ideal, hysteria in interpretation all too frequent. ‘Facilement, facilement,’ Chopin often warned. ‘Caress the key, never bash it!’ he would admonish. Paradoxically Chopin playing tends under some fingers to become harsh reality itself rather than a consolation in the face of it.

Many pianists and listeners are simply too young and emotionally immature for the pain and mystery of Chopin. The spiritual tension of what the Polish musicologist Mieczysław Tomaszewski called Chopin’s ‘imprisoned romanticism’ is scarcely alluded to in performance. Understandably they lack a mature understanding of his ambiguous, neurasthenic and emotional vie intérieure. In many modern performances, naturally not all (pace Argerich, Freire, Olejniczak, Zimerman, Blechacz, Pires, Ohlsson, Pollini), the individual ‘voice’ of the performer has been mislaid. C.P.E. Bach put it well ‘They overwhelm our hearing without satisfying it and stun the mind without moving it . . .’[1]

The spirit of Chopin is impregnable. Let us not lose sight of the true significance of this composer for music lovers amidst the superficial distractions of trade and insensitive performance. Chopin possesses an unrivaled position as Poland’s national composer and its musical wieszcz.[2] His music remains the beating heart of the country. The great Polish poet Cyprian Norwid (1821–83) described Chopin as ‘a Varsovian by birth, a Pole by heart, and a citizen of the world by talent’. Virtuoso brilliance, a supreme gift for melody and an air of sentiment explain his immense appeal on a popular level. But more deeply the universality of Chopin lies in his profound sense of loss and nostalgia. His revolutionary music expresses a fierce resistance to domination, a sense of sacrificial melancholy in the face of the bitter finales of life – universal and timeless human emotions.

Fryderyk Chopin, while ‘detached’ from the Polish revolutionary cabals in nineteenth century Paris, expressed more profoundly than almost anyone, the sorrow and heroic aspirations of the Polish spirit. In doing so he gave voice to the universal suffering of any spirit labouring under a totalitarian heel or shackled by personal psychological chains. His music offers deep consolation to troubled hearts throughout the world. The music of Chopin continues to express the beauty and richness of conscious life forever overshadowed by the implacable reality of death, a profound awareness of which is surely the source of all we would wish to call ‘civilization’.

                                                                         *  *  *  *  *  *                                                                    

My great uncle, the celebrated Australian concert pianist Edward Cahill (1885-1975), had a great passion for the music Chopin and a deep understanding of its interpretative complexities, particularly after lessons with Alfred Cortot. He played for Queen Mary, privately for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and most of the English and French aristocracy in the glamorous London, Paris and French Riviera of the 1920s and 1930s. He befriended Paderewski whilst exiled and giving charity concerts in Montreux in Switzerland throughout WW II. 

With some difficulty and close to death in Monte-Carlo, Cahill managed to extract a pledge from me to travel to Poland at some time in my life and visit the places Chopin had frequented as a young man. He even asked me to spread his ashes at the birthplace of Chopin at  Żelazowa Wola, some 50 kms from Warsaw. He also managed to breathe out  'A country that can produce a man of the stamp of Ignacy Jan Paderewski deserves your undivided attention!’  How we need a world leader of the moral stature of Paderewski today.

Cahill was known by the nickname 'The Pocket Paderewski' owing to his virtuoso playing but diminutive stature. The two pianists shared the same concert agent in London. The spellbinding tone and refined touch of Paderewski’s playing in the 1920s captivated Cahill. He greatly admired the Pole’s control of the melodic line as if it was being sung. According to Paderewski, who was a pupil of the great Polish pedagogue Theodor Leschetizky, ‘all had a singing tone. That was very, very important’. Hans von Bülow pedantically stated: ‘Anyone who cannot sing – with a lovely or unlovely voice – should not play the piano.’ 


This obsession with the production of a beautiful tone, a ‘noble, singing melody’, preoccupied Cahill as a direct result of his own lessons in Vienna with the Leschetizky pupil and sometime assistant Leonie Gombrich (the talented and fascinating mother of the great art historian Sir Ernst Gombrich). On one visit to Lausanne in 1940 Cahill called on his friend Paderewski who had been very ill. The great pianist would never play in public again but had not lost his sense of humour. At his villa in Morges Cahill recalled ‘He told me he had been advised as a young man to give up the piano and study the trombone!’ 


As an example of the profound effect the music Chopin can have on Poles and the bolstering of Polish identity, I would like to quote one incident from my published biography of Edward Cahill entitled The Pocket Paderewski. This is a review of a charity recital given by him to Polish troops during Christmas 1940 at the WW II internment camps at Büren and Münchenbuchsee in Switzerland. 

For me this is a very moving example of the power of Chopin (and Paderewski) to sustain and strengthen the spirit of the Polish nation under oppression. 

Bored and resentful internees at Büren an der Aare Internment Camp nr. Berne Switzerland 1940
                        
Christmas 1940 was fast approaching for six thousand Polish officers and men interned in Switzerland. Snow and ice lay heavy on the ground. When in the midsummer of 1940 General Guderian’s Panzer divisions had pinned the French 45th Army Corps commanded by General Darius Daille against the Swiss frontier, the Swiss Federal Council rapidly granted refuge to the beleaguered French and Polish troops who had put up fierce resistance. The 45th Army Corps included some twelve thousand men of the Polish 2nd Rifle Division (2DSP Dywizja Strzelców Pieszych under General Prugar Ketling). They were among the valiant Poles who had joined the French to continue the fight for their homeland after the brutal German conquest of their country.

Unlike the French soldiers who were sent home in January 1941, the Poles now found themselves homeless. The Polish state had once again been erased from the map of Europe. Under international law, the Swiss were now forced to finance their detention. To facilitate this and simultaneously defuse political tension with Nazi Germany (which had planned to invade Switzerland in Operation Tannenbaum prior to the outbreak of war) a Polish mass detention camp housing some six thousand men was established near the picturesque medieval village of Büren an der Aare near Berne. It was completed by the winter of 1940. Up to that time the Poles had been billeted in scattered villages where they had become rather too popular with the female population in the absence of Swiss men gamely manning the frontiers and fortresses.

Their abrupt imprisonment at Büren led the Poles to suspect the Swiss were acting on German instructions. Morale fell. The Swiss tightened discipline. Anger erupted into revolt in December 1940. Shots were fired and a number of Polish soldiers were wounded. Following the revolt, the Poles were permitted to work for the princely sum of one franc per day in field, forest and factory, producing badly needed food. The results of this work more than repaid the costs of their internment, to the great satisfaction of the Nazi-encircled Swiss.

* * *

The cold on 15th December 1940 was Siberian in its intensity.[3] The new arrivals at the little village station of Büren had crossed the grey winter-wasted plains at the foot of the first range of the Jura mountains by train. Swiss families of soldiers billeted in the village were overjoyed to see their loved ones and thronged the platform. However, among the passengers were a number of Polish internees who descended from the train under watchful eyes, their heads covered by forage caps like common prisoners. They were forbidden to acknowledge any civilians who had come to gawp. They saw no-one, watched nothing except the little train returning to civilization on its meandering course and disappearing into the distance. They watched as one might watch a ship slowly pass over the horizon with no hope of return. In the streets of the old town above the great medieval covered wooden bridge that spanned the River Aare, their comrades sauntered in the village streets in small groups dressed warmly in heavy brown overcoats and Basque berets. They vaguely gazed into the windows of the Gothic-fronted boutiques, windows already too familiar and jammed with naive and rarely changed arrangements of fashion and antiques.

This Sunday was unlike any other. Today the celebrated Australian pianist Edward Cahill would give a concert in the 13th century Evangelical Reform church in the village. This was a rare gift of God for such innate musicians as the Poles. Well before the appointed time, the church was filled to bursting with men sitting erect, wearing sombre expressions on faces weathered to the colour of Spanish leather. Officials brusquely turned back any civilians who tried to enter. 

The same veto applied to any journalist from Berne who lacked official authorization to attend the concert. Polish and Swiss officers sat in the gallery while the soldiers sat closely packed around the grand piano placed in the centre of the choir. Then, Edward Cahill, who is small, slender and quick had to thread his way through the rows of soldiers to get to his instrument. He began with two impromptus by Schubert followed by the famous Minuet in G and Mélodie by Paderewski. He gave such an exquisite interpretation a tremor passed through the audience.

The first notes of the Chopin ‘Heroic’ polonaise reverberated through the church. Edward played works by the Polish master for more than an hour. Many present had never known a more moving moment in their lives, occurring as it did in the middle of a bloody conflict and desperate dispossession. In the darkened church an immense atmosphere of self-communion or meditation descended over the assembled refugees, the magnificent white hair of Edward Cahill seeming to softly glow above the keyboard of the black instrument in the choir.

Before long, these toughened soldiers had closed their eyes. Some had buried their heads in their arms, unable to stop their shoulders shaking with sobs. On the Polish officers’ handsome faces, all military stiffness of expression had disappeared to be replaced by an inexpressible nostalgia for their motherland that sang from the piano. Next to Cahill one Polish soldier had stood as immobile as a statue throughout the performance, his arms crossed. When the music ceased, he relaxed. He seemed to lose the fierce resistance to his emotions, a painfully maintained self-control, and collapsed within as he groped blindly for a seat to support him.

Edward stopped playing and, exhausted by his efforts, waited for a few moments in the silence that descended over the company. He did not dare to separate them from their patriotic dreams. He understood that he must allow these tough men time to collect themselves before finally launched into a ravishing Carillon de Noël of his own composition. He concluded the concert with a dazzling interpretation of another impromptu by Schubert, lifting the gloom into the realm of renewed hope.

Silence reigned once more, the faces of the soldiers and officers again froze into stoic immobility as the Polish internees left the church and plunged into the clammy mist and ice that enshrouded their camp. They carried in their hearts a seemingly interminable depression. [3]

[1] Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen 1753 (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments), Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, trans. ed. W.J. Mitchell (London 1949)
[2] There is no English equivalent for this Polish word – an approximation might be ‘bard’, ‘prophetic seer’ or ‘messianic messenger’. Adam Mickiewicz is considered a wieszcz through his national epic Pan Tadeusz and the poetic drama Dziady (Forefathers' Eve).
[3] For the following rare first-hand poetic description of a concert by Edward Cahill in wartime I am indebted to the then 29-year-old Colette Muret who wrote this fine review for La Revue de Lausanne sometime in December 1940. Muret, ‘la doyenne of Vaud journalists’, died in 2009 at the age of 98. 

From The Pocket Paderewski: The Beguiling Life of the Australian Concert Pianist Edward Cahill 

Michael Moran 

(Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne 2016) pp.244-7


You can listen to Edward Cahill's artistry in private recordings of Chopin and Liszt if you are further interested using these links:




[piotr-betlej-op-10-n-1-2016-copyright-galerie-roi-dore

   Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941)

Piotr Betlej 2016 © Galerie Roi Doré

Paderewski is such an underestimated composer of affecting lyrical and poetic piano music which speaks directly to the heart and sensibility rather than burdening the intellect with high seriousness. As an example of relieving humour, at the Paris Peace Conference Georges Clemenceau (the 'old Tiger') came up to Paderewski and wickedly asked 'Are you a cousin of the famous pianist Paderewski?' When Paderewski replied 'It is I, Monsieur le Président,' Clemenceau observed, acting as if greatly surprised 'And you the famous artist have become Prime Minister? What a come-down!'

Paderewski at Versailles

Naturally, being a great patriot, Paderewski wrote many Polish mazurkas and polonaises but much of his piano music reminds me of a superb film score for say an intensely romantic French love affair set in Provence directed by Francois Truffaut. During the Romanza from his A minor piano concerto, in our imagination we could be bowling along a poplar lined route secondaire past hills of vineyards with Catherine Deneuve or Stephane Audran in the passenger seat of a Chapron Citroen cabriolet. Her hair is wonderfully awry in the wind as we head towards une belle gentilhommiere and nights of sophisticated sensual bliss, days of cultivated tastes, food and wine.  Ah...what we have lost of true civilization and culture in 2016...Paderewski had it all.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski and his wife Helena Maria and son Alfred

The music of Paderewski wears its learning lightly with poetry, charm, elegance and refinement of the highest order. His solo  pieces are a neglected repertoire for young pianists and with luck might kindle poetry and charm in their playing.


My argument of neglect is validated by the only recording of his complete piano works I know of, made by the pianist Karol Radziwonowicz in Warsaw in 1991 in a co-production for the French Le Chant Du Monde label and the now dissolved Polish label Selene. To my knowledge it has never been reissued.  LDC 278 1073/5 distributed by Harmonia Mundi. Used copies are available but at inflated prices.


A charming scene from the lyrical and innocent film Moonlight Sonata where Paderewski plays himself


A most recent recording of Paderewski is of early piano pieces Op. 1 - Op. 9 is by the outstanding Polish pianist 
  Michał Szymanowski

I reviewed his fine playing at the XI Darmstadt International Chopin Piano Competition 6 – 16 October 2017 where he was awarded the 4th prize. He has improved immensely since then and developed a burgeoning talent for conducting.

I wrote of his  Chopin Nocturne in D-flat major op. 27 No.2 :

'His maturity and authority as a pianist was clear from the outset. The opening cantilena, yearningly beautiful, is the romantic core of this sublime work. André Gide, who was rather obsessed with the music of Chopin, wrote prescient observations applicable here in his Notes on Chopin (p.21):

‘[He 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.’

Minimal and very skillful pedalling. Here was a beautiful tone, an example of seamless playing full of nuances, exercising a great deal of dynamic control. Lovely tone and touch exhibiting a full expressive range of colour. Sensitive but not sentimental. Note perfect.'

And of the Chopin Sonata in B minor Op.58 :

'An absolutely magnificent, fully integrated rendition of this immensely difficult sonata.'








For those of you unfamiliar with Paderewki's solo piano compositions, a superbly recorded CD of selections has been released by the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute (Grey Series NIFCCD 057). The music is magnificently performed by the distinguished artist Kevin Kenner who clearly has an instinctive sympathy with this music and deep affection for it. 

I first became aware of Paderewsi's solo piano compositions covering and reviewing performances at the International Paderewski Piano Competitions that are held every three years in Bydgoszcz in Poland (the XII Competition is in progress as I write). 

The rarely heard or performed, formidable and passionately urgent E-flat minor Sonata Op.21 is monumental in scope and range, Kenner grandly elevating Paderewski as a serious composer. Another discovery for me was the impressive and arresting Dans le desert: Tableau musical en forme d'une toccata Op. 15.  He plays a glorious sounding, at times radiant, 1925 Steinway piano D 233Y. His sensitive rubato, phrasing, vivid and glowing tone quality and cultivated touch are splendidly reflected in this recording. The Nocturne in B major Op.16 No.4 reflects all these qualities and always brings me close to tears. The instrument presented on this CD, from the National Museum in Warsaw, was made especially for Paderewski and presented to him by Steinway.

Paderewski Piano Concerto in A minor Op.17
concerto-poster

He wrote interestingly and engagingly in his memoirs:

When I finished [the] concerto, I was still lacking in experience. I had not even heard it performed—it was something I was longing for. I wanted to have the opinion then of a really great orchestral composer. I needed it. So without further thought I took my score and went directly to Saint-Saëns. But I was rather timid … I realized on second thoughts that it was, perhaps, presumption on my part to go to him. Still I went to his house nevertheless. I was so anxious for his opinion. 

He opened the door himself. ‘Oh, Paderewski, it’s you. Come in,’ he said. ‘Come in. What do you want?’ I realised even before he spoke that he was in a great hurry and irritable, probably writing something as usual and not wanting to be interrupted. ‘What can I do for you? What do you want?’ I hesitated what to answer. I knew he was annoyed. I had come at the wrong moment … ‘I came to ask your opinion about my piano concerto,’ I said very timidly. ‘I ——.’ ‘My dear Paderewski,’ he cried, ‘I have not the time. I cannot talk to you today. I cannot.’ He took a few steps impatiently about the room. ‘Well, you are here so I suppose I must receive you. Let me hear your concerto. Will you play it for me?’ 

He took the score and read it as I played. He listened very attentively. At the Andante he stopped me, saying, ‘What a delightful Andante! Will you kindly repeat that?’ I repeated it. I began to feel encouraged. He was interested. Finally he said, ‘There is nothing to be changed. You may play it whenever you like. It will please the people. It’s quite ready. You needn’t be afraid of it, I assure you.’ So the interview turned out very happily after all, and he sent me off with high hopes and renewed courage. At that moment in my career, his assurance that the concerto was ready made me feel a certain faith in my work that I might not have had then. (The Paderewski Memoirs  London 1939 p. 149-50)


The Paderewski Piano Concerto is a lyrical and grand work full of piano pyrotechnics, noble harmonies, dance energy and infectious charm. Audiences adore it!

Kevin Kenner has made a fine recording of the Paderewski A minor Piano Concerto Op. 17 and Polish fantasy for piano and orchestra op.19 with the Opera and Podlaska Philharmonic Orchestra in Białystock conducted by Marcin Nałęcz-Niesiołowski for the DUX label - DUX 0733

Paderewski at 24 - a close likeness to his appearance during the writing of the concerto

For me one of the finest interpretations of the Paderewski Piano Concerto in A minor Op.17 and Polish fantasy for piano and orchestra op.19 is by the Polish pianist Piotr Paleczny with the Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk. The BeArTon CD is available together with more information on Paderewski as well as the history and gestation of these two works using this link:


However perhaps the most exciting and rewarding performance of the Paderewski A minor Piano Concerto Op. 17 for me is by Earl Wild with the London Symphony Orchestra under Arthur Fiedler made in 1995 for ELAN RECORDINGS CD 82266

the-best-of-paderewski-cdb018-a

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This is another fine recording of the concerto with some superb and deeply affecting Paderewski solo piano works. 

Without doubt one of the most beautiful and expressive recordings of solo Paderewski piano works I have ever heard.

Dang Thai Son - piano 

Philharmonia Orchestra 
Vladimir Ashkenazy - conductor

Ignacy Jan Paderewski  [1860–1941]

1.  Mélodie  in G flat major, Op. 16 No. 2 * [1885]
2. Nocturne in B flat major, Op. 16 No. 4 * [1890] 
3.  Élégie  in B minor, Op. 4 [1880] 
4.  Légende  No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 16 No. 1 * [1886–1888] 

Danses polonaises , Op. 5 [1881]

5. Krakowiak in E major No. 
6. Mazurka in E minor No. 
7. Krakowiak in B flat major No. 
8. Minuet in G major, Op. 14 No. 1 ** [1886]  

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17 [1888]

    1. Allegro
2. Romanze. Andante
3. Final. Allegro molto vivace 

 * Works from the cycle  Miscellanea. Série de morceaux , Op . 16

** Work from the cycle  Humoresques de concert , Op. 14 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

And this recording below won the coveted Diapason d'Or :

Nelson Goerner (piano)
 
NOSPR (Naradowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna Polskiego Radia)

 under Jacek Kaspszyk

NIFCCD 044

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17 

1. Allegro
2. Romanza. Andante
3. Finale. Allegro molto vivace

Giuseppe Martucci

Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 66 

1. Allegro giusto
 2. Larghetto
3. Allegro con spirito

https://sklep.nifc.pl/index.php?produkt=2_95

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The fine English pianist Johnathan Plowright has also recorded the Concerto in A Minor Op. 17, the Polish Fantasia Op. 19, the Sonata Op.21 and the Variations and Fugues Op. 11 & Op. 23 for Hyperion. 

Another outstandingly fine account of the Concerto and Fantasia is by Antoni Wit and the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice with the superb virtuoso Janina Fialkowska as soloist on the Naxos label.

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An NIFC recording of the Paderewski Symphony in B minor Op.24 played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Grzegorz Nowak

https://sklep.nifc.pl/?produkt=2_158


NIFCCD 070 (Year of publication: 2020)

At the invitation of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, the outstanding German tenor, master of vocal lyricism, performed the songs of Stanisław Moniuszko and Ignacy Jan Paderewski, supplementing them with the works of Henry Duparc. 

An album of extraordinary beauty was created from this concert, bringing out all the beauty of these musical miniatures, their grace, simplicity and finesse

Christoph Prégardien is accompanied on the piano by the outstanding accompanist Christoph Schnakertz.

Stanislaw Moniuszko

1. Les Larmes [ Tears / 'Tears']
2. Les plaintes de la jeune fille [ sorry for the girl / 'A Girl's Sorrow']
3. Le chant de la tour [ Song of the tower / 'Song from the tower']
4. Le Niemena [ The Niemna / 'The Neman']
5. Le joueur de lyre IV [ lyrist The village IV / 'The village lyrist' v. 4]

Henri Duparc

6. Chanson triste [ Sad song / 'Sad song'] op . 2 No. 4
7. Soupir [ Sigh/ 'Lament'] op. 2 nr 1
8. Le manoir de Rosemonde [ Dwór Rosamunda / 'The Manor of Rosamonde']
9. Phidylé
10. L'invitation au voyage [ Invitation to a journey ']

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

11-22. Douze Mélodies sur des Poésies de Catulle Mendés , Op. 22 (1903) [ 12 songs to words Catulle Mendésa Op. 22]

https://sklep.nifc.pl/index.php?produkt=2_162

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My review of the concert over four years ago

 17.08.19

Saturday
17:00
Witold Lutosławski Studio of the Polish Radio
Vocal recital

Performers


Program

Les larmes
Les plaintes de la jeune fille
Le chant de la tour
Le Nièmen
Le joueur de lyre, cz. 4 Oui, chantons encor

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)

Chanson triste
Soupir
Le manoir de Rosemonde
Phidylé
L’invitation au voyage

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Zwölf Gedichte, Op. 35 to words by Justinus Kerner

Concerts are never real music, you have to give up the idea of hearing in them all the most beautiful things of art.'  Chopin once said to one of his students 

(Chopin: Pianist and Teacher: As Seen by His Pupils Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger 
Cambridge 1986). 

Far be it from me to contradict Chopin, but this was certainly not the case in the song recital I attended this evening. On this rarest of occasions, I had one of the deepest artistic experiences of my musical life. The renowned lyric tenor Christoph Prégardien sang with such subtlety and finesse the audience were reduced to utter stillness by the intense poetry of the performance and the meditative atmosphere this great artist created. His modesty and the deep seriousness of his approach was remarkable. 

He began with a group of Moniuszko songs that were published in France in French translation as a result of efforts by Rossini and his publisher Flaxland, the negotiations conducted by Jozef Winiawski. The collection appeared in the autumn of 1862 under the title Echos de Pologne. Mélodies de Moniuszko, traduction française d'Alfred des Essarts. The translator Essarts (1811-1893) was an esteemed writer, poet, playwright and journalist. We heard a selection of these songs. Prégardien elevated these Moniuszko songs in French into the realm of high art and intense beauty. 



This came as a surprise, I am sure, to a discriminating audience who was perhaps more accustomed to rather everyday and perfunctory performances of Moniuszko songs in Polish. I have begun to wonder if it is inferior performances of Moniuszko that have relegated him to an inferior position among composers. The composer has to be grateful also to Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante for a similar service to his art but in the field of opera. 

As this recital progressed I also became aware of the intense artistry and sensitivity of the piano accompanist Christoph Schnackertz. I have never heard an accompanist who is also a great artist except perhaps Geoffrey Parsons or Gerald Moore. His dynamic level rarely rose above mezzo-forte and the balance between voice and piano was almost miraculous. One tends to forget that the introduction and conclusion of art songs on the piano are an integral and organic part of the song itself, its spiritual and sensual life beginning and concluding. They are not brief throw-away gestures as they too often become. Schnackertz seemed to have achieved a symbiotic relationship with Prégardien. The effect of this extraordinary golden amalgam of artistic expression, one a perfect musical complement to the other in terms of phrasing, mood, nuance and feeling, was emotionally quite overwhelming.



In these gloriously sensitive, personal and sensual songs by Henri Duparc, the flexibility of voice, the velvet timbre, the subtle dynamic range, the charm and romanticism of the French language of the set poems, carried one into an enchanted realm rarely occupied by performing artists. The impressionistic radiance and setting of  L'invitation au voyage from Les fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire was superb. In Phidylé with words by Leconte de Lisle, the piano has an equal role in creating the atmosphere of yearning expectation. Schnackertz proved himself to be a truly great artist in the different but supportive and complementary piano part. Their partnership was effortless in congruent phrasing and dynamic. Magical. 

When Prégardien dwelt on the word 'Toujours' in the setting of the poem Soupir (Sigh) by Prudhommeyour emotional reviewer was brought almost to tears by the pianissimo dying away of the word to a barely perceptible whisper with just the ghost of piano accompaniment. Toujours l’aimer. Toujours !  Almost unbearable beauty of sensibility.....

Soupir

Ne jamais la voir ni l’entendre,
Ne jamais tout haut la nommer,
Mais, fidèle, toujours l’attendre,
Toujours l’aimer !

Ouvrir les bras, et, las d’attendre,
Sur la néant les refermer !
Mais encor, toujours les lui tendre
Toujours l’aimer.

Ah! ne pouvoir que les lui tendre
Et dans les pleurs se consumer,
Mais ces pleurs toujours les répandre,
Toujours l’aimer…

Ne jamais la voir ni l’entendre,
Ne jamais tout haut la nommer,
Mais d’un amour toujours plus tendre
Toujours l’aimer. Toujours !

                                                                           Sully Proudhomme (1839-1907)

 

After the interval, during which I simply remained slumped in my seat, not wishing to speak to anyone, we were given the eloquent Schumann Zwölf Gedichte, Op. 35 of 1840 to words by the poet Justinus Kerner. Here Schumann's love of Clara was always yearningly obvious as at the time he was waiting for the resolution of the legal battle with her father, Friedrich Wieck, so they could marry. In this famous 'year of song' he wrote almost 140 songs all referring openly or implicitly to Clara. They ranged over the notion of wandering, the worship of Nature ('Longing for Woodland' was Clara's favourite song), faithfulness, hidden feelings, friendship (here a wonderful sentiment in the title of the song 'To the wineglass of a departed friend'), loneliness and suffering.

As a perfectly gauged encore, also from the 'year of song', Prégardien softly addressed us as the civilized artist and gentleman he is and sang from Liederkreis Op.39 with words by the Prussian poet Joseph von Eichendorff.

This was a recital devoted to the nature of emotional yearning and love in what must be considered a unique experience of the finest in performance art. I left the radio studio in a mood utterly disconnected from reality....


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l1060416


Paderewski's Study at his villa near Morges, Switzerland

A Bösendorfer piano once owned by Paderewski at the  Casimir Puławski Museum at Warka some 50 kms from Warsaw. Poland

Paderewski collected silver spoons on his travels abroad as souvenirs. A small sample from the collection at the Casimir Puławski Museum at Warka some 50 kms from Warsaw. Poland

A sign of the power of the statesman - a 'Paderewski' Armoured Train during the Great War

You may like to read this excellent and heartfelt article on Paderewski 

WRITTEN ON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF PADEREWSKI’S DEATH (29  June 1941)
‘Poland is immortal!’

Stanisław Dybowski

So said Ignacy Jan Paderewski on 23 January 1940 at the inaugural meeting  of the National Council of the Republic of Poland in Paris, when the situation of the country occupied by two invaders was being pondered. 

He once said about himself: ‘I am neither lured by power nor attracted to the prestige of being the father of the nation and the more modest  position of a useful son of his land would be more than sufficient to me’… and about himself as a pianist: ‘everybody told me – and I was beginning to believe it myself – that I would never be a pianist.'

And yet, his strong belief that Poland is immortal led him right up to the pinnacle of art and politics. He worked in both those areas in order to further his patriotic goals, to which he subordinated everything else!

‘Ignacy Jan Paderewski , said the Primate of Poland in 1986, ‘died in the United States. The funeral ceremonies lasted several days. First, a grand memorial service was held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Then, the body was carried to Washington, D.C., and, on 5 July 1941, was laid at Arlington cemetery with military honours. The coffin with the body was laid, but not interred. The funeral was not finished’. 

It was finished 51 years later, on 5 July 1992, in the presence of the Presidents of Poland and the united States, with the artist’s remains being placed in the crypt of St. John’s cathedral in Warsaw. Thus the will of the Great Pole was implemented, which was to be laid to rest in free Poland, for which he had fought as a politician and a statesman and the cause of which he had championed through his concerts, carrying the name of Frederic Chopin high on his banner.

In his excellent book on Paderewski Adam Zamoyski wrote the following beautiful words:

‘The name of Paderewski was on the lips of many generations. For people who knew nothing about music he was the embodiment of a pianist; for those who knew nothing about Poland he was the embodiment of a fiery Pole; finally, to those who did not have the faintest idea about his political career he looked like Moses – the leader of his people’.

Paderewski made a career – as was often written and said – on a cosmic scale. There has been no human being, before or after him, who enjoyed such a degree of popularity. Even Franz Liszt’s great career, limited to  the European continent, could not equal the extent of influence exerted by Paderewski’s name. ‘It was sometimes enough' As poet Jan Lechoń wrote:

‘For Paderewski to appear on stage with his distant look, lion-like hair, a legendary white tie and a modest, almost humble demeanour, more reminiscent of some  village bard than a great virtuoso, to make the public stand up and worship in him art itself, all that is unselfish, noble and generous in life and that everyone associated with Paderewski. Paderewski’s star rose in those sad times when Poland was absent from the map of Europe – he was a son of an unhappy country, with no proud embassies or wealthy patrons standing behind him and supporting his art.

However, Paderewski felt Chopin’s soul in his own soul; eager to listen to the voices in his heart, he found in them echoes of a thousand years of our beautiful and magnanimous history; […] listening to those mysterious voices, he felt that he was rich and strong. From the very first time he appeared on the art horizon he behaved like a king; having never asked anyone for anything he always wished to be generous to everyone and all his life was the fulfillment of that wish. […]No one represented true Poland in the eyes of the world better than Paderewski’.

He was formed as an artist at the Warsaw Institute of Music thanks to, among others, Professor Juliusz Janotha (1819–1883), an outstanding pianist and teacher. Professor Władysław Żeleński (1837–1921)gave the following correct assessment of the student’s personality:

‘A young eagle, of a noble breed, proud, courageous, ambitious, a bit aggressive and self-willed but, most of all, independent […]. He had an innate sense of what is right, rebelling against the existing state of affairs if he considered it wrong.’

The great Polish pianist and pedagogue Theodor Leschetizky (1830–1915), Paderewski’s last professor in Vienna, said the following about his pupil for the Tygodnik Ilustrowany weekly in 1899:

‘Paderewski… Paderewski…, repeated Leschetizky several times, as if caressing himself with that word. ‘My pride and honour … He will be a brilliant artist until the end of his days, because he has the character, because he did not and would not think of any goals other than his work … He studied under my guidance for four years, two of which were devoted by him solely to five-finger exercises, until he finally achieved what we call technique … Nowadays he may not be playing for months and will still not lose his skill; his fingers will play by themselves … This is how my system works – to make finger muscles independent from elbow and forearm muscles. It is then that you achieve total freedom … 

And the style? After the technique we worked on developing the style […], on reconciling the individuality of the virtuoso with the intentions of the composer. The artist's individuality is a small nucleus contained within a large number of sheaths. The teacher may change the latter, but the nucleus should remain untouched. […] Paderewski is a model that demonstrates exactly how a teacher should instruct his pupil to ensure that everything that his heart may feel and his head may think gets to his fingers through tiny nerve and muscle threads.’

Paderewski achieved everything with hard work, setting high standards for himself expectations and, then, pursuing them mercilessly; he was also always an adamant guardian of the values that he believed in. This manifested itself in him as a virtuoso pianist, a Pole – fighting for his land’s independence, a composer and a teacher. Those traits of his character were noticed by everyone and it was them that drew people to him.

As a Bonner Zeitung critic wrote:

‘Paderewski has become one with the piano just like Chopin did before him. For him the piano is everything – the eye, the ear, the heart and the mouth; the world sings to him in piano tones, he lives the piano and uses it to interact with the world’

while a Kurier Warszawski reporter wrote:

‘For a whole hour the public was flocking to Paderewski’s third concert. In the vestibule downstairs the crowd was filling the staircase and the antechamber on the first floor was so packed with people that any movement towards the grand hall was hardly possible. It did not matter to anyone that other people were treading on his or her feet; even the ladies were not offended if anyone stepped on their train or got caught in their laces. Never mind the train or the laces – we are going to hear Paderewski!’

Edward Risler (1873–1929), a famous pianist and professor at the Consevatoire de Paris, described him briefly as ‘A poet of the piano, a moving performer, a dazzling wizard with a noble heart, great in war and peace.  Another piano master, Alfred Cortot (1877–1962), wrote the following in his letter to Paderewski:

Is it not to the marvellous charm of Chopin’s work that Poland owes its spiritual survival in human memory in the times of painful slavery? And is it not the inspired performer of his works that has been tasked with the mission of ensuring that his enslaved and martyred land becomes an independent state again? How wonderful and steeped in legend is the epic of a country that owes its liberation more to the lyre than to the sword! All of us who love and admire you are very happy to be able to honour you as a double hero – a hero of Art and of his Motherland!’

Paderewski was a virtuoso, but not in the colloquial, modern meaning of this word, i.e. a musician playing fast and loudly, but rather in the sense that it really expresses. The Latin ‘virtus’ means virtue, manhood, courage, strength and bravery, but also constancy. Those features were characteristic of him in all his activities. In this respect he was close to Chopin, with whom he shared similar views on art, the same love for music and the piano and the same strong uncompromising love for his Motherland!

Paderewski understood – better most people in the past and nowadays – these well-known truths when he said that ‘no country may be happy unless it is free and no country may be free unless it is strong’ and that ‘the cause of the nation is not an undertaking that one should abandon if it yields losses instead of profits. It is a continuous and regular effort, unwavering perseverance and uninterrupted devotion from  generation to generation. It can never stop and no penny should ever be spared on it.

In his portrait dedicated to Paderewski the great French composer Charles Gounod wrote only three, but very significant, words: ‘To my dear, great and noble Paderewski’.

On the 75th anniversary of the death of the Great Pole his compatriots honoured him with concerts and the 10th Ignacy Jan Paderewski  International Piano Competition was held on 6–20 November in Bydgoszcz.

 9780689112485-uk


Copies of this discerning biography of Paderewski by the masterful author Adam Zamoyski are available on this link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paderewski-Adam-Zamoyski/dp/B08FP9Z1J9/ref=sr_1_1?crid=26UG11ZT0PZ1C&keywords=paderewski+zamoyski&qid=1668953154&s=books&sprefix=paderewski+zamoyski%2Cstripbooks%2C89&sr=1-1

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Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872)

Print by Jean Baptiste Adolphe Lafosse (1810-1879); publlié par l'Editeur J.K. Wilczyński (1850)/ public domain; source: Biblioteka Narodowa

The year 2019 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872), the greatest operatic composer in nineteenth century Poland. There are musical celebrations throughout country and the resuscitation of his long forgotten works in performance. 

The seemingly impossible dream of the independence of the country as a sovereign nation and accession to the European Union means that at last what one might term the 'Cultural Iron Curtain' has been split apart to reveal formerly unknown artistic treasures of this valiant nation to the wider European continent. In no domain has this been more obvious than in music, but also in art, architecture, theatre and literature. The Polish language does present a difficult barrier in a way that English, French and Italian do not in the West. This remark does not assume a forest of undiscovered composers of genius, but certainly many of enormous talent and significant musical gifts to augment the European musical canon. 

The principal […] field of Mr Moniuszko’s activity as a compose is dramatic music; his favourite genre is French opera, created by Gluck, refined with Italian improvements by Méhul and Cherubini, later enriched with the treasures of harmony and drama of the German opera, disseminated so widely by Catel, Boiledieu, Auber, Hérold and Halévy, the sounds of the French opera are heard today from the stages everywhere across Europe. Indeed, music of this kind seems to be much more to our taste than the studied, dreamy-philosophical German style: we are so fond of this gaiety, this lightness that does not exclude the true drama, melodiousness, grace and naïveté—the ingredients of the good French opera.

[Stanisław Lachowicz, “Moniuszko,” Tygodnik Petersburski 13 (1842), No. 80. Quoted from Grzegorz Zieziula, From Bettly in French to Die Schweizerhütte in German: The Foreign-Language Operas of Stanisław Moniuszko]




Stanisław Moniuszko was born into a family of Polish landowners settled in Ubiel near Minsk in present day Belarus and showed the customary precociousness of genius. He studied composition and conducting with Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen in Berlin in 1837 and later worked as an organist in Vilnius. He traveled often to St. Petersburg where he met the great composers of the day  (Glinka, Balakirev, and Mussorgsky) and also Weimar where he met Liszt and then Prague where he made the acquaintance of Smetana. His first recently discovered (2015) comic opera in two acts composed in Berlin was entitled Der Schweizerhütte (the Swiss Cottage).

Moniuszko manor house in Ubiel, sketch by Napoleon Orda 

In 1848 he visited Warsaw and met the writer, actor and director Jan Chęciński who became the librettist of arguably Moniuszko’s greatest operas, Halka and  Straszny Dwór (The Haunted Manor), both infused with the fertile theme of Polish nationalism. Halka was premiered with great success in Warsaw in 1858 (10 years after the concert version performance in Vilnius!) and then later in Prague, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Moniuszko became an oversight success in the manner of Lord Byron after the publication of Childe Harold. He then began to concentrate on operas that eschewed Polish themes. 

For example Moniuszko for some time had been fascinated with the class system in France as also the caste system in India as depicted in the play Paria by Casimir Delavigne (1793-1843) which he had translated from the French. He also desperately wanted an operatic success on the stages of Paris, spurred on by the successful operas of Meyerbeer. He had toyed with the idea of Paria for some ten years before it was finally premiered in 1868. The Overture is a magnificent evocative piece of 19th century orchestral writing.



This exotic opera is set in the Indian city of Benares (now Varanasi) on the sacred Ganges, perhaps the most important religious city in India for ritual cleansing and bathing in the waters of the river and the construction of ceremonial burial pyres for the dead. It is the tragic story of an impossible love that cannot overcome the deeply entrenched caste system of Untouchables and Pariahs in India. 


The significance of the exotic and culturally mysterious plot seems to have been undervalued in Poland and elsewhere on the continent and the West since its premiere. This ornate tale would not have been considered minor and impossibly far-fetched in Great Britain under the hegemony of the British Raj. The cruelty and dramatic consequences of love struggling vainly against the caste system of Untouchables and Pariahs was well understood by the English as a result of colonialism and later even neo-colonialism in India. Many great works of English literary art continue to deal with this fertile subject. 

The English literary masterpiece, the novel A Passage to India (1924) by E.M. Forster, deals precisely with the idea of two characters who by their actions and behaviour become pariahs within their own societies in colonial India, one in the English colonial society and one in Indian caste-constructed society. 

The Court was crowded and of course very hot, and the first person Adela noticed in it was the humblest of all who were present, a person who had no bearing officially upon the trial: the man who pulled the punkah [a hand-operated large Indian ceiling fan]. 

Almost naked, and splendidly formed, he sat on a raised platform near the back, in the middle of the central gangway, and he caught her attention as she came in, and he seemed to control the proceedings. He had the strength and beauty that sometimes come to flower in Indians of low birth. When that strange race nears the dust and is condemned as Untouchable, then nature remembers the physical perfection that she accomplished elsewhere, and throws out a god—not many, but one here and there, to prove to society how little its [caste] categories impress her. This man would have been notable anywhere: among the thin-hammed, flat-chested mediocrities of Chandrapore he stood out as divine, yet he was of the city, its garbage had nourished him, he would end on its rubbish heaps. Pulling the rope towards him, relaxing it rhythmically, sending swirls of air over others, receiving none himself, he seemed apart from human destinies, a male fate, a winnower of souls.

The superb masterpiece The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott towers above the rest for a profound  understanding of British colonial India and the concept of the pariah. In 1984 the quartet was made into a magnificent television series called The Jewel in the Crown. If you want to understand the British in India this must be seen - such a series of this quality is no longer made.

Another more modern novel The God of Small Things (1997) by Arundhati Roy, which was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997, deals in part with the still savage exclusions of casteism among other social tensions in modern India. 

Until at least 1989, this 'iron cultural curtain' effectively concealed the existence of Stanisław Moniuszko and his operas for directors, producers and audiences in the West. However I feel sure that more imaginative, fully costumed, opulent staged production of his more obscure or forgotten operas (rather than concert performances) with fine soloists of world renown would at least partially fulfil and validate all of Moniuszko's own immense and deserved hopes for an international reputation. Italian arias dominate traditional opera and French arias follow closely behind which leaves those composers writing and setting libretti in less common languages with a distinct sense of inferiority. Moniuszko remains central to a full understanding of Polish culture which is finally reaching its deserved place in the European world picture. He wrote 14 Operas, 11 Operettas, some 90 religious works in addition to over 300 songs, piano pieces, orchestral music and chamber music. 

Perhaps now as a result of this fiercely competitive vocal competition (which is mounted every three years), this fine composer and his works will reach a wider more international audience.

I believe there is a true Renaissance in Polish music taking place at present as the country celebrates 19 years of European Union membership and a return to the European cultural fold. For me as a 'foreigner' it has been a revelation of fine music never before heard. Naturally, not all of them are 'undiscovered masterpieces', perhaps only a few, but many are musically extremely eloquent and deserve comparison with works in the conventional Western repertoire. We certainly need new fertilizing material in the repetitive concert fare.

In the West the Italian and French 19th century aria swept all before them but I am coming to understand musically the different style, timbre, harmonic world and melodic invention of the Polish sensibility, moulded as it is by military invasion, cultural destruction, genocide and political domination. The lamenting nature of death, loss, disinheritance, yearning and nostalgia is contained within so many arias and songs by Moniuszko and others. Carl Jung would have referred to this as the musical collective unconscious of the nation which is a challenge for the Western melomanes to absorb fully and understand creatively, let alone respond to emotionally, in any profoundly meaningful sense. 

Piano works by Stanisław Moniuszko and transcriptions of the composer's songs

Cyprien Katsaris (piano)



"I must say with all conviction that Moniuszko's music is a real sensation! The value, diversity and richness of his musical invention should absolutely ensure his international recognition. And although he has left very few piano pieces, the quality of each of these pieces - only miniatures - is a wonderful repair: these are the real jewels".

                                                                                                                                      Cyprien Katsaris                                       

This CD is an absolute charming example of the pianistic art and embracing charisma of the French-Cypriot pianist and composer Cyprien Katsaris - a particular musical 'soul' in an authentic sense. In addition to being a fine soloist, he is a performer with most of the world's greatest orchestras and conductors, records with major labels and is a valued jury member for prestigious competitions. 

He cultivates a rare intimacy seduces us with the salon charm of many of these rather minor but nonetheless beguiling salon works and song transcriptions for piano by Moniuszko. It is as if we are carried into another century of social refinement, taste and civilization. 

He recorded a CD of many of these works on the Chopin Institute label NIFCCD 113



Many of Moniuszko's renowned operas are now available on CD from the National Chopin Institute as part of the present Polish Musical Renaissance




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Another recent Moniuszko opera recording



This is a wonderful recording to create in the imaginative mind the cultural and musical ambiance of the Moniuszko period. A recording full of alluring and seductive charm


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On this day we must also recall that great international modern musical icon Krzysztof Penderecki 1933 - 2020. I wrote a detailed account of his last great retrospective festival if you wish to spare the time - many interesting photographs!


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The 100th Independence Day Gala Concert 11 November 2018 at the Wielki National Opera Theatre featured the Paderewski concerto in a fine performance by Garrick Ohlsson as the soloist with the Orchestra of the Wielki National Opera conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk. I found Ohlsson's treatment of the supremely beautiful melody of the Romanza. Andante  particularly poetic and emotionally sensitive. 




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On 9 November 2018 at the Chopin Museum in Warsaw I attended the launch of a fascinating and highly intelligent book published by the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute  entitled Pianist: Conversations with Garrick Ohlsson. 

It is a significant production of 350 pages covering many aspects of piano playing and reflections on the interpretation and cultural significance of the music of Chopin. The interviews were carried out by the personally engaging Dr. Kamila Stępień-Kutera, Head of the Research and Publishing Department at the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute. 

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