Janusz Olejniczak is a pianist, pedagogue and occasionally an actor. He was born on October 2nd 1952 in Wrocław, and won the Fryderyk Chopin International Competition in Warsaw (1970) and A. Caselii Competition in Naples (1974). He has previously been a member of the jury of the Chopin Competition.
He began piano lessons in Łódź and continued in Warsaw under Luiza Walewska, Ryszard Bakst and Zbigniew Drzewiecki. During that time he began touring across the country and abroad, including at MIDEM in Cannes. In 1970 he became the youngest prize-winning participant of the Chopin competition. In 1972 he won a prize in the Alfredo Caselli piano competition in Naples. In 1971–73 he studied in Paris with Konstanty Schameling and Witold Malcuzynski. After returning home he finished the Musical Academy in Warsaw where he studied under Barbara Hesse-Bukowska and later continued under Wiktor Mierżanow.
Olejniczak has given concerts all over Europe, as well as in Japan, Australia, Cuba, and the USA. He has performed under the baton of such remarkable conductors as Witold Rowicki, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Charles Dutoit, Jacek Kaspszyk, Wojciech Michniewski, Kazimierz Kord, Grzegorz Nowak, Marek Pijarowski, Andrzej Markowski and Mark Mosia. He has played at such renowned venues as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Tonhalle in Düsseldorf, the Salle Pleyel in Paris, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Teatro Collone in Buenos Aires, the Santhory Hall in Tokyo and the Lincoln Center in Washington. He has also participated in festivals in Aix-en-Provence and Montreal. In 1997, he gave the world’s first performance of Giya Kancheli’s Valse Boston for piano and orchestra. He also gives concerts on an Érard piano dating from 1849, alongside the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and Frans Brüggen. He has also played as a chamber musician with violinists, cellists and singers.
Olejniczak has made many recordings for radio and television stations in Poland, France, Slovakia and Japan. For record labels (Polskie Nagrania ‘Muza’, Wifon, Selene, Tonpress, Camerata, Pony Canyon, Opus 111, CD Accord, Sony Classical, BeArTon), he has recorded works by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, Fryderyk Chopin, Franz Schubert, Sergei Prokofiev, Wojciech Kilar, Mikołaj Górecki. His albums have won numerous awards, including four Fryderyk awards from the Polish phonographic industry, and the Album of the Year Award in 1995 from the magazine Studio (for Chopin concertos with the Sinfonia Varsovia under Grzegorz Nowak).
He performed in Andrzej Żuławski’s film about Chopin entitled La note bleu as the title character. He also recorded the soundtrack to Jerzy Antczak’s film Chopin: A Desire for Love and Roman Polanski’s film The Pianist.
Olejniczak has taught classes at the Academy of Music in Kraków, and held master classes in Poland, Canada, Columbia, Japan, China and the United States as well as classes at the Mozart Academy. He has sat on the juries of both Polish and international piano competitions. In recognition of his outstanding musical achievements Olejniczak has received the Officer’s Cross of the Polonia Restituta (2000) and the Gloria Artis Gold Medal (2005).
Chopin’s music requires particularly sensitive performers. Any pianist can play it, but only under a true artist's fingers will it reveal all its beauty. You have to know how to find it in the musical notes but also in between them, as the richness of his music is not only found in the notes. Janusz Olejniczak is an exceptionally sensitive artist, he feels every note and all that is between them. He became famous after winning the 8th edition of the Chopin Competition in 1970 and he is a well-known interpreter of Chopin’s music till this day in Poland, although he has an extensive repertoire apart from that.
Olejniczak feels connected to Chopin, he laughs that he is friends with Chopin’s ghost. He started with taking part in the Chopin Competition. It is a well-known fact that it is very hard for a Polish pianist to be recognized without taking part in the competition. So he did, and to his surprise he won it and became famous thanks to Chopin. Fortunately enough, he always liked Chopin’s music and didn’t feel forced to play it. Previously he would have to play Chopin at all of his concerts. He was known abroad as a pianist from Poland who won the Chopin Competition. Now that he can choose the repertoire by himself he still often chooses Chopin
Author: Małgorzata Kosińska, the Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers Union December 2001, update: November 2009, Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska, September 2015
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