Polish Women Behind the Piano
default, Polish Women Behind the Piano, Warsaw, 1980, 10th International Piano Competition Fryderyk Chopin, playing: Ewa Pobłocka, 5th prize winner of the Chopin Competition, Poland's repres, poblocka_ewa2_pap.jpg
Let’s meet some of Poland’s women composers and pianists, from the 18th century to the present day – and get to know their contributions to the herstory of Polish music.
The surnames of our female composers should be indexed on rose petals so that they may be easily kept track of and so that none of their pieces go ignored – because a maiden for whom it is easy to forget to draw heads on notes must work 10 times more diligently on the rules of composition than those of us who are on our way to immortality.
This is how the German composer Robert Schumann wrote about women’s contributions to classical music. While it may sound caring, it is actually unbearably patronising. The author of many famous symphonies was himself not the best example. He married his wife Clara Wieck when she was just 14 years old – at the beginning of their relationship, he helped her to develop her composing and piano skills, and the two even played concerts together. But over the years, Schumann became more and more bitter; he referred to the work of the mother of his eight children as ‘Frauenzimmerarbeit’ – meaning ‘women’s work’ but in a rather derogatory tone. The overworked Clara had no chance to prove otherwise to her husband.
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Clara Schumann is one of the many pianists and composers whose works and activities we are unaware of because of their famous relatives. We should also mention the talented Maria Anna Mozart, the younger sister of Wolfgang Amadeus, and Anna Magdalena Bach, the mother of Johann Sebastian’s 13 children, who helped him compose some of his pieces. Compositions written by Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix’s older sister, were for years attributed to her brother.
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In his letters, Goethe called her ‘the ravishing Almighty of the sound world’. He dedicated the poem Reconciliation to her. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna gave her a pearl necklace and a belt buckle richly decorated with emeralds and diamonds. Fryderyk Chopin attended her concerts; she played for monarchs planning a new European order during the Congress of Vienna. Tsar Alexander I awarded Maria Szymanowska (1789-1831) the title of the First Pianist of Their Highnesses the Tsarinas Elizabeth Alexandrovna and Maria Fiedorovna, which sealed her fame and opened the doors to the most prestigious concert halls. She composed numerous vocal as well as piano pieces without ever having had taken composition lessons. However, her great acclaim stemmed from being an outstanding performer – she was one of the first professional pianists in Europe.
Szymanowa was born into an assimilated Frankist family. She improvised on the clavichord and spinette – precursors of the modern piano – before even learning the basics of music. Her father was a brewer and her parents ran a drinking room frequented by the elites of Europe of that time, headed by the conspiratorial Polish intelligentsia. You could also find people from the world of music there, who probably left the biggest impact on Marianna Wołowska (her maiden name). In her childhood, she met not only Józef Elsner, Karol Kurpiński and Franciszek Lessel, but also the court composer of Napoleon I, Ferdinando Paër, and Mozart of Lemberg, i.e. Franz Xaver, the son of the great Wolfgang Amadeus.
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She delighted regulars at Warsaw salons with her playing, and in 1810, she even went to Paris for a moment. In the Empire’s capital, Luigi Cherubini himself admired her. Today, our remembrance of him is scanty, but it is worth remembering him because of Beethoven, who regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries. After returning to Warsaw, Wołowska was married to Józef Szymanowski. She gave private concerts and achieved her first compositional successes (her songs were included in Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz’s famous collection Historical Songs, and her études and piano preludes were praised by the aforementioned Schumann).
Szymanowska’s real career began only after her divorce, which was an extremely unusual event in the 19th century. She toured many concert halls of the Russian Empire: Vilnius, St Petersburg, Moscow, Riga, Lviv, Kyiv – here, she played with Karol Lipiński, known as the ‘Polish Paganini’. She performed in Carlsbad (modern day Karlovy Vary) and Marienbad (modern day Mariánské Lázně), where she met Goethe. Finally, she left for Paris (she gave concerts at the Paris Conservatory, but also at the Louvre), London and Amsterdam.
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Madam Szymanowska has managed to refine the nature of her instrument by bringing it closer to the tone of the violin [...] Chords, vocals and single tones are harmoniously combined in her playing [...] Charming simplicity and a high degree of intelligibility in the style of her playing, also [...] avoiding fancy or forced tricks spoiling the serious course of harmonious enunciation.
Goethe put it in other words:
Music already on its white angel wings
Unites a million tones into an agreeable whole,
Permeates a human being totally,
To pervade it with this eternal beauty;
In slightly wet eyes it appears as a picture
This divine value of sounds and tears together.
She died at the age of 42 – a victim of the cholera epidemic that was raging in St Petersburg, where she spent the last years of her life. Franz Schubert lived only 31 years. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived to age of 35. Fryderyk Chopin passed away at the age of 39. And Robert Schumann died during his 46th spring. The questions remains – what could Maria Szymanowska have achieved if she had been provided with the same conditions from her childhood that were enjoyed by the above-mentioned composers?
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The author of the most popular Polish piano composition (not counting Chopin’s pieces, of course) was not as lucky as Maria Szymanowska. Everything indicates that Tekla Bądarzewska (1829-1861) was an amateur – she never had any musical education. In an article entitled ‘Tekla Bądarzewska: An Artist Resurrected’ for Meakultura, Paulina Olko wrote:
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In Poland, space for female composers was limited due to the political situation, but even here, interest in music was increasing visibly as well. This is evidenced by the press of the time, such as Dziennik Domowy (Home Journal) or Noworocznik (Kalendarz) Ilustrowany dla Polek (Polish Women’s Illustrated Calendar) – in which, from 1864, a series of articles under the title ‘A Course in Higher Education for Women’ was published, including, inter alia, musical aesthetics. At that time, it was already postulated to replace foreign pieces played at home with Polish ones.
Bądarzewska’s oeuvre consists of piano miniatures: mazurkas, waltzes, ballads, and rêveries. She began composing as a little girl; her first surviving work dates back to 1843, when she was just 14 years old. She distributed the scores of her works herself, mainly to local bookstores. The composer also strengthened her position by leaving her works in salons. The eccentric La Païva – a diamond collector and patron of architecture, who ran an art salon that Richard Wagner and Theophile Gautier visited – became intrigued with her, amongst others. It was thanks to her that A Maiden’s Prayer, written in 1851, was published in the Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris (Musical News and Review of Paris), and was later reprinted over 500 times on five continents. At the end of the 19th century, the Lviv historian Mieczysław Opałek recalled:
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You felt nausea right away when, through the open windows of the front of a building and outbuildings, from the ground floor and actually from all the floors, fragments of music spilled out in tones drummed in some hysterical, impatient rhythm – which, if Bądarzewska were to perform them, would certainly sound completely different.
Criticism of the – very simple (but is simplicity bad?) – works of Bądarzewska was indeed grating. A Maiden’s Prayer appears in Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Irina especially disliked her) and in Brecht’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (‘That is the Eternal Art!’ shouts one of the guests at the bar when the pianist begins to perform the composer’s piece). Będarzewska has been almost completely forgotten in Poland, although pianists all over the world return to her miniatures, and she is particularly popular in Japan.
Bądarzewska is slowly making a comeback. A crater on Venus was named in her honour, and a garden square dedicated to her was opened in the Muranów District of Warsaw, near Nowolipki, where she lived with her family. In 2012, Maria Pomianowska released the album Tekla Bądarzewska: Forgotten Sound, on which Bądarzewska’s compositions are arranged for instruments from the European and Oriental tradition: from flutes, cellos, piano, saxophones and harmonica to the Indian sarangi and Biłgoraj suka. Anna Zaradny refers to Bądarzewska in the exhibition Rondo Denoting Circle, presented in 2016 at the Sacrum Profanum Festival. She said:
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A character who in her life struggled with underestimation, and even merciless criticism. Composing in 19th-century Europe was perceived as a typically male profession. Critics approached female composers with leniency, describing their works as ‘too feminine’. This pejorative term implied features such as excessive delicacy, naivety, lack of inner strength or creativity. Pretty bizarre, isn’t it?
A composer and pianist, but also – a mountaineer of the Tatra mountains. She was the first Polish woman to reach the highest Tatra peak, Gerlach (which was previously conquered by two women from Vienna). Natalia Janotha (1856-1932) not only paved mountain trails for women, but she also did it in pants – a bold move for women in those times. She also wrote a series of piano pieces that echo Podhale music (Tatras, Impressions from Zakopane, Morskie Oko, Sabała and Gerlach). Unfortunately, most of her rich oeuvre has been lost, though she wrote around 400 songs and pieces for piano.
Her first teacher was her father, Juliusz Janotha; she was later educated in Berlin by Ernst Rudorff and Woldemar Bargiel. Janotha was also one of the few pianists who had the opportunity to take lessons from Johannes Brahms. She gained great fame, giving concerts all over Europe. People compared her to Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who, moreover, dedicated several pieces to her. In 1885, she became the official pianist of the Berlin Imperial Court. She lived in London for many years – her work was thoroughly enjoyed in Great Britain – and from 1916, she lived in The Hague.
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One of the most celebrated Polish pianists of the pre-war period, Zofia Rabcewicz (1870-1947) studied at the Conservatory of the Imperial Musical Society in St Petersburg – first with Iosif Borowski, then with Anton Rubinstein. In 1891, she began giving concerts all over Europe, being especially popular in Russia, Germany and Austria. Throughout World War I, she played charity concerts for Polish families. She settled in Warsaw in 1918, where she regularly performed Chopin recitals and also taught piano at the Warsaw Conservatory.
Her repertoire included almost all the works of Chopin and Schumann, most of Beethoven’s sonatas as well as compositions by Couperin, Rameau, Scarlatti, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Liszt, Brahms, Franck, Lyadov, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, d’Albert, Clementi, Field, et al. She propagated the works of Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Stanisław Moniuszko, Aleksander Zarzycki, Zygmunt Noskowski, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Franciszek Brzeziński, Henryk Melcer, Karol Szymanowski, Ludomir Różycki, and Juliusz Zarębski. Zbigniew Drzewiecki, one of the initiators of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, wrote:
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I properly understood the greatness of her art in the last period of her life [...] she played, among others, the immortal ‘Sonata in B-flat minor’. She played it flawlessly. Besides, it seemed that there was nothing extraordinary about her interpretation. But it was precisely this simplicity of depiction that contained everything – the perfect harmony of Chopin’s beauty.
Rabcewicz was a juror of the Chopin Piano Competition in 1927, 1932 and 1937. She spent the war years in Warsaw and played over 60 underground concerts. With her performance, she inaugurated the first Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój, in 1946.
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Wanda Landowska, Polish harpsichordist, pianist, composer, one of the most famous harpsichordists in the world, pictured at Chopin's piano, photo: reproduction by Marek Skorupski / FORUM
In March of 1940, she recorded a series of Scarlatti sonatas at the Studio Albert in Paris. It was then that German bombs began to fall on Paris – you can even hear them on the recording – but Wanda Landowska (1879-1959) kept on playing. She was one of the most significant activists of historical performance, striving for the most authentic sound of early music: a utopian attempt to perform Bach’s music in the way it was played centuries ago, giving up the rich sound of contemporary pianos.
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Landowska’s first public harpsichord concert was held in 1903. She played instruments that Pleyel engineers constructed according to her exact instructions. Landowska supported her concert activities by writing press articles about the role of the harpsichord in the performance of early music, and she was helped by French musicologists (including Charles Bordes, Vincent d’Indy, and Albert Schweitzer) and her husband, the ethnographer Henryk Lew. Together with him, she wrote the book Musique Ancienne (Ancient Music, 1909), a breakthrough for historical performance. Lew’s tragic death from a car accident in 1919 meant that Landowska devoted herself solely to music until the end of her life.
Between 1925 and 1940, she ran an academy for early music – L’École de Musique Ancienne (The School of Ancient Music) in Saint-Leu-la-Forêt, near Paris. There, she created a collection of historical instruments and a large library devoted to early music. There was a concert hall in a nearby garden, designed in accordance with Landowska’s indications; the inhabitants of Paris called her property ‘la Temple de la Musique’ (the Temple of Music). In 1934, for the first time in history, she implemented a complete performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations. She discovered the pearls of baroque music (Scarlatti, Couperin, Rameau, Handel), but early Polish music also played a pivotal role in her repertoire. Wanda Landowska reminded contemporary composers of the existence of the harpsichord: Manuel de Falla dedicated his Concerto for Harpsichord and Nine Instruments to her, while Francis Poulenc wrote Concert Champêtre (Country Concert) for her.
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Zbigniew Drzewiecki recalled about his pupil:
Her capacity for effortlessly learning new styles, speed of memorisation, finger independence, grips and chord jumps were all marvellous. Her hands were actually small, and it seemed incomprehensible how she could cope with all of the demanding difficulties.
Róża Etkin (1908-1945) made her debut at the age of 12, performing – with full bravura – the Paganini Étude in E-Flat Major by Franz Liszt and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. Four years later, with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Grzegorz Fitelberg, she performed the Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 by Rachmaninoff.
In January of 1927, Etkin took part in the 1st Chopin Competition. She won third place, making her the youngest winner. A few months later, she made her debut in Berlin, where she studied under Moritz Mayer-Mahr. The influential musicologist and critic Dr Hugo Leichtentritt wrote:
Róża Etkin’s first concert made an extraordinary impression. The young artist distinguishes herself with the highest attributes of a pianist: brilliant virtuosity, gripping temperament and exceptionally subtle musical organisation. She played Chopin with great expressiveness, but likewise, turned out to be an equally great interpreter of new music (Ravel, Skriabin, Szymanowski).
In Berlin, the pianist met Ryszard Moszkowski, an architect and sculptor, whom she married shortly after. Etkin-Moszkowska had a broad repertoire, which included, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, and Brahms, but she did not shy away from pieces by modern composers – Ravel, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Szymanowski or Kaper. She survived World War II in Warsaw but was forced to seek shelter among various Polish friends due to her Jewish heritage. After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, she and her husband hid in one of the abandoned bunkers in Żoliborz. Their hideout was discovered by the Germans in January 1945 – and tragically, they were murdered, just a few days before the Red Army entered the city.
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She was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatory in record time at only 11 years old. Maryla Jonas (1911-1959) was the youngest participant in the 1st Chopin Competition, but she didn’t place. Before the 2nd Chopin Competition in 1932, she went for artistic consultations with Ignacy Jan Paderewski in Morges and with Emil Sauer in Vienna, and this time, she came in at 13th place. She tried her strength at European music competitions (including the Eugène Ysaÿe International Music Competition in Brussels and the International Competition in Vienna), and she regularly performed Chopin concerts broadcast by the Polish Radio.
In 1939, Jonas was arrested by the Gestapo. After seven months in detention, she was released thanks to the intercession of a German officer who once heard her at a concert. He advised her to go to the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin, where false documents could be obtained. (Brazil was a neutral country during World War II, but it issued false papers to refugees who wanted to flee Europe.) She set off on foot for the journey to Berlin from Warsaw, which completely ruined her health. She travelled to South America as the wife of the son of a Brazilian ambassador. Afterward, the pianist was in a state of complete mental and physical exhaustion and had to seek treatment in sanatoriums, only to experience another trauma after a few months – she learned that nearly her entire family had died in the bombing of Warsaw (husband, parents, and brother). There, in Rio de Janeiro, she was helped by her sister who had lived in Brazil since 1938, due to her decision to leave Europe after the Anschluss of Austria by Hitler.
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Jonas’s chance meeting with Arthur Rubinstein – who was touring South America at the time – and his intervention pulled her out of her depression. He told her that the best treatment would be for her to return to the stage. He would invite her to his rehearsals – Jonas didn’t feel like going, but Rubinstein didn’t give up. After listening to a few songs, the artist from Łódź asked her to play something, because he was not sure of the acoustic quality of the Theatro Municipal. Stepping up to the piano keyboard was the last thing Jonas wanted to do, but Rubinstein persisted. The truth was, he had performed at Theatro Municipal many times and did not need to check anything. At the drop of a hat, the pianist played several pieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, and Paderewski. She played for a long time, and the audience began to gather in the hall; Rubinstein listened until the end, meaning that he didn’t even have time to eat before his own performance.
And so Jonas decided to start her career anew. She practiced by playing for small audiences, which allowed her to save enough money to rent a spot at Carnegie Hall. She was unable to sleep for three nights before her debut performance in New York; in addition, she also performed with a serious tooth infection. On 25th February 1946, Carnegie Hall was almost empty, with only a few random music lovers and critics. In the audience, however, was Jerome D. Bohm, a reviewer for The Herald Tribune, who admired Jonas’s performance and hailed her as ‘the greatest pianist since Teresa Carreño’.
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The day after her debut concert, Jonas received information about the death of another brother. Six weeks later, Jonas’s recital at Carnegie Hall was overflowing. On 10th October 1946, the pianist performed with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Artur Rodziński. Each year, an increasing number of cities in the United States sought to host the exceptional artist. She made several records for RCA and Columbia Records; in 2017, Sony Classical released remastered recordings of all the pianist’s pieces, which allow us to trace the growing maturity and precision of her interpretations. She died at the age of 48. Jonas disliked talking to journalists about her wartime experiences.
Halina Czerny-Stefańska won first place in the 4th Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1949 (ex aequo with Bella Davidovich representing the USSR), i.e. the first post-war Competition. Years later, it turned out that awarding Davidovich the first prize was a political act – Halina Czerny-Stefańska (1922–2001) had been rated higher by the jurors. The pianist began her career as a brilliant child; at the age of 12, she won the Alfred Cortot scholarship, thanks to which she was able to study in Paris.
Czerny-Stefańska performed all over the world. She went on a great number of international tournées as a soloist of the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, the New York Philharmonic, the ‘Mozarteum’ Orchestra in Salzburg, and others. She made numerous recordings of Chopin’s compositions for the following companies: Supraphon, Deutsche Grammophon, Polskie Nagrania, Erato, RCA, Pony Canyon, and Selene. The quality of her piano performances is well-demonstrated by a major misunderstanding with the recording of Fryderyk Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. For a long time, the EMI LP from The Art of Dinu Lipatti series was very popular amongst collectors, with a recording of the E-Minor Concerto played by – as it was believed – the famous Romanian pianist in 1948. After many years, it turned out to be the recording of Halina Czerny-Stefańska, which was released by mistake on the disc of the world’s leading record company as a recording by Dinu Lipatti! To this day, there are collectors who, without knowing it, are looking for a recording of Chopin’s Concerto in E Minor from the EMI series The Art of Dinu Lipatti performed by Dinu Lipatti…
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In the 1980s, Czerny-Stefańska fame faded, not because of failed artistic choices, but because of political activities. She was a member of the Presidium of the National Committee of the Front of National Unity, and later, she became a member of the National Council of the Patriotic Movement for National Rebirth. Her concerts in the 1980s were booed.
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Elżbieta Chojnacka during the harpsichord part to Ewa Wycichowska's ballet ‘+ - Skonczoność’ (+ - Finality), June 1998, photo: PAP / CAF / Remigiusz Sikora
Wanda Landowska reminded the world of the harpsichord. Elżbieta Chojnacka (1939–2017) showed that contemporary music could be performed on it. It all started a bit by accident. She said:
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During my studies in the piano class of the Higher State School of Music in Warsaw, I was persuaded to take part in a chamber-music competition by playing the harpsichord. I knew nothing about the harpsichord, but I was persuaded by the idea that if I can play a classical piano repertoire well, then there should be no problem playing the harpsichord, since for both, you play the keyboard. It was also not an issue for the jurors – our trio won first place. It was a triumph of cynicism: I played knowing that I did not understand this instrument. But it interested me. However, I do not know if this curiosity would have progressed if I had not met the admirable harpsichordist Aimée van de Wiele after coming to study in Paris. She was Wanda Landowska’s favourite student, and she was able to convey what she learned from her very well. Under her fingers, this non-expressive instrument opened to me all its richness. It turned out to be dramatic, lyrical, full of temperament, dynamic possibilities, and songfulness. And so, I was hooked.
Chojnacka’s career began in 1968, when she won the famous Viotti International Competition in Vercelli in the harpsichord category. Later, Iannis Xenais, Luc Ferrari, Paweł Szymański, Hanna Kulenty, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Jean-Claude Risset, Krzysztof Penderecki and Sofia Gubajdulina wrote for her. She liked to experiment with electronic music by amplifying her harpsichord, which then no longer resembled the delicate instrument from Bach’s times.
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She was an exceptionally characteristic performer; the show began immediately after she walked onto the stage: ‘Like a lioness hunting, she threw herself at the harpsichord’, recalled Elżbieta Sikora. A mandatory point of each concert was the vigorous scattering of the score’s pages. Her student, Gośka Isphording, claims that the aesthetic flipping of pages associated with an accurate reading of the score was not in her style: ‘She never entered the audiovisual trend, because she did not want to share the stage with a picture or a film. All the attention was to be focused solely on her’.
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Ewa Pobłocka in her apartment, Gdańsk, 1980, photo: Jerzy Pękalski / PAP
She is a laureate of many piano competitions, including First Prize at the Gian Battista Viotti International Music Competition in Vercelli (1977), the Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of Fryderyk Chopin’s mazurkas, as well as Fifth Prize both at the 10th Chopin Competition in 1980 (later she became one of the jurors of the Competition). Ewa Pobłocka has performed in almost all of Europe and on all continents.
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Chopin’s compositions made her famous; however, she has an equally strong bond with contemporary composers. She played the first Polish performance of Andrzej Panufnik's Piano Concertos and recorded Witold Lutosławski’s Piano Concertos (conducted by the composer himself). At the 1955 ‘Présences’ Festival in Paris, she premiered Paweł Szymański’s Piano Concerto dedicated to her, commissioned by the French Radio.
She isn’t very fond of the ‘lavish concert life’ or extravagant events. Instead, she prefers modest, intimate concerts in which she is able to feel a direct connection with the audience, such as:
The Bach recital on Good Friday, at the Ethnographic Museum in Pruszków, when I asked the audience not to clap. There was only Bach, and with the last chord, the lights went out. I wanted everyone to leave the concert with only music in their souls. The concert in Uzhgorod (Ukraine) – in a beautiful synagogue transformed into a cinema hall, with wonderful acoustics, where I started the recital in the middle of the hall, and as I played, more and more people started to arrive (thanks to people spreading news of the event through their mobile phones). Afterwards, the audience gave me an authentic ovation for my interpretations of Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Panufnik. The chamber music concerts with Dang Thai Son – when music was the only thing that mattered. The attire was irrelevant and so was the piano stool. All that mattered was merging with sound…. And to play Mozart like Mozart, Chopin like Chopin, and Schubert like Schubert.
A pianist specialisng in classical contemporary music, she performs solo, with an orchestra, as well as in chamber ensembles. She collaborates with the German singer Frank Wörner and with the Ensembles Garage and LUX: NM. She has also performed as a guest artist with Ensemble Linea, Ensemble Adapter, and Ensemble Proton. Małgorzata Walentynowicz has premiered several dozen pieces in her career (from Zygmunt Krauze through Brigitta Muntendorf to Jagoda Szmytka). On stage, she often leaves the safe role of a pianist to become a performer, implementing activities that reach beyond music.
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In an interview carried out in 2010 by Monika Pasiecznik for the biweekly Ruch Muzyczny (Musical Motion), Małgorzata Walentynowicz explained:
I discovered contemporary compositions during my studies in Hanover. I was very careful in the beginning; I started with György Ligeti’s étude ‘Arc-en-ciel’ [Rainbow], which I prepared for the Stefan Seiler International Piano Competition in Kitzingen in 2003. Several months later, I met the conductor Walter Nußbaum, who led a contemporary music ensemble. I prepared with him Morton Feldman’s ‘Words and Music’ to Samuel Beckett’s lyrics, for 9 instruments and 2 declaimers – an astonishing piece. From that moment on, I have been choosing more and more contemporary pieces and have been gradually walking away from my classical repertoire. After four years, I decided to study contemporary music interpretation in Stuttgart.
A music theorist and choral conductor by education, she teaches at the Gdańsk Academy of Music. Most notably, she is also the carillonist of Gdańsk, actively popularising the instrument in which the keyboard brings several dozen bells to life. Monika Kaźmierczak began learning to play the carillon in 2000 during courses with Gert Oldenbeuving, organised by the Historical Museum of the City of Gdańsk. She has been the city carillonneur since 2001.
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Kaźmierczak is also active as a programmer of many events dedicated to carillon music in Gdańsk, ensuring that the city’s residents can listen to the widest possible selection of music played on bells: from early music to popular music, to contemporary music, written by young composers upon private request. The carillon is an instrument popular with women in Poland; another Polish carillonist is Małgorzata Fiebig. Since 2011, Fiebig has been the Utrecht carillonist – not only as the first foreigner, but also as the first woman.
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Originally written in Polish by Filip Lech, translated by Agnes Dudek, Oct 2020