Thursday, March 9, 2017

Homage to Alexander Tansman Conference in Wroclaw, Poland (Vol. 8, No. 4)

On March 13-14, 2017, International conference Homage to Aleksander Tansman (1897-1986) will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The conference will take place at the Karol Lipinski Academy of Music in Wroclaw, Poland and will gather an international array of scholars from Poland, France, and the U.S.  The poster and program of the conference are reproduced below. Tansman was one of the most prolific and fascinating composers of mazurkas, and other piano genres developed by Chopin. In fact, he even wrote a Homage a Chopin! So it is fitting to post this information here....

Music on YouTube: Rhapsoide hebraique for piano
Music on YouTube: Le tour de monde en miniature (first part, Malicki)


Tansman Society in Poland - Festivals and Competition of Musical Personalities

Les Amis d' Alexandre Tansman, Paris


Aleksander (or Alexandre) Tansman (b. Łódz, 1897; d. Paris, 1986) was a composer, conductor, and pianist. He studied at the Lodz Conservatory (with Piotr Rytel) and took courses in law and philosophy at Warsaw University. In 1919 he settled in Paris where he met the leading artists of his time, including Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, and others. As a pianist he toured Europe, Canada, and the Middle East with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky. His music was performed by the most famous soloists and ensembles of his time; his champions included conductors Stokowski and Toscanini. 

During this stage of his life, Tansman frequently described himself as "un compositeur polonais" but spoke French at home with his French wife - a talented pianist, Colette Cras - and two daughters (Tansman's first wife, also French, died early in their marriage). Returning to Warsaw was not an issue because of marriage and career requirements. Tansman was a world-famous virtuoso who frequently performed with the greatest orchestras and conductors, mostly based in France. 

The political situation in Poland was also a factor. In the 1930s a growing wave of anti-semitism swept through Poland; after World War II, the policies of the communist regime included provocations and mass persecutions (1946, 1968) coupled with purposeful eradication of the remnants of Jewish culture. In both periods, Poland was not a country that an established Jewish composer from France would want to return to. While living in France, Tansman did not seek out the Polish community for cultural companionship; instead, he enjoyed being a member of Europe's cultural elite, the international musical establishment. Since his arrival in Paris he was a protégé of Maurice Ravel, and a socialite, on friendly terms with the whole artistic world. 

Music on YouTube: Sonatine transatlantique (piano), foxtrot
Sonatine transatlantique (piano, Daniel Blumenthal) foxtrot
 Sonatine transatlantique (piano, Daniel Blumenthal), spiritual and blues.
Sonatine transatlantique, charleston (Daniel Blumenthal)
Music on YouTube: Symfonie Concertante (Symphony No. 3, 1931)

Tansman survived the war in the United States. After Hitler's army attacked France and the Vichy government began deporting Jews, Tansman's French wife protected him while they awaited for an American visa, granted thanks to incredible efforts of Tansman's American friends, Charlie Chaplin, Serge Koussevitzky, Arturo Toscanini, Jasha Heifetz, and many others. 

What was his reaction to his new country? He remained an outsider at heart, observing the follies and vagaries of his host nation at a distance and with a slight dislike, much like Bela Bartók. Their comments about how ridiculous the American ways were, are somewhat similar in tone - with an echo of a European feeling of superiority, and a contempt for the brazen and uncultured money-making business people. Yet, Tansman thoroughly enjoyed his life in Hollywood, which he described as an ideal community of artists, a kind of a "contemporary Weimar" (in an interview translated by Jill Timmons and Sylvain Fremaux and published online in Polish Music Journal, vol. 1 no. 1, Summer 1998).

Music on YouTube: Piano Sonata No. 4 (dedicated to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, 1941)
Recorded by Etcetera, excerpts:
1. Allegro deciso (Daniel Blumenthal)
2. Andante sostenuto (Daniel Blumenthal)
3. Adagio lamentoso (Daniel Blumenthal)

The decision to go home to France may have been ill-fated for Tansman's career. The post-war years are marked by a growing artistic isolation of this self-proclaimed Polish composer, who distrusted avant-garde trends and remained faithful to the aesthetics of neoclassicism. Nationalism and avant-garde triumphs in France coupled with a cultural isolationism in Poland, where - as an emigrant who remained in the West - he was not performed and not well known for years, caused a gradual disappearance of Tansman's music from the spotlight.

Yet, he continued to compose music of increasing artistic merit and historical significance (opera Serment; oratorio Isaiah, The Prophet, Hommage a Chopin, symphonies, concertos, etc.). The need to reaffirm personal roots, which were earlier overshadowed by an allegiance to Polish culture and the cosmopolitan music world, resulted also in the creation of what Tansman considered one of his best works, the opera Sabbatai Zevi, le faux Messie (1958). 

While returning to his Jewish heritage, Tansman continued seeing himself as a Polish composer, keenly interested in the matters of his home country ["kraj rodzinny" in his letters]. Stylized versions of Polish dances, especially the mazurka, were a staple in his compositional repertoire; in 1980, for instance, he wrote a Mazurka for Lech Walesa. 

Since 1996, an organization dedicated solely to furthering his cause and promoting his music emerged under the leadership of Andrzej Wendland. The Fundacja Kultury im. A. Tansmana organizes the Tansman Performance Competitions, Tansman Festivals, and other events associated with the composer. 

Music on YouTube: Hommage a Chopin (guitar)


Tansman repeatedly expressed the conviction that his music is rooted in Polish culture, and he included Polish dances, rhythms, and topics in many pieces (e.g. cycles of Mazurkas, the Polish Rhapsody, works inspired by and dedicated to Chopin). Throughout his career, Tansman expressed his Polishness in music by composing more mazurkas, polonaises and obereks than almost any other composer after Chopin. His music created a new link in the history of this genre (studied by Barbara Milewski in the U.S. and Anna Nowak in Poland).

An example of his folk-music settings may be provided by Quatre danses polonaises of 1931. The orchestral version of this work was first conducted in the U.S. by Arturo Toscanini. The last segment of the cycle could be said to epitomize Tansman as a Polish neoclassical composer: in this arrangement of the "oberek" the main theme is presented in a fugato, while the drones, harmonies, and melodies continue to mirror features of Polish folklore. Some of his piano pieces are very virtuosic (e.g. Etude-Scherzo) other works border on the entertaining and vacuous salon music (e.g. Le tour de monde en miniature cycle of miniatures).

The composer cherished his Jewish heritage, expressing it in many works written throughout his career, e.g., the Hebrew Rhapsody (1938), oratorio Isaiah The Prophet (1950), Apostrophe to Sion (1978), and other pieces. In 1933, he composed a Hebrew Rhapsody (in two versions, with the piano one dedicated to the composer's mother). This work was inspired by ancient melodies from Yemen, and began as an arrangement of these songs that so delighted the composer. After the war the composer worked on a monumental oratorio, Isaiah, The Prophet (for voices, mixed choir , and orchestra, 1950). There is much to be admired in this stark and complex work, cantorial singing style interspersed with sombre choral fugues and dramatic orchestral interludes. It is a compelling piece that badly needs a new recording.

One of the instruments that he favoured was the guitar for which he composed numerous Polish dances, e.g, Suite in Modo Polonico. The Suite (1962), commissioned by and dedicated to "the king of guitarists," Andres Segovia, may be considered the crowning achievement among Tansman's works for guitar. Segovia had requested the inclusion of several earlier works in this suite, such as the Mazurek of 1925, the Berceuse d'Orient, and Alla polaca of 1954. The celebrated guitarist recorded this virtuosic set of 10 short pieces five times and performed it during many concert tours, establishing the Suite as one of the staples of the guitar repertoire.

Tansman's songs blend traits of his elegant neoclassicism with expressiveness; his harmonic inventiveness underlies the rich piano accompaniments. His Cinq melodies pour chant et piano (1927) use French texts by the composer's first wife, Anna Eleonora; the songs are dedicated to personal friends and family members. For instance the fourth song, (Chats de gouttiere), is a humorous complaint against the brother of Tansman's wife who had just emigrated to the U.S. The lyricism and humor of Anna Tansman's texts is reflected in the music including national influences (no.2), elements of a stylized lullaby (no. 3), and an almost romantic poignancy (no. 5).

In general, Tansman's music belongs to the broadly defined realm of neoclassicism, enriched by a plurality of influences and models, including jazz, folk dances, and the music of the Far East. The author of a Javanese Dance, he also composed a Blues, an Oberek, and the virtuosic Mazurka & Toccata. During the post-war years he displayed no interest in avant-garde experimentation and remained faithful to his unique brand of the neoclassical style. Tansman's extensive list of works contains compositions for the stage (operas and ballets), pieces for orchestra, chamber music, and songs in several languages. His music links intuition and spontaneity with a logical order of structure, virtuosity, and elegance. His individual style is characterized by clarity of form, lyrical expression, and the use of rich and varied instrumental colors.


"Thus, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Poland. In regard to the importance of Slavic influence in my music, I can readily say that I followed the same path as Bartók or Manuel de Falla: folklore imaginé. I did not use popular themes per se. I used, however, their general melodic contour. Polish folklore is abundantly rich. I think that, along with Spanish folklore, it is the richest in possibilities. I was familiar with Polish folklore very early. My nanny used to sing peasant songs that were anonymous."

"They were not contemporary urban songs but songs that came from the villages. This folklore remained strongly present in my musical sensitivity but only as folklore imaginé. I have never used an actual Polish folk song in its original form, nor have I tried to reharmonize one. I find that modernizing a popular song spoils it. It must be preserved in its original harmonization. But Polish character is not solely expressed through folklore. There is something intangible in my music that reveals an aspect of my Polish origin". [Tansman, radio Interviews edited by Timmons/Fremaux, 1967-1980 1998)]

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chopin's Cape by Monique Lehman (Vol. 8 No. 3)

Can you dress in Chopin's music? Yes, indeed, you can. Monique Lehman, a world-famous tapestry artist just won a prize at the 7th International Exhibition of "Wearable Expressions" created a Chopin Cape that can now be seen at the Palos Verdes Art Center. The "Wearable Art" consists of an amazingly imaginative display of one-of -a-kind gowns, hats,jewelry and all sorts of capes, and costumes.  The exhibition features two wonderful pieces by Monique Lehman, including this prize-winning Chopin Cape.

I found Chopin's profile hidden between twisted staff lines dancing on the surface of this delicate, pastel composition.  The other side had some music notes, and more twists to the five-lines of the staves.

And here's how the whole Chopin's Cape looked like, pastel, lyrical, with a delicate feeling and a meticulous attention to detail: 

You can also see the detail on the top, with a handmade star flower (edelweiss or a starfish?). Amazing craftsmanship of a real artist! 

No wonder, Monique received a prize for this unique creation, featured among so many artworks from around the world!

Monique Lehman receives the award for Chopin's Cape, February 2017
Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski

Monique Lehman with her award, photo by Lucyna Przasnyski

Lucyna Przasnyski, Eliza Boughous Grygielska, Maja Trochimczyk, 
Monique Lehman and a friend

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lutoslawski - Music and Legacy by Stanislaw Latek and Maja Trochimczyk (Vol. 8, no. 2)

Lutosławski: Music and Legacy
Edited by Stanisław Latek and Maja Trochimczyk, 2014

 Montreal : Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada ; Cracow : Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2014. ISBN 9788376761992 / ISBN 8376761994 / ISBN 9780986885143 / ISBN 0986885142.  Polish and Canadian copies required distinct ISBN numbers.

Lutoslawski: Music and Legacy contains proceedings of the International Lutoslawski Conference, held at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, November 21, 2013, as well as interviews with the composer and documents from his 1993 visit to the Polish Institute and McGill University.

This book is found in only six library collections worldwide and deserves a wider recognition of its rare studies and materials about Lutoslawski's life and work that it contains.


  • Foreward / Sean Ferguson, Dean of Solich School of Music at McGill University 
  • Introduction / Stanisław Latek and Maja Trochimczyk 

Part I. A life remembered 

  • Lutosławski as I knew him / Robert Aitken ; 
  • Lutosławski as model and mentor / James Harley ; 
  • An interview with Witold Lutosławski (1988) by Grzegorz Michalski, translated by James and Maria Anna Harley 

Part II. Style, technique, and legacy 

  • The Lutosławski legacy / Charles Bodman Rae ; 
  • Witold Lutosławski and the ethics of abstraction / Lisa Jakelski ; 
  • Witold Lutosławski and musique concrète: the technique of composing with sound planes and its sources / Maja Trochimczyk ; 
  • Witold Lutosławski - an algorithmic music composer? / Stanisław Krupowicz and Karol Lipiński 

Part III. Individual works in context 

  • Strategies of instrumentation and orchestration in Lutosławski's cello concerto / Chris Paul Harman 
  • Neoclassicism in Lutosławski's double concerto / Taylor Brook  
  • Centrifugal and centripetal forces in Witold Lutosławski's Chain 3 / Duncan Schouten 

Part IV. Lutosławski in Montreal, 1993 

  • Hommage à Lutosławski / James Harley 
  • Witold Lutosławski -- Calendar of Life / Maja Trochimczyk  
  • Witold Lutosławski -- List of Works / Maja Trochimczyk
Lutoslawski at the Polish Library in Montreal, with Librarian Stefan Wladysiuk, 
PINC President Dr. Hanna Pappius, and Board Members, Montreal, 1993


From the Preface by Dean Sean Ferguson:

"During the first year of my doctoral studies in composition at McGill in 1993, Witold Lutosławski visited our faculty to receive an honorary doctorate from the university. My memories of this historic event are still vivid today, over 20 years later. I remember a sophisticated, even aristocratic man who was nevertheless highly approachable for myself and my fellow students in composition, as well as the many performance students he met. More than anything, I remember him as being incredibly generous, both with his time as well as with the feedback he gave to the many students he met. One of our colleagues, a violin student from Italy, told us about her transformative experience playing for Dr. Lutosławski – an experience that marks her to this day, as she continues to perform his music around the world. The two public lectures he gave during this time were eagerly anticipated and attended by large audiences. The energy, vitality and spirit that he showed during his visit only made it more shocking for all of us when he passed away only a few months later. We were all devastated at the news, yet incredibly grateful to have had his presence at our school."

"Because of the impact that Witold Lutosławski's visit had on me, and his important stature in the world of contemporary music, I was therefore extremely enthusiastic when I was approached by Stanislaw Latek from the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada about an academic event celebrating Lutosławski's 100th anniversary. As Dean of the Schulich School of Music, it was also a wonderful chance to collaborate with the Polish Academy of Arts and Science in Kraków and a number of other important partners. I was impressed by the high level of the presentations and am absolutely delighted that this conference has led to the publication of this important volume. Among the many people who worked to support this event, I would like to especially thank Mr. Latek for his leadership, as well as Dr. Christoph Neidhöfer who, as Chair of the Music Research Department of the Schulich School of Music, organized and coordinated McGill's participation in the event."

Sean Ferguson, D.M.A.
Dean, Schulich School of Music
McGill University, Montreal
4 November 2014

Witold Lutoslawski in Montreal,  with Maja Trochimczyk, 1993


From the Introduction by Dr. Stanislaw Latek and Dr. Maja Trochimczyk

Who was Witold Lutosławski and why do we want to remember him? As with all historical personages, this question can be easily answered in this era of instant access to electronic resources. Why publish an old-fashioned book, then? Speed is not everything.  Lutosławski’s life spanned the 20th century – a century of horrific crimes and monumental inventions. Born in 1913, he survived the outbreak of World War I in Poland, the Soviet Revolution in Moscow (that killed his father), the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, Germany’s invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939-1945, Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Block countries, and the establishment of fake democracy in Poland under Soviet rule in 1945-1989. He survived successive attempts of Poles to overthrow or transform the communist regime in 1956, 1968, 1970, 1981, and 1989.

After staying away from engagement in official politics and devoting his life to composing and conducting his music for over 35 years, Lutosławski  joined the reformers of the Solidarity movement in 1981, making a memorable speech about truth in the arts at the Independent Culture Congress in Warsaw that was cut short by the declaration of the martial law on December 13, 1981. He lived in interesting times.  His music remains a testimonial to his individuality, original artistic vision, and talent.  Performers, composers, and scholars continue to be drawn to it. Many books and studies have been published, but many gaps remain in the understanding of his compositional technique, his unique aesthetics, and the details of his biography.  Our book seeks to fill some of these gaps with new information and new scholarly interpretations. 

Lutosławski ’s 1993 visit to Canada, on the invitation by the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada – as a guest of honor for the Institute’s 50th anniversary –  has not been adequately described by his biographers in Poland and abroad. The visit was eventful and important. In addition to participating in the Institute’s anniversary events, Lutosławski received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Music, McGill University, gave lectures and attended a concert in Montreal organized by James Harley, and conducted his last concert in Toronto.  Of course, he was here with his wife, Danuta.

Why did he come? He had a soft spot for Polish libraries and cultural centers around the world; after having lost many manuscripts in the war, he believed in the importance of promoting and documenting Polish culture. He also needed to go to Japan in November, for the award ceremony of the Kyoto Prize granted to him by the Inamori Foundation, so instead of flying east through Asia, he went around the world, heading west… One of us (Maja) was a co-organizer of the visit, as McGill’s doctoral student in musicology, the youngest member of PIASC, and a liason to the composer, through his biographer, Martina Homma, Lutosławski’s personal friend and the only scholar who had access to his sketches and manuscripts during his life. 

Witold Lutoslawski with Martina Homma, Montreal, 1993. Photo by Maja Trochimczyk

Homma was among the guests of honor at the events and did us all a great service, when she “orchestrated” the question period after the composer’s Beatty Lecture at McGill University. Knowing Lutosławski’s fragile state of health and the aggravation caused him by having to answer pointless questions (that he never showed, being unerringly noble and aristocratic when dealing with all sorts of fans pestering him with questions), Homma wrote questions on topics that the Polish composer liked talking about. We distributed these questions among graduate students of music dispersed through the audience and they asked them, one after another. The discussion was lively, as the great musician explained, in extenso, his compositional techniques, aesthetic stance, attitude towards contemporary music fads and lasting values, the importance of communicating with listeners, and the abstract nature of this musical communication.  The speaker and the audience were delighted. And so are we, after twenty years, still remembering fondly the eventful and momentous visit, the wonderful concert, the quality of performances inspired by the presence of the master, and the intimate and exciting conversations…

The idea of celebrating the twentieth anniversary of this event gave rise to the Lutoslawski Legacy Conference held at McGill University in Montreal  under the leadership of another one of us (Stan). 
The book gathers the proceedings of the conference with two omissions.  Marcin Krajewski was not able to complete revisions to his paper in time.  Grzegorz Michalski replaced his spoken tribute to Lutosławski with a written text of a 1988 interview, translated into English by Maria Anna and James Harley, and published in a now-defunct magazine, Polish Music/Polnische Musik.  Additionally, the volume includes a Calendar of Life and a List of Works of Lutosławski prepared by Maja Trochimczyk and materials from the 1993 visit to Montreal. 

 Photographs and illustrations come from the private archives of Ewa and Grzegorz Michalski in Warsaw; Charles Bodman Rae in Adelaide, Australia; Robert Aitken in Toronto; New Music Concerts in Toronto; and Maja Trochimczyk in Los Angeles. We are particularly grateful to Dr. Felix Meyer, the Director of the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel who provided us with copies of Lutosławski s sketches and manuscripts.

We are also grateful to Marek Zebrowski, Director of USC Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, for permission to publish photographs of Lutosławski’s manuscripts donated to USC in 1985 and held on deposit in the USC Special Collections.

Stanisław Latek and Maja Trochimczyk, Editors
November 10, 2014

Lutoslawski's Manuscripts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles
Photo by Maja Trochimczyk

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Polish American Historical Association's 2016 Creative Arts Prize for Maja Trochimczyk (Vol. 8, No. 1)

During the 74th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, the Polish American Historical Association presented its Annual Awards for 2016 to a group of distinguished individuals, including Brenda Bruce and Dr. Alvin M. Fountain II (Amicus Poloniae Prize) and Dr. Maja Trochimczyk (Creative Arts Prize).

The Awards Ceremony included a concert of Carols by KaroliNa Naziemiec and Robert Lewandowski, so it was an event worthy of being noted on the Chopin with Cherries blog.  The Awards were presented by PAHA's outgoing President, Prof. Grazyna Kozaczka of Cazenovia College, NY, whose award citations are quoted below.

Maja Trochimczyk with Grazyna Kozaczka, 
with Anna Mazurkiewicz in the background.


"The Creative Arts Award is bestowed on Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, for her achievements as a poet, especially in her two books dedicated to Polish victims of WWII, Slicing the Bread (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and The Rainy Bread (Moonrise Press, 2016). Her books of poetry include Rose Always, 2008; Miriam’s Iris, 2008; Into Light, 2016; and two anthologies, Chopin with Cherries, 2010, and Meditations on Divine Names, 2012. Dr. Trochimczyk served as Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles in 2010-2012 and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2016."

Brenda Bruce, Dr. Alvin M. Fountain II and President Grazyna Kozaczka


"The Amicus Poloniae Award recognizes significant contributions enhancing knowledge of Polish and Polish-American heritage by individuals not belonging to the Polish-American community. It is presented to Dr. Alvin Mark Fountain II and Brenda Bruce who co-founded the Paderewski Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2014 (

Dr. Fountain, the President of the Festival, is a former administrator with the State of North Carolina and for more than 25 years he taught history at North Carolina State University. In 2008, Dr. Fountain was appointed as an Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland.

The Vice-President and Secretary of the Festival, Brenda Bruce is an accomplished pianist, harpsichordist, acclaimed teacher, and accompanist dedicated to the promotion of classical piano performance of the highest quality."

Maja Trochimczyk, President Grazyna Kozaczka, Brenda Bruce and Dr. Alvin M. Fountain II

During the 74th Meeting, two papers on Paderewski were presented:

"Following Paderewski: An Album of Autographs and Clippings from Brighton, England, 1890-1914" - Maja Trochimczyk, Moonrise Press, Los Angeles

"That Day in Raleigh, January 23, 1917; Paderewski, Wilson, and a Provincial Capital" - Alvin M. Fountain II, Honorary Consul, Republic of Poland, President, Paderewski Festival, Raleigh, NC

Maja Trochimczyk, Brenda Bruce, and Alvin M. Fountain II.


KaroliNa Naziemiec and Robert Lewandowski

The festivities ended with a wonderful concert of Polish and English Christmas carols in jazz arrangements, performed by Karolina Naziemiec and Robert Lewandowski. KaroliNa plays the viola and sings, accompanied by Mr. Lewandowski on the piano. Since it was a bit out of tune and an upright, it did sound a bit honky-tonky, suitably so for Denver, the Wild West of the past... It would be great to hear Mr. Lewandowski playing on a better instrument, though, as his technique was impressive.

The warm voice of KaroliNa was well suited to the dreamy interpretations of lullabies - Polish carols of this character are very popular and one of them, "Lulajze Jezuniu," has been cited by Chopin in his Scherzo in B minor, and his relationship to the carol repertoire has been explored by Jan Wecowski and cited on a previous edition of this blog, vol. 3, no. 13. 

Biographies of KaroliNa and Robert may be found on the PAHA News blog.

KaroliNa, Maja, and Robert at the Awards Ceremony

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year 2017! (Vol. 7, No. 10)

May your year 2017 be full of Chopin's delicate touch of romantic sweetness!

Here are some waltzes to celebrate the holidays! 

Nineteen waltzes played by a Hungarian Pianist Zoltan Kocsis:

00:00 01-Grande Valse Brillante Op.18
04:51 02-Grande Valse Brillante Op.34 No.1
09:54 03-Grande Valse Brillante Op.34 No.2
15:26 04-Grande Valse Brillante Op.34 No.3
17:33 05-Grand Valse Op.42
20:59 06-Minute Waltz Op.64 No.1
22:35 07-Waltz Op.64 No.2
25:37 08-Waltz Op.64 No.3
28:14 09-Waltz L'adieu Op.69 No.1
31:46 10-Waltz Op.69 No.2
34:37 11-Waltz Op.posth.70 No.1
36:17 12-Waltz Op.posth.70 No.2
37:51 13-Waltz Op.posth.70 No.3
40:22 14-Waltz Op.posth. B.56
43:13 15-Waltz Op.posth. B.44
45:14 16-Waltz Op.posth. B.21
46:25 17-Waltz Op.posth. B.46
49:07 18-Waltz Op.posth. B.133
50:19 19-Waltz Op.posth. B.150

Or, with far more rubato, a more fluid tempo, and more delicate, less brilliant touch, here are the 19 waltzes interpreted by Vladimir Askenazy:

Published on Oct 31, 2013

Ashkenazy plays the Piano Works of Chopin (13 CDs).

01 - Waltz No.1 in E flat, Op.18 (Grande valse brillante)
02 - Waltz No.2 in A flat, Op.34 No.1 (Valse brillante)
03 - Waltz No.3 in A minor, Op.34 No.2
04 - Waltz No.4 in F, Op.34 No.3
05 - Waltz No.5 in A flat, Op.42 (Grande valse)
06 - Waltz No.6 in D flat, Op.64 No.1 (Minute)
07 - Waltz No.7 in C sharp minor, Op.64 No.2
08 - Waltz No.8 in A flat, Op.64 No.3
09 - Waltz No.9 in A flat, Op.posth.69 No.1 (BI 95) (L'adieu - farewell)
10 - Waltz No.10 in B minor, Op.posth.69 No.2 (BI 35)
11 - Waltz No.11 in G flat, Op.posth.70 No.1 (BI 92)
12 - Waltz No.12 in F minor-A flat, Op.posth.70 No.2 (BI 138)
13 - Waltz No.13 in D flat, Op.posth.70 No.3 (BI 40)
14 - Waltz No.14 in E minor, Op.posth.P1 No.15 (BI 56)
15 - Waltz No.15 in E, Op.posth.P1 No.12 (BI 44)
16 - Waltz No.19 in A minor, Op.posth.P2 No.11 (BI 150)
17 - Waltz No.16 in A flat, Op.posth.P1 No.13 (BI 21) (Emily Elsner)
18 - Waltz No.18 in E flat, Op.posth.P2 No.10 (BI 133) (Sostenuto)
19 - Waltz No.17 in E flat, Op.posth.P1 No.14 (BI 46) (Emily Elsner)

Finally, one more time, more reflective, slower, but expressive and nuanced interpretation by Claudio Arrau, copied by Neryong Ci ( YouTube with the following introduction: 

"Astoundingly beautiful, Claudio Arrau's late Chopin recordings are, along with his late Debussy recordings, the peak of his art. Recorded mostly in the '70s and early '80s, Arrau's Chopin recordings catch him past his prime as a technician -- although much of Chopin's solo piano music is here, the extremely difficult polonaises, the sonatas, and especially the etudes are conspicuous in their absence -- but at the height of his powers as a poet. There are his radiant waltzes, his luminous preludes, his ravishing impromptus, his atmospheric ballades, and his evocative concertos with Eliahu Inbal directing the London Philharmonic. But above all, there are Arrau's sublime nocturnes, some of the most emotional, most soulful, most sensual, and most spiritual recordings of any piano music ever recorded. The warmth of his tone, the clarity of his phrasing, the depth of his sonorities, the utter inevitability of his tempos makes Arrau's nocturnes mandatory listening for anyone who loves piano music. And the inclusion of Arrau's 1953 U.S. Decca recordings of the impromptus, the ballades, the scherzos, and the barcarolle makes this set mandatory listening for even those folks who already have Arrau's later Chopin recordings. Decca's monaural sound is distant but clean enough; Philips' stereo sound is so honest and true that it's better than reality."

1. Waltz No.1 in E flat, Op.18 -"Grande valse brillante"
2. Waltz No.2 in A flat, Op.34 No.1 - "Valse brillante"
3. Waltz No.3 in A minor, Op.34 No.2
4. Waltz No.4 in F, Op.34 No.3
5. Waltz No.5 in A flat, Op.42 - "Grande valse"
6. Waltz No.6 in D flat, Op.64 No.1 -"Minute"
7. Waltz No.7 in C sharp minor, Op.64 No.2
8. Waltz No.8 in A flat, Op.64 No.3
9. Waltz No.9 in A flat, Op.69 No.1 -"Farewell"
10. Waltz No.10 in B minor, Op.69 No.2
11. Waltz No.11 in G flat, Op.70 No.1
12. Waltz No.12 in F minor/A flat, Op.70 No.2
13. Waltz No.13 in D flat, Op.70 No.3
14. Waltz No.14 in E minor, Op.posth.
15. Waltz No.16 in A flat, Op.posth.
16. Waltz No.15 in E, Op.posth.
17. Waltz No.19 in A minor, Op.posth.
18. Waltz No.18 in E flat, Op.posth.
19. Waltz No.17 in E flat, Op.posth.

Enjoy the galaxy of beauty in Chopin's music and look to the stars for inspiration on those deep, dark winter nights! 

And while looking up, we can think of the cosmic scale of things and then listen to Chopin's waltzes, what a miracle is this music on our tiny planet Earth! 

Finally, as an encore, listen to the Minute Waltz, and read poems about the Minute Waltz from Chopin with Cherries, available online everywhere...

Here's Valentina Lisitsa (1 min 48 seconds):

And here's Lang Lang, a rehearsal recording with introduction:

.... so again, after hearing so much lovely Chopin, enjoy the whole year with Chopin!

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Art of the Night – On Engerer Playing the Nocturnes (vol. 7, no. 9)

Playing Chopin Nocturnes,  a vintage postcard

It is almost Halloween... America is full of pumpkins, goblins and monsters. And fake body parts. And fake blood. And fake blood and gore. And real blood and gore. Enough of that.Let's listen to some Chopin. He died on October 17, 1849 at the age of 39, yet his music is timeless.

 Everyone has or should have a couple of favorite Chopin recordings, to return to, back and back again. Mine are the Nocturnes – all of them recorded by Brigitte Engerer.  I used to listen to them at night, in the dark, while falling asleep. And while driving to a distant office, spending four hours daily in the traffic jams of Los Angeles freeways. There was nothing more relaxing and otherworldly than Engerer’s Nocturne. A perfect antidote to Road Rage (there is a radio program on KUSC that plays an anti-road-rage melody of incomparable sweetness around 5 p.m. every day). So these sweet and gentle nocturnes, filled with wistful nostalgia and the serenity of reconciliation are my anti-stress melodies.

I had to buy another set, my old one was played so much that it started to malfunction.  Then, I thought it would be easier to listen to them on the laptop, while writing a poem, or an article or reading my email. And here, on YouTube, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of comments. The recordings from “my” CD, posted in 2015, have reached over 13 million listeners in one year, 13,077,492 views to be exact, with  51,329 likes and 1,403 dislikes. One commentator said: “1000 people dislike it. WHY? Most be idiots.” (Dave Shen). Brigitte Engerer, a French pianist, born in Tunisia on 27 October 1952  died on 23 June of 2012 of cancer, according to her obituary in the New York Times.

According to Engerer's bio on Wikipedia,  she started to play the piano at four and gave her first public performances at six. She studied in the Paris Conservatoire with Lucette Descaves since she was 11 and at 15, she received the first prize in piano. At sixteen, she won the Concours International Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud. She then studied piano in Moscow, at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory with Stanislav Neuhaus. She stayed there for nine years. Her musical heritage is equally French and Russian.  Her repertoire included the great piano concerti of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Chopin, and lots of solo works including Chopin, and Schumann. She played with  Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic and with other major orchestras: the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris under Daniel Barenboim.

Her prizes and honors included wins at the Competition Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud, Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Queen Elisabeth Competition of Belgium, Grand Prix du Disque for her recording with Philips of Carnival op. 9 and the Carnival of Vienna Robert Schumann. She was the corresponding member of the Institut de France, Academy of Fine Arts and won lifetime achievement award the Victoires de la musique 2011, as well medals from the French government: Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Commander of the Order of Merit, and Commander of Arts and Letters.

What do her listeners say? What does the music mean to them? First of all, it brings calm and comfort:

"Nocturnes = night music. Music written to soothe and calm you down after the many troubles of the day, in preparation for a restful night's sleep.  Don't listen to it -- let it simply wash over you and work its gentle magic on your soul." (Jon Low)

"I listen to this when i read, its wonderful because there’s no words to distract you yet there is something filling in the silence" (Daisy Clarke)

"I used to do the same! I dont know why but i feel that our brains resonate better when we listen to this while studying. After a while you even forget that the music is there!" (George Georgiou)

"I cant listen to classical to music while studying cause I just end up listening to it seriously." (Mat)

"In times of great doubt or heartbreak, this is probably one of the most comforting pieces you can listen to.
It's easy to divert attention away from yourself, but this piece makes that nearly impossible." (Bill)

"Every night to be able to sleep i listen to this, it's so good i dont even remember when i sleep! Never able to listen to all of them consciously :)" (Ezgi Sozmen)

Then, they reflect on the talent of the performer:

"I am amazed by the vivacious, but somehow calm, interpretation of this pianist.  Unfortunately, I was never able to hear her in concert.   An astounding artist.  A blessing to hear her talent!!"   (Michael Linminn)

"How immortal, these nocturnes - how beautiful this performance!" (Jan Klassiek )

"It's not only the music, the sound or the chords. It's the Story and the feeling, it comes from. Chopin is a part of history..... of feeling the history...." (Jamel Abdouni Melki)

"In a time of such human ugliness and petty hatred, this is probably one of the most beautiful collections of sounds in the world right now; Peace to you all......*sighs*" (London Bridges)

Someone asks a question: "Which one is your favorite?"

Maga Lee Craveiro provided links to her favorite nocturnes recorded by Engerer:

1. 0:06 Op. 9, No. 1 in B flat minor. Larghetto 
2. 5:53 Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major. Andante 
3. 10:29 Op. 9, No. 3 in B major. Allegretto 
4. 17:09 Op. 15, No. 1 in F major. Andante cantabile 

Patricia Salem said: "Op. 32 in B Major... I think. It sort of depends on the mood I'm in. I think Chopin's nocturnes truly capture the essence of "evening." Sometimes they're gentle and wistful, while others they're stormy and dramatic. Of all the different types of compositions Chopin wrote, the nocturnes as a group are my favorite--more than preludes, etudes, etc." (Patricia Salem)

Someone else found another favorite:  1:20:13 Op. 55, No. 1 in F minor. Andante

Other listeners focus on the pianist herself:

"Is that just me or does that lady look a lot like an older Catherine Zeta-Jones?!" (Andrew de Burgh)

"What an extraordinarily striking woman. As attractive as she is gifted." (Jose Guardiola)

"Mesmerizingly beautiful piano playing" (Kim Castle)

Some philosophically minded reflected on music in general:

"Art is how we decorate space, Music decorates time." (Vincente Yanez)

"Music is how we feed our soul." (Arlys Chapdelaine)

"Music reconfigures time, changes it, creates a beautiful panorama in the mind, soothes the aching heart." (Doug Johnson)

"Without music the world would be a dark and dampen place. Society wouldn't be society, earth wouldn't be earth, and space well it just keeps going." (David Fairbairn)

"Music: the universal language of mankind." (Julia Ski)

... And then, there are those who post in languages I do not speak:

"Muitos tocam Chopin, mas poucos pianistas conseguem extrair tanta beleza da sua música como Brigite Engerer.  Parabéns à essa mulher que hoje dorme profundamente; acredito que embalada pela música do artista que ela tanto reverenciou." (Marcelo Rodriguez)

"The fact that I am able to understand this comment written in Portuguese on account of speaking Spanish is rather bemusing." (Tony Uribe)

"Suave, delicado, divino" (Tarcisio Monteiro)

"Bence en güzel versiyonu paylaşana teşekkürler" ("I think the most beautiful version, share it, thanks"- in Turkish, by Gizemm Teke)

"Begiak ixtea eta hegan egiteko gai zarela sentitzea!" ("Close your eyes and feel that you are able to fly!" -  in Basque by Karmelo Belasko)

Chopin appeals to everyone. His intimate and touching tone speaks personally to each one of us, and makes our heart ache for what we lost, what we cannot have, what we long for - starlight, moonlight, dreamscape, peace...And we can remember the amazing pianists that left us too early, like Chopin himself, with a legacy of timeless music and the beauty of sound.

Fragment of a Chopin tapestry by Monique Lehman.

PHOTOS of chrysantemums, ponds, and leaves from Descanso Gardens by Maja Trochimczyk