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

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Finding More Chopin Sites in Warsaw (Vol. 7, No. 8)

Inspired by the "eye of an aspen tree" found in one of Warsaw's parks, I went on to seek more traces of Chopin in Warsaw, and found some places I did not see before. . . 

The Krasinski Palace, view from the Krasinski Park

A famous aristocratic family of Chopin's time that had a palace in Warsaw was the Krasinski family, today mostly remembered for its most famous son, Zygmunt Krasinski (), poet, philosopher, essayis, and drama writer.  Zygmunt Napoleon Stanisław Adam Ludwik Krasiński - was the son of General Wincenty Krasiński who served in Napoleon's army and was the Commandor of the Legion of honor, the count of Napoleonic empire, but laster also the general for Tsars Alexander I and Nicolas I. The Emperor Napoleon was the Godfather to the son of his favorite general.  Krasinski was raised in this palace and studied at the University of Warsaw.  Since 1929 contuned to study in Geneva and moved to Paris after the uprising (that he did not participate in  and was ostracized by his colleagues). A friend of fellow great romantic poets, Adam Mickiewicz, Cyprian Kamil Norwid and Juliusz Słowacki. In 1838-1846, he was in a romantic relationship with Countess Delfiną Potocką, one of Chopin's staunchest supporters. It is Delfina who provides the link between Chopin and the Krasinskis.

The National Theater where Chopin gave his public concert and attended opera performances in the late 1820s was located at Krasinski Square across the street from the Krasinski Palace. According to Chopin's Life on NIFC website,  Chopin's works performed there included "the Concerto in F minor, Op. 21 and Fantasy on Polish Airs, Op. 13, performed with the accompaniment of an orchestra directed by Karol Kurpiński. A second performance, with a similar repertory, was held several days later, on 22 March, 1830 and Chopin's farewell concert, his last in Poland, took place on 11 October 1830."

The Concerto in F minor, composed in 1829-1830, was dedicated to Delfina Potocka, the beloved of Zygmunt Krasinski, mentioned above. More information can be found on NIFC website:
You might also want to listen to this work in one of the many renditions on YouTube:

The building of the National Theater has not survived and the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 is now located in this space.  To the left is the tall columnade of the Warsaw Courts,surrounded by tents of protesters these days...

Plac Krasinskich (Krasinski Square)

Please note that while Chopin's biographies point out that his family lived in the Krasinski Palace in 1827-1830, it was another palace in a different location, on Krakowskie Przedmiescie, across the street from the main gate to the University of Warsaw. A small museum of the Chopin Salon is now housed inside the building which serves as the Academy of Fine Arts.

From the Krasinski Square let's walk towards the Old Town along the Miodowa Street, lined with palaces of Polish aristocracy, some of them with links to Chopin, pointed out by signs. The Mlodziejowski Palace at Miodowa 10 (also called Morsztyn Palace), was the site of Chopin's first public concert in December 1829.

The only Mlodziejowski appearing in Chopin-related "persons" on the website of National Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Poland was an artist active in the early 20th century, so there were no personal Mlodziejowski friends or connections worthy of being noted.

The Mlodziejowski Palace, at Miodowa 10, was built in 17th century and expanded in 1766-1771. Its 1804-11 reconstruction changed it into a classicist design that stands now. Interestingly, the design was by Fryderyk Albert Lessel (1767-1822) of the same name, but unrelated to Franciszek Lessel (1780-1838) a Polish composer and administrator of the Czartoryski family estates.

Right next to it, at Miodowa 6-8, is the Branicki Palace, now closed to the public and serving as a seat for Warsaw City government. It was built by the aristocratic Branicki family for Prince Jan K. Branicki in 18th century.  Burnt down during the bombing of Warsaw by Germans in 1939, it was rebuilt after the war (completed in 1967) on the basis of detailed paintings by Bernardo Belotto Canaletto, whose views of Warsaw helped rebuilt the destroyed city.

While Chopin has not performed in this palace while in Warsaw, his links to the Branickis is through Countess Katarzyna Branicka (1825-1907), to whom he dedicated his last published Waltz,, Op. 64, No. 3, in A flat major, composed in 1846-47. The Countess was just 21 at that time and lived in Paris. She later married Count Adam Jozef Potocki, in 1854, returned to Poland, and went on to become a notable art collector.

According to Mieczyslaw Tomaszewski, this waltz "at first glance, is cheerful, high-spirited, boisterous even. The next moment, however, those first impressions are dispelled. What remains is music that seems to be seeking – relentlessly, but hopelessly – its proper tone, or perhaps a way out, repeating the same pattern on successive tonal planes: in F minor, in B flat major, then in G flat major. Yet the narration does eventually arrive at its goal, which is the music of the trio (in C major), filled with a simple, hushed song in cello timbres. In keeping with the laws of the form (the dance with trio), the music of the beginning, that path-seeking music, returns. Before that, however, transitional music is heard: sketched with a subtle line and endowed with the harmonic half-light of chromatic hues."

Here are various performances of this Waltz, posted on YouTube:

Plac Zamkowy near former location of Warsaw Conservatory.

Just a couple block further down Miodowa Street, if you turn left towards the Castle Square - Plac Zamkowy, you will stand where the Warsaw Conservatory used to be and Chopin's teacher, Jozef Elsner used to live. The street no longer exist, as it was demolished during the post-WWII reconstruction of the Old Town that partly changed the configuration of streets.

                                 Teatr Wielki Opery i Baletu - Grand Theater of Opera and Ballet

From Miodowa Street it is just a short walk to the Plac Teatralny, known in Chopin's time as Marywilski. The monumental building that now stands in the middle of it was rebuilt after its total destruction by Germans during WWII; it was bombed in 1939 during the siege of Warsaw.  In 1945-1965 performances took place in other location while the Grand Theater rose from ruins. It was not only rebuilt but modernized and expanded.

The original Teatr Wielki was erected in 1825-1833  based on a design by Antonio Corazzi. When Chopin lived in Warsaw, National Opera performed at another stage, on Plac Krasinskich, and only the walls of the Teatr Wielki were rising up in this place.  The building currently houses National Opera, Polish National Ballet, National Theater, and Opera Museum.

Once you walk through the Plac Teatralny to Senatorska and you reach the Plac Bankowy, you may miss a now neglected palace associated with two aristocratic families closely linked to Chopin, of the Princes Czartoryskis and Counts Zamoyskis. Prince Adam Czartoryski was the leader of post-1830 emigration in Paris and his Palace Lambert was the site of many Chopin's concerts and visits through his Parisian years.  The Czartoryski palace in Warsaw, called the Azure Palace (or Blue Palace), is located at the corner of Senatorska Street and the Plac Bankowy (Bank Square). First built in the 17th century, it was reconstructed and expanded in accordance with a design by Fryderyk A. Lessel in 1812-1819.  In 1808-1816 it was used by Princess Maria Czartoryska for her Azure Salons, frequented by poets and writers dedicated to the promotion of Polish language and culture. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz was one of the guests and his "Historical Chants" arose in this circle of patriotic aristocracy, with many countesses and noble ladies composing music or illustrations for the volume of Niemcewicz's poetry that was to determine the image of Polish history for the next hundred years. 

The Azure Palace on Senatorska Steet, left wing.

Chopin dedicated his Rondo a la Krakowiak in F major, Op. 14 from 1828 to Princess Anna Czartoryska, the wife of Prince Adam Czartoryski mentioned above.  She was especially close to Chopin in their years of Parisian exile. He enjoyed performing during their "musical evenings" and often "improvised delightful fantasies on Polish melodies."  Another, more famous Princess Czartoryska associated with Chopin, Marcelina, was actually a Princess due to her marriage to the son of Prince Adam Alexander, and grandson of Prince Adam, that is Prince Alexander Romuald. Princess Marcelina studied piano with Czerny in Vienna and with Chopin since 1844 or 47 in Paris. She performed as a pianist in solo recitals and charitable events, and traveled widely through Europe. Remembered for taking care of Chopin during his last illness, she later become one of the principal guardians of his oeuvre and tradition as a performer and composer, a Chopin institution in her own right. 

You may listen to various renditions of the Rondo a la Krakowiak on YouTube: 
And find out more about this work (its manuscript is in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow):

To return to Warsaw, the Azure Palace, since 1811 later served as the home to Countess Zofia Zamoyska, one of Czartoryski sisters, daughters of Princess Izabela Czartoryski Fleming. Chopin gave many performances in Zamoyska's salons prior to his departure from Warsaw in November 1830. According to NIFC, "Chopin, who is believed to have first played at the Zamoyski salon as a sixteen-year-old, was invited to the Blue Palace many times as a young man. One of these recitals took place in May 1826. Chopin recalled that evening in a letter to Jan Białobłocki: 'On Sunday, a week ago to the day, I was at the Zamoyskis', where Długosz's aeolopantalon was admired virtually the whole evening long.'." The building now seems abandoned as it waits for its reconstruction by new/old owner after it was returned to private hands. 

The Azure Palace, corner of Senatorska Street and Plac Bankowy.

In addition to spending evenings with the aristocracy, the young composer also frequented cafes in the area of Miodowa, Kozia, and Krakowskie Przedmiescie. According to his biography on NIFC Website: "he also occasionally dropped in to some famous Warsaw cafes: to ‘Kopciuszek’ [Cinderella] or to the ‘Dziurka’ [Hole], both on Miodowa street (in the Tepper Palace), to the ‘Honoratka’ opposite, and to Brzezińska’s cafe on Kozia Street. This last establishment was mentioned by Wójcicki: ‘During Podczaszyński’s stay in our city, this cafe began to be frequented by Maurycy Mochnacki, Konstanty Gaszyński, Leon Zienkowicz, the last two editors of the Pamiętnik dla Płci Pięknej, and Dominik Magnuszewski, together with his friend Fryderyk Szopen, who was setting off on a journey abroad’. The cafes were the focus for political and literary life, and the birth-place of the trend of ‘dynamic romanticism.’"

Mural with the history of Brzezinska Cafe, later known as Telimena 

Visiting Chopin in Brzezinska Cafe, where Chopin was "almost daily" - per the inscription.

While walking from palace to palace, I traversed two beautiful parks, Park Krasinskich and Ogrod Saski (Saxon Garden in English translations of Polish maps, but better stick to "Saski")  filled with majestic ancient chesnuts and maples. Some of them probably date back to Chopin's time, such as the chesnut with green lichen on its trunk below, found in the Saski Garden (Ogrod Saski). At the  end of this alley the Saski Palace once stood, now only the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier remains while the entire palace is gone.

This chesnut tree looks huge and ancient. Was it there when Chopin played in the Ogrod Saski?

Ogrod Saski, main alley towards the former Saski Palace.

Chopin spent first seven years of his life in the Saxon Palace (Palac Saski), that was destroyed during WWII and not rebuilt after the war. His father was a teacher in Warsaw Lyceum located in one of the Saxon Palace's wings and the family stayed there until 1817. According to NIFC Website, "Mrs Justyna Chopin will certainly have taken Ludwika and little Frycek to the nearby park. Given Fryderyk's fondness for walks around the city, we can assume that a dozen years or so later he visited this beautiful spot on many occasions in the company of friends. Some biographers have even held that he used to come here with Konstancja Gładkowska, although there is no information regarding such romantic walks in mentions of Fryderyk's contacts with his first love. The Saxon Garden was part of the 'Saxon Axis'-a complex of royal residences and gardens belonging to Augustus II the Strong, created in the years 1713-33 to the king's commission by Jan Krzysztof Naumann and Mateusz Daniel Pöppelmann. By 1727 the Garden had become the first public park in Warsaw. During Chopin's lifetime, it was redesigned by James Savage in the spirit of an English landscape garden."

After walking along Krolewska Street on the right side of the gardens, all the way back to Krakowskie Przedmiescie, you may see the Church of Visitation (Kosciol Wizytek) where the young Chopin played the organ.  The church is next to the statue of poet Adam Mickiewicz, another famous emigre who spent half of his life in Paris, from 1830 to 1855.

Wizytki Church next to Adam Mickiewicz Monument, Krakowskie Przedmiescie.

Turn right, walk towards Nowy Swiat,  and stop in front of the University of Warsaw (where Chopin lived with his family in the Kazimierzowski Palace). Across the street is the former Krasinski Palace, i..e. the Academy of Fine Arts, and a Chopin Piano Bench marks this spot. You can listen for a while to the Minute Waltz, in the middle of a busy street...

If you continue to walk along, soon you will stand in front of Church of the Holy Cross (Kosciol Sw. Krzyza) where Chopin's heart rests in one of the pillars in the main nave. 

Chopin's heart is in this pillar in the Church of the Holy Cross.

The location of these and other landmarks of Chopin's Warsaw may be found on the website: 


The last encounter with Chopin during my trip was at the Chopin Airport, when I noticed a piano and a pianist practicing his Chopin amidst all the commotion and crowds of passengers running to catch the planes, or resting between flights...