|Polish Music Newsletter
November 2002, Vol. 8, no. 11. ISSN 1098 - 9188. Published monthly.
Los Angeles: Polish Music Center, University of Southern California
Paderewski in 1890. Promotional photo from German and American tours.
"Paderewski: Portrait of a Musician" Exhibition is on display at Alfred Newman Recital Hall Gallery, USC, Los Angeles,
from September 17, 2002 to January 24, 2003.
Culled from the extensive collection of materials held at the Polish Music Center at the USC Thornton School of Music,
this exhibition chronicles the life and career of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the musician - statesman who received an
honorary doctorate from USC in 1923. Throughout his musical career Paderewski was actively lobbying for Polish
independence; he collected funds to benefit the country, its soldiers and the victims of the war. His campaign
resulted in Poland returning to the map of Europe; he then became the first Prime Minister of Poland
and the first Polish delegate to the League of Nations. Paderewski's compositions include songs and
piano pieces, an opera, Manru (1901), and a Symphony in B minor Polonia (1907).
He also edited a 20 volume anthology of music by other composers, and Chopin's complete works.
However, his main title to fame was his talent as a virtuoso pianist; his music was partly preserved
on piano rolls and transferred to CDs. The exhibition, curated by Maja Trochimczyk and Ljiljana Grubisic, deals with all aspects of his career, with narrative captions. A selection
of the captions and images is included below.
Paderewski's compositions include one opera (Manru to a libretto by Alfred Nossig based on a novel by Kraszewski; 1901), songs for solo voice and choir, two pieces for violin and piano, with an intense and melodic Sonata Op. 13 (1885), a handful of orchestral works, such as the programmatic Symphony in B minor, "Polonia" (1909), and two brilliant pieces for the orchestra and piano - Piano Concerto in A major, Op. 17 (1892), and the Fantasy on Polish Themes, Op. 19 (1893). Paderewski wrote over sixty pieces for his favorite instrument, piano, among them numerous miniatures and some larger compositions: the Variations and Fugue on Original Theme in E-flat minor, Op. 23 (1885-1903) and the Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 21 (1887-1903). The following comment about the Sonata, Op. 21, by a noted American music critic, Henry E. Krehbiel, could easily be applied to all of Paderewski's piano compositions: "The themes are clearly and plastically set forth, and many of the approved prescriptions in respect of transitions and repetitions are obediently followed. The motivi used in the development portions are off-shoots of the principal melodic thoughts and unity between the parts is preserved by material as well as spiritual relationships. The modern pianoforte spirit pervades it, but brilliancy of utterance is placed in the service of the musical idea and does not exist for its own sake."
The presence of Polish themes and motives gradually increased in Paderewski's music over the course of his compositional career which tellingly ended during World War I, with the creation of a patriotic anthem Hej, Orle Biały [Hey, White Eagle]. This increasing outward Polishness of Paderewski's music may have been a response to the pressure exerted on him by his Polish émigré audiences around the world, placing on his shoulders the responsibility for Poland's future. Composing national music meant either drawing themes from national history and literature or stylizing elements of national dances and folklore. The first type of musical nationalism may be found in Paderewski's sole opera Manru which tells the story of a tragic marriage of a Gypsy man and Polish woman, and in his programmatic Symphony "Polonia" portraying the glory and fall of the nation through its dramatic history. The dance stylizations include numerous mazurkas, krakowiaks, polonaises, obereks, and dances from the Tatra Mountains. As Henry E. Krehbiel put it, "no one familiar with the physiognomy and spirit of Polish music will fail to recognize the soul of Poland on every page" of Paderewski's compositions. His connection to Polish folk traditions extended to include the use of Polish folk dolls for fund-raising for the Polish cause. During World War I, his wife, Helena Paderewska, sold numerous dolls of this kind and Paderewski gave them away to children after his concerts.
1912 ad with Paderewski's Portrait by Edward Burne-Jones.
Paderewski gave thousands of concerts during his career. He toured extensively in Europe and North America, while also finding time to visit distant locations in South Africa or Australia. He mostly performed on a Steinway piano. After a period of alternating use of different pianos and a fierce competition between their makers, Paderewski signed an exclusive contract with Steinway. Traveling around the world gave the pianist an opportunity to meet Polish musicians. His friendly and supportive attitude towards his younger colleagues may be seen in the recommendation letter for Maria and Zofia Naimska, sisters and musicians from New York (associates of Marcellina Sembrich), written in 1916 and praising the "exceptional artistic ability" of these "really high-class artists" who "are certain to give the greatest satisfaction wherever engaged."
"In all that he plays, he remains the tone-poet that he was born. Whoever hears him feels as though, in the midst of our artificial refinements, a bard had suddenly appeared from the twilight of early time, and once more opened the springs of poetic inspiration. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that Paderewski merely follows the elementary voice of his inspiration. On the contrary, one needs but to frequent his concerts to be convinced that he is an extraordinarily experienced artist, who knows his public thoroughly, and knows by what means to seize, warm, and transport it. The arrangement of his programs, and the plan of interpretation of each separate number are masterly. The mobility of the tempos, the intensity, and the tone-coloring become a mighty force in the hands of this dramatic musician. The soul is raised to heaven by a noble chorale; suddenly a soft idyll unfolds itself before the spiritual eye, a love-duet trembles in tones sweet, hardly audible; scarcely has its quiet poetry soothed the spirit when, with boisterous song, a swarm of gay dancers storms across the stage, or thunder peals, and the deep tones of an organ vibrate in the air. All these dramatic surprises, combined with consummate art, electrify and enchain the listener." [Alfred Nossig, The Methods of the Masters of Piano-Teaching in Europe: The Secret of Paderewski's Playing (Century Library of Music, edited by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, vol. 18, New York: The Century Co., 1902), 610-612]
Paderewski was granted a honorary degree from the University of Southern California on the occasion of USC Commencement ceremonies held in June 1922. However the degree was conferred on him after a delay, on February 22, 1923, during a special event also commemorating President Washington's birthday. Although renowned as a musician and composer, Paderewski did not receive the degree from the School of Music. Instead he was granted the honor of the Doctor of Law from USC President Dr. Rufus von KleinSmid. Reports about this event appeared in USC Yearbook of 1923 and in several newspapers from the Los Angeles area: the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Examiner, and the USC student paper, The Southern California Trojan (today the Daily Trojan). Paderewski also received honorary degrees from the following institutions: University of Lwów (based in Austrian Poland, now Ukraine; 1912), Yale University (1917), Jagiellonian University in Kraków (1919), Oxford University (1920), Columbia University (1922), Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (1924), Glasgow University (1925), Cambridge University (1926), SUNY, New York (1933), and Lausanne (1933).
Paso Robles, a charming little town situated in Central California, has served as Paderewski's resting place during his American tours since 1914. In recent years the town has become a host to a Paderewski Festival. The area is better known for its wines than music, and the Festival's programs have typically included tours of wineries, wine-tasting and a champagne brunch, as well as recitals by Polish pianists, such as Paderewski-specialist Karol Radziwonowicz and Polish folk dance ensembles, including Krakusy and Podhale. Paderewski's personal association with Paso Robles stems from his purchase of a vast estate that he transformed into his American home. The Rancho San Ignatio (named after the pianist's patron saint, Ignatius of Loyola) featured a vineyard established in 1922, with the pioneering imports of Zinfandel grapes. Prizes for Paderewski's wines include a gold medal at the 1933 California State Fair. The San Ignatio vineyard is now privately owned.
Too often Paderewski was seen merely as a "music-making-machine" as portrayed, for instance, in the 1893 caricature, issued for the Chicago's World Fair. In this particular image a young virtuoso with a wild mane of hair uses his multiple arms to reach each of the keyboards that surround him to play all the pianos simultaneously , thus ending the competition for sponsorship that pitted Steinway against Weber and others. This comment underscores Paderewski's business acumen and pianistic bravado. Yet, he is diminished to the level of a circus curiosity. Other caricatures emphasized his long hair, often commented upon because of its striking golden red hue and a great desirability among the ladies. Paderewski's popularity among female audiences foreshadows such cults of musical "idols" as Elvis Presley. In contrast to these images, a political caricature of 1940 presents Paderewski's patriotic side: the pianist teaches a little, homeless boy how to play Poland's national anthem beginning with the words "Poland's not lost, as long as we live" (Dąbrowski Mazurka). The latter image seems to have given rise to an urban legend about Paderewski's duet with a little boy who had climbed up to the stage and started to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star before the Maestro joined him in an unusual opening of one of his recitals.
Paderewski in 1900.
Roman Markowicz, who writes a music column for the Nowy Dziennik in New York, reported on Polish music and artists to be performed in the next season. Beginning with the Montreal Symphony, under the direction of Emmanuel Villaurne, presenting Karol Szymanowski's Third Symphony at Carnegie Hall, followed by Szymanowski's Second String Quartet on October 10 by the Karol Szymanowski Quartet from Poland as part of the Alexander Schneider Young Artists' Series and Krystian Zimerman performing Bartok's Third Piano Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony, all at Carnegie Hall.
During the Rostropovich sessions (Mar 20, 21, 22, 25 and 26), the great Russian cellist will conduct Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra and in the Chamber Music concerts Rostropovich will be joined by Juri Baszmet, viola, Jefim Bronfman, piano and members of the NY Philharmonic in Penderecki's Piano Sextet.
Penderecki's Adagio (regarded as his Fourth Symphony) is scheduled for May 29, 30 & 31 by Lorin Maazel and the NY Phil.
The New York Philharmonic plans to premiere Penderecki's new work, Fedra with Kurt Masur and contralto Ewa Podleś in May.
According to an article by Warsaw Correspondent Robert Strybel in Straz, the organ of the Polish National Church in the U.S., the Poznan University Choir has just "produced a recording entitled, 'Tribute to the USA,' inspired by the event's terrorist attack on America of Sep 11, 2001. It includes a vocalization exercise Peace Meditation and Dance in the Fire, composed by the choir's conductor, Jacek Sykulski." Mr. Strybel continues in his report that the Poznan choir was the "only European choral group to perform at July's World Youth Days attended by Pope John Paul II in Toronto." They also performed at ground zero in New York and at the "fire station of the unit that first rushed to the aid of people trapped in the towers of the World Trade Center." This was followed by performances at the UN, St. Patrick's Cathedral and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The 45- member choir is especially grateful to Senator Hilary Clinton for helping obtain entry visas to the U.S. and to American Express for help in getting their live recording from ground zero produced.
|POLISH MUSIC JOURNAL
Vol. 5 No. 1, Summer 2002
BACEWICZ AND WILK PRIZES 2001
The summer 2002 issue of the Polish Music Journal is now available from:
The volume presents the winners of the 2001 edition of the Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music (Essay Competition). The winners, Adrian Thomas in Professional Category, Sławomir Dobrzański and Katarzyna Grochowska in the Student Category, discuss music from the 17th to the 20th century. Their texts are accompanied by bibliographies. Judith Rosen's 1983 study of Grażyna Bacewicz, with a foreword by Witold Lutosławski is the featured article, reprinted from Vol. 2 in the Polish Music History Series (out of print). The abstracts of articles and the table of contents are included below.
On October 16 the Polish Theatre Institute of New York presented "Mickiewicz and Lithuania," a staged, costumed 19th century soiree, celebrating the famous Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz in English translation with songs set to his lyrics in Polish by Polish composers Chopin, Paderewski, Moniuszko and Niewiadomski. Director Nina Polan and Joseph Culliton were the actors and they were joined by singers Monika Krajewska, mezzo, and tenor Gregorio Rangel accompanied by their Music Director Pablo Zinger at the piano.
Distinguished Canadian Chopin pianist, Louis Lortie, performed an entire Chopin program on October 13 at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. He included the 12 Etudes of Opus 10 and 12 of Opus 25, as well as the posthumous Trois Nouvelles Etudes.
The Polish Cultural Institute of N.Y. Newsletter recently published a superb review from the Chicago Tribune written by Howard Reich. The author praises the Cracow Klezmer Band, which appeared "in a standing-room only crowd at the Chicago Cultural Center at the World Music Festival." Mr. Reich called them "the great find of this year's festival" for they "dared to view klezmer music not as rowdy entertainment, but as sublime, high art in an era, which many would-be klezmer bands, including several in the U.S., exaggerate and vulgarize klezmer traditions." They regard "this art form as a concert music to be performed with utmost polish, care and subtlety." He concluded "of all the ensembles that have emerged in recent years to explore the meaning of klezmer in a new era, few have reached as high as the Cracow Klezmer Band, and fewer still have attained comparable results." The Polish ensemble includes Jaroslaw Bester, accordion; Jaroslaw Tyrala, violin; Wojciech Front, bass and Oleg Dyyak on accordion, clarinet and percussion.
Ronald J. Czyz, Jr., programming assistant, at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. publicized "Chopin's Romanticism" a program scheduled for 27 October. Maire- France Lefebvre, piano and Nathaniel Chaitkin, cello played Chopin's Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3 and Sonata in G minor, Op. 65. Music of Schumann and Mendelssohn was also heard. You can visit the Center's web-site: www.jp2cc.org
The VIIth Festival of Polish Composers, under the auspices of Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, devoted this year's 4-day event to Poland's first symphonist, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz. His popular Violin Concerto featured Konstanty Kulka. The Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Jacek Blaszczyk also performed the symphonic poem Eternal Songs, while the Polish National Radio Orchestra conducted by Gabriel Chmura ended the festival with Koscielec 1909. This is the name of one of Tatra's mountain peaks.
The Polish composer Henryk Vars died twenty-five years ago in 1977 in Los Angeles at the age of 75. Today, 100 years after his birth, his songs are as popular in Poland and among Polonia in the U.S. as they were before World War II, when he was Poland's foremost film composer. The songs that he wrote for the majority of Polish pre-war films (many of them musicals) became great hits on their own and have remained popular through the generations.
Here I am, a first-generation American of Polish descent, belonging to the "older" generation and living in America, but because of radio becoming familiar with these tunes in my youth and I recently spoke with someone from Poland who was born after World War II, who is also familiar with the songs and melodies written by Henryk Vars. To my surprise, this person from Poland called these melodies (written in the 1930s) "contemporary popular hits." She also described them as pleasant to the ear and easily singable. This I wholeheartedly agree with. Maybe the secret lies in the fact that he was the first Polish composer to embrace American jazz and was "the first to introduce American influences to Polish popular music" in the many fox-trots and of course, tangos that were the rage in the 20s and 30s.
Here are just a few titles: "Umowilem sie z nia na dziewiata" (I made a date with her for 9 o'clock); "Zatanczmy tango" (Let's Dance the Tango); "Ach, jak przyjemnie" (Oh, How Pleasant It Is); "Juz taki jestem zimny dran" (I'm Just a Cold Rascal); "Tylko we Lwowie" (Only in Lwow); "Milosc Ci wszystko wybaczy" (Love Will Forgive You Everything).
Dr. Linda Schubert, who has been conducting research about Henry Vars's film music and who has presented several papers on this composer, wrote an essay on this composer for the Polish Music Journal on our web-site. See the Summer 2001 issue. According to her, the song "Love will forgive you everything" was "ranked No. 1 among Polish popular songs of the past 50 years" in a survey conducted in 1998 by the Polish news weekly "Wprost." You will also learn many interesting facts about the composer, including the many awards and distinctions that he received, including the Cavalier de Croce Italia from Italy and an award from President Truman.
The composer's widow, Elizabeth, told me recently that when Steven Spielberg happened to be at the famous underground bar, "Piwnica pod Baranami" in Krakow (while on location for his film, "Schindler's List") and heard this song for the first time, he insisted on using the song in his film and she was contacted for permission to do so.
Henry Vars was born Henryk Warszawski in Warsaw in 1902 and shortened his name to Wars. He graduated from the Music Conservatory in Warsaw in 1925 and also spent one and a half years in the military, graduating from Officer's School in Wlodzimierz. During WWII he escaped from German captivity and served in the Polish Army under General Anders from 1941 to 1947; after which he moved to the U.S. and came to California to continue his work in the film industry.
At this time he changed the spelling of his name "Wars" to "Vars" to more accurately resemble the Polish sound (since "W" in Polish sounds like a "V") and the English sounding "w" in "wars" was somewhat laughable according to his wife. His first movie was "The Big Heat" and he has 39 motion picture films to his credit, mainly westerns and horror films. Some of his songs have been recorded by Jimmy Rogers, Doris Day and Bing Crosby. However, he is best known locally and abroad for having composed the theme song and music to the television series "Flipper" (1964-68). Flipper was his most popular piece and was recorded at least eight times between 1963 and 1985 (Schubert). He also wrote the theme music to the TV series "Daktari," also produced by MGM.
Henry Vars (Henryk Wars) is survived by his widow, a daughter and son (a prominent L.A. attorney) and grandchildren). The family paid tribute to his memory in a quiet private observance at his grave-site in Hillside Cemetery in Culver City, where such luminaries as Al Jolson are also interred.
Mrs. Vars has always been a supporter of the Friends of Polish Music at USC and I remember her telling me during the Szymanowski Centennial Festival in 1982 that she had personally met Karol Szymanowski when her husband approached him about studying with the great composer. The latter served as director of the Conservatory from 1927 to 1929 and made big changes, which affected the course of contemporary Polish music in the 20th century. Unfortunately for Szymanowski, the changes which were for the better, caused him to make many enemies among the older, conservative group of Polish composers. However, the young composers all revered the "master" and looked up to him to show them the way. Vars' songs were already enjoying popularity and the "master" paid him a compliment by saying, "It is I who should be studying with you, for your songs are popular and sung throughout Poland, while mine are only rarely heard." This reverence for Szymanowski stayed with Vars until the very end, for his last wish was to die listening to the music of Szymanowski's Third Symphony. He joins the ranks of many other Polish composers who revered Szymanowski's music, like Lutoslawski and Gorecki.
It is not generally known that Henry Vars also composed numerous classical pieces and according to Linda who examined the manuscripts in the widow's personal collection, a "Sonatina for Orchestra," dedicated to Maurice Ravel, has been selected to be donated to the Polish Music Center's manuscript collection, which began with Witold Lutoslawski's donation of five original manuscripts in 1985, now numbers more than one hundred hand-written scores by Polish composers of classical music.
Moniuszko: Overture to Bajka and Tchaikovsky's Suite 2. Bialystok Orchestra, Marcin Nalecz-Niesiolowski, cond.
Reviewed by Steven J. Haller in the American Record Guide Sep/Oct issue, who after praising the program notes written by Kacper Miklaszewski, concluded with "Best of all, there is Moniuszko's wonderful Bajka Overture as lagniappe, one great tune after another and played as only the Poles can play it - a heady romp and bursting with pride. I hope these excellent musicians give us the other three suites, and more from Moniuszko too!"
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1; Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise; Six Mazurkas. Halina Czerny-Stefanska, piano. Czech Philharmonic, Smetacek, cond.
David Mulbury describes the late Polish pianist's playing, taken from a monaural recording made in Prague in 1953 and 1955, "Lovely performances all, by an exceptional artist. An acutely sensitive ear for piano tone, fluid technique, and wonderful illumination of the subtleties of Chopin's piano idiom set Czerny-Stefanska's playing apart from the bulk of currently available Chopin recordings" and concludes "This valuable release, from the Supraphon Archiv, is one that Chopin collectors will not want to overlook."
Each year Fanfare puts out a "Want List" from its reviewers. The lists were as varied as the number of reviewers, with not many duplicate choices among them. I also noticed many unfamiliar names, like Draeseke, Kernis, Weigl, Goluov, Bantock, Finzi, Sciarrino, Viale or Whettam. Only two records appeared on two different Want Lists. They were Marc Andre Hamelin's recording of Godowsky and Goluov's "La Pasion segun San Marcos." I was happy to see that Chopin appeared on three of the lists, but unhappy that no other Polish composers, except for Chopin and Godowsky, were included.
This is the first volume of a projected series of the complete works of the fabled Polish violinist by a Norwegian company. Robert Maxham reports that Plagge's "notes to 2L's compilation of Henryk Wieniawski practically constitute an apology for a composer abandoned by a generation of listeners who denigrated his idiomatic virtuosity as trivial...And the greatest violinists of the first part of the century showcased their technical, tonal, and expressive abilities in his works. However showy, they're perfectly tailored to the instrument, exploiting its resources even more adroitly than those of most of his contemporaries, including, arguably, Vieuxtemps."
SONY SK 61885
Michael Ullman ends his favorable review with, "These Etudes belong on a shelf with Pollini's as among the great recordings by contemporary pianists."
This Polish release of an upcoming teenage artist born in Moscow of a Russian mother and Polish father. Read more about him in last month's newsletter.
Concord Duo Series, Vol. 5. Jazz pianist Adam Makowicz and bassist George Mraz.
This release is highly recommended by All Music Guide and available now from Daedalus Music (1-800-395-2665). The bassist "gets nearly as much solo space as Makowicz," according to the catalog and includes several classics, "Cherokee," "Anything Goes" and "Don't Ever Leave Me" interspersed among originals by the pianist.
Maybeck Recital Hall Series, Vol. 24
This one is a Cole Porter extravaganza featuring Porter songs. Adam's style is generally charecterized as a "hybrid of Art Tatum and Chopin" and this volume opens with "Tatum on My Mind." Also available from the Daedalus catalog.
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Copyright 2002 by the Polish Music Center
The publication of the Polish Music Newsletters is supported by
Dr. & Mrs. Matthew S. Mickiewicz Family Fund, California.