Polish Music
Reference Center
October 1999, Vol. 5, no. 10
ISSN 1098-9188

Anniversaries * Awards * Competitions * Calendar of Events
The Chopin Year * Discography * News * PMRC Open House
Panufnik's Recording * Recent Performances * Selene Records



Fryderyk Chopin

The 150th anniversary of the death of Fryderyk Chopin is a focus of numerous celebrations around the world this year. Since the year 1999 was designated by the UNESCO as "The Chopin Year" a virtual Chopin-mania (similar to the earlier Mozart-, Bach- and Brahms-manias) seems to have engulfed musicians and scholars in many countries. Our report highlights only a portion of events being held in October. For a full list of all Chopin celebrations visit a web site maintained by the Polish Ministry of Culture and the Arts: "Rok Chopinowski"

Concerts and events celebrating the anniversary of Chopin's death on 17 October:


Chopin Congress
    The Polish Chopin Academy celebrates the 150th anniversary of Chopin's death by organizing the Second International Musicological Congress Chopin and His Music in Cultural Context. The Congress is scheduled for 10-17 October 1999 and will take place in Warsaw. The Scholarly Program Committee consists of members of the Polish Chopin Academy (professors and doctors): Zofia Chechlińska, Jan Ekier, Wojciech Nowik, Irena Poniatowska, Jan Stęszewski, and Mieczysław Tomaszewski. The Congress will examine four broad thematic areas: (1) Chopin in the millieu of people and ideas of his epoch, (2) The music of Chopin in musicological interpretations, (3) the pianistic interpretations of Chopin's music, (4) the reception of Chopin's music.

    The Congress includes also a number of performances, starting with a solo recital of Stanislaw Bunin on 10 October 1999 at the National Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw. The next day's recital (held in the same location), features Murray Perahia. The Congress ends with Mozart's Requiem on 17 October 1999. For more information contact the Secretary: ul. Fredry 8, Room 305, 00-097 Warsaw, fax 48-22-635-2230.


For the 150th anniversary of the death of Chopin, the Polish- Australian piano virtuoso, Alan Kogosowski, reconstructed from unfinished materials what is now being called the great composer's "Third Piano Concerto." The Detroit Symphony under the direction of Neeme Jarvi will perform the premieres. There is some ambiguity here. One source (Juliette de Marcellus) gives the date of the world premiere in Detroit as October 7th, while American Record Guide lists the performance as September 30th. (This is not to be confused with the European premiere in Warsaw on the 17th of October).


In order to honor Chopin's year and realize his dream, Polish pianist and Chopin Competition winner, Krystian Zimerman, has organized his own orchestra (57 musicians out of 378 applicants, aged 24-35) and has started a tour with them of 30 concerts in three months. The orchestra performs the two Piano Concertos conducted from the piano. The Polish artist, now living with his wife and two children in Basel, Switzerland, explained in an interview with Peter J. Rabinowitz for the Fanfare magazine, that he had "wanted to fulfill a dream" that he has had for almost twenty years. Zimmerman stated:

I tried to put together all my experience. [...] I played these pieces with almost every major conductor from the 70s to the 90s. [...] Working with such different personalities as Karajan and Bernstein [...] I was able to discover what my own interpretation actually is.
Zimmerman learned different interpretations of the two concertos from each of the conductors that he worked with and he put together the best from all of them and mixed it with his own ideas that include a connection to the Polish tradition. As he said: "There certainly is a Polish tradition of playing these pieces. I consider myself a part of it because I was born in Poland."

Zimerman's orchestra performs in Salle Pleyel, Paris (the site of Chopin's own concerts) on 17 October 1999. The American tour stops in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. (in November).


Fryderyk Chopin
    Between the 5th and the 21st of October 1999 the Polish Institute in Leipzig hosts the Chopin Days, organized jointly by the Polish Institute, Neue Leipziger Chopin Gesellschaft and Deutsche Chopin Gesellschaft. The inaugural concert, given by Paweł Kowalski and the Silesian Quartet will feature works by Chopin, Szymanowski, Panufnik, Zarebski. There will be other concerts and an exhibition of Polish Chopin posters from the Institute archives.


The Harrods International Piano Series, "Chopin 150, " will be held between 17 October 1999 and 27 February 2000 at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The series will open with a solo recital by Mitsuko Uchida (17 October). On 20 October Krystian Zimerman with the Polish Festival Orchestra will perform both piano concerti in Zimerman's interpretation. On 29 November, another winner of the Chopin Competition will appear - Maurizio Pollini. The remaining concerts of the series will feature Louis Lortie (10 December), Nikolai Demidenko 923 January 2000), and Nelson Goerner (27 February 2000).


From 0ctober 14 through 19, the Polish Cultural Institute in Berlin, Germany will host a series of Piano Master Classes to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Frederic Chopin's death. The classes will feature internationally renowned artists including: Vladimir Ashkenazy, Marc Laforet, Murray Perahia and Dang Thai Son. Each pianist will work with three or four students in his master class. Performances by the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin at the Berlin Konzerthaus and by Vladimir Ashkenazy (who will play chamber music by D. Shostakovich) on October 13 will commence the festivities. For additional information, please go to www.chopin.1999.org


Mannes College of Music (212-495-8524) presentes a concert series of the complete works of Chopin performed by the students of the school. All the concerts are held on Thursdays at 8 p.m.

The Chopin Sesquicentennial Symposium

Report by Maria Anna Harley

The symposium was held at Indiana University on September 17-19, 1999. It was organized by the Polish Studies Center, the Russian and East European institute, The Office of International Programs, the School of Music and The Multdisciplinary Ventures and Seminars Fund at Indiana University. Donations came from the Polish Ministry of Culture and the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York. Among the organizers, Dr. Halina Goldberg (Chopin specialist, School of Music) and Prof. Bozena Shallcross (Polish literature specialist, Director of Polish Studies Center) played the greatest role. This is how they described the purpose and rationale of their conference.

In the 150 years since Chopin's death, his music has acquired totemic significance. Tinged with melancholy or blazing with heroic and inventive harmonies, it is a staple from dance studios to concert halls. One of the greatest composers for the piano, Chopin created a new style of playing that ushered in the Romantic age of the piano. In that style, the instrument was emancipated from its historical role as a part of the fabric of large-scale choral/orchestral works. IU's celebration of Chopin will explore the cultural ambience in which Chopin flourished, especially that of Warsaw and Paris. Chopin moved constantly in the circles of intellectual, literary and musical luminaries, and these connections will provide topics for lively discussion.

The Age of Chopin
    The first session, on Friday afternoon, brought two keynote addresses, by Daniel Stone (historian, University of Winnipeg) who talked about "Chopin and Poland: The Historical Background" and Douglas Hofstadter (physicist, cognitive scientist, Slavist and music theorist, Indiana University, on leave at Stanford University) who discussed his fascination with Chopin's music in a lively address "A Lifelong Passion for Chopin's Fire." Prof. Stone, one of the leading historians of Poland presented a "what-if" game: What if we were celebrating Chopin's tenth death anniversary, not 150th? The answer contrasted the conditions existing in the Polish People's Republic with those under Russian partitions, and concluded that the composer would either write very difficult atonal music or be a jazz pianist (these two styles served to protest the government in the 1950s and 1960s).

    After a coffee break with refreshments organized by the energetic Lois Plew (who coordinated the details of the whole conference), the program of the conference began in earnest. The Friday session was entitled "Memories, Images and Dreams" - presenters talked about the history of Chopin monument in Warsaw, created by W. Szymanowski, destroyed by the Germans and rebuilt after the war (Prof. Waldemar Okon, University of Wroclaw), the similarity of Delacroix portraits of Chopin and of himself (John Nici, Queens College, CUNY), Chopin's homes and ways of "feeling at home" (Bozena Shallcross, Indiana University), and Chopin's use of oriental allusions in one of his nocturnes (Jeffery Kallberg, University of Pennsylvania, paper read by Prof. Peter Burkholder from Indiana University).

The first concert, on Friday night, entitled "Chopin in the Salon" included a mammoth program of 15 compositions by Chopin and his contemporaries, performed by an array of Indiana University students, faculty and guests (most notably Teresa Kubiak who sang Chopin's songs). The hall was filled to capacity and about 100 students stood in the hallways, by the walls - a great success!

The conference program of Saturday, September 18 was equally taunting. The first session focussed on Chopin's dance. Eric McKee (Penn State U.) talked about the relationship of Chopin's dances to the actual functional dance music and tried to suggest the presence of concrete dance steps and figures in the music. Barbara Milewski (Princeton U.) reviewed folk elements and significance in Mazurka op. 68 no. 3 while Carl Schachter (City University of New York) focused on phrase rhythms in Mazurkas op. 41. Finally, Leslie Kearney (Indiana University), talked about unusual significance of dance in Russian music (connection to Chopin was very tentative here).

The afternoon sessions dealt with the context of Chopin's music in film and theatre. The improvisatory and physical aspects of Adam Mickiewicz's lecture no. 16 from College de France were discussed by Halina Filipowicz, University of Wisconsin at Madison), the film and ballet versions of Chopin's music, with a special emphasis on ambivalent meanings and their presence in the music itself were presented by Marianne Kielian-Gilbert (Indiana University). In the second session on "Gender, Genre, Genius," James Parakilas (Bates College) discussed the inspiration for Chopin's nocturnes provided by the vocal nocturnes, a distinctly French genre, set always for two parallel voices. Whitney Walton discuss the issue of "sexless gender" and the reception of the personal of George Sand while Irena Poniatowska (Warsaw University) presented an exhaustive survey of all aspects that might be considered under the rubric of "Chopin and the Opera."

The concert entitled "Chopin on Chopin's Piano" was given by Edmund Battersby, Indiana University Professor who performed an all-Chopin recital on the School of Music's copy of the 19th Century Graff piano - Chopin's instrument of choice at Vienna. The piano has a wonderful, delicate sound, but did not seem suitable for a large hall and for such fast tempi that the pianist took in most of the music. Chopin reception was the subject of the Sunday session, "Chopin Appropriated." Zofia Chechlinska (Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Warsaw) discussed Chopin reception as reflected in 19th century Polish periodicals. I talked about "Chopin and the "Polish Race," or Political Dimensions of Chopin Reception" (the links of national/ethnic identity to "racial identity" were emphasized at the end of 19th c. by many writers; it is a very controversial topic). Sandra Rosenblum (Boston, MA) presented a detailed survey of "Chopin's Music in Nineteenth-Century America: Dissemination and Aspects of Reception" (complete with railroad maps and locations of concerts with Chopin on the program). Finally, in the last paper of the symposium Maciej Golab (Warsaw University) classified the different types of transcriptions of Chopin's works and illustrated his classification method with many examples.

The final concert, "Monsieur Chopin the Public Virtuoso" with Edward Auer, and ReikoShigeoka Neriki in Chopin works with orchestra was a delight not to be forgotten very soon. Auer, the first American laureate of Chopin competition in Warsaw, closed the program with the Andante Spianato for Solo Piano and Grand Polonaise Brillante for Piano and Orchestra op. 22. His predecessor, Reiko Neriki, showed the dexterity of her fingers and musicality in the very difficult Variations op. 2 ("La ci darem la mano"). We had a chance of hearing the voice of Teresa Kubiak in "Oh perfido" by Beethoven, and Leah Hunt in Rossini's "Willow song" from "Othello." The concert started with the overture to Coriolan by Beethoven and did not include the final planned overture to Euryanthe by Weber. The orchestra was very well prepared by A. Peter Brown and the sounds of Chopin's polonaise carried in the memory, accompanied us on the way to the airport. For more information about "The Age of Chopin: The Chopin Sesquicentennial Symposium" visit the conference's web site: http://www.indiana.edu/~reeiweb/chopin.html.

As a scholar and a lover of Chopin's music I was thoroughly delighted to be one of the invited guests. All speakers bear the titles of Prof. and their expertise in Chopin's music and his cultural context is enormous.. The papers will be published as a book of collected essays, edited by Halina Goldberg. Thanks to the generous sponsorship the Conference and Concerts were free and open to the public. The halls were completely packed for the concerts and filled with students (ca. 50 listeners per session) for the papers. Congratulations to Indiana University for celebrating Chopin's year in such a worthy fashion. [MAH]



A recording with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Lutnia Singing Society performing Symphony for Peace by Andrzej Panufnik (1914-91) under the direction of Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) resurfaced last week after nearly 45 years since the recording of its American premiere took place in front of an audience of 5,000 Detroiters at the city's Masonic Temple Auditorium. In researching Panufnik's music, Joseph Herter, a native of Detroit now living in Warsaw, came across a Detroit Free Press review of the February 17, 1955 concert which stated that the United States State Department had recorded the concert for a Voice of America (VOA) broadcast to Poland, which was then behind the Iron Curtain. After contacting the VOA archives at the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, D.C., and following a two-week search, LOC reference librarian Edwin Matthias informed Herter that the tape of the Panufnik/Stokowski/DSO April 9, 1955 broadcast still exists. Neither the DSO nor the Panufnik Estate had any recollection of such a recording ever having been made.

Andrzej Panufnik, one of Poland's foremost composers and conductors of the second half of this century, took political asylum in Great Britain the year before the symphony's first American performance. Panufnik's presence in Detroit caused a sensation within the city's Polish community. Detroit's Polish daily Dziennik Polski described the composer's arrival as "the greatest event since the last visit of Ignacy Paderewski." Not returning to his native Poland until 1990, following the rebirth of democracy there, Panufnik spent the rest of his life in Britain, which awarded him a knighthood when he was 76.

In Poland, the Detroit-born and University-of-Michigan-educated Herter has been responsible for conducting the first Polish performances of several of Sir Andrzej's compositions, including such controversial works as his Katyń Epitaph, which commemorates the 1940 massacre of over 10,000 Polish officers and soldiers by Soviet troops in the Katyń Forest near Smolensk, and the Bassoon Concerto, written in memory of Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, the priest who was tortured to death in 1984 by the secret police of People's Poland. Both Polish premieres took place while Poland was still ruled by a Communist regime. Herter was also responsible for organizing a brass ensemble that welcomed Panufnik at Warsaw's airport when the composer returned for his historic first visit in 1990. The band greeted him with his composition Pean, a fanfare Panufnik wrote for the 80th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

It is especially delightful to announce this discovery in October, the month of Panufnik's 85th birth anniversary (he was born on 27 October).

For further information you may contact:


The library of the Polish Composers' Union (ZKP) has expanded its computerized database of Polish composers. Currently their list of Polish composers who were active after the WWII consists of 418 names; each entry includes a brief biography and short descriptions of compositions. The library has also started preliminary work to compile and publish a bibliography of Polish music literature in the form of printed books and CDROMs.

The library currently publishes a Bulletin that provides the information about various competitions and other opportunities for composers. These are sent to over 250 Polish composers living in Poland and abroad. Another type of publication is the Sound Chronicle of Warsaw Autumn. From the 1998 event a set of six cassettes with Polish contemporary music was recorded. The set was sent to many individuals and institutions in Poland and around the world together with an updated catalogue “Sound Chronicle of the Warsaw Autumn 1956-1998. (The PMRC received a copy which is available in the library).

Since the purpose of the library is collecting comprehensive information about music by Polish composers, its collection is expanded by arranging recordings of Polish contemporary music at festivals and concerts, among others: Warszawskie Spotkania Muzyczne (Warsaw Music Encounters) and Dni Muzyki Kompozytorow Krakowskich (Days of Cracow Composers’ Music).

At the moment, the ZKP Library does not have access to the internet and its catalogs are only availiable on site. However, the work on the future homepage is in progress. It will include general information, Polish contemporary music database with names of the composers and their works, bibliography of Polish music literature, listings of institutions and events associated with Polish contemporary music. (Similar to the PMRC page).

The ZKP Library is subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and Art, the City of Warsaw, Polish Composers' Union, Polish Radio, Authors' Association and other sponsors. There are four full-time employees working on the various projects. Congratulations to the library's director, Stanislaw Czopowicz, whose guidance has served this institution so well.


There is a new early music group in Poland with a web page. The Dekameron Ensemble offers concerts of early music, especially from medieval Poland. The group's leader, Tadeusz Czechak, is also active in the field of reconstructing historical instruments. The web page was not accessible last time we checked, but try it, anyway: Dekameron Ensemble.


On October 13, Lilya Berezhnaya will give a lecture entitled "The Union of Brest 1596 and the Formation of National Identities in the Polish Commonwealth" at the University of Michigan, in Room 1636. Berezhnaya is a doctoral student in the Department of History at Central European University and an Advanced Study Center Fellow at the University of Michigan. For more information call (734) 764- 0351.


Do you need guidance in finding Slavic materials on the internet? Are you looking for a reliable guide to evaluate web resources? In an article featured in the September edition of the NewsNet (a newsletter of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies), Karen Rondestvedt discusses the maintenance of a gateway to Slavic sources on the web. Rondestvedt, a Slavic Bibliographer at the University of Pittsburgh and the editor of the journal Slavic & East European Information Resources, explains what a "gateway" is. She writes, "a gateway...is an index of web sites which allows interested individuals to find [needed] material." According to Karen Rondestvedt, this type of web site organization is still in its beginning stages, constantly being debated by individuals as well as associations. However, in her commentary and suggestions, the author does mention some worthwile research/source evaluation web sites. Attention all scholars who need research materials as well as those simply interested in the Slavic cultures!


The music of two Polish composers, Fryderyk Chopin and Grazyna Bacewicz, was performed at the 79th Miss America Pageant during the Talent part of the competition. Only the five finalists took part in this portion of the show. Miss Illinois, Jade Smalls, who was runner-up, performed the spectacular Chopin Etude in C# minor, while Miss Pennsylvania, Susan Spafford, brilliantly played a "Polish Caprice" by Bacewicz, the outstanding 20th century Polish woman composer. (See our Polish Music History Series for two books on this composer that we published).



The First International Piano Duets Competition in Białystok, Poland will be held in December 1999. At present the Białystok branch of the Frederic Chopin Academy of Music (the A.M.F.C) is accepting applications for participation in this competition.

Competition program
    The event will be held in Białystok, Poland from the 6th to the 11th December 1999. The competition is open to pianists of all nationalities. However, the applicants must be born after December 5th, 1970. Professor Barbara Halska and the Chamber Pianists Assembly of the Interfaculty Chamber Department of the A.M.F.C. are the competition's organizers.

    The competitors' repertoire will consist of the following:

    • Stage I: W.A. Mozart - Sonata D-major KV 448 W. Lutosławski - Variations on Paganini Theme (Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne edition)

    • Stage II: F. Chopin - Rondo C Major op. 73 plus a choice of another piece

    • Stage III: concertos with an orchestra (one of the following: W. A. Mozart - Concerto E flat major KV 365 or F. Mendelssohn B. - Concerto E major)


The 3rd International Musical Personalities Competition will be held in Łódź from November 5th-11th 2000 in the following artistic disciplines: voice, oboe, violin, cello, piano, guitar. The competition is open to soloists of all nationalities born after the 1st of January 1970 (under the age of 30). The main criterion for judging will be the artist’s personality, his musical individuality. Therefore representatives of various artistic disciplines will compete in the final of the competition. Applications should be sent before the closing date of August 22nd 2000 (the post-office stamp date will be decisive) to the following address:

Competition program
    Stowarzyszenie Promocji Kultury im. Aleksandra Tansmana
    Ul. Legionów 2
    90-401 Lódź, Poland
    Tel./fax (+48 42) 63 99 386
    Tel. (+48) 601 295 495
    E-mail: wendland@tansman.lodz.pl
    E-mail: wendland@intersil.lodz.pl

    The application should include three recent photographs on glossy paper (format 9x12), a copy of the applicant's birth certificate, documents certifying: completion of musical studies, participation in competitions, festivals and masterclasses, private studies; a video cassette (VHS, NTSC and others) which contains a program that is consistent with requirements set down for competitors and shows the participant’s whole silhouette and the instrument during play (recordings may come from various sources). No documents or video cassettes will be returned.

The finalists should appear at the office of the Secretary of the Competition (Grand Hotel, Lodz, 72 Piotrkowska Street) at 10 p.m. on November 4th, 2000 at the latest. All participants who arrive late through a fault of their own will be excluded from participation in the competition. The winner of the Grand Prix and 1st Prize winner of the 1st and 2nd Aleksander Tansman International Competition of Musical Personalities, can not take part in the next edition of the competition.

On the basis of video recordings sent by participants in accordance with the regulations of the competition, the jury, made up of prominent musicians in various artistic disciplines, will decide which outstanding personalities - though not more than 24 participants in the competition - will enter the final. Each participant will be informed of the jury's decision by September 30th 2000. The acceptance of an application will be tantamount to the conclusion of an agreement regarding participation in the 3rd International Competition of Musical Personalities between the Organization Committee and the participant.

The prizes include:


The 6th European Chopin Competition, organized by the Chopin Gesellschaft in Darmstadt, will be held on 8-17 October 1999, Darmstadt. For more information contact the Chopin Society in Darmstadt.



Each year the American Council of Polish Clubs presents a Marcella Sembrich Vocal Award. At their latest, the 51st Annual Convention in Savannah, GA. newly-elected president, Mr. Marion Winters, presented the prize to soprano Ewa Kowcz, widely known in Poland and Chicago.


The American Council of Polish Clubs also sponsors the annual Josef Hofmann Piano Competition in June in Aiken, S. Carolina. Winner of the 1999 competition was Eva Ostrovsky, student at the College Conservatory of Music, U. of Cincinnatti. In addition to the $2,500 money award, the First Prize includes engagements to play at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. and a contract to play with the Augusta Symphony Orchestra.


Aga Winska (Agata Wisniewska), an excellent Polish soprano currently residing in Brussels, secured the First Prize in an international vocal competition in France. By winning the Concours International de Chant de Gascogne, Ms. Wisniewska beat the 64 participants who came from all around the world to Rieumes, France. The three-stage competition lasted from the 10th to the 15th August and included repertoire ranging from songs to opera arias.


Polish baritone Marcin Bronikowski recently won the First Prize in the Miriam Helin-Laulukilpailu International Vocal Competition held in Helskinki, Finland. An accomplished singer, Bronikowski is known to audiences for his role as Escamile in Warsaw Opera's performance of "Carmen."


During the last session of the International Forum of Composers in Paris (14-18 June,1999) Tadeusz Wielecki’s “Concerto a rebours” received recommendation in the general category, Robert Kurdybacha’s “Concerto for guitar and strings”- recommendation in “composers under 30 yrs of age” category. The year 1994 initiated an extremely successful period of time for Polish music at the forum: since then eight of ten compositions presented were rewarded. Between the years 1955-1999 Polish and French compositions were among those which received the most rewards (29 each).

The International Forum of Composers has been organized annually since 1955 by the International Music Board affiliated with UNESCO. It is an overview of the most recent compositions presented by Public Radio Stations from around the world. In the general category the highest scoring composition receives the title of “selected work”, next ten become "recommended works”. Among all presented works there is a separate category for composers under 30 years of age. In that category the best work also receives the title “selected work”, next two works “recommended”.

Since the selections of Polish entries for this competition are done by the Polish Radio, e.g. its representative and new music "guru" - Andrzej Chłopecki - we could assume that it is Mr. Chłopecki's taste that is, in part, so rewarded. Congratulations to the Polish Radio and to all the winners.



For Poles, September 1, 1939 marks an especially significant historical event - the beginning of World War II. This year, on the 60th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, voices rang out as an orchestra played in the Frederick Chopin Musical Academy stage in Warsaw, Poland.

Piesn Lotnikow
Cover of a war-time song
Chicago, April 1943 [PMRC Collection]
    The concert which included selections from Bach's "B-Minor Mass," Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" and Faure's "Requiem," was led by Joseph Herter. Herter, both the organizer and principal conductor at the event, is originally from southwest Detroit. He settled in Poland 25 years ago, after deciding to study Polish choral music in Warsaw. Gregory Moore, who was the baritone soloist at the concert, also grew up in the United States. However, Moore recalls from his childhood hearing much about Poland from his great-grandparents.

    Other performers in this event were of diverse cultural backgrounds, yet the spirit of unity prevailed. Moore's comment suscinctly summed up the personal nature of the concert. "This is much more than a gig...The faces of the old people, especially the women, are road maps of what they've been through. I see myself in their faces." The concert organizers not only wanted to remember the September 1st anniversary, but also send out "a musical plea for peace amid a world and a Europe still torn by wars of hatred." An enthusiastic review of this event appeared in Detroit News. For more information visit the paper's web site with the review of this important concert: Concert for Peace.


The Polish Singers Alliance of America sponsored a concert of Chopin's music in Manhattan, featuring Polish stars, mezzosopranos Barbara Rzezwicka-Gajdek and Malgorzata Fiszkiewicz, and soprano Eugenia Roszczenko-Kurianowicz.


A cycle of concerts of Chopin's music was included this year in the annual Vratislavia Cantans International Cantata and Oratorio Festival (Sep 4-14). The Royal Philharmonic appeared for the first time and the Queen of England gave her patronage.




Dr. Hilary Koprowski has added a new dimension to his distinguished career as a scientist, author, professor at the U. of Pa. and microbiologist of the World Health Organization. This time as a composer - on a CD released by MMC Recordings: "Fleeting Thoughts. Songs and Chamber Music." MMC 2083.


Making a Difference - A Conversation with Edmund Lewandowski

By Peter J. Rabinowitz
Reprinted from Fanfare 22 no. 4 (March/April 1999)

There's a good chance that you've never heard of Ignacy Feliks Dobrzyński - or that, if you have, you've merely read somewhere that he was a fellow student of Chopin's in Józef Elsner's composition classes at the Warsaw Conservatory or that, as the New Grove Dictionary puts it, "his piano music shows clearly the influence" of his more famous compatriot. In fact, the influence probably went both ways, as is evident from Dobrzyński's absorbing Piano Concerto in A-flat major, written several years before Chopin's similar, and much more familiar, Concerto in F Minor. You can now hear that prescient work on an illuminating CD released by the Polish label Selene (9405.21). Less than a decade old, Selene has an understandable commitment to Chopin, including some striking performances by Polish pianists who are not yet well known in the United States; but their steadily growing catalog is also studded with revelatory CDs, often including premiere recordings, of repertoire by other, less familiar Polish composers: the complete piano music (two- and four-hand) by Moniuszko; the robust violin sonata by Józef Wieniawski (Henryk's younger brother); the more-or-less complete piano music by Paderewski (a four disc set performed by Karol Radziwonowicz and coproduced with Chant du-Monde; see Fanfare 15 no. 6); a substantial collection of piano music by the talented, but short-lived, Liszt- pupil Juliusz Zarębski in performances by Jerzy Sterczynski that are even more persuasive than those on the complementary collection by Rachel Franklin (see Fanfare 18 no. 2); songs by Karłowicz and Moniuszko. . . .

Selene is being distributed by Bayside, but its presence in the United-States is due to the efforts of the California-based Poland Import Export, a company - created a few years back by Edmund Lewandowski. Unlike most people interviewed in Fanfare, Lewandowski is not a musician. In fact, he holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering with a specialty in optics and has worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and in Silicon Valley (he's the owner of two technical patents dealing with semiconductors). How he got into the business of importing classical CDs is a fascinating story.

Born in a small city about 120 miles northwest of Warsaw, Lewandowski lived in Warsaw for about a decade until he emigrated to Austria for political reasons:

I had a choice: either to be in jail in then-communist Poland or to be free outside, so I chose freedom. I escaped from Poland with my wife, Marie. After we had been granted political asylum and had lived in a refugee camp in Austria for six months, we decided that we would like to emigrate somewhere else. There were different opportunities, and one of them was the United States. We picked the United States because everyone wants to go to the United States, and if we have a chance, why not take it?

At first, the choice did not look like the right one: "When we came to the United States, we came to Detroit, a neighborhood that was really strange to us." The culture shock was so great that they nearly went back to Austria. But before returning, they decided to "see what different states look like and how different places look like in the United States. We saved a little bit of money and we bought tickets for Greyhound." His wife's sister lives in the Bay area, so that's where they headed. They found San Francisco congenial, so "we started our life here." While Lewandowski was working at Stanford, his wife passed the exams for foreign medical graduates, and, after a brief residency in Ohio, they returned to San Francisco where she set up a practice as a family physician.

At this point, with his wife providing financial stability for the family, Lewandowski asked himself the tough question: "After a while, I was kind of thinking, what am I accomplishing in my life? What am I doing? I came to the conclusion that I am one of many. My job as a mechanical engineer can be done by somebody else. I wanted to do something unique. I wanted to do something I could be proud of, something that probably nobody else would have a chance to do." Fortunately, he had the enthusiastic support of his wife, so he was free to consider activities that didn't necessarily bring in any income. "That's how I started to think about Poland Import Export. I originally thought it would be a business that would promote anything Polish, as far as products go, in the United States. That was the main concept when I created the company. I was starting to look for a product. I like popular music a lot, so when I went to Poland to search for things, I bought a number of CDs and I brought them to the United States. Many people said to me, 'You bought them, but we would like to have such music also.' So I said, 'Well, why don't I import it?' Once I got into music CDs, I never really expanded to any other area. "My philosophy is that if I get one person interested in a given CD, I basically bring more than one, hoping that there will be others interested in this particular title. That way, I am building up stock of CDs. I have more than a thousand titles of popular music." But Lewandowski's primary concern now is "pioneering the spread of Polish classical music in the United States." Indeed, although he sells popular music by mail order, he is "hoping to get out of this particular avenue because it slows me down as far as marketing classical music. I really would like to make a difference as far as Polish classical music availability and knowledge of Polish music in the United States."

Key to his project has been Selene, a label he first heard about when he was at a major "national fair in Poland of different musical labels, an equivalent of MIDEM in Western Europe. I searched for the company, where it is and who created it, and who worked there and things like that. I discovered that the Selene company is run by two musicians. Everything is done the way another label wouldn't do it. They are not after money, they are after documenting music by Polish composers and performers. I thought, 'Well, this music is not known in the United States at all.' Besides Chopin and maybe some CDs of Penderecki, Szymanowski, and Gorecki, there was really nothing to speak of in terms of Polish music in American record stores. Also, I discovered that Poland had very good artists who performed other music than Polish composers." So he decided to get exclusive rights to import Selene CDs to the United States. "Ever since, I have been trying to spread the word about Selene in the United States."

Why has Polish culture - in particular, Polish music - been so poorly represented in the United States? Lewandowski cites three main reasons, all stemming from Polish history. "First, Poland did not exist as a country from 1795 until 1918. For 123 years, it was illegal to claim to be Polish. Polish people had to obey, depending on where they lived, German, Russian, or Austrian rulers." Second, more recently, while Poland was behind the Iron Curtain, trade with the United States was constrained. Third, during the communist period, "the only label in Poland was Polskie Nagrania, which was a state label. They pretty much did whatever they wanted, and everything was directed from the Politburo, from the Party headquarters: what they put out, what they didn't. Many of the works were not really promoted. In addition, under the communists, people really didn't have incentive to work hard, because they had jobs no matter what, because it was one of the principles of the system, and whether people worked hard or worked lousy, they were rewarded the same. So why bother?"

Things are different now: "The people now have their own private enterprises, they are stretching themselves, and the results are showing." Lewandowski figures that there are currently somewhere around 50 labels in Poland. Some of them are the size of Selene, some are much bigger. And although Polskie Nagrania still exists (in fact, Poland Import Export imports many of its CDs as well), it has been considerably reduced in scale: "It lost all its huge buildings in Warsaw. They moved to another part of Warsaw where they were forced into maybe 10 or 12 rooms. They had several huge buildings before, they had recording studios, they had all the processing equipment that requires a lot of people. And right now because of all those dynamic, small labels [not to mention competition from the Polish branches of Sony, EMI, and Polygram] there is big competition for Polskie Nagrania. That's why Polskie Nagrania as a state business was not really able to stay alive the way they used to be." What exactly does Poland Import Export do? "I bring the CDs from Poland. I negotiate the prices and everything, and I arrange by phone and faxes with people in Poland how to ship it and exactly what titles and whatever, and they ship it here. I pay for the CDs, I pay for shipping, which is really costly because everything comes by air. It arrives in San Francisco, then I have to process it, because Selene does not have a bar code. I have to give it to a local company which does the bar coding and shrink wrap; and after this processing, the CDs are ready for the distributor, Bayside."

Wieniawski CD by Selene
    On the whole, Lewandowski tries not to sell Selene CDs to individuals. But because the company is listed in Schwann Opus, and because he has just set up a Web site (http://members.aol.com/seleneusa), many people do get in touch with him. "I explain to them that I can sell directly, but because my company is not set up to sell that way, I really have to charge a lot more for a CD than a store would. I think that's the only fair thing to do. Because if I sell directly, I will handle lots of orders myself, and I don't want to develop this company into a 10-person operation. I like it as it is" - which is, for the most part, a one-person business.

Lewandowski is particularly excited about two new projects from Selene. First is a world premiere disc of "unknown yet beautiful" music by Karol Lipiński (1790-1861), music that has been rarely performed because it poses such difficulty for interpreters. Second is Selene's new historical series, "The Great Polish Chopin Tradition." So far, this includes a disc of recordings by Alexander Michałowski (some recorded as early as 1905), as well as four CDs of performances by Raoul Koczalski, each filled out with new recordings of Koczalski's own compositions by such modern performers as Andrzey Tatarski and Jerzy Sterczynski. (Selene has also published a substantial book about Koczalski, although until they find a translator it's available in Polish only.) "Koczalski was a student of Mikuli, and Mikuli's teacher was Chopin himself. Mikuli was known for being very persistent in executing Chopin's compositions, and passed down to Koczalski this exact way of interpreting Chopin. Koczalski was really adamant about executing the music the way Chopin was playing it."

All in all, the availability of Selene in the United States shows that this mechanical engineer has, in fact, succeeded in his desire to make a difference, to do something unique. But Lewandowski insists on sharing the credit. "I want to reiterate," he insisted at the end of the interview, "that I am grateful to my wife, Marie, who is making all of this possible." Given the high quality of the Selene discs that I've heard so far, we all have reason to share his gratitude.

[NOTE: This article is used by permission of Fanfare and Mr. Lewandowski].



PMRC will host an open house on Sunday, 24 October at 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., preceding the Chopin recital of USC professor, Daniel Pollack. The recital will take place at the Newman Recital Hall, USC campus, at 4:00 p.m. It is a part of a new series of faculty recitals, "USC Masters Series."

The new location of the PMRC is in room 219 (plus 219A and 219B) on the second floor of the United University Church. The library doubled in size, w with a large library room, housing the collection, audio equipment and tables for students and visitors and two offices - for the librarian (currently used by Dr. Barbara Zakrzewska-Nikiporczyk, on a fellowship from the Kosciuszko Foundation of New York) and for the PMRC director. The offices and the library room are air-conditioned and have large windows.

We now have two telephone numbers: 213-740-9369 for PMRC Director, Maria Anna Harley, and 213-821-1356 for the librarian. We have also more computer connections and room for another computer - with the catalog, for student's use. Some of the space is hard to furnish, since its the dimensions are not standard - the Church was built in 1928.

So, if you would like to meet with the staff and volunteers of the PMRC and have a wonderful Sunday afternoon in October, visit USC on the 24th. Everyone is welcome. Please order the tickets for the concert separately from USC Ticket Office (tel: 213-740-7111). Parking is $6.00. All the friends of Polish music in Southern California are welcome.


Born this month:

  • 3 October 1882 - Karol SZYMANOWSKI, composer, pianist, (d. 29 March 1937)
  • 3 October 1923 - Stanisław SKROWACZEWSKI, composer and conductor
  • 4 October 1910 - Eugenia UMIŃSKA, violinist
  • 9 October 1924 - Regina SMENDZIANKA, pianist
  • 10 October 1910 - Henryk SWOLKIEŃ, music critic, composer
  • 16 October 1867 - Ferdynand HOESICK, music critic, publisher (d. 13 April 1941)
  • 18 October 1879 - Grzegorz FITELBERG, conductor, violinist, composer (d. 10 June 1953)
  • 20 October 1819 - Karol MIKULI, pianist, composer, conductor, Chopin's student (d. 21 May 1897)
  • 25 October 1868 - Michał ŚWIERZYŃSKI, composer, conductor (d. 30 June 1957)
  • 30 October 1904 - Alfred GRADSTEIN, composer, activist (d. 29 September 1954)

Died this month:

  • 1 October 1861 - Tekla Justyna KRZYŻANOWSKA, pianist, Chopin's mother (b. September 1780)
  • 7 October 1854 - Adolf CICHOWSKI, Chopin's friend, officer and civil servant (b.1794)
  • 17 October 1849 - Fryderyk CHOPIN, composer and pianist (b. 1 March (also listed as February 22, 1810)
  • 17 October 1938 - Aleksander MICHAŁOWSKI, pinaist, composer, Tausig's student (b. 5 May 1851)
  • 18 October 1962 - Maria SZCZEPAŃSKA, musicologist (b. 13 May 1902)
  • 21 October 1837 - Michał Józef GUZIKOW, folk musician (b. 1806)
  • 27 October 1991 - Andrzej PANUFNIK, composer and conductor (b. 24 September 1914)
  • 30 October 1912 - Jan Karol GALL, composer and conductor (b. 18 August 1856)
  • 31 October 1952 - Adolf CHYBIŃSKI, musicologist (b. 29 April 1880)

IN MEMORIAM: Tadeusz Kaczyński (1932 - 1999)

Well-known and respected musicologist and music critic, Tadeusz Kaczyński, died unexpectedly in an accident. This is a great loss to the Polish musicology community. Kaczyński published six books about music: The Stage History of "Halka" (1969), Conversations with Lutosławski (Polish version 1972, English version 1994), Warszawska Jesien 1956-1981. Album (1983), Messiaen (1984), (1994, in Polish only), Andrzej Panufnik and His Music (1994).

Lutoslawski Symposium, 1997
Authors of books about Lutosławski (L to R): Jadwiga Paja-Stach, Zbigniew Skowron, Tadeusz Kaczyński, Steven Stucky, Martina Homma, Charles Bodman Rae. Warsaw, June 1997

    The author of numerous scholarly articles published in Poland, Czechoslovakia,Soviet Union, France, Kaczyński was also active as a program annotator for major new music festivals, radio journalist, and music critics. He served on the editorial board of Ruch Muzyczny and published articles about Polish music in various periodicals.

    One of Kaczyński's more recent titles to fame was his role as the founder of the Filharmonia im. Traugutta, a music organization dedicated to the performance and promotion of Polish national, patriotic and historical songs. He edited several programs of the Filharmonia's concerts and was active organizing its events till the end of his life.

While I read his books as a student in Warsaw, I met Mr. Kaczyński only in 1996 during a research trip to Sacher Archives in Basel, where we both studied the archival material of Witold Lutoławski. With his wife and Dr. Martina Homma, we spent our "break" hours chatting and becoming friends. I then visited the Kaczyńskis' in 1997 (at the time of Lutosławski Symposium in Warsaw) and enjoyed their hospitality. Before his death, Mr. Kaczyński left a message at my answering machine in Warsaw: we were supposed to meet again during the Chopin Congress in October. Alas, this meeting will not take place. Farewell, friend!

Back to PMRC Home Page PMRC Newsletters

Copyright 1999 by the Polish Music Reference Center
Send your comments and inquiries to: polmusic@usc.edu

Newsletter Editors: Wanda Wilk and Maria Anna Harley
Contributions by: Katarzyna Smogorzewska, Grażyna Piotrowska, Joseph Herter.
Information from Ruch Muzyczny, Fanfare, and various newsletters, press releases.
Formatting by M. A. Harley; 30 September 1999