F. Chopin (1810 – 1849)

A few questions concerning the Great Polish Piano Tradition.

In April 2002, I received a message sent by Mr. Frederik Reitz from Paris. Here you are the shortened version of his message and, of course, the unabridged text of my answers on interesting questions of Mr. Reitz. Welcome!

Sir,

I am writing a general report on the Polish piano tradition for the French magazine PIANO, annual issue made by the LETTRE DU MUSICIEN. So, I would be very grateful if you answer to some questions for this report. It will be like an interview by email.

Shortly... The piano tradition is important in Poland, so important that a pianist had been a minister (Paderewski) and that the image of the heroic national resistance has been personified in Frederic Chopin. This political image had become the true image of the heroic pianist, which is very important as an essential shape of the romanticism. Music could be a mean of salvation.

... But yesterday, the Polish piano tradition was that of a large Polish culture – where the Jewish culture was also important. And a lot of great polish pianists were Jewish or of Jewish culture (Ignaz Friedman also). After the Second World War, Poland was a country of the communist block. The challenge of all the communist Countries to "produce" great young pianists was important...

Just some questions...

1. What has happened with the Polish piano tradition after the 2nd WW?

2. Mickiewicz was also an important figure for the Polish resistance. Why is the image of Chopin greater round in the world than the image of Mickiewicz?

3. What bounds the piano and the Polish soul?

4. There exists the Polish style of piano playing. But since Chopin, which was its evolution?

5. What is the actual difference today between a Polish piano player and a French one, or a Russian for instance?

6. What is your goal for the pupils at the Chopin Academy? And how do you can describe the general evolution of Polish piano tradition?

7. What are the cardinal difficulties of the Polish pupils in high classes of piano nowadays?

8. Who are the greatest Polish piano teachers of today?

                Thank you for your help! Best regards - etc. etc.

Here my answers begin:

Dear Sir!

Before I start to write my answers on your interesting questions concerning the Great Polish piano tradition, I have to bring up some side aspects of the matter:

Firstly, I am not a professor of any Academy of music. Actually, I am a lecturer of the piano at Ylä-Satakunnan College of Music in Parkano, Finland. On the other hand, maybe, I am the sole piano pedagogue on our Beautiful Planet, who as well seriously studies the Chopin's Method from its theoretical side, as uses it in the everyday teaching practice.

Secondly, my opinions expressed below are presenting my personal, maybe, sometimes even uncommon views on the entire topic, only...

Now, to the thing!

1. What has happened with the Polish piano tradition after the 2nd WW?

- In my opinion, as long as the Chopin's tradition determined what is "good and bad" in the professional piano schooling, the Polish pianists were classified at greatly honorable positions in the piano range. We may speak not only about such piano giants as Paderewski, Hofmann, Godowski, Leszetycki, Friedman or Arthur Rubinstein, who all doubtlessly, however each one of them should be seen in a different way, could be recognized as a kind of emanation of the Polish culture in its best, but as well we should speak about many other piano masters, who were formed by and in this very special, typically Polish kind of everyday life with its music-friendly atmosphere that was truly helpful in generating the Artist just by itself. Among many other strong and very creative artistic individualities cultivating the piano art in my Homeland within the time Poland has been politically destroyed (1795 – 1918), I would like to maintain such pianists as Juliusz Zarębski, Maurycy Moszkowski, Karol Tausig, Józef Wieniawski (mainly composer and accompanist of his much more famous brother Henryk), Aleksander Wielhorski, Stanisław Szpinalski, Witold Małcużyński, Henryk Melcer, Józef Turczyński, Henryk Sztompka, Zofia Rabcewicz, Jan Ekier, and very many others. As well in the tragic years of the 2nd WW, however all the national potential was targeted on the restitution of Liberty and the State, they, whose talent was their armory, in that or another way must worked on it and they just did so.

 

Learning of the native language, mathematics, the poetry, swimming and music, belonged to the educational canon of ancient Greece. Polish traditional standards did not differ from this good-checked model; the piano playing yet, from times of Chopin, likely became the Polish national hobby...

In the late 40-ties, 50-ties and 60-ties of the 20th Century here appeared in Poland many talented pianists, principally, educated in Cracow and Warsaw, but as well in Katowice, Łódz, Gdańsk and Poznań by such Professors as Henryk Sztompka, Margerita Trombini-Kazuro, Jan Ekier, Bolesław Woytowicz, Władysława Markiewiczówna, Maria Wiłkomirska, Wanda Chmielowska, Zbigniew Śliwiński and Zbigniew Drzewiecki – who, however representing diversified approach to the Chopin's tradition, worked strongly and gained artistically significant results. Among their students one could found such famous pianists as Halina Czerny-Stefańska, Tadeusz Kerner, Ryszard Bakst, Adam Harasiewicz, Barbara Hesse-Bukowska, Lidia Grychtołówna, Tadeusz Żmudziński, Regina Smendzianka, Józef Stompel, Andrzej Jasiński, Jerzy Godziszewski, Jerzy Sulikowski,  and many, many others.

However the Polish borders became nearly closed immediately after the end of the 2nd WW, the Golden Age of Polish professional piano schooling was continued several years more. Nevertheless, later, the possibilities of exchange of thoughts, ideas and techniques started being systematically restricted. Such situation caused nearly the aquarium-effect. Some, maybe theoretically interesting, but artistically rather ineffective pedagogic conceptions won the rivalry and the results become not as good as it had formerly taken place in the Polish piano tradition. However...

Mr. Piotr Paleczny got the 3rd Prize on the Chopin Competition in 1970 (altogether he was honored on the five International Piano Competitions);

Mr. Krystian Zimerman achieved truly brilliant success in 1975 and started his big career straight after;

Mr. Krzysztof Jabłoński was awarded by the 3rd Prize at Chopin Piano Competition in 1985.

We cannot go forward before the respected name of Mr. Piotr Anderszewski, the Polish-Hungarian pianist would be announced here, too!

The main building of the 'K. Szymanowski' Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland.

In any case, the Polish pianists after 1945 were factually unable to achieve as high position on the piano scene worldwide as their Great Ancestors did. And, however truly greater piano talents persistently were and are being detected among the Polish piano youth, after 1975 nothing especially spectacular had happened up to the 2005, when Mr. Rafał Blechacz won the 1st Prize at the XV International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. As well in the Polish modern professional piano schooling, the very interesting switch has occurred: Mr. Blechacz did not studied the piano in any of these traditionally strong Polish piano centers as Cracow, Warsaw or Katowice. He studied the piano in Bydgoszcz and his artistic director was Prof. Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń, Polish pianist of the Bulgarian origin, who studied the piano under Prof. Śliwiński in Gdańsk; could it mean – the new and artistically strong tradition in the Polish professional piano education is actually coming to light?

One should take into consideration the fact of persistently growing importance of the so-called 'Śliwiński-route' in the modern professional piano schooling in Poland. Let us characterize the unforgettable personality of Prof. Zbigniew Śliwiński, even in the very short words:

    Prof. Zbigniew Śliwiński (1924 – 2003)

He was a true humanist in the deepest sense of that notion, a largely learned person, whose interest toward music and the piano was an integral part of his general view on Civilization, Culture and Arts as a whole. Prof. Śliwiński had studied the piano with Lech Miklaszewski, Zofia Buchniewiczowa and Boleslaw Woytowicz. During the years 1950 – 1980 he was used to give concerts in Poland and abroad. For 30 years, he has been a Head of the Piano Department at the Music Academy in Gdańsk. As an editor, he has prepared tens of publications for the Polish Music Publishers (PWM) in Cracow. Author of many writings on piano playing; the Juror at national and international competitions, he have given also master classes (Brno, Berlin, Stuttgart, Volterra). Granted from Nature by greatly vivid intellect and a refined feeling of humor, Professor Śliwiński was the real, warm and truly protective Supporter to his students. He never must fight for professional and artistic authority, it was happen in the other way round – He actually wanted to reduce the distance between the students and himself, but it was rather impossible yet, once He knew and had been able to do so much...

Furthermore, I am deeply convinced that the Polish piano today is going to the point when the Chopin's tradition would come back on its natural place here, well, of course, in the newer, re-interpreted form expressed in the modern, scientifically acceptable language. Consequently, maybe, the New Golden Age of the Polish piano would begin once again.

2. Mickiewicz was also an important figure for the Polish resistance. Why is the image of Chopin greater round the world than the image of Mickiewicz?

- Adam Mickiewicz (1798 - 1855) was not only an important figure for "the Polish resistance", if one would like to understand this notion in its narrow and the truly limited way. This great Romantic poet of more than Byron's or Schiller's artistic dimension [Mme George Sand was used to compare him rather to Goethe] becomes to the Polish people the most significant personalization of the Polish national spirit; his poetry reminded the Polish nation about the most important duty, I mean, about necessity to restore so dramatically lost Independence (1795). Their great dream came true just in 1918, after 123 years of Polish dependence on Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary.

Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855)

Mickiewicz was not only the poet, he also taught the Latin literature in University of Lausanne, Switzerland and the Slavic literature in Collčge de France. He has grounded the Polish Legion in Italy and died in Istanbul preparing the next Legion for the fight against foreign powers that had occupied his Homeland. Living as Romantic life as possible, and possessing so great talent for poetry, he still was used to use idioms, which for easily understandable reason would lost their transparency being translated into any other language than Polish. That is why he could not become perceived as the worldwide respected figure in spite of fact he could fluently spoken many foreign languages. Apart from that fact, we must remember the particular kind of specific non-universality of his poems: they simply were so closely oriented on his beloved Poland. Besides, it is worth to maintain that Mickiewicz was a sincere friend of Pushkin.

Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)

Chopin and his legacy, unlike Mickiewicz and his artistic heritage, was and is in the considerably easier situation, once the musical sense of his Ballads and Scherzos is actually understandable universally. Who might like to listen to Romantic music, generally seen – perhaps could as well be the admirer of Chopin, too. Mickiewicz's relative unpopularity abroad Poland is not a problem of eventual minority of his artistic mastery; it is in my opinion the problem of universality, or better – of lack of the real universality of the "used media". For the same reason French or American people are able rather to understand better the Chinese porcelain than the Chinese opera; the taste of caviar is as well more famous worldwide than works of Ilyia Ehrenburg. Poetry and literature, giving the particular Nation quite a large view on its own history and Myths, not always could act as a channel yet, another Nations could pass into the same circle of notions, beliefs and values. Due to the relative closing, caused by certain limitations related to the language, the literature of such nations as Polish one, becomes not as well known worldwide as literature of England or France. How interesting yet, because of such writers as Lec or Lem, and thanks to such artists as Wajda, Abakanowicz and Kieslowski, the Polish modern Art becomes more and more known far away from Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, Lublin, Wroclaw or Szczecin.

3. What bounds the piano and the Polish soul?

- Probably, nothing... Do we, the Poles, are so "difficult to play with"? Well, however there is no possibility, logically thinking, to define the Polish, German, English, Dutch, etc "soul", I still would like to say: OK, let us try to answer on this question just for fun!

Let we have a look at the piano: its mechanism is so provocative! It forces the pianists to act ridiculously: however music has to be developed linearly and rather should go up to Heavens, the keyboard of the piano – superficially seen the matter – nearly likes to be pressed down [pianists may never just SIMPLY do so!].

Afterwards, when the pianist would like to brutally press on the keyboard, it could change himself into something inflexible as the stones in Tatra Mountains, or become as unfriendly and cold as sand at the Baltic's shore in the winter-time. On the other hand, the piano can sing as tenderly as it happen in Chopin's Nocturne played by Józef Hofmann, or be as great as his [J. Hofmann's]  forte in Kreisleriana. Besides, in my opinion, they who have never heard any of Mr. Hofmann's recordings, they cannot even imagine – HOW the piano can sing and HOW the real mastery of our instrument looks alike. One should remember that great Anton Rubinstein, who worked with Hofmann in Berlin was of opinion, "Józio was the greatest piano giant that had ever lived on the Earth." On the other hand, the piano keyboard could be as soft and gentle as the romantic Polish people, when the pianist would be able to deal with the keys as warmly and friendly as the Great JPII dealt NOT ONLY with us, Poles. It is very sorrowful, but brutality almost always provokes brutality, when the thankful tenderness NOT always causes the positive answer on its active wisdom and love.

The three friends: (from the left) Karol Szymanowski, Paweł Kochański and Grzegorz Fitelberg; once Polish musical life did and does not depend on the piano, only...

Coming back to the subject: for many years the Polish people must acted, living in nearly schizophrenic circumstances – their emotions and thoughts have carried up their dreams and dramas, when their publicly speaking words must express something of definitely different quality. Poles know how to be strong. But one should remember too, that Erasmus from Rotterdam (1466-1536) wrote in one of his letters about Poland as about the country, which had been chosen by Astraea for her last residence-place on the Earth. And, this is the fact too, that the whole priceless library of him [of Erasmus, of course] after his death had found its eternal place in Poland; up to the days yet, the "more Civilized Nations" came into our territory and stole not only that treasure, but also many, many other funds – as for sample the unique collection (for the entire chamber orchestra) of instruments made by Stradivarius and bought by the Polish Kingdom. It is perhaps worth to say that even today the  more Civilized Nations  are NOT READY to give back the more than 60.000 (sixty thousand) masterpieces of Art, stolen from Poland between 1939 and 1945. I do not even like to remember of damages to material substance, of ruined houses, palaces, castles, churches, bridges, roads; of 6 millions of murdered human beings and of the actual ocean of the human's suffering.

   The typical Polish view, Warsaw in 1945...

                                                                                    The typical Polish view, Wroclaw in 2007...

Polish people are democrats from the depths of their hearts, and it was not accident that the Polish democratic Constitution (1791) was the first one of such character in the Europe. The piano offers much more "democracy" than any other instrument: here exist only one playing area for all the fingers. Possibilities for dynamic and coloristic nuances are equitably divided among all the fingers, too. The needs for especial solidarity among operative – mental, hearing, emotional and physical factors are truly serious. One cannot forget the tolerance-question too: Poland is famous from its Catholicism, still in time when the Inquisition burned thousands in the Europe, no one human being was burned at the stake in Poland. As well, the Jews and religious dissidents who could not found any living places in other countries, were accepted in Poland.

 

After Chopin, in the entire history of the piano, Leopold Godowsky (1870 – 1938) was the pianist and the teacher, whom we should recognize as the real successor of the Chopin's Piano Style. 

 

Besides, many prominent piano virtuoso of the XIX/XX centuries came from the Polish-Jewish circles, as Moritz Rosenthal, Bolesław Kon, Roza Etkin, Felicja Blumental (Welcome to Website of the Felicja Blumental International Music Festival), Arthur Rubinstein (Welcome to Website of the Arthur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra in Łódź!), Ignacy Friedman, Leopold Godowski, Mieczysław Horszowski, Artur Schnabel, Stefan Askenase (a teacher of Mitsuko Uchida and Martha Argerich).

The Poles, who generated the Solidarity-movement, must love the instrument that represents as democratic and a free nature as theirs own one!

4. There exists the Polish style of piano playing. But, since Chopin, which was its evolution?

- Unfortunately, Chopin was TOO deeply loved by the Polish society, especially – by his personal pupils and theirs own pupils, and the pupils of them all as well. So, sometimes even hysterically devotional approach toward all aspects of his life (counting his physical weakness as the number one, unfortunately indeed) created the very false assessment of his musical mastery, in which to the first plan were raised his sensitivity and illness, when his factual artistic power becomes likely seen as the background to the more important aspects of the matter. We, the Poles as individuals, seemingly are much more close to the family-like approach to our National Heroes than any other Nation is [no, I do not like to become in my opinions as sarcastic as Gombrowicz was]. This is the, humanly seeing, the very gentle feature, but if the most active admirers of Chopin had liked to place at the central point of his icon the image of "this poor Chopin" who might rather be interested in a peaceful, comfortable rest at home than in the full-blooded artistic life, the results sometimes could become truly horrendous. Of course, nobody should play Chopin's works as if they would represent the character of the Hungarian Rhapsodies of Liszt, but as well all of us should be informed that Fryderyk Chopin has had enough much courage to put the "ffff" in the Finale of his 3rd Sonata.

Polish piano performing style since Chopin has experienced at least the three metamorphoses: At the beginning it was shaped by the personal Chopin's students (as Mikuli), and as well – generally – by the vivid Chopin's legend. Such values as gentleness and accurateness of a touch, rational phrasing and form building, interpretation free of futile affectation, were of the basic importance herein. The most significant personage of this era indisputably was Prof. Aleksander Michałowski, whom Prof. Drzewiecki called as The Superb Master.

Prof. Aleksander Michałowski (1851-1938) doubtlessly was the Greatest Master throughout all the Polish piano tradition after Chopin. He had studied under Karol Mikuli (the Chopin's student) and visited courses given by Franz Liszt in Weimar. Being actually 17 years old, Michałowski, according to Liszt's request, had accompanied the Chopin's Concerto in F Minor, op. 21, but actually played the orchestral part, ex tempore, just by heart. Even the Great Liszt was astonished...!

The most famous students of Prof. Michałowski were: Wanda Landowska, Jerzy Śmidowicz, Misha Levitzky, Jerzy Lefeld, Bolesław Woytowicz, Vladimir Sofronitsky (within the first period of his studies), Henryk Schultz-Evler (yes, yes...), Aleksander Wielhorski, Henryk Pachulski, Rosa Etkin, Władyslaw Szpilman, Stefania Allina, Jerzy Żurawlew.

The next phase could be defined as the Prof. Zbigniew Drzewiecki's era; he started his pedagogic work at the Warsaw Higher School of Music in 1916 and finished it in 1971. Not many specialists know that his student, Mr. Boleslaw Kon, won the International Piano Competition in Vienna in 1934, when Dinu Lipatti has got the 2nd Prize only! In total, the two of Prof. Drzewiecki's students got the 1st Prize in Chopin Competition in Warsaw, some of them won or have been awarded on many other Competitions worldwide, but this is not the most important aspect of the matter. Drzewiecki in the certain sense of this word could be defined as the successor of Leszetycki, while many of his tutors were students of that Great Master. He was still not the formal successor of him, but rather an artist who was able to build the new values in the piano pedagogy, just using several meaningful elements, he especially appreciate in that particularly interesting tradition. The most valuable in his teaching, in my opinion, were the strong faith in naturalness and creativity, and the will to understand music and art as largely as possible, which together should prevent the students before possible attempts to cross the borders outlined by the higher artistic taste.

Prof. Zbigniew Drzewiecki (1890-1971) discussing some surely important topics with Mme Prof. Nadia Boulanger in foyer of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, 1968; in the center of the photo – Mrs. Barbara Drzewiecka.

Of course, the piano professional schooling in Poland was influenced by inspirations coming from many different directions, mainly, from the large Busoni-Petri tradition, from France [especially, from Cortot [who was a Swiss] and Marguerite Long, and from Russia [especially, from Neuhaus, who was NOT Russian at all]. Up to the end of the 60-ties the Chopin's tradition, that formed such piano giants as Paderewski, Hofmann and Godowski – decided the Polish piano everyday practice. The third period, after Drzewiecki, as I see, could in the Polish piano history be defined as "searching for the new identity". Mr. Krystian Zimerman, a winner of the Chopin-Competition in 1975, being a student of Prof. Andrzej Jasiński in Academy of Music in Katowice, brought many sparkles of optimism into the situation; nowadays his great art presents very modern, mature and highly interesting piano style. Unfortunately, very few young Polish piano student (if any...?) got a possibility to study the piano under his artistic guidance. Thinking about K. Zimerman's art, I would rather like to be more then careful with definitions; being one of the greatest piano masters of our time he doubtlessly will evolve his art. Who would be alive, will see, what kind of evolution will happen.

Going back to "the Polish piano style", at the time, it seemingly tries to find itself again. Chopin's piano idea, sincerely said, has never seriously been recognized even in Poland, indeed. In fact, it had been likely rejected by the French (Cortot), the German (Kempff) and the Italian (Benedetti) piano cultures. Only in the Russian piano schooling the elements of the Chopin's tradition have been persistently present and this Idea is playing still herein the very substantial role, mainly, due to memory of Prof. Neuhaus' (1888-1964) work, but unquestionably – not only because of it. Beyond, his piano teaching system has been grounded exclusively on the Chopin's piano pedagogic formula. The Polish pianists are still waiting for the moment they would be able to receive the piano pedagogic legacy dedicated to them by their greatest piano Master in the whole history of the piano. As I have maintained in the very first part of this writing, maybe in the nearest future we could get many pleasant news from Bydgoszcz or, perhaps – from Wroclaw. Let us wait, but in the same time we should work truly strongly on our own art at the piano and reading, writing, studying the Culture of the mankind, generally indeed!

 

5. What is the actual difference today between a Polish piano player and a French one, or a Russian for instance?

- Oh! Today? Well, but for years it was much easier recognizable! Poles, exactly as it has been determined by our geopolitical location, present with themselves the very interesting and artistically fruitful mixture of typically Slavonic temperament and the truly Latin-like mental tendency to firstly create the intellectually firm logical basis before we start to discuss any problem, artistic or the scientific one as well. Maybe, that is why the Polish nation must suffer for so long time from desperately bad political misery? Once if we – I have in a view the nation as well as individuals – truly want to win, he/she/it should actually for NOT TOO LONG time intellectually deliberate the matter, but just ACT, as Russians and Germans did when they tried to divide Poland once again in 1939.

Coming back to the question, again: as I think, to find any actual difference between a Polish pianist and the French one, or the Russian one for instance, is rather funny question in the Era of Globalization! Above and beyond, in the Fine Arts, this likely controversial process [the 'Europeization'] had – in any case – partially been started many hundreds years ago, when young artists from Northern, Central and West Europe roamed to Italy to study under Da Vinci, Bernini, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, etc. As well, a little bit later, young musicians from around the cultural World traveled to Paris and Rome to obtain the final touches on their technique of any art of the artistic creation. Vienna, London, Munich, Moscow and St. Petersburg, become some decades later the strong musical centers of our Continent, too. Therefore, we should better ask about the artistic provenience of teachers of the piano than to try to determine the nature of artistry of the students just considering their NATIONAL origin. Let us have a look at some very typical samples. The first of them could be the Cortot - Gieseking case: who represented the spirit of France, and who has been featured with a soul of the typically German kind? On the other hand, the next opposition: Argerich - Pollini: is the Great Martha typically non-European pianist? What typically Russian could be found in the Lazar Berman's pianism? Moreover, which are the typically Polish features in the art of Krystian Zimerman? Besides, if one would like to speak about nationalities: Harry Neuhaus was in 50% German, in 25% Austrian and in 25% – a Pole, however doubtlessly as a teacher, he fully belongs to the Russian piano culture, maybe paradoxically, due to his fully affirmative relation to the Chopin's tradition...

Prof. Andrzej Jasiński Mr. Krystian Zimerman studied under his artistic guidance in the Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland. 

Well, in my opinion, there exists only the Art and its stylistic requirements: Martha Argerich, for instance, has been awarded in Warsaw for her superb interpretation of the Chopin's Mazurkas, too. Her recording of Mazurkas from the op. 59 is for me nearly the best sample of the Chopin's style up to today, however this recording has been done in 1965! In my opinion, again, only the ability to create the adequate artistic image of the piece might decide the matter – not nationality at all! I am profoundly assured that here exist the fully unmusical Russians, the Chinese who are unable to play the ping-pong well, the Finns who do NOT like coffee, and the Americans who are unable to accept the hamburgers. Of course, one could say that the cultural and social environment always put their marks on the pianists' career. I agree, but to reasonably discuss that aspect of the matter one should be the sociologist rather than a musician, as I am. Therefore, consequently, I feel myself unable to give any rational answer on that question.

6. What is your goal for the pupils at the Chopin Academy? In addition, how do you can describe the general evolution of Polish piano tradition?

- I am not allowed to suggest any goal for students of the Chopin Academy in Warsaw. Still I can draw up my personal wishes and express my individual hopes. As I understand the problem, the most burning problem for young generation NOT ONLY of the Polish pianists, but generally worldwide – is finding the right ARTISTIC direction for they future work. According to emails and other messages I am getting from representatives of this social group from around the World, many of them is actually experiencing a feeling of being guided to some kind of the "blind alley". Many of them, for instance, strongly believe in salutary abilities of the scientifically purified text (the Urtext-syndrome); such faith, on the other hand, is more than popular among the pianists from the Western Musical World than among them, who are studying the piano in Poland, for a sample. Among Polish piano professionals (but NOT among the students!) yet, exists the next fully foully faith, born as the natural consequence of the maintained above illusory – it is the deep antipathy toward vivid emotions and images. Music very often means to them: "the text COMPLETED by the sounds" and on the other side, "the absolute Form realized by possibly (physically) strong fingers", wow...!

Therefore I am firmly assured that as long as the humanly interesting, warm and colorful image of the Piano Art would not be found again, the Polish and all other piano schooling systems worldwide would live rather poorly. As Chopin said, our Art should mean, "The Thought expressed by the sounds", or "Expression of our feelings realized via the sounds". The piano art should NOT become cold-blooded in its essence: we should speak in our interpretations about whole range of the aspects united with our life, in spite – how beautiful or poor it might even be. Still we must know that such richness cannot actually be achieved by any kind of the scientific analyzes of musical Forms only, or via purely mechanic approach to the technique of the piano. The modern approach to the piano art must take into consideration some additional aspects of the thing, too: the emotional resonance, the leading role of the Energy management, the problem of PHYSICAL compatibility between both co-operative systems – the piano mechanism and the pianists' mind & body entirety, etc, etc.

7. What are the cardinal difficulties of the Polish pupils in high classes of piano nowadays?

- Guiding many piano master-courses and seminars in Poland for about 10 or more years, I have got the nearly clear image of the entire situation: the lack of artistic self-confidence and of the factual creativity are the most important problems here. That is why the most natural consequence of this fact is the malignant dependency of the "scientifically purified text" or of the "steel-strong fingers", which are habitually being seen as something that COULD positively substitute the value of the higher importance herein. The whole powers are focusing on artistically PASSIVE "re-producing of the text", but not on the artistically ACTIVE "re-creating of an artistic image of the piece". I mean, the Composer creates the particular piece of music, working as strongly on it, as the pianist should afterward try to find the even slightly BETTER QUALITY of its RE-CREATION. The Composer focuses his attention on his own visions; his mental, hearing and emotional powers are focused on the THING named: the transformation of all of his internal World's richness into the ephemeral figure of the musical Form! How difficult and undetermined job it is! Moreover, the pianist should act in the exactly same way...!

This is how the new Music Center of the Olsztyn City will look alike...

The quality of such work, however, delineates to all of us, who would like to re-create that process, the very clearly determined duties. Firstly, the RESPONSIBILITY! We must run exactly the same (in any case - similar) elements of the process, and even do a little bit more, bringing into it the instrumental technique, which should help to realize (to express) the artistic image of the piece on the instrument. This process should not be cut down up to some mental and mechanical operations...! These all, who do not know how it could be implement, they should read the famous book of Prof. Neuhaus – The Art of piano playing, and as well – they just have to start truly critically rethink their actual piano and/or piano-teaching skills.

Taking into consideration the "Chopin-friendly" approach to the piano: coming back to this path, the Polish pianists should never feel any shadow of artistic non-confidence; they would be able to focus their attention on the artistically right aspects of the matter and they would surely become assured, they are coming back on the truly right way again. Who knows, maybe this is the cardinal problem the Polish pupils in the higher classes of piano must solve nowadays.

In any case, the Polish piano pupils and students nowadays have no problems in participation in tens of master courses organized by various musical organizations.

On the photo above: the Participants of 'IDEA-IMAGE-TECHNIQUE' International Piano Master Course in Olsztyn, 2006 after final Gala-Concert given in the City Hall under Honor Patronage of Mayor of the Olsztyn-City.

8. Who are the greatest Polish piano teachers of today?

- I am afraid I am not able to give any positive answer here. Because I am a man of the greater feeling of humor yet, I would like to quote the answer one of the Polish leading jazz-musicians had given on the similar question ("who is the Polish best saxophone jazz-player now?"):

- Well, some of us are able to teach the piano truly well...

Additionally, maybe it would be easier and better to see that question as follows: who is the most well-liked piano teacher in Poland nowadays? In a good way, taking into consideration the most impressive victory within exactly last 30 years, which put nearly all the Poles into "seventh heaven", one must actually see on this position the teacher of Mr. Rafał Blechacz, Mrs. Professor Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń, whom I would like to very sincerely Congratulate in occasion of such Great Success! I fully deliberately do not like to maintain any other Name; in any of the Polish 10 Academies of Music work very many very talented and efficient professors of the piano – this is clear fact. Still within last 30 years, just after Mr. Zimermann's victory, no one Polish pianist won at no one of so serious international piano competition as it finally happened in 2005 in Warsaw to Mr. Blechacz. This is just the objective fact with many psychological consequences, of course. One of them is being displayed above...

With my Best Regards to you all, Dear Readers!

Waiting on your kindly emails -  Stefan Kutrzeba

Last revised: 2007-11-28