Michal Szymanowski at St Mary’s To be or not to be?

Michal Szymanowski at St Mary’s

St Mary’s superb streaming to Italy

Menuet in G major Op 14 no 1
Cracovienne fantastique Op 14 no 6
Nocturne in B flat Op 16 no 4
Legend in A flat Op 16 no 1
Mazurka in A minor Op 9 no 2
Polonaise in B major Op 9 no 6
Nocturne in F minor Op 55 no 1
Ballade no 2 in F major Op 38
Mazurkas Op 59
Polonaise in F sharp minor Op 44

A Polish pianist and conductor, Michał Karol Szymanowski was born in 1988 into a musical family. He graduated with honours from the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz, where he studied piano with Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń and symphonic-operatic conducting under Zygmunt Rychert.
He honed his skills with Eldar Nebolsin at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin. At present works as an assistant lecturer at his alma mater. He has won top awards in a number of national and international piano competitions, including Chopin Competition in Darmstadt, Germany (2017), MozARTè Competition in Aachen, Germany (2016), Chopin Competition in Daegu, Korea (2015), Zarębski Competition in Warsaw (2012), Yamaha Competition in Katowice (2011), Paderewski Competition in Bydgoszcz, (2010), Horowitz Competition in Kiev (2007). In 2015 he was the highest placed quarter-finalist in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.
Michał has performed in many concerts across Europe and throughout the world, including the Palace of Nations in Geneva, the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican (a concert for Pope Benedict XVI), at Warsaw’s Belvedere Palace for Polish President, numerous philharmonic halls as well as major festivals in Poland and abroad, among them Oficina de Música de Curitiba, Festival Chopiniana in Buenos Aires, Festival Europeo de Solistas in Caracas, Festival Pianistico di Roma, the Long Lake Festival in Lugano, and the Chopin and His Europe Festival in Warsaw, where he brilliantly performed piano concertos by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Józef Wieniawski and Sigmunt Stojowski. He has performed under such eminent conductors as Alfredo Rugeles, Medardo Caisabanda, Juri Gilbo, Jacek Kaspszyk, Antoni Wit, Grzegorz Nowak and Marek Pijarowski with, among others, the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, the Symphonic Orchestra of the National Theatre in Brasilia, Daegu Symphony Orchestra, Russian Chamber Philharmonic St. Petersburg and all major polish orchestras.
Apart from solo repertoire, Michał also frequently performs chamber music. He has released two solo albums for CD Accord (Naxos), featuring compositions by Fryderyk Chopin, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Karol Szymanowski and Józef Wieniawski. The recordings were critically acclaimed. One reviewer wrote: “this is heartfelt music-making of the type one associates with such luminaries as Uchida, Schiff and Brendel”.
As Michał Szymanowski rather cheekily explained, Paderewski first and Chopin second to ensure there would not be a mass exodus in the interval!
He or Dr Hugh Mather need not have worried because the music was so beautifully and intelligently played it was a superb introduction to the genius that is Chopin.
We did however get more Paderewski by great demand, as an encore :The Melody op 16.

Enjoying my log fire with fine music in this rather unsettled month of May
One could say that the Paderewski was a curtain raiser that demonstrated the difference between a genius and a good craftsman.
Chopin ,though, had not been like Paderewski the Prime Minister of Poland or a pianist idol in America as Liszt had been in Europe a century before.
I think most pianists would have had a go at the Menuet in G probably in a shortened simpler version from the one that Michał Szymanowski opened his programme with this evening.
It immediately showed off the intelligent musicianship allied to a command of the keyboard that would be the envy of many.
Many of us will have struggled with the Menuet in G as children , but how many I wonder know the other five pieces that make up op 14 by Paderewski.
The last of these the Crakovienne Fantastique was given a crystal clear performance of hypnotic almost Gopak style dance rhythm.
The Nocturne op 16 n.4 was a completely different style from that of Chopin or Field.
In fact it owed more to Grieg or Tchaikowsky .
Full of nostalgia and charming atmosphere.The ending in Michal’s hands was quite magical.
The Legend op 16 n.1 was far removed from the Ballades of Chopin that had so inspired Liszt and Brahms.
A pleasing salon piece especially with Michal’s superb sense of balance made for a piece of great effect rather than Chopin’s inspired masterpieces of the poems of Mickiewicz.
The Mazurka op 9 where the typical dance was so apparent but far removed from the profound yearning for his homeland that made the 58 mazurkas of Chopin amongst his greatest works.
The Polonaise op 9 n.6 was superbly played with just the right amount of bravura and jeux perle of the great pianists of the past like Lhevine,Rosenthal Godowsky or Paderewski.
Michal’s thesis for his doctorate was indeed on Paderewski and it was very refreshing to be able to hear some of the works of a figure who is usually only thought of as a leggendary  virtuoso of the past and who in turn became the first Prime Minister of Poland.
What is in fact very interesting is to see the intelligent musicianly performances of this young polish pianist.Never falling into the trap of sentimentality or crowd pleasing nuances.

Mount Circeo said to be the silhouette of Mussolini
It was Rubinstein who was one of the first pianists to react to the rather free almost improvisatory performances of Chopin.
The salon composer, as he was in the hands of many of the great pianists of the so called Chopin tradition.
De Pachmann in particular but also Paderewski,Hoffman and many others.
Rubinstein brought Chopin back to the world of the great composers like Bach,Beethoven,Brahms etc .
Playing with a virility where there had been feminine delicacy.
With nobility where there had been flashy virtuosity.
But above all true sentiment were there had been sentimentality.
Today in fact it was refreshing to hear this modern school of playing in the hands of Michal Szymanowski interpreting the very works of Paderewski that had largely been to please his vast public on his concert tours.
Michal possesses that strong noble cantabile that was of his great compatriots such as Malcuzinski,Niedsielski or Stefan Askenase .Added to a great sense of style and intelligent musicianship he is a great advocate for his compatriots music.
The proof was in the applause that greeted him after his first half totally dedicated to Paderewski.
The second half was dedicated to the genius that is Chopin.
The nocturne op 55 n.1 (Cherkassky’s favourite nocturne) although beautifully played did not have the fluidity that we had so appreciated in that of Paderewski.
The ending of the Nocturne immediately leading into the magical notes of the Second Ballade where with his great sense of measure and style it immediately became evident the difference between the two Polish Composers.
The four Mazukas op 59 seemed to ignite in our pianist tonight a sense of colour and fantasy that turned what in Paderewski’s hands were baubles ,in Chopin’s were true gems.
The Polonaise in F sharp minor op 44 was given a masterly performance and the same sense that Rubinstein brought to the middle section was apparent here today.
I think this might be the case where these rhythms can only be fully understood by fellow compatriots.

Dr Szymanowski explaining so enjoyably his programme
The most beautiful performance of the evening was still to come in the encore offered by insistent demand.A public totally won over by this pianist now on his fourth visit to this Mecca of great young pianists.
Michal at the end asked who they thought the encore was by: Paderewski or Chopin?
They got it right thanks to this truly illuminating recital tonight.


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