October 17, 2010/Consulate General of Poland in New York
Exactly two weeks after my return from Europe, I found myself sort of in Polish territory again when I attended Polish-born pianist Magdalena Baczewska’s “Chopin and His Legacy” http://magdalenabaczewska.com recital at the Polish Consulate http://www.polishconsulateny.org/en here in New York. I had missed out on attending several Chopin concerts in Krakow and Warsaw (with the 200th anniversary of his birth, his music was everywhere), so it was quite timely that I got the invite – which sold out within hours – through the consulate’s regular mailing list, which I joined a couple of years ago.
I had been at several other events there, but this was the first time that in recent memory that I saw such a large – and diverse – crowd there. I sat and read my copy of the New Yorker as I waited, and at about 4:30 the concert was announced. Ms. Baczewska came on and introduced herself, noting that that date – October 17th – also happened to be the anniversary of the great Polish composer’s passing at 39 years of age.
The recital was not intended to feature exclusively works by Chopin, but also other composers who were in a way or another influenced by the composer. She opened with Prelude no. 45, and followed with two mazurkas transcribed by Franz Liszt. First the dramatic “The Maiden’s Wish” followed by the more festive “Drinking Song.”
Ms. Baczewska is a gifted pianist but also quite the entertainer. In between numbers, she addressed the audience and often cracked jokes about the music. Before the aforementioned works, she picked on the drinking theme of the latter and said, “Two mazurkas coming up,” which got a few laughs. When she introduced Ginastera’s “Danzas Argentinas,” she confessed that she included the pieces there simply because she wanted to perform the pieces in New York regardless of any possible connection between the Argentinean composer and Chopin.
Works included in the program were Szymanowski’s “Mazurkas op. 50 No. 15 & 16” and Paderewski’s “Nocturne op. 16 No. 4.” There was a nod to New York with three jazz-influenced preludes by George Gershwin and finally one of my personal favorite classical works, Rachmaninov’s “Variations on a Theme by Corelli, op. 42.” For the encore, she chose Chopin’s final Mazurka, whose written music she described as ‘written in pencil with a very weak hand.’
Every time I attend a classical recital, I feel like I don’t listen to enough of this music. Maybe because I am too absorbed in other genres (especially jazz and Latin), most times it’s like I’m listening to these pieces for the very first time – which encourages me to reach over to my CDs and add at least a few of them to my Mp3 player…