‘Pop stars’ of classical music descend on Warsaw for 14th International Festival Chopin and His Europe
In the days before pop, rock or even jazz, it was classical pianists that enjoyed global fame and adulation and at the dawn of the 20th century the biggest of these stars was Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941).
Such was his reputation that when he became the prime minister of a newly independent Poland, his French counterpart, Georges Clemenceau was drawn to exclaim: “Such a great artist, now a mere prime minister? What a downfall!”
Thus, as Poland celebrates a centenary since regaining independence, this year’s 14th International Festival Chopin and His Europe has taken on Paderewski as its second patron. “Independent. From Chopin to Paderewski” is the festival theme with the lifespans of the two famous pianist-composers covering most of the period of 123 years when the Polish state had disappeared from the map of Europe.
The festival, which will last to the end of August, includes 50 concerts that will see 91 soloists and 18 ensembles perform 240 pieces, including several commissioned specially for the festival.
The opening concert featured the Polonaise by Krzysztof Penderecki, the country’s most celebrated living composer, commissioned for the centenary of independence.
Other of the festival’s biggest events include the performance of Halka by Stanisław Moniuszko, a younger contemporary of Chopin’s regarded as the father of Polish national opera. For the first time since the Romantic era, the piece will be performed on period instruments, giving it a wilder, raw flavour. Remarkably the performers will be Fabio Biondi, a celebrated violinist with his world-famous orchestra, Europa Gallante.
Biondi and Europa Gallante will also hold a concert of Baroque music, again using period instruments, performing three concertos by Antonio Vivaldi and a series by Adam Jarzębski, a royal musician and architect of the early 17th century.
Other hotly anticipated stars of the festival include pianists from opposing sides of the globe – Nelson Freire of Brazil and Leif Ove Andsnes of Norway. The latter, accompanied by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Ed Gardner, will perform the 1st Piano Corceto by Benjamin Britten, as well as pieces by Paderewski and Jan Sibelius.
The Brazilian, famed for his subtle, understated style, will perform the music of Beethoven but also of the festival’s two patron’s, Chopin and Paderewski. His recital will also include Images by Claude Debussy, another important character for the festival organisers.
“We want to show the presence of Chopin in the music of other European composers,” the festival’s artistic director, Stanisław Leszczyński told PAP. “One such case is Claude Debussy whose Preludes would be difficult to imagine without Chopin.”