In “Conversations with Chopin”, Daniel Wnukowski presents a unique glimpse into the world of Mazurkas tracing their origins from the 19th century to the many interesting developments that took place during the 20th century interwar period.
Almost everyone is familiar with any one of the 59 mazurkas of Frédéric Chopin as a strong testimony of his dedication to Polish heritage. Yet, this marvellous Polish dance had also captured the hearts of numerous other composers. For example, Chopin’s compatriot Karol Szymanowski wrote an equally impressive number of mazurkas ranging from conservative ABA dance forms to quasi-impressionistic free forms.
However, there are numerous other composers who made valuable contributions to the Mazurka genre, composers who remain entirely unknown today due to the many circumstances surrounding WWII. Many of these composers were victims of the Holocaust, whose music was classified as “degenerate” and even “dilettante” by the untimely rise of Nazism. This solo piano recital offers a rare glimpse onto the many musical developments that took place during the Interwar Period and their specific influences on the mazurka dance form.
The program begins as a departure point from the typical Romantic approach to Mazurka writing, rich in lyricism and ‘brilliante’ virtuosic writing. Notable exceptions can be found in the Mazurkas of Karol Szymanowski, which often employ exotic harmonies and a feeling of intense mysticism.
Numerous other compositional styles were incorporated during the Interwar period, often as a direct consequence of the new realities that a composer living in exile was forced to bear. For example, the starkly dark mazurkas by American emigre composer Jerzy Fitelberg, stand in direct contrast to the witty, light-hearted, neo-classical Mazurkas of French emigre composer Alexandre Tansman. On the other hand, the deeply nostalgic Mazurka written by Polish survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman, sounds entirely like Chopin. This was intentional, since Jews were forbidden from performing the music of Chopin at the Warsaw ghetto.
Composers include Fr. Chopin, A. Tansman, K. Rathaus, S. Stojowski, R. Maciejewski, K. Szymanowski and W. Szpilman.