West East Toronto Newspaper
Feb 5, 2011
This immensely talented Polish-Canadian pianist performed a homecoming recital on Friday evening February 4th at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto. This concert was called “Heaven and Hell: A Year of Liszt”.
In 1996, at age 15, he was awarded the Top Pianist Trophy in the Kiwanis Music Festival in his home town of Windsor Ontario. Wnukowski made his Toronto debut at the age of 16 in 1997 to a sold out house at the then Ford Centre for the Performing Arts. Leaving for Poland that same year, he took part in many international festivals and competitions, including the renowned Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, where he was highly acclaimed by music critics as having a “rare musical gift.” In Poland, he studied at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw where he was a full scholarship recipient. Mr Wnukowski completed his studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, under the direction of the world-renowned pedagogue, Leon Fleisher.
Mr Wnukowski last performed in Toronto in 2003, and on this return visit he performed works by Chopin, Szymanowski and Liszt. Opening with Chopin’s Ballade No 2 in F major, Op.38, and 3 Waltzes, I was immediately drawn into the magnificence of this performers mastery of his instrument! Technically he was flawless, but it was the love and passion in his playing that captivated! Moving into Szymanowski’s Masks,Op.34, Wnukowski again showed his technical mastery and versatility of music that was bolder and less lyrical!
The second half of the program was devoted to the music of Franz Liszt, Petrarcan Sonnet No. 2 in E major, Sancta Dorothea; In Festo Transfigurationis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, and Apres une lecture de Dante (Fantasia quasi Sonata). Wnukowski’s powerful interpretation of the Liszt program is what brought this audience to their feet, shouting loud cries of Bravo, Bravo! Graciously,he returned to his piano to perform a Fantasy of his own based on the Wedding March by Mendelssohn. It appears that wedding bells will be happening to this young musician in April. His fiance is also a musician.
After the concert, I was honored to meet Mr Wnukowski’s parents. His father recanted a story about seeing a piano made out of glass in a music store. It appears he wanted to start playing the piano, and begged, until they relented, and at first bought a small keyboard. In taking him to a music teacher to begin lessons, the teacher laughed and said “he is too young, he can’t even read!” His mother put him on an intense reading diet,and he began piano lessons soon after that,embarking on his life’s journey with music since that time.
Fluent in English, Polish, French and Italian, Daniel enjoys a busy touring schedule that takes him throughout Europe, South America and Asia, including countries as far away as India and Mauritius. In spite of his Canadian upbringing, concert promoters abroad identify him as an unofficial ambassador of Polish music. He paid homage to Chopin in the first half of the concert because the composer’s bicentennial closed in 2010, and in the second half he was looking ahead to the 200th anniversary of Liszt’s birth.
In 2010 he inaugurated the Chopin year in Poznan, Poland with Metropolitan Opera Soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. In May of that same year, he performed a recital in Tokyo to unveil a new Chopin monument. This led to a debut at the venue of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. Please do not wait another seven years to return to Toronto, again Daniel!