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The Warsaw Voice » Other » August 13, 2008
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Tuning Up for Chopin
August 13, 2008   
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Stanis³aw Leszczyñski, deputy director of the Frédéric Chopin National Institute in Warsaw, talks to Dominik Skurzak about the forthcoming 4th Chopin and His Europe International Music Festival in the capital.

You are the initiator and artistic director of the Chopin and His Europe festival, an event that has been gaining prominence with each year. How do you select musicians to perform in the festival?
It's simple. They have to have perfect technique and what we call an artistic personality. As in any other occupation where there is competition, performing musicians have their ratings. People who watch the market for many years-and I have done so for over 30 years-have up-to-date information about the artists and the level each of them represents. This is easy these days. There's so much information and so many recordings out there on the radio, and now on the web, that I should be able to say if someone is an outstanding musician or not.

Ivo Pogorelic, the outstanding Croatian pianist who was eliminated by the judges at the 1980 International Frédéric Chopin Competition in Warsaw in a scandal well remembered by music lovers, will play during this year's Chopin and His Europe festival. What arguments did you use to persuade Pogorelic to come to Warsaw?
Pogorelic is a completely independent artist and, like Martha Argerich, a rather unpredictable one. Direct contacts with such artists make it possible to overcome psychological barriers; their extreme moods can be soothed. It's easier to persuade them to come here if a social context is created, an element of friendliness and trust. It took us years to persuade Pogorelic to come to Poland to perform. In 1980, when I was working for the Polskie Nagrania record company, as a gesture to show him that we appreciated his great music-which differed markedly from traditional interpretations-we granted him gold album artist status. And despite the passage of time, he remembered that. This definitely made contacts easier. We were helped greatly by Jerzy Salzman's agency.

Pogorelic will play the opening concert. But audiences will also have an opportunity to listen to other music giants such as the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. How many music lovers will this year's festival attract?
As many as the concert halls will be able to accommodate. The festival will be held in two smaller concert halls at the National Philharmonic and the S1 Concert Studio, and in one larger hall at the Wielki Theater. But we have calculated that the festival will reach around 20 million radio listeners around the world.

You are an expert on music history and early instruments. I mean original pianos from the Romantic era, like Pleyel and Erard, for which Chopin composed. Have you been thinking of staging a piano competition with participants playing Chopin music exclusively on original period instruments?
This idea has already been widely discussed. But the problem is that the number of these instruments is very small. Additionally, they are quite different from contemporary instruments, and not all pianists would be able to play them without previous training. These instruments are completely different in terms of playing technique. But I think such a competition is feasible because there are now more private producers who can make copies of these instruments. So far concerts played on old pianos have been quite rare. The Chopin and His Europe festival differs from other European festivals in that it offers an opportunity to listen to many 19th-century compositions played on period instruments.

Aug. 15-31
4th Chopin and His Europe International Music Festival
For details see: www.nifc.pl

Tickets available at www.ticketonline.pl and in the box offices of the National Philharmonic and Wielki Theater.
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