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The Warsaw Voice » Society » September 3, 2008
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September 3, 2008   
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Playing from the Heart

Violinist Patricia Piekutowska, the winner of the MIDEM Cannes Classical Award, talks to Dominik Skurzak about her artistic career.

Are you aware on a daily basis that people recognize you?
Yes. In Poland certainly. Full concert halls and people who have heard you and come to your concerts again are at what this work is all about. I have many such places in Poland. I feel that people come to listen to me. For me this is my biggest joy. There are also other places in the world where I return on stage and where I'm not anonymous-in South America, in Chile and Argentina. I have been there 14 times. It is a beautiful experience to appear there.

You have six albums and Cannes' MIDEM Classic Award to your name, in addition to a doctorate and a job as a university teacher. What else do you want to achieve?
Europe is what I'm interested in-many important concert halls, many important places. Spain and Russia, for example, are amazing markets, but I have not yet played there despite having played concerts in 24 countries.

Any other goals?
A broader repertoire. I would still like to play many more new pieces of music in my life. I have matured and recently am living in beautiful happiness and want to project this in my playing.

You often play works by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki? Is he your favorite contemporary composer?
Yes. It's my own choice. contemporary music excites me. It makes up 50 percent of my repertoire. It is a challenge; it is about persuading the public to listen to music that it has not heard before. If I am convinced then I will convince others. If after an hour-long concert of Penderecki's music I play two encores, then it's working. This has happened at the majority of places where I have given concerts.

German violinist Anne Sophie Mutter has commissioned a violin sonata from Penderecki but has requested exclusive performance rights to the music. What's your view about that?
Elżbieta Penderecka, the composer's wife, phoned me in 2001. We agreed that I could play this piece not at a concert for fee-paying audiences but during the Penderecki competition in Cracow.

I fell in love with the sonata. After the competition I was asked to record an album that included this composition. Then I was asked to record everything that Penderecki had composed for violin and piano. This was the beginning of my exceptional relationship with the excellent Polish pianist Beata Bilińska. To date we have given almost 50 joint recitals and recorded three albums.

Was your career decided for you by your parents or was it your own free choice?
No one in my family was a professional musician. When I was three years old, I was in Poznań with my parents where I heard a man playing the violin. According to my parents, I very self-assuredly told my mother that "I absolutely must play the violin because you can hold it close to your heart." This is what happened. It was a choice.

Which violin players do you most look up to?
I will admit straight away that in our house we did not listen to classical music very much. I am not familiar with the 50-odd different interpretations of concertos by Sibelius or Brahms and I did not draw on such knowledge. For me my absolute guru is and will be David Oistrakh. I have the greatest affinity with his style of playing. I myself play in quite a masculine way that is bold, loud and full of emotion.

You are a teacher. What do you teach?
I will tell you the opinion my students have of me as a teacher. They say that Piekutowska teaches them how to think. To be able to pull all your emotions to the fore while playing you have to know everything about technique and the subject of the composition. My favorite saying is, "The worst is not knowing what you do not know." Another aspect that I pay attention to is presentation on stage. A beautiful scene on stage is everything together: manner, technique, costume, repertoire and emotions. I try to impart to people that a concert only has sense if not one person in the audience starts to read during the performance

And what have others taught you?
I had two masters who taught me, Prof. Tadeusz Gadzina and Igor Oistrakh. I am very happy with this since each taught me something different. The first taught me how to practice, how to find a composition's musical meaning and how to behave. The other had a treasure-trove of unusual performance ideas. These worked after a couple of minutes. My students laugh and say that these are like tricks from a Harry Potter film.

First Fiddle
This year Patrycja Piekutowska became the first ever Polish violinist to win the MIDEM Cannes Classical Award, the most prestigious musical award in the world. This was the first time that a Polish album with the music of a Polish composer and recorded by Polish soloists has won such high acclaim. The album also won the Les Crescendo Jocer Award in Belgium, the Pizzicato Supersonic Award in Luxembourg, and the Exelentia Scherzo Award in Spain.

Piekutowska graduated with a commendation from the Frederic Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw in 2000. There she was a student of Prof. Tadeusz Gadzina. She also completed two years of postgraduate studies at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, under the tutelage of Prof. Igor Oistrakh, from where she received a "Grand Distinction" diploma.

Piekutowska will appear together with pianist Beata Bilińska Sept. 28 at the Fabryka Trzciny arts center in Warsaw, 14 Otwocka St. This will be Piekutowska's first concert after winning the Cannes award. The concert includes music by Penderecki, Bloch, Szymanowski, Bacewicz, Lutosławski and Piazzolla.
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