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The Warsaw Voice » Society » July 1, 2009
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Tuning Up for Chopin Festival
July 1, 2009   
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World-famous pianists and musicians will flock to Warsaw in the summer to take part in the fifth Chopin and His Europe International Music Festival Aug. 16-31. Its goal is to promote Polish culture and the work of the country's most famous composer. Concert venues will include the National Philharmonic and the Wielki Theater. President Lech Kaczyński is the event's honorary patron.

The festival will feature 24 concerts, including performances of 11 symphony concerts and 13 piano recitals and chamber concerts. A total of over 300 performers will take part including the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Orchestre des Champs-Elysees, Concerto Köln, National philharmonic Orchestra and Sinfonia Varsovia, in addition to renowned soloists Andreas Staier, Martha Argerich, Emanuel Ax and Garrick Ohlsson.

The festival has become an important music event in Poland. Its growing popularity and prestige possibly result from the fact that it focuses not so much on Chopin's Polishness as on his links with the long and rich history of European classical music. The festival aims to demonstrate how Chopin was inspired by it and how his works have in turn inspired generations of artists. Hence the eclectic program, with a large number of European works composed from the 18th century until contemporary times.

Until now, the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition, held every five years, used to be the main Chopin event in Poland. However, its strict rules limit a fully free and creative approach to Chopin's music, according to some critics. meanwhile, Chopin and his Europe Festival director Stanisław Leszczyński has often spoken about the need to abandon the idea that only Poles can properly read and play Chopin.

A year ago the festival focused on the Russian school of playing Chopin. This year, historical interpretations will dominate, and next year, Leszczyński expects to host musicians from all over Europe who will pay tribute to Chopin regardless of their musical genres. "We will demonstrate that Chopin has a special place among the diverse cultures and different epochs in Europe," says Leszczyński.

Next year will mark the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth and was named Chopin Year by the Polish parliament. This year's event is part of preparations for that, and the festival is among major projects included in the government's Frederic Chopin Heritage 2010 program supervised by the National Frederic Chopin Institute. Other projects linked with the Chopin Year include modernization of the Frederic Chopin Museum in Ostrogskich Castle in Warsaw.

The festival is also important for the city of Warsaw, which is one of its biggest sponsors. It forms part of the city's promotional strategy and its efforts to win the title of European Capital of Culture in 2016.

The festival is intended for both music fans and a wider audience, including foreign tourists visiting Warsaw in great numbers in the summer.

The event's performers include some great personalities. For example, this year music experts are looking forward to concerts by the Orchestre des Champs-Elysees with Philip Herreweghe, and Andreas Staier who specializes in performing on vintage pianos. Historical instruments are another attraction of the festival.

Magda Działoszyńska
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