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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » February 23, 2010
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The Thrill of Chopin
February 23, 2010   
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Waldemar Dħbrowski, chairman of the Chopin 2010 Celebrations Committee, which is responsible for organizing the Year of Chopin, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

Does Chopin need promoting?
We do not need to promote the works of Chopin in a commercial sense as a product or brand. Chopin is a value that has been present in all cultures throughout the world for the last 200 years. He is probably least known in Poland, because he was pigeonholed into the genre of serious, difficult and inaccessible music, and played primarily at public functions. So I hope that this year will change that. But on world scale, it is a privileged time for Poland. It is the biggest chance in our history to promote Poland's multi-faceted image-our traditions, our aspirations and our process of modernization.

How will Poland be promoted through Chopin?
Chopin cannot be narrowed to classical performances of his works, although it is the core of Chopin's contribution to culture. Throughout history, Chopin has been the source of constant inspiration for artists in various fields-in theater, film, literature and poetry and painting. I mean the catalogue of works that relate to our unique Polish cultural sensibility, our "Polishness." Hence the preparation of good Chopin programs, such as musicological sessions or talks about Poland in various contexts, such as Chopin as a central figure of the Romantic period, or in relation to Polish writers such as Adam Mickiewicz, Cyprian Norwid or Julian Niemcewicz. It is a great discovery for people outside Poland. They have no idea about the importance of our poetry, which is highly valued by experts, but it is not generally accessible if only due to language barriers.I expect that several thousand journalists will come to Poland from all over the world during the Year of Chopin. They will see us through the prism of the Chopin "thrill." We have had a few such visits already. The Herald Tribune wrote a terrific article about our preparations for the Year of Chopin. It was reprinted in The New York Times and in The Los Angeles Times; it is not that often that we rate a mention in those papers. We recently hosted journalists from German, French, Chinese, Korean and Japanese newspapers. We have a string of media activities for which Chopin and the energy around the Year of Chopin is only a catalyst in order for the media to become more interested in Poland and to write objectively about us. Forty honorary Chopin committees to celebrate the Year of Chopin had been established around the world, where eminent people, writers, artists, politicians and musicians have given their names to help us create this privileged moment for Poland. Every country celebrates the Year of Chopin differently, but each is magnificent. I attended the opening celebrations in South Korea where Poland was given great accolades and honors. I had another unforgettable experience when I was invited to open the Year of Chopin in China.

Is it important today to talk about Chopin the patriot, a Pole in exile?
I feel it is very important. He was a great patriot and a full-blooded Pole. He was filled with a love for Poland and the longing for freedom permeated from him. Frederic was a political refugee. He could not return to Poland, and his yearning for Warsaw, for Poland was ever present in his letters. Our generation was not aware of that, because it wasn't talked about in schools under the communist regime. He gave many charity concerts in aid of Polish refugees; he was a great philanthropist. Chopin was simply extraordinary.

What are some of the more unusual or unconventional projects being organized as part of this year's celebrations?
The premiere of a ballet will be performed at the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. There are seven scenes describing the life of a Romantic composer. Of course, it alludes to Chopin, but we want it to be seen in a broader context, played to music that other famous composers have written in honor of Chopin or Poland. Schumann, List, Berlioz and, of course, Chopin too. There will be a "Crazy Days of Music" Festival, developed by Rene Martin in Nantes, France, where over three days in the various halls of the National Opera in Warsaw there will be several hundred 40-minute concerts, and tickets will be very cheap. They are designed for people who would not normally go to classical music concerts. This format has worked in many parts of the world, and now it will be done here in Warsaw and of course it will be saturated with Chopin. The "Chopin and His Europe" Festival also promises to be exciting. It builds interesting contexts, such as Chopin's association with other composers, different epochs and music styles and through to contemporary times. There are also various interesting theatrical works planned. Miko³aj Grabowski wants to face the challenge of Chopin's myth in the Stary Theater in Cracow. A puppet theater in Bialystok is planning performances. Also, there are many jazz musicians and those from other genres from all over the world who want to compose and play music with Chopin motifs. The list is endless. We have more than 2,000 events registered in our database (www.chopin2010.pl), and that is only the tip of the iceberg. I would like it to be a year of our great satisfaction and joy. Because this moment and opportunity will never be repeated in our lifetime. It opens the minds and hearts of all sensitive people throughout the world.
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