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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » January 26, 2012
Destination Warsaw
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Never Enough of Chopin?
January 26, 2012   
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Kazimierz Monkiewicz, acting director of the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

The 200th anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin’s birth was celebrated in Poland and all over the world in 2010. Now that the dust has settled and there has been time to assess the results of all the events associated with the famous Polish composer, what do you feel was achieved?
I feel that what happened in Warsaw is the biggest achievement. Apart from the fact that Chopin will be associated with Poland, even more so, he will now be associated with Warsaw more completely.

It is important to show this association, to tell people why they are coming to this city. They are coming here because it is Chopin’s city. So the projects that were completed for the Year of Chopin—such as the creation of the Chopin museum, the refurbishment of Żelazowa Wola, where Chopin was born, renovating many places, establishing a Chopin center and many others—in a sense reflect that.

The overall success of the Year of Chopin must be attributed to Bogdan Zdrojewski, the minister for culture and national heritage, and Waldemar D±browski, who was then the director of the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute. It was their commitment that made all the difference.

Is it difficult to maintain the momentum and interest in Chopin after the huge effort in 2010?
Of course, 2010 was saturated with many activities around Chopin, both in Poland or abroad. So, today we have to work out how to make use of all the effort and investment and keep up the momentum. There is not the awareness that we can never have enough of Chopin. We should cultivate and nurture Chopin and all that he stands for in order to strengthen relations between Poland and Europe. Although I know it is a slow process, it can be done. It is good to see that the Warsaw authorities have the same approach—that Chopin is the icon that will promote Warsaw for many areas.

It is interesting that all the activities during the Year of Chopin increased awareness of our famous composer from 3 percent to over 30 percent.

Also, I feel it is our role to tell young Polish people in particular what kind of a person Chopin was when he lived in Warsaw. He was a celebrity, he used to mix in high society, although he wasn’t an aristocrat by birth, yet he was an aristocrat in terms of the way he was perceived by the Warsaw elite. At the age of merely 20 he was already a great star. It is important to show a picture of a man who blossomed in Warsaw—and today people coming to Warsaw can get a feel of that.

Moreover, research and scientific work in this field is very important and I want to ensure that we help educate the new generation of Chopin experts in the tradition of our great Chopin experts, such as Prof. Irena Poniatowska and Prof. Mieczysław Tomaszewski.

What were some of the institute’s successes in 2011?
The Chopin and His Europe festival, even though with a much smaller budget than in 2010, was as successful as in past years.

We expanded our collection of Chopin mementos; Marek Keller kindly donated to the institute 47 Chopin manuscripts and we also purchased some originals through Sotheby’s and Berlin auctions.

The NFCI ran a Chopin Piano Competition for pianists in Poland and we have also announced a special youth competition that will start this year. We published many publications, including the first audiobooks in the institute’s history with Chopin letters.

And we also introduced new activities, such as making the museum’s terrace an active part of the cultural life in Warsaw. We started to organize Saturday evening concerts there. We created a special children’s program. More than 6,000 people came to Żelazowa Wola on June 1 for a special Children’s Day music event.

Additionally, we are encouraging schools to teach music with an emphasis on Chopin.

Can a person not previously associated with the world of music successfully manage an institution such as the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute?
The institute was facing organizational and financial problems. After 12 months we managed to reorganize many areas and now the institute is in a financial condition that allows it to develop and expand its activities. We have made plans for the future, which include the expansion of musical, research and publishing activities, to place more emphasis on the promotion of the Chopin Museum and other Chopin-related activities here and abroad, and to focus on the young generation to encourage them to want to understand and appreciate Chopin, both as a person and his music, so that they will be proud ambassadors of our major Polish cultural icon.
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