Wladyslaw Szpilman - Music from the Abyss
To say that the music on
this CD is Wladyslaw Szpilman's life-blood is
more than just a poetic metaphor. The Polish composer and pianist
literally owes his miraculous survival of the Holocaust to music in
general and the music contained on this CD in particular.
Born in 1911, Wladyslaw Szpilman studied the piano at the Warsaw
Conservatory under A. Michalowski and subsequently at the Academy of
Arts (Akademie der Kuenste) in Berlin under Arthur Schnabel and Leonid
Kreutzer. He also studied piano and composition under Franz Schreker.
In 1933, he returned to Warsaw where he quickly became a celebrated
pianist and a composer of both classical and popular music. From 1945
to 1963 he held the position of Director of Music at Polish Radio.
During these years he composed several symphonic works and about 1000
songs, including some children's songs, as well as music for radio
plays and film. He also performed as a soloist and with the
violinists Bronislav Gimpel, Roman Totenberg, Ida Haendel, Tadeusz
Wronski and Henryk Szeryng. In 1963, he and Gimpel founded the Warsaw
Piano Quintet with which Szpilman performed world-wide until 1986.
The German invasion of Warsaw on 23 September 1939 put an untimely but
temporary end to Szpilman's musical career when a bomb, dropped on the
studios of Polish Radio, interrupted his performance of Chopin's
Nocturne in C Sharp minor. Yet despite the inevitable changes to his
life, brought about by the onset of war, Szpilman refused to give up
his music. His Concertino for piano and orchestra was composed while
he was experiencing the hardships and deprivation of the Warsaw Ghetto
in 1940. Time after time, Szpilman managed to escape the
deportations. Even when he and his entire family were packed into
cattle trucks to be sent off to Treblinka, the famous pianist was
miraculously picked out and spared from the death camp. He fled to
the Aryan part of the city and spent two long and agonising years in
hiding, always assisted by loyal Polish friends. After the Warsaw
Uprising he continued to lead the life of a recluse in the deserted
ghost town. Towards the end of the war, he was discovered by a German
officer of the Wehrmacht, Wilm Hosenfeld, who saved his life after
listening to the starved pianist play Chopin's C Sharp minor Nocturne
on the out-of-tune piano of his hiding-place.
When Szpilman resumed his activities as the Director of Music at
Polish Radio in 1945, he did so by carrying on where he left off six
years before: poignantly, he opened the transmission by playing, once
again, Chopin's C Sharp minor Nocturne.
This CD is thus a testimony to the power of music and the will to live
of a man who survived the difficult years in hiding not least by
recalling note by note, and bar by bar, every piece of music he had
Wladyslaw Szpilman's wartime memoirs, in which he paints a gruesomely
realistic picture of the Warsaw Ghetto and the mass murderous
machinations of the German occupiers, have just been published in
1. Ouverture for Symphonic Orchestra
2. Concertino for Piano and Orchestra (*1940)
3. Rapsody on theThemes of Paganini
4. Marguerite Op. 38 Nr. 3
5. Prelude Op. 32 Nr. 12
6. Polonaise A Flat Major Op. 53 Nr.
7. Mazurka a-minor Op. 17 Nr. 4
8. Nocturne cis-minor Op. posth. Nr. 20
Wladyslaw Szpilman - Piano
ALINA MUSIC HAMBURG LI-031