Andrzej Wasowski

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Andrzej Wasowski (January 24, 1919 in Ukraine – May 27, 1993 in Washington DC) was a Polish classical pianist.

Life[edit]

Born in Lwow (now Lviv, Ukraine) of an aristocratic family (his father was a baron and his mother a princess).[1] His father's family owned estates in Podolia and sugar refineries and mining interests in Silesia. His mother, Princess Maria Glinska Wasowska was Professor of Piano at the Warsaw Conservatory. She, in her turn, had studied piano with Richard Baumeister, a pupil of Franz Liszt.

Andrzej began his piano studies with his mother at the age of four. In 1931 he was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatory where he studied with Margerita Trombini-Kazuro, who had studied with one of Liszt's disciples, Giovanni Sgambati. He graduated from the conservatory in 1939 with one of its highest awards, the Grand Prix d'Interpretation.

Lwow, where he was living, was overrun by the Russian army in 1939. On hearing him play, they packed him off to give concerts in the Soviet Union where he performed 186 times, giving up to nine concerts in a three-day period.[2] While in the Soviet Union, he studied with Konstantin Igumnov in Moscow.

He returned to his native city just before the Germans captured it. He was permitted to give concerts to benefit war relief organisations, but was not permitted to play Polish music. Since the Nazis forbade performance of Polish music, Wasowski played clandestinely in basements for handfuls of Poles who risked their lives to hear Chopin.[2] When he refused to play concerts for the Nazis, he was put to work in a slave battalion.

After the Second World War, all of his family's possessions were seized by the communists, and the 22-year-old Wasowski became a stateless refugee. He was the winner of the 1951 Marguerite Long International Piano Competition in Paris and the 1952 International Competition in Bolzano. In 1956 he married Countess Maria Grocholska He toured extensively in Europe, North and South America, and became a Venezuelan citizen.

In 1965 he and his family moved to the USA, but found it difficult to secure work as a concert pianist, so in the Fall of 1967, took up a teaching post at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His letter of References included a handwritten from Leopold Stokowski.

We would know nothing of his playing were it not for the enterprise of a small US record company, Concord Records, who recorded Wasowski playing Chopin's complete mazurkas in 1980 and complete nocturnes in 1989. These recordings were hailed by critics. Bernard Sherman, reviewing the mazurkas for the New York Times[3] described Wasowski as one of those artists the broad international public neglects but critics and colleagues rave about. Another critic, Charles Michener[4] praised the Mazurkas as full-blooded and intoxicating, almost shocking in their use of rubato, the freedom with which they shake the pieces' rhythmic structures.

Critical acclaim for the nocturnes (recorded in just two days, 30 September and 1 October 1989) was equally marked. The recording received the 1997 Critics Choice Award from National Public Radio, and the critic Jessica Duchen writing in BBC Music Magazine (May 1997) said These performances of the Chopin Nocturnes, recorded in 1989, are really rather extraordinary… a glorious singing tone of great clarity, eloquence and purity, with beautifully balanced accompaniment and inner voices… they moved me to tears.

Wasowski's recordings show a novel approach to rhythm, especially in the mazurkas. Being familiar with the dances themselves, his readings are informed by the rhythmic conventions of Polish music, resulting in interpretations that differ markedly from the literal notation, but which are perhaps more in keeping with Chopin's own performance (see an extensive discussion in Sherman's review in the external links section).

Of his own playing, he said "In my conviction, Chopin is not a sentimentalist. On the contrary when I am at the piano I feel his power and anguished revolutionary might."[5]

See also[edit]

In the Fall of 1967, Mr. Wasowski's family was still in France, and twice each week he would call them; the conversation would be entirely en Francais. Finally, in September, 1968, (they) arrived.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Andrzej Wasowski, a Star at 60," by F. Warren O'Reilly, Washington Times, February 20, 1984
  2. ^ a b http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,852947,00.html "War Prodigy" (Time Magazine 1946)
  3. ^ New York Times (Sunday, June 29, 1997)
  4. ^ (The New York Observer, July 29, 1996)
  5. ^ War Prodigy - TIME

All other biographical material from a biography which was included with his recordings of the Chopin Mazurkas.

External links[edit]