CHOPIN FROM THE POLISH SOUL
By Lawrence Budmen
While the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) is often associated with the prettified atmosphere of the Parisian salon, his "Sonata in B-flat Minor," Opus 35 transcends the heady musical aroma of French perfume. This score is a stormy, dramatic peroration that tests both the technique and artistry of any pianist bold enough to attempt it. The 17 year old Polish piano protégé Stanislaw Drzewiecki gave an incredibly gripping performance of this keyboard monument on October 17 at the University of Miami's Gusman Concert Hall - part of "Chopin - In Memoriam, A Celebration," a joint presentation of Festival Miami 2004 and the Chopin Foundation of the United States.
Drzewiecki's exceptional performance of this pianistic tour de force seemed to emerge from deep within the Polish soul - the music's wellspring. From the first dramatic chords Drzewiecki played with meltingly beautiful tone and total control. He fully encompassed the shifting moods of the opening movement -Grave,.Doppio movimento. The whirlwind speed and note perfect articulation Drzewiecki brought to the devilish Scherzo were astonishing! His fire and almost Lisztian power fully captured the music's combustible energy. In the famous Lento, Marche Funebre, his noble, singing line brought lyrical grace as well as solemn eloquence. In the tempestuous Finale Presto Drzewiecki's relentless pulse and commanding grandiloquence were hair raising. He is a born Chopin exponent!
In a boldly idiomatic traversal of three of the Chopin "Mazurkas," Opus 50, Drzewiecki reminded the listener that this is the music of the ballroom. His rhythmic impetus, tonal color, and unflagging energy produced richly Romantic, turbulent Chopin performances. Drzewiecki's rhythmic freedom was reminiscent of a past generation of pianists. These performances brought to mind the great Polish pianist Halina Czerny-Stefanska whose Chopin recordings remain a touchstone for idiomatic fervor and elegance. (Czerny-Stefanska's performance in Miami in the 1990's was one of the great piano recitals in this critic's four decades of concert going.) Drzewiecki is following in a great tradition.
Liszt's "Consolation in D-flat Major," No.3 spotlighted Drzewiecki's flowing cantabile line. The "Hungarian Rhapsody No.2" was all virile fireworks and cascading arpeggios. Three of Rachmaninoff's "Etudes-Tableaux," Opus 39 had the perfect combination of tempestuous Russian angst and classical poise. Drzewiecki's sheer pianistic control is marvelous! Two of Rachmaninoff's 1930's transcriptions of violin pieces by Fritz Kreisler ("Liebeslied" and "Liebesfreud") combined Imperial champagne fizz and 20th century quirkiness in perfect proportion. As an encore after repeated standing ovations, Drzewiecki offered a stately, felicitous performance of Chopin's "Polonaise Militaire."
Stanislaw Drzewiecki is an extraordinarily gifted young musician. His mastery of Chopin's music spells a great future. Such pianistic ease and total professionalism are rare at any age. Drzewiecki's future performances are eagerly awaited! A great celebration of the Chopin anniversary!