A Man Remembering

There's a poignant You Tube clip of WŁADYSŁAW SZPILMAN playing music indelibly associated with him - Chopin's Reminiscence Nocturne in C sharp minor, recorded on a baby grand in his Warsaw home in 1997. This was the piece Władek played during the last 'live' broadcast of Polish Radio, 23 September 1939, as Luftwaffe bombs destroyed all about him – and famously resumed six years later when transmissions began again. The subject of Roman Polanski's 2002 film The Pianist, based on his 1946 shock-of-the-moment memoirs Death of a City, Szpilman (1911-2000) studied with the Warsaw paragon Aleksander Michałowski, who'd been a pupil of Moscheles, Coccius (a Thalberg disciple), Tausig and Mikuli (to a lesser extent Liszt also). Later in Berlin, at the Academy of Arts, he worked with Schnabel. His family perished in Treblinka in August 1942. In 1963, with his pre-war Jewish compatriot Bronislav Gimpel, he founded the Warsaw Piano Quintet - whose recordings my generation cherished. His view of Chopin is dignified and patrician, each voice etched with fullness and certainty, each ornament like cascades of pearls that once were. A man remembering, an old man who'd seen things no man should see. 'I went on my way. A stormy wind rattled the scrap-iron in the ruins, whistling and howling through the charred cavities of the windows. Twilight came on. Snow fell from the darkening, leaden sky.'

© Ateş Orga 2014

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