4th September 1999
Mr Jerzy Waldorff
in Radziejowice

Dear Sir,

     We would like to express our heart-felt gratitude for the opportunity to meet you in Radziejowice on 11th August1999, as well as your most significant words which we have recognised as both an obligation and a blessing for our Chopin project. We are also grateful for your kind acceptance of the membership of our Honorary Committee and for the beautiful article in the Polityka magazine.

Yours faithfully,
Krystian Zimerman
and the Polish Festival Orchestra

Photos: PFO

Jerzy Waldorff, Krystian Zimerman and the Polish Festival Orchestra in Radziejowice,
11th August 1999

Jerzy Waldorff

Zimerman's Project

My celebrations of the summer this year reached their crucial stage on 11th August with the eclipse of the Sun which brought darkness over the land while a competing sun shone forth upon the park in Radziejowice.

In the same period, the phenomenal pianist Krystian Zimerman visited Poland after a long absence. When, after having won with flying colours the first prize of the 9th Chopin Competition, he settled in Switzerland, it was becoming more and more likely that, like Paderewski, he would reach and spend the height of his talent in foreign lands and steer clear of his mother country. But these fears did not come true - the artist came back to celebrate the Chopin jubilee. Sometime around 10th August we heard that Krystian would visit us - or, more precisely, me personally - in Radziejowice on his way from Katowice to Warsaw. I was moved, but then I heard that the whole orchestra, the youngest in this country, followed their conductor's car on board a huge coach to greet the oldest Critic. This was the competing sun in whose brilliant light I found myself when Zimerman, surrounding by his young musicians, handed me the following piece of writing. It is so interesting that it is worth qouting in full:
"You must have heard about my Chopin Year project. Between 1st August and 20th November 1999 I will perform Chopin's both piano concertos with a 60-piece orchestra which I have already selected from among young Polish musicians - the Polish Festival Orchestra. I will conduct the orchestra from the piano. We will play in 39 major musical centres in Europe and the USA. After a week of rehearsals, I am convinced that with these young brilliant instrumentalists we will play this music well. From among the 39 concerts, 9 will be organised in Polish cities. The whole tour will come to its close with a concert in the National Philharmonic on 19th November. I would like to use this occasion to request the honour of your presence at the concert. We will also give performances at the Salzburg Festival, in Brussels, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Royal Festival Hall in London, in Birmingham, at the Carnegie Hall and in other venues.
On October 17th, the 150th anniversary of Chopin's death, we will play both of his concerts in Paris, during a particularly solemn concert in Salle Pleyel.
From the artistic point of view, the concerts are the work of a less than twenty-year-old Chopin, a genius swayed by emotions. The music was written when he was still in Warsaw. Its character obliges us to be particularly careful in our work on the scores. I must say I am utterly amazed by the enthusiasm and the amount of work done by our musicians. During day-long rehearsals we are discovering the true beauty of these compositions, most of which resides in details - and it is to details that we devote our most persistent work. We are also taking care to ensure a kind reception and good modern sources of information for our undertaking. We have prepared an Internet page [now almost completed] where all the information and news can be found. It is there that the whole project, its idea, the itinerary of our tour and all the musicians will be presented with photographs, etc. We will also include current reviews published after successive concerts, photographs and excerpts from concert recordings in audio as well as video versions.
We should like to attract to this project the support of authorities who have given great services to Polish culture. It is to them that we owe the possibility of bringing such projects to fruition to-day. It is with this aim in mind that we are addressing you as a person of special importance to us, one whose uncompromising pen has paved the way for music-making in Poland. In this context I must bring back the personal memory of my recital in Słupsk in 1975, where, in preparation for the Chopin Competition, I first had to take what I regard as a very important exam in front of you. It was when I closed my programme with the F-minor Ballade and heard your voice and the even louder thumping of your cane on the floor that I understood what support I was gaining from you. I am profoundly thankful for all that support which renewed my strength and confidence and helped me persevere in my work.
For this year's project, we are planning to appoint an Honorary Committee to which people of great merit for culture will be invited, and which will patronise the undertaking. Your participation in the Committee will do a great honour to us."

The gold company of the PFO musicians was overtaken on the road by a television car with cameras, microphones, wires and a few experts who tried to extort ever new confessions from Krystian and from me. This bother cost us about an hour, of which only about twenty seconds were shown on TV before the screening of a yet another whodunit and the daily national lesson of murders, rapes and arsons. And yet history teaches us that if the nation preserved its identity during the nearly 200 years of one or another bondage, it was entirely due to its culture. When Jerzy Adam Czartoryski emigrated to Paris with a death sentence, he met there three ministers of the Polish Case: Mickiewicz, Chopin and Słowacki.

Polityka no.36 (2209), 4th September 1999


Władysław Stróżewski

Perfection is a rare guest in our world; it revealed itself on September 15th in Cracow. When [the 19th-century emigrant poet] Cyprian Norwid disclosed the essence of Chopin's music in his famous poems, he used, among other terms, the most accurate one: "consummate perfection". At the concert on 15th September, Krystian Zimerman brought two of Chopin's masterpieces - the Piano Concertos in E-minor and F-minor - to consummate perfection.

From the very first bars of the E-minor Concerto, our ordinary time changed its flow; it was submitted to the time of music and became the time of beauty. First and foremost, it was filled with the noble, ideally unified sound of the orchestra. [...] Zimerman the conductor is not afraid of time. He allows it to flow as the music requires, in a lyrical reverie or the silence of narration, or the drama of emotions which at times - as in the first movement of the E-minor Concerto or the Larghetto from the F-minor Concerto - reach a sudden and violent tragic culmination. He superbly contrasts the tempos of individual movements, allowing the central movements to flow in a slow and at times suspended motion, but endowing the final movements with an amazing momentum. [...] Zimerman does not shun dynamic contrasts. The deeply moving pianos of his solo part found their counterpart in the noble pianos of the orchestra, and both appeared the more distinctly, the more they were contrasted with the fortes: the orchestral tuttis or the incredibly powerful chords on the piano. [...] The dynamic contrast, masterfully brought out by Zimerman, point to the origin of Chopin's concertos not only in Mozart's but also in Beethoven's music (Mieczysław Tomaszewski presents the same idea of their provenance in his excellent monograph Chopin.The Man, The Work, The Resonance).

Chopin's wondrous lyricism comes to the fore not only in the middle movements. It could also be heard, for instance, in a brief phrase towards the end of the first movement of the E-minor Concerto, as though anticipating the mysterious Schumannesque thoughtfulness, which introduces the mood of the central movement. Chopin wrote about [the central movement]: "it should not be powerful, but rather - endowed with romance, calm and melancholy. It should give the impression as of a fond glance at a spot which brings a thousand loving memories to mind. It is some kind of reverie, the beautiful time of spring, by mooonlight".

Zimerman gained an insight into the very essence of Chopin's style [...]: the melody, the speech, the thought of his music. [...] Zimerman's "consummate perfection" relies upon his faithfulness to Chopin and on a faultless study of the scores. Should it be reminded that, according to Norwid, this is the very essence of originality? Norwid writes: "originality means conscientiousness in confrontation with sources.

[...] The orchestra is not a simple accompaniment, but an equal partner of the piano, with which it forms a harmonious whole of a higher order. This discovery had waited for someone like Zimerman. He highlights not only a value of the orchestra as a whole, but also the merits of the instrumental parts of the flute, the bassoon or the horn and their interplay with the orchestra and the piano. [...] Zimerman has brought the sound of the orchestra to organic unity. The orchestra plays like one, perfectly tempered instrument of a unified formal quality. This is a quality only attained by some few orchestras after years of working together. Zimerman achieved all this in an amazingly short time owing to a perfect choice of artists and his unique ear which made it possible for him to discover the proper, intended colour of the collective instrument and empathise with the "spirit" of the musician who would play it. We should praise both him and the orchestra for these achievements. In this way, Zimerman's masterful piano part found an equal partner in the orchestra. The piano and the orchestra breathed in one and the same rhythm, also when they played the unusual ritardandos and accelerandos together, or when they were both suspended in the silence of rests. [...] Zimerman is an excellent architect of the whole; he superbly constructs the structure of the piece and of each movement, at the same time bringing each detail to refinement and endowing sound with individualised qualities, so that each sound seems to obtain its own "individuality" and a beauty of its own. This concerns not only each sound, but each phrase, and, even more important - the essential character of each fragment of the work: its lyricism or dramaticism, the calmness or violence of emotions, its serenity and humour (like e.g. the humour of the Krakowiak from the E-minor Concerto).

I wtedy wszystko jest tak, jak być powinno, podporządkowane wolności i konieczności równocześnie; inaczej: opartej na wolności konieczności, która jest tajemnicą wielkości.

[...] "For beauty, the fulfilment of three conditions is required: the first is consummation or the perfection of things [...]. The second is appropriate proportion, that is harmony. The third is resplendence," wrote Thomas Aquinas in Summa theologiae. Zimerman's art meets these requirements to the highest degree.

Polish Festival Orchestra, cond. by Krystian Zimerman: Piano Concertos by Frédéric Chopin. The Cracow Philharmonic, 15th September 1999.

Tygodnik Powszechny no.39 (2620), 26th September, 1999

1999, Polish Festival Orchestra; Produced by JMC Interactive Multimedia