– By Larry Kellum –
On Sunday Dec. 18 at 4pm, celebrated Polish pianist Rafael Lewandowski will be bringing a bit of French flair and some Slavic flavor to Central Conn. State University when he appears at Welte Hall with maestro Adrian Sylveen and his New Britain Symphony – The Connecticut Virtuosi Orchestra for the latter’s eagerly awaited annual Christmas concert. Lewandowski, who grew up with Sylveen as teenagers in Poland, and has since enjoyed an impressive international career, will be returning to New Britain to headline a festive holiday concert that will feature orchestral and piano works by Dukas and Rachmaninoff, as well as both the Polish and American Christmas carols we all know and love, sung by the New Britain Chorale, the Paderewski Choir and the Young Hearts Choir.
On Nov. 16, from the comfort of his home in Poland, the great pianist was interviewed via Skype by local reporter and music critic Larry Kellum about this upcoming gala event. Here are some highlights from that very pleasant and highly informative conversation……..
LK—- How or why did you select the repertory for this concert?
RL—-“Well, Adrian actually did most of it. I like to see a good balance in a concert. It will be a treat to do the Rachmaninoff with this orchestra. This composer’s music is so passionate, more modern, even a little demonic in its inspiration.”
LK— What is your instrument of choice, and your piano of choice,if any?
RL— “I play a little clarinet as a joke, but it is, of course, the piano. You can not go wrong with a Steinway. This is a standard in the business. There are several fine pianos from Germany, Estonia and Italy, too, that I play on, but it really depends on the piece I’m performing. For example, for early Romantic German, or Viennese, music, I like a warmer, fuller sound, and here is where a Steinway is my best bet.”
LK— Any pianists, past or present, that you aspire to the most?
RL— “Poland and the Slavic countries have always had a long, rich tradition of great pianists, and the Polish and Slavic Jews like Rubinstein and Horowitz have always been my greatest idols. I also admire Van Cliburn for his Tchaikovsky. Remember, it is the quality of sound produced, not how fast the fingers move, that makes a great pianist.”
LK— You spent two formative years in Paris. What was that like?
RL— “I went to Paris to play and study Chopin, not Ravel or Debussy. It was a very rewarding experience. I had a little apartment right in the center of the city, and everything you hear about how romantic Paris is is all true!”
LK— Do you feel that the classical music scene is different, or better, now that your country isn’t under Soviet influence any more?
RL— “Compared to the other Eastern European countries, Poland has always had a bit more freedom.”
LK— Yes, but my greatest love is opera, and in my youth, there were only two big sopranos from Poland, Teresa Zylis-Gara and Teresa Kubiak singing at the Met at the time.
RL— Yes, and I well know who they are, but today, there are many more, because things are better now, and Polish and American musicians have always had one big thing in common — making good music good art!”
LK— Rafael, we are all looking forward to your great performance on the 18th, and welcome you with open arms and open ears!
RL— “Well, now I already have stage fright from all your expectations, but I am looking forward to it, also, and I thank-you for your kind words!”
For more information on this concert, as well as the Virtuosi’s grandiose New Years concert/celebration, at Trinity on Main, please visit thevirtuosi.org or call 860-229-2072.