Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

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Józef Śmidowicz - biography


Józef Śmidowicz, a Polish pianist, was born on 2 September 1888 in Zytomierz, and died on 10 June 1962 in Warsaw. He began to learn music with his father, Mikuli's pupil. At the age of ten he made his first public appearance playing the Beethoven Concerto in C major with the local orchestra in Kislovodsk (in the Northern Caucasus) with the renowned Lemberg conductor Maksymilian Steinberg. He planned to take up engineering studies in St. Petersburg, but the outbreak of the 1905 revolution made him go to Warsaw, where he entered Aleksander Michalowski's piano class at the Warsaw Music Institute. He graduated from the Institute in 1913. He made his Warsaw debut on 19 April 1909, when he gave a bravura performance playing the Liszt Concerto in E flat major with the Philharmonic Orchestra, and solo pieces, inter alia the Chopin Barcarolle in F sharp major. After the performance, a critic wrote that "the very young artist boasts a perfectly accomplished technique (excellent octaves, uninhibited movements of the hand, clear fingering), wonderful strike and noble phrasing". In 1910 he took part in the International Rubinstein Competition in St. Petersburg. Until the outbreak of World War I, he performed at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall playing the Liszt Spanish Rhapsody with Busoni's orchestration, and Rubinstein's Piano Concerto in D minor; and gave concerts in Lodz, Leipzig, Frankfurt and in Russia. In 1918 Śmidowicz accepted the position of a professor of piano department at the Fryderyk Chopin School of Music in Warsaw, and he continued to teach there until the outbreak of World War II. Apart from teaching he developed his concert career. He was the first Polish pianist to play the Ravel Piano Concerto in D major for the left hand, and the Sergei Bortkevich Concerto in B major, op. 16. He promoted Henryk Melcer's Concerto No 2 in C minor and Aleksander Zarzycki's Concerto in A flat major. During the Nazi occupation he gave underground concerts and piano lessons. After the war he performed with Chopin recitals, and was the head of the piano department at the The Higher State School of Music (today the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw). Despite his great talent and exceptional pianistic predispositions, he never dreamt about a stunning career. Like his master, Aleksander Michałowski, he devoted his life to be a servant to music. His wide-ranging repertoire included all Chopin's works, all Beethoven's sonatas and concertos, most works by Schumann, a wide selection of works by Bach, Liszt, Schubert, as well as Polish composers such as: Juliusz Zarębski, Henryk Melcer, Franciszek Brzeziński, Aleksander Michałowski, Ludomir Różycki (Śmidowicz was the first to perform his Concerto No 2). He belonged to the few virtuosos who performed the Chopin studies reworked by Godowsky. He sat on the jury of International Chopin Competitions in Warsaw (in 1927, 1932, 1937 and 1955). His pupils included Jan Grzybowski, Józef Kański and Wanda Niewiarowska.

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