Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

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Jerzy Żurawlew - biography


Jerzy Żurawlew, a Polish pianist, was born on 21 January 1877 in Rostov-on-Don, and died on 4 October 1980 in Warsaw. He started learning music under Władysław Sayer-Waszkiewicz. His decision to become a pianist was influenced by three important events: at the age of eight he became infatuated with Paderewski's playing, at the age of ten he became fascinated by Chopin Polonaise in A Major, and thirdly, Józef Hofmann performing in Rostov voiced his opinion about Żurawlew’s incredible musical talent. In 1907 he left for Warsaw to start his piano studies under Aleksander Michałowski at the Music Institute. He made his first public appearance at a school concert on 26 March 1910, but his memorable debut took place on 3 December when he gave an incredible performance of the Liszt Concerto in E flat major with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. “Last night’s concert” - one critic wrote - “had a beautiful programme and great musicians, among whom a genius pianist became an overnight sensation with his brilliant virtuosity. [...] Żurawlew already plays like the world’s most eminent virtuosos do. There is no exaggeration in these words, as I cannot think of anyone who while playing the Liszt Concerto in E flat major could show such fabulous technical skills, such incredible artistic taste in their elegant phrasing, and so much heartfelt emotion.” Two years later, at the Warsaw Philharmonic, he caused another sensation, this time with the Tchaikovsky Concerto in B flat minor and the Liszt Campanella as an encore. Before the outbreak of World War I, he gave a lot of concerts touring Poland and Russia. He performed masterpieces by Liszt, Chopin and others. He also played chamber music and together with his friend, Józef Śmidowicz, he performed pieces for two pianos. In 1913 he began teaching as a piano professor at the Music Institute in Warsaw, and from 1918 at the Fryderyk Chopin School of Music. In 1925, influenced by Aleksander Michałowski, he became involved in preparations for the 1927 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw. Later, he concentrated on teaching and limited his concert activities to occasional performances, such as school events or jubilee concerts celebrating Chopin’s birthday or death anniversaries. After the Second World War, he taught at The Higher State School of Music. In 1949 he took part in the celebrations of the centenary of Chopin’s death. Aleksander Michałowski dedicated his paraphrase on Chopin's Waltz in D flat major to him. Żurawlew sat on the jury of the 1927, 1932, 1937, 1949, 1955, 1960 and 1965 International Competitions in Warsaw. His pupils included Mirosław Dąbrowski, Olga Iliwicka, Jakub Kalecki.

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