A pianist shares the love and nostalgia for her homeland
Alicja Fiderkiewicz was born in Warsaw, and showed outstanding musical talent at an early age. She was accepted into the Central School of Music attached to Moscow’s Conservatoire aged 9. During her 6 years in Moscow Alicja played in front of Tatiana Nikolayeva, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. She then studied in Warsaw for 4 years, winning the Polish National Bach and Beethoven Competitions, and she also won Chopin’s Scholarship for 4 years in succession. Having graduated from Warsaw’s Lyceum of Music with Distinction, Alicja entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, studying with Polish pianist, Prof. Ryszard Bakst for a period of 6 years. She won a number of college awards and concerto competitions and represented her college in many concert venues across the UK, and graduated with Distinction. She is a winner of the Dudley International Piano Competition and bronze medalist in the Premio Dino Ciani International Piano Competition in La Scala, Milan, and also won a Calouste Gulbenkian Fellowship. She has performed widely throughout the UK including number of recitals in the Wigmore Hall and St. John’s Smith Square. For a number of years, Alicja took some time – out from performing but continued her work as a member of keyboard department at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, UK. Since returning to the stage Alicja has reestablished her career as performing and recording artist. She teaches at the prestigious International Summer School for Pianists at Chetham’s, Manchester and has also been a jury member on number of competitions.She has appeared on BBC Radio and TV as well as on some local radio stations. There are 4 highly acclaimed CD’s on Divine Arts label.
The refreshing thing about this teatime edition from the St Mary’s archive is that we are able to catch up on some of the many concerts that we have inevitably missed.
Dr Mather and his team of Dr Felicity Mather ,Roger Nellist and many other enthusiastic music lovers give a platform to so many musicians that allows them to be heard by a audience not only live but also to a vast audience via their very good streaming.
The archive lists 360 pianist,160 violinists,53 viola,110 cello,40 Piano Trios and many other instrumentalists and singers.An amazing opportunity not only for young musicians to be offered a professional engagement but also to give a platform to distinguished musicians who are no longer on the International concert circuit.An important window in which to share one’s music .
I was very interested to hear Alicja Fiderkiewicz who I have much admired for her comments on social media and her obvious intimate knowledge of music and musical education at a very high level.But I had never heard her play and thought that perhaps her playing career had been shelved as she shared her experience and musicianship with the next generations.
It was good to hear a programme totally dedicated to her homeland.Not only Chopin but also Bacewicz and Paderewski.
Opening with the two nocturnes op 48 by Chopin she immediately demostrated her notable credentials.With a bold rich sound and a beautiful sense of shape and subtle shading.Played with great sentiment especially in the climax of the C minor nocturne but with a technical control and passion that excluded any sentimentality. The opening of the F sharp minor nocturne was full of fantasy as she gradually allowed Chopin to unravel his melodic line with a flexibility of great style and good taste.The ending was quite magical.
This opened the field for another Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz who was born in the same city, Lodz, as Artur Rubinstein only twenty years later.She stayed and taught at the Conservatory there where although a violinist she dedicated herself mainly to composition.She wrote mainly for violin and chamber or orchestral music but she did write some things for piano.As Alicja said in her very interesting introduction she only knew the second sonata and was not sure if there had been any more and did not even know the first( which remains unpublished)She had heard her RNCM Professor Ryszard Bakst play it and had fallen in love with it immediately.
He advised her not to but she subbornly disobeyed and played it to him a few weeks later.As it turned out much to his approval.It is an interesting piece that owes much to it’s time of 1953.Almost a war sonata one could say as Poland coped with the regime in that post war period crying for help and mercy.It was movingly introduced by Alicja and played with great technical assurance and rhythmic energy.An overpowering first movement of great conviction with violent passages alternating with luminous melodic episodes.Ending with a great cry of violence before the movingly beseeching lament of the slow movement.A final toccata based on Polish dance rhythms somewhat reminiscent in style to Villa Lobos with a relentless forward propulsion.
Image may contain: one or more peopleThis contrasted with the charming Nocturne op 16 by Paderewski. A salon piece of great charm obviously used by Paderewski on his concert tours .He had resumed his career in the 1920’s after he had been Poland’s first Prime minister and as foreign minister had signed the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War 1.He returned briefly to politics in 1940 and founded the Polish relief fund for which he gave many benefit concerts but died a year later at the age of 80.His last pupil was Malcuzynski and it is his influence and the school of Niedzielski and Askenase that Alicja was obviously influenced by.
It was obvious from her interpretation of Chopin’s 4th Ballade, one of the pinnacles of the Romantic repertoire .Full of nobility and a sense of architecture with a forward momentum that took us from the opening murmur to the tumultuous declamation before the fireworks of the coda.Even the repeat of the opening murmur had a masculine authority that while deeply heartfelt one knew that these were not tears but an anguish and longing for the homeland.As Cortot says”avec un sentiment de regret”The final long C was held over as the five magical chords and created the link to the tumultuous coda.Throwing caution to the wind she plunged into these final pages with a passionate thrust that brought this illuminating recital to an exciting end.
Almost the end!
She had still a beautiful performance of the Berceuse op 57 to share with her enthusiastic audience.
It was this and the slow movement of the first piano concerto that were the highlights of the recital .A simplicity and purity of the bel canto melodic line that Chopin weaves with such intricate mastery.Her own arrangement of the Romance from the first concerto where she created the same silvery meanderings as in the Berceuse. Only someone with the Polish spirit in their heart could understand the nobility,passion and yearning without rhetoric in the notes that Chopin penned a long way from his homeland.
Christopher Axworthy, April 25th 2020