Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Part I
People and objects. Music, memory mediums and emotions.

I met Saskia Giorgini, the Italian pianist, in Żelazowa Wola, Fryderyk Chopin’s birth place. Although the astrological summer hadn’t started yet, it was a very sunny and torrid Sunday on the 19th of June. The Mazovian sky seemed to be larger and brighter than ever. Ms Giorgini enjoyed it a lot. She already visited Poland several times but this one supposed to be different, because of her recital in Żelazowa Wola. Her beauty and gentle behavior strucked me immediately. Combined with her great talent, it is no wonder that she and Chopin were born under the same sign of zodiac – Pisces. According to astrology, Pisces are deeply creative and artistic, with enhanced intuitive abilities, sensitive and instinctual rather than bookish or mechanical, wholly engage in a chosen path, to the exclusion of everything else. They are great friends and romantic partners. Personally, I fully agree with this characterization. Judge it according to your own discretion. Chopin’s family celebrated his birthday on the 1st of March, however, there are known sources informing on another date of his birth, the 22nd of February 1810.  Saskia Giorgini was born in February too but more than 150 years after Chopin. The music subtly combines their biographies. Through playing the piano Saskia Giorgini introduces us to the world of Chopin and revives the memory of him, his life and his works.

Żelazowa Wola, Fryderyk Chopin birthplace, 1810
Żelazowa Wola. The birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin

The whole Chopin’s family had artistic leanings, and even in infancy Fryderyk Chopin was always strangely moved when listening to his mother or eldest sister playing the piano. Being at the age of six, he was already trying to reproduce what he heard or to make up new tunes. The following year he started his piano lessons. At the age of eight he made his first public appearance at a charity concert. Three years later he performed in the presence of the Russian tsar Alexander I, who was in Warsaw to open the Parliament. His reputation of a child prodigy was growing rapidly. At seven he wrote a Polonaise in G Minor, which was printed, and soon afterward a march of his appealed to the Russian grand duke Constantine, who had it scored for his military band to play on parade. Other polonaises, mazurkas, variations, ecossaises, and a rondo followed, with the result that, when he was 16, his family enrolled him at the newly formed Warsaw Conservatory of Music.  Chopin had shown interest in the folk music of the Polish countryside and had received those impressions that later gave an unmistakable national colouring to his work. At the conservatory he was put through a solid course of instruction in harmony and composition. In piano playing he was allowed to develop a high degree of individuality.

Skarbek family residence in Żelazowa Wola
Skarbek family residence in Żelazowa Wola

Chopin’s childhood coincided with the Napoleonic era. Poles pinned great hopes for the restoration of the Polish State with Napoleon Bonaparte. They fought at his side against Prussia and Russia. After the fall of Napoleon the Congress of Vienna brought to life the Polish Kingdom, with an extremely truncated borders and fully dependent on Russia . The Tsar of Russia became the King of Poland. A fairly quiet life in the time of Alexander I turned to anguish during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. All of this resulted in the outbreak of the November Uprising in 1830. Chopin was already outside Poland. He left the country on 2 November 1830 to start his concert tour throughout  Europe. His journey coincided with the emigration of Polish insurgents after the defeat of the November Uprising. As a true patriot Chopin supported the Polish cause and the Polish emmigrant associations with his work and money almost till the end of his life in Paris, on the 17th October 1849. His music, his association with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness.

Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola 2016
Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola

Saskia received her first piano lessons at the age of four. Being fifteen years old she was admitted to the piano academy “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola, where she studied with Franco Scala, Riccardo Risaliti, Leonid Margarius and Michel Dalberto. At the same time she graduated from the Conservatorio di Torino with Claudio Voghera, with the highest grades. She then completed her studies at the Accademia di Musica di Pinerolo with Enrico Pace and the postgraduate studies at the Mozarteum Salzburg with Pavel Gililov. For her 2013 New York debut she performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto n.1 with the New York Concert Artists & Associates Orchestra. She has played together with important orchestras, such as Lodz Philarmonic Orchestra in Poland, CBC Radio Orchestra in Canada, Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg, Liepaja Symphony Orchestra in Latvia, Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, L’Orchestra Archi De Sono, l’Orchestra Giovanile Italiana, under the baton of conductors as Mario Bernardi, Gérard Korsten, Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Antonello Manacorda, Andrea Battistoni, Massimiliano Caldi. She is a winner of the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 2016, where she also got the special prize for the best interpretation of the commissioned work. She has a special affinity for chamber music. The Artist is considered by the music critics as one of the most interesting pianists of the young generation. Her visit and recital in Żelazowa Wola on the 19th of June 2016, organized by The Fryderyk Chopin  Institute, was as a special price for the finalist in the International Piano Competition Ferruccio Busoni 2015, were she received the award for the best interpretation of a work by Fryderyk Chopin. She admits that she loves Chopin and his music, which also rises her warm feelings for Poland and Poles.

Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola
Broadwood & Sons piano in Żelazowa Wola

The opportunity to listen to Saskia Giorgini performing Chopin on the 19th of June in Żelazowa Wola was unique, because the Artist played the instrument from the Chopin era. The piano was produced by the John Broadwood & Sons piano manufacturer in London, 1843. It was originally ordered by Georges Wildes from Manchester. F. Chopin played a similar grand piano (serial no. 17047, now in Cobbe’s Collection in Great Britain) during his trip to England in 1848. According to factory archives it was repaired twice in 1855. The instrument was bought in 2014 by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw. A square lime plate on the keyboard cover, decorated with arabesques, contains inscription: Patent / Repetition Grand Pianoforte. / John Broadwood & Sons / Manufacturers to Her Majesty / 33. Great Pulteney Street Golden Square / London. The instrument is made from wood, metal and ivory. The timbre of each instrument is unique, but it is possible that the “Chopin’s piano” sounded very similar, as an instrument from the same manufacturer. At least we would like do believe so. The Artist played two concerts in Żelazowa Wola. The first one, on the historical piano, started at noon. The second one, on a modern instrument, started later in the afternoon. Both concerts lasted ca. 45 minutes and the program stayed the same:

– Notturnos op. 15
– nr 1 F-dur
– nr 2 Fis-dur
– nr 3 g-moll
– Rondo à la Mazur F-dur op. 5
– Waltz a-moll op. 34 nr 2
– Waltz As-dur op. 42
– Ballad As-dur op. 47

Saskia Giorgini at Żelazowa Wola 2016, fot. Magdalena Rodziewicz NIFC
Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola, fot. Magdalena Rodziewicz NIFC

The Pianist stayed alone with the old instrument inside the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin, an eastern outbuilding of non-existing Skarbek family residence, while the audience stayed outside in the garden, waiting impatiently for the first tunes. After all, Saskia Giorgini said that it was an unusual feeling playing in an empty room on the historical piano, accompanied only by the ticking clock. Visitors from around the world behaved very quietly. The atmosphere was amazing and magical. The succeeding melodies, wistful and carefree, cheerful and thoughtful  were very reminiscent of the sounds of the surrounding nature. Birds singing blended in the music and the subsequent passages strikingly resembled the rustle of trees and the nearby Utrata River. The music was spreading around the park from hidden speakers so you felt like the all creation is singing the same melody. Each leaf hummed to the rhythm and the sound of Chopin’s music reverberated around the park.

Saskia Giorgini Chopin Recital in Żelazowa Wola 2016
Saskia Giorgini Recital in Żelazowa Wola

The Pianist revived the historical instrument and reanimated the Author. The sounds carried us back in time to the family home of Chopin and his childhood. It was really something like a time travel, or better to say between times travel. You could almost hear the sound of an evening lullaby or the laugh of children playing in the garden. In that one brief moment the Author, the Artist and the Instrument became one and brought us somewhere beyond time and space – to the land of Chopin’s dreams and memories. The past and the present became one.  The future was unnecessary. Nobody wanted to interrupt this unique experience. Chopin’s music acts extremely on imagination and Saskia Giorgini played it perfectly. She and the piano were a memory medium and a time vehicle, because in the world of music everything is possible. The music is like the space – unlimited and everlasting.

* * *


Żelazowa Wola Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes



Related article:
Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II. Place and landscape, memory and monuments


2 thoughts on “Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I

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