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February 18, 2004 ...

Novel considered a Polish "Gone with the Wind"

James Conroyd Martin is the author of "Push Not the River," a novel based on the diary of Anna Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the Third of May Constitution.
After working on the project for some years without raising interest within the publishing community, Martin self-published in 2001. Just one year later, St. Martin's Press purchased the book and released a hard cover edition in September 2003. Polish and German rights sold almost immediately.
India Edghill, author of "Queenmaker," states that the novel "contains all the sweep and romance of "Gone with the Wind" and "Doctor Zhivago," with a heroine who remains strong in the face of both personal and political tragedy. An enthralling tale of courage, survival, and hope, Anna Maria's story is at once timeless and timely."
Martin is a longtime English teacher and department chairman at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, IL. He holds degrees from St. Ambrose and DePaul universities. St. Martin?s has recently signed him to write a sequel to "Push Not the River."
An interview with James Conroyd Martin
Q. Just what is your book "Push Not the River" about?
A. It's a novel based on the actual diary of a Polish countess in the late 18th century. Critics are calling it a "Gone with the Wind" in Poland.
Q. How did you come to write this book?
A. In the mid 1970s I went to Los Angeles with the goal of screenwriting in mind. Not long after my arrival, a friend, John Stelnicki, suggested that I look at his ancestor's diary that he had translated from the Polish. With every page I was drawn back 200 years into her incredibly exciting life. The obstacles in her personal life were as mythical as those facing Poland at that time, and so her story became a kind of metaphor for the country's story. It was only later, in my research, that I came to realize how phenomenal it was that the years of her personal struggles coincided so perfectly with the tumultuous years of the Third of May Constitution, one of Europe's first attempts at democracy.
Along the way, I have felt Countess Anna's spirit on my shoulder. I never doubted that the story would come to fruition.
Q. Do you have a particular interest in Polish culture and history?
A. I certainly do now and have had for these last 25 years that these real people have brewed inside me, coming forth eventually as dimensional characters. I've had countless readers tell me that reading the book has given them a good sense of the history behind the Constitution and done so in an entertaining way. By the way, both German and Polish translations will be coming out in 2004.
Q. How much research did you do for the book? How long did it take you to write it? Have you been to Poland?
A. I did a great deal of research because I started out with no knowledge of Poland, and that research spanned the 25 years it took to bring out the book. I did much library research at the beginning although there is so much more available in English now. I worked also with the Polish Museum of America in Chicago and Jan Lorys and his staff were very helpful.
Before publishing the book, I felt I had to go to these places I was writing about to get a sense of setting. I traveled to Poland in the summer of 1999 and it was the experience of a lifetime. Going to the sites I wrote about gave me a clear feeling and picture for the time and place. The Royal Castle at Warsaw has been restored to what it was when Anna visited there so many years ago, making it possible to better convey the wonderfully rich ambiance of those rooms. Other settings in the book include Praga, Sochaczew, Kraków, Czestochowa, and Halicz in what is now the Ukraine.
Upon arriving in Warsaw, I felt compelled to walk to the suburb of Praga and the bridge that leads from it to the Old City. It was here that the Russians came down on the citizens of Praga, forcing them to flee, Anna among them, across the river to the walled city. At that moment, on the new bridge where the old bridge had stood, I could feel the history all about me. Being there on the site Anna had written about so many years before, the site where she - and the nation - came face to face with death was a chilling and poignant moment for me.
Q. How did you come by the Polish proverbs and wycinanki (folk papercuts) that serve as breaks between the book sections?
A. Some of the proverbs, as well as some of the folklore, were in the diary, so in my research I kept an eye out for more. The wycinanki were a last minute touch that seemed just right. I ran across a small book of designs by Frances Drwal and she generously allowed me to use a number of them. Having decided on dividing up the eight sections of the book with the papercuts, it seemed right to use a proverb with each papercut, and together they provide a very effective and eye-catching cultural transition from one section into the next.
Q. What is the relationship between the current owner of the diary and the Countess?
A. Countess Anna Maria Berezowska is John Stelnicki's direct ancestor. Although many of Anna's succeeding generations thought the diary shocking because of Zofia?s "scandalous" diary-within-a-diary excerpts, they were intelligent enough to know this was a historical document not to be destroyed. And I have always felt that Anna wanted her story to be told, and that somehow I was chosen to do it.
Q. How much of the story is authentic? How much did you need to embellish or change for artistic purposes?
A. A hard question! One reviewer loved everything but was upset that I didn't include an author's note spelling everything out, fact or fiction. I just didn't want to do that. I wanted this woman's life to be of one fabric in the reader?s mind. She wasn't legend, like Arthur, she was a real person.
I will say this much: I did employ almost all of the events and much of the dialogue, fleshing out character, motivation, settings, and the like. When the story moved to a multiple point-of-view, I had to imagine the inner workings of the minds of three additional characters. I'm certain that many people will think that some of the most incredible scenes were created by me, but most of these were in the diary - or it wouldn't have interested me in the first place. In reality, many of my scenes are more expository and mundane.
Q. What has been the reaction from American Polonia?
A. Strongly positive. And a vindication of the years I have persisted. I had been told by hundreds of editors, publishers, and agents that there is no market for a historical novel set in Poland. This deepened my resolve to prove them wrong, and I think the time has come. The reviews have been very positive. Initially, the school where I teach gave me a book signing, and one week later, on the same night, two leaders in separate Polish communities - one man and one woman - called to tell me they were so impressed and inspired by the book that they wanted to host signing/discussion events of their own. They did so and a ripple effect continues. Although they thought it important to get the word out to the community at large, it was that night that I knew I had touched Polish hearts of men and women.
Q. Have there been any particularly gratifying remarks?
A. Best-selling author Piers Anthony agreed to read my book before publication, but he gravely warned me three times that he puts his recommendation on few books because most of what he reads does not rise to his expectations. I waited patiently and nervously for two weeks for his verdict. When his letter came, it began, "I have just finished reading 'Push Not the River' and I am profoundly impressed...." He was impressed enough to mentor me through the publication process. Since then there have been many remarks, but the enthusiasm of one woman in Albany, NY, has led to her organizing a "Push Not the River" tour of Poland next October that will go to all the cities in the book. Now, that will be very exciting!
Q. What kind of promotion have you been doing in the Polish community?
A. I'm very happy to address Polish culture clubs and attend the festivals. In some cases the community has reached out to me. Anna Chrypinski, the librarian for the American Council for Polish Culture contacted me to let me know how much she enjoyed the book. She read it in two days! She's now organizing a lecture tour that will take me coast to coast.
Q. Do you plan on writing another book?
A. I am. Even before this edition came out, St. Martin's Press signed me to write a sequel, so I'm well into that project. The surviving characters will move into the Napoleonic period.
Q. Why are critics comparing "Push Not the River" to "Gone with the Wind!"
A. Like Margaret Mitchell's story, mine is a mainstream historical novel that transcends ethnicity and setting. It also has two strong women characters whose stories play out amidst the themes of love, war, loyalty, and treason. And at the end of both novels, not only are the characters changed forever, but the nations are also never to be the same.
Q. What is the significance of the title?
A. It?s a proverb. "Don't push the river; it will flow of its own accord."
Martin may be reached through his website: www.PushNotThe The hardcover, 432 page book lists for $24.95 but can be purchased through the website and for $15.72 plus shipping. It is also available at major bookstores.

Poland-USA: a relationship on the rocks?

Robert Strybel,
Warsaw Correspondent
WARSAW-A year ago, Poland was not even listed among the nations Americans like the most. Then, in July 2003, Poles landed in fourth place following the English, Dutch and Italians, a survey carried out by the Transatlantic Trends polling group showed. Since December 2003, Poles rank second only to the English as "America's best friends." Poland owes that rather spectacular evolution of American attitudes from nothing to second place to its support of the U.S.-led operations in Iraq. At a time when many of America's traditional Western allies turned their backs on Washington, Poland not only provided moral support but backed its declarations by sending troops and equipment to the war zone.
Poland has not only supplied its second contingent of 2,500 troops (the first returned to Poland in February), but heads a 10,000-strong multinational force in the south-central stabilization zone that stretches across Iraq. Polish financial expert Marek Belka heads the economic department of Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority, which is managing things until a democratically elected Iraqi government can take over.
President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top administration figures have showered praise on Poland as "our most loyal ally" and "America's best friends." The well-wishing praised the bravery and dedication of Polish soldiers and invoked memories of Kosciuszko and Pulaski and Poland's longstanding reputation for nobly struggling "for your freedom and ours." Although a majority of ordinary grassroots Poles opposed their country's military involvement in Iraq, most nonetheless basked in the American accolades and felt their sense of self-esteem grow.
Poland had backed America's Iraqi campaign freely, willingly and with no strings attached. Warsaw did not try to extort any privileges or favors when Washington was backed up against a wall in need of international support. But deep down, "America's most loyal allies" believed they had earned the right to look forward to some form of reciprocity and could count on the U.S. when the chips were down. For that reason, further developments came as such a disappointment to Poland.
The Polish people appreciated the need for stricter security precautions introduced at the start of the year at American airports, but they resented the fact that Polish citizens had to be photographed and fingerprinted at the border like common criminals or potential terrorists. Why have "America's most faithful allies" been forced to stand in line with travelers from high-risk countries, while visitors from 27 other lands, including Singapore and post-communist Slovenia get whisked into the U.S. in the fast lane?
Poland's decision to purchase F-16 jet fighters was another sign of pro-American sentiment, since the planes produced by America's Lockheed-Martin aviation group were not technically all that superior to rival French or Anglo-Swedish offers. But the cornerstone of the multi-billion-dollar deal was an offset arrangement, whereby Poland could count on double that amount of American investment in its defense sector. So far Lockheed-Martin has been dragging its feet.
Although Poland unilaterally did away with visas for visiting American tourists at the start of the 1990s without demanding reciprocity, Warsaw feels that facilitating travel for U.S.-bound Polish visitors a decade and a half later is not an outrageous request. But Poles still need U.S. visas, one-third of all visa applicants are rejected and prospective travelers must pay an unrefundable $100 processing fee whether or not they ultimately get a visa. Poles hoping to visit America are forced to stand in the cold for hours awaiting their chat with a U.S. consular official.
When Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski visited Washington in January, he and his countrymen were showered with praise by President Bush at the Oval Office, but he got nowhere when he tried to get the U.S. to ease its travel requirements for Polish visitors. There is nothing the president can do, he was told, only an act of Congress could change things, and Congress is unlikely to make a special exception for Poles, since Hispanics, Koreans, Philippinos and many others would scream "discrimination."
When Kwasniewski asked Bush to support Poland's bid for lucrative U.S.-funded defense contracts in Iraq, he was told that this was purely a business issue, so the American government had nothing to say in the matter. He did receive a vague pledge that the U.S. Department of Commerce might be able to advise the Poles on how to proceed.
Kwasniewski returned home with nothing to show for it except six used transport planes that the U.S. graciously offered the Polish army, pledging to overhaul and modernize them. But a few days later came a painful setback: Poland's Bumar defense group lost a $500 million contract to arm and equip the new Iraqi army. The bid was won by the American-led Nour consortium. Although two small Polish entities as well as several Iraqi firms were included, Poland would get only a fraction of the benefits in terms of new jobs and capital influx compared to what the Bumar deal would have entailed.
The resultant political and media outcry in reflected outrage and disappointment. A slap in Poland's face was also the U.S. Administration's decision to allow France and Germany to take part in the bidding to rebuild post-war Iraq. Originally, only countries that had supported the U.S.-led anti-Saddam campaign and the stabilization mission that followed had been eligible.
Washington's only bow to Poland's needs was a pledge to study the possibility of installing U.S. Immigration officials at Poland?s airports to conduct a pre-screening of America-bound travelers. That way those suspected of planning to work illegally in the United States or overstay their visas can be sent home from Warsaw. Up till now, such Poles have been subjected to the time-wasting, hassle, inconvenience and humiliation of being stopped at the U.S. border and spending time in an airport lock-up before being put on the next plane back to Poland.

John Waldony's story is one O'Callahan had to tell

Glenn Gramigna
Playwright Jay O'Callahan had interviewed dozens of steel workers and their family members in Bethlehem, PA before he encountered John Waldony. The son of Polish immigrants, this retired union leader told O'Callahan the story of how his mother had emigrated to America all alone at the age of 18 with little money yet had built a successful life for herself and her family. He told the playwright about how his father had worked hard to provide for him and his brother, Alex, despite low wages and ethnic discrimination that sometimes drove him to despondency.
"Once I talked to John, I knew I had the spark that I needed," says O'Callahan, whose play, "Pouring the Sun" is scheduled to run through Sat., March 13 at Studio Arena. "I knew I had a story that would symbolize the struggles of all the immigrants who really built America in the 20th century, the people on whose shoulders we stand today. Just the fact that this young woman crossed the ocean to come to America all alone without funds or education, yet somehow was able to get a house for her family and get them the money they needed is just amazing! I knew right then that this was the story I wanted to tell."
O'Callahan's production portrays the life story of Ludvika Moskal Waldony who had emigrated solo to the USA in 1907; her husband, Ferdinand "Fritz" Waldony, an immigrant steel worker; and their two sons, John and Alex.
"Fritz is a great admirer of Chopin and plays the piano himself quite well," O'Callahan reports. "In fact, in those immigrant communities on Friday and Saturday nights, you would often see dramas being put on or music being performed. There are also moments of humor as when Fritz tells his wife that pitcher John and catcher Alex form the battery of the local baseball team and Ludvika, not as fluent in English as her husband, goes around calling them the team's 'flashlight.' "
But, there are darker days just over the horizon as the family struggles to get by on the low wages the steel companies were paying during those pre-union years. At one point, Fritz becomes depressed, realizing that, "The foreman hates me because I'm a Polack!"
There is also conflict within the family in later times as John takes a courageous leading role in fighting the industrial injustice of the day over the objections of his parents who feel it is too risky.
"John's parents, who came from Poland of course, are very reluctant to challenge these powerful institutions, the company, the police, the state," O'Callahan points out. "But, John was born here. He's an American and he is going to go out and fight unfairness and injustice."
"I don't want to give too much away," O'Callahan adds. "But, I will say that I feel that this is a story which more people ought to know. Eventually John Waldony became a local union president and an employee of the national union which is involved in the nation's first steel strike in 1941. These courageous immigrants and their families built this country to what it is today and we should understand that and give them the proper credit for what they accomplished."

Young Polish pianist turning heads

Edward S. Wiater
The ears of those who opened the door to the music hall at Villa Maria College Friday were treated to something wonderful - an unmistakable melody being played by a gifted pianist. And, as if on the wings of the sweetest piano notes ever to fill God's air, particpants were transported to a cottage in a lovely wooded glen in Zelazowa Wola - the birthplace of Frederick Chopin.
At the piano, his face partially hidden by a full head of hair, sat a young man, his fingers dancing over Polish treasures - musical notes penned by Chopin.
Like those already in the small music hall - nuns, students and visitors - I found myself mesmerized by what I was seeing and hearing. I said to myself, "This young man is good. I mean really good."
The young man was Igor Lipinski who will be performing in a special Paderewski Festival program Sat., Feb. 21 at the Canisius College Montante Cultural Center on Main St. Lipinski will perform at 7 p.m. in a special multimedia presentation prepared by Dr. Kazimierz Braun.
The interlude at Villa Maria was through a special arrangement by Robert J. Fronckowiak who is chairing the Paderewski Festival.
Lipinski's playing brought standing applause from the audience and a call for two encores. Lipinski, who has the fresh, good looks to make him a pop star in America were he to sing, engaged in some light banter with the audience before responding on the keyboard. One of the numbers was his own composition played for the first time in America.
Lipinski was born in Tarnów which is midway between Rzeszów and Kraków. He was the second of Natalia and Jaros³aw Lipinski's two children. Igor's sister Kamila is four years older than Igor (who is now 17) and unknowingly was the reason Igor was drawn to the piano.
"Kamila was playing the piano and as I watched her, I wanted to do the same thing," Igor recalled.
Igor was not what we often call a child prodigy who plays the piano almost before he can walk. He got to where he is by hard, dedicated work.
"I practice now at least four hours a day," Igor said. And, that comes after going to his regular school classes which means he can be at the piano late into the night. He added, "I must practice to be better with my left hand."
Professor Agnieszka Starakiewicz was perhaps the first one to recognize that in Igor were the makings of an extraordinary pianist. She worked with him after school.
Igor went to a private music school for lessons and played jazz, rock'n roll, pop and some classical numbers.
"But, I didn't know which way to go until I met Jaroslaw Iwaneczko," Igor said. "He set me straight and it was the classics that I embraced."
Igor is a student of the Music Academy in Tarnów. His dedication to the piano has earned him twice the grand prize for a young pianist at the Paderewski Festival in Kasna.
In addition to the program at the Montante Cultural Center, Igor will appear with fellow countryman Pawel Chomczyk (a puppeteer working on his master's degree at the University of Buffalo) in Dr. Kazimierz Braun's play "Paderewski's Children." Igor will be Lt. Dygat of the Polish Kosciuszko Army.
The play will be presented at the UB North Campus in Amherst in the Center for the Arts Wed., Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. ; Thurs., Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 27 at 8 p.m., Sat., Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sun., Feb. 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The Thursday affair is the special "Premier Paderewski Festival Performance and Reception." Tickets for this evening only, which is to start at 6 p.m., are $35 and can be obtained by calling Ms. Grabowski at 683-3413.
Tickets for the other performances are $15 for non-students, $6 for students and seniors over 60 years of age. Tickets can be obtained by calling Center for the Arts box office at 645-2787 or Ticketmaster 852-5000.
Sponsor for this theater program is the Polish Cultural Foundation.
The Montante Cultural Center program is sponsored by the Canisius College Chair of Polish Culture and the Polish Cultural Foundation. Adult Tickets are $15 at the door ($10 pre-sale), student's $8 ($5 pre-sale). Tickets can be ordered by calling 683-3413.

Spy Ryszard Kuklinski dies

Edward S. Wiater
To freedom loving Poles and people everywhere, Col. Ryszard Kuklinski was a hero, a man who foiled Soviet plans for domination of Europe after World War II and quite possibly staved off World War III.
To Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, head of the Moscow-controlled communist government during the cold war, and his cohorts, Kuklinski was a traitor and was even sentenced to death in absentia.
Kuklinski was the subject of a four-part series in the Am-Pol Eagle in June 2002. He suffered a massive stroke last week and died Feb. 11 in Tampa, FL. He was 73.
Kuklinski's heroic undercover work with the United States Counter Intelligence Agency had a Western New York connection. After Kuklinski was found to be sincere in working with the United States, Buffalo-born David Forden of East Aurora became his contact.
After opting for a military career in 1947 when Poland was trying to recover from total ruin, Kuklinski caught the eye of high military officials and politicos. He rose through the ranks and in the 1960s was assigned to the general staff. His job: Planning large-scale military exercises.
It was during these planning stages that he recognized Soviet military expansion plans. They included all of Europe and if a battleground was to be formed, Poland would be in the middle of a disaster greater than that brought on by WW II. The Soviets already had stockpiled nuclear weapons in Poland.
Two events finally convinced Kuklinski to become a spy. The first was the Soviet invasion of the then Czechoslovakia in 1968, and later, the killing of Lech Walesa's Solidarity members in Gdansk.
In 1981, after roughly 10 years of spying, Kuklinski, who was married and had children, asked that he be allowed to flee with his family to the United States as it was becoming apparent military officials were starting to probe his behavior.
After he was in America, communist officials called him a traitor and in a "show trial" convicted him and sentenced him to death. Forden and others, however, pointed out Kuklinski never signed any contract to do the work for the United States.
"Ryszard was a true patriot," Forden said on being contacted by this writer two years ago. "He wanted his country to be free. His thoughts of freedom involved all the good people of the world which brings to mind the cry of Polish soldiers storming the German-held Monte Cassino. Their cry was 'Not just for our freedom but yours, too'."
The Kuklinskis paid a heavy price for the colonel's work on behalf of the free world. Their youngest son Bogdan was lost during a diving trip off the coast of Florida. His body was never recovered. Some believe Fidel Castro's agents had a hand in this tragedy.
A half year later, Kuklinski's other son, Waldemar, was hit and killed by a car. The driver fled the scene. There were no fingerprints found in the car which hit him. As one officer said, "The communist secret police has long tentacles."
Col. Kuklinski is survived by his wife Joanna and one grandson.

February 04, 2004 ...

Polish porcelain makes a return to North America

Cmielow traditional and modern porcelain figurines will be the focus of a gala presentation at the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Manhattan on Fri., Feb. 6.
Cmielow is known world wide for its porcelain figures. Cmielow sculptures are original products made with the highest quality English porcelain and designed by famous artists now being offered again in North America.
Under communist rule, the manufacturers were unable to secure suitable materials, so overseas production ground to a halt. But before that, the figurines, each numbered, stamped and limited in production, were heralded and welcomed in galleries in England, the U.S., Russia and Germany.
Only after the fall of communism in 1991 could the factory once again produce the high-quality porcelain it was famous for, and now overseas shipping has resumed.
Currently, the sleek and distinctive line of Polish porcelain figurines - and there are about 150 currently available - are sold in North America at selected Bay stores in Canada and through Bosz International of Oakville, Ontario,
Ela Szybalski, of Bosz International, said the "beauty of the product and history behind it" are the reasons Bosz is offering the Polish figurines.
The south central Polish village of Cmielow (SHM-YEA-LOOF) was granted official town status in about 1510 by King Alexander the Jagiellon of Poland. Its population at the time was 373.
According to official records, Cmielow was home to seven craftsmen, four distillers of whisky and one producer of pitch. But the town was also built on a type of soil that would dictate its future: rich loam and clay soil. It was perfect for pottery. And it wasn't long before the townspeople earned a reputation across their homeland for the earthenware that they produced in their little workshops.
The "Cmielow" faience factory has a tradition that is over 200-years in the making. The first faience and pottery workshops date back to 1790. In 1804 Jacek Matachowski, the great crown chancellor, bought the workshops and established a factory of faience.
Throughout the next century, the name Cmielow became synonymous with porcelain, china and fine pottery, and in 1810, the first pottery factory opened.
Since 1838, Cmielow has manufactured soft porcelain with a traditional Ludwig Fillip design. In 1849, brothers Jozef and Aleksander, the Dukes Drucki-Lubecki became the owners of the factory, and produced mainly English faiences and ceramics.
Nowadays, apart from table porcelain Rococ, Feston, Pulaki, Astoria, Gaja, Jenny, Yvonne, Cmielow is known world wide for its porcelain figures. Each figure has its number, certificate of authenticity and a certificate of the national Artistic Commission and Ethnographic Foundation - CEPEEIA - Polish Art and Handicraft. Some editions come in limited number which makes them even more desirable for both private collectors and galleries.
Cmielow handmade miniature sculptures were presented at the Fairs in Leipzig, New York, Chicago, the Second Industrial Exhibition in Moscow and the Polish Exhibition of Glass and Ceramics in Berlin. They are admired in numerous art galleries in New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow.
A line of figurines ranging from dancers to animals is available online at Szybalski said, "Customers who do not have access to a computer can always write us or place their order over the phone at 905-827-1010." Their address is Bosz International, 2125 Frontier Dr., Oakville, ON, L6M 3S3.
Cmielow figurines range in price from $50 for the cat figurines to a few thousand dollars for the limited edition figurines. Prices on the web site are in Canadian dollars and the measurements are in millimeters.
Bogdan Szybalski, a native of Poland, is the owner of the company. "In Poland,"
he said, "everybody knows about Cmielow, and everybody loves them, especially the little dogs and other animals. I am extremely proud to be sharing this part of my heritage with North Americans who love beautiful artistry."

Eastman to honor composer Penderecki with festival

Concerts feature music of noted Polish composer, conductor
The Eastman School of Music will honor the legendary Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki in a weeklong festival (Feb. 23-27), featuring Penderecki prominently in both roles for which he is internationally noted.
"The school is thrilled to host the visit of this world-renowned figure, whose music," said interim composition chair David Liptak, "is filled with vitality, adventure, and a sense of the monumental." Penderecki, who still resides in his native Poland, received an honorary degree from Eastman in 1972.
During this festival, Penderecki will have a full schedule that includes a composition master class and symposium for students and faculty, and two free public concerts of his music. Both concerts reflect a fascinating chronological journey of some of Penderecki's most interesting and important works:
? Tues., Feb. 24, 8 p.m., Kilbourn Hall: This diverse chamber music program, chosen in collaboration with Penderecki, features Eastman faculty performers. The Rochester premiere of Violin Sonata #1 (1953) performed by Oleh Krysa, violin, and Tatiana Tchekina, piano, opens the concert, which also includes Cadenza for Solo Viola (1984) with violist George Taylor; Quartet for Clarinet and String Trio (1993) (Ken Grant, clarinet; Oleh Krysa, violin; George Taylor, viola; and Rosemary Elliott, cello); and the Rochester premiere of Sextet (2000) for clarinet, horn, piano, and strings (Kenneth Grant, clarinet; Dietrich Hemann, horn; Barry Snyder, piano; Charles Castleman, violin; John Graham, viola; and Stephen Doane, cello).
? Fri., Feb. 27, 8 p.m., Eastman Theatre: This orchestral concert features the Eastman Philharmonic conducted by Brad Lubman and Penderecki himself. Lubman conducts the concert's first half, which opens with the powerful 1959-61 Threnody "For the Victims of Hiroshima," a 1961 UNESCO award-winning work scored for a large string orchestra (52 strings). According to the composer, "the problem of the great Apocalypse (Auschwitz), that great war crime, has undoubtedly been in my subconscious mind since the war when, as a child, I saw the destruction of the ghetto in my small native town of Debica."
The progression of works on the program moves to the full orchestra for the 1966 De Natura Sonoris No. 1, more playful than his earlier works and utilizing some free jazz-inspired sounds of the time, and then to The Dream of Jacob (1974), which Lubman says "seems to cross the alleged boundaries between his works from the 1960s and more traditional means, while maintaining the mystical atmosphere of the biblical quote from which the piece gets its title." Part of this work was used in the musical film score of The Shining.
After intermission, the composer steps to the podium to conduct his monumental second violin concerto, Metamorphosen - performed by Mr. Krysa - which will comprise the concert's entire second half. In 1999, this piece won a Grammy Award as "Best Classical Contemporary Composition" with a recording by Anne-Sophie Mutter for whom the work was written, with the composer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.
Born in 1933, Penderecki began his musical career as an accomplished violinist, pianist, and composer, having graduated from the Krakow Conservatory at the age of 18. After a surprise win of the top three prizes - under three different pseudonyms - at the 1959 Warsaw Competition of Young Composers, Penderecki's compositional rise, with its associated critical acclaim and numerous international awards, began to have worldwide influence. According to Liptak, Penderecki's early music experimented with color, sound mass, cluster writing, and a new emphasis on texture that proved to be highly effective and profoundly influential upon other composers.
His later works, including Adagio (Symphony #4) , Violin Sonata #2, and the Grammy award-winning Cello Concerto (recorded by Mstislav Rostropovich), approach the writing of music with a broader, almost Romantic sweep. Much of his professional work has been as a conductor of his own orchestral music as well as the established repertory, and he is much in demand in that capacity.

Kwasniewski has rough visit to North America

First, Poland's President's Aleksander Kwasniewski wasn't able to move U.S. President George Bush on the issue of visas for Poles travelling to the U.S., then his plane was forced by a snowstorm to refuel in St. John's, Newfoundland instead of Gander. There, Kwasniewski said, Canadian customs officers treated him as if he was a "potential illegal immigrant."
A spokesperson for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, said President Kwasniewski was never suspected of being an illegal immigrant and that Ottawa apologized for any inconvenience.
Kwasniewski said. "The passengers from my plane were held in a place where we could not leave. . . . it all took about three hours." The Polish Air Force jet carried 50 passengers including the president and his delegation.
He also said, "We saw what it feels like when an unexpected guest arrives who in the beginning is treated as a potential illegal immigrant. And, that is how we were treated."
According to press reports, Kwasniewski said he was placed above scrutiny only after some Polish sailors recognized him and asked for his autograph.
During Kwasniewski's Jan. 27 meeting in the Oval Office, he pushed President Bush to do away with visa requirements for Poles. The following is the transcript of that exchange:
President Bush: Well, we're working with the president on this very delicate issue. And there is the opportunity for some pre-screening to make sure that Polish citizens headed to the United States are not inconvenienced. We've got a study group we're going to put together to make sure that we come up with rational policy. But let me make sure everybody understands: the Congress decides the visa policy. That's what the Congress decides. And our study group will work with the Polish authorities in a way that makes it clear what the realities are here in the United States and makes it clear what the realities are on the ground in Poland.
Listen, let me just take a step back on this very important issue. We value our friendship with Poland. Poland is our great friend. There are thousands of Polish Americans who -
President Kwasniewski: Millions.
President Bush: Millions, excuse me. I just don't want to overstate the case here. (Laughter.)
President Kwasniewski: Especially before the election. Millions and millions. (Laughter.)
President Bush: That love Poland and [those] that have relatives in Poland. And, we understand the need for dialogue and travel. We've got visa rules set by the Congress that we just - that are on the books. And we look forward to working with the president on these issues.
President Kwasniewski: We will work, of course, but I would like to deliver this idea to you and to our friends. The future of the world is without visa, not with visa. That should be our goal.

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