September 12, 2003

Listening to Rafal-Alexandre Luszczewski

I went for a concert on September 11 that was held to commemorate 50 years of Indo-Polish diplomatic relations, and 70 years of the establishment of the Polish Consulate in Bombay.I don’t often go for concerts like this one but I’m glad that I did go for this one. The concert, which was to help promote Indo-Polish ties, was by a pianist called Rafal-Alexandre Luszczewski who made debut in the international area at the age of 16 with the Tokyo Symphony. Apart from being one of the best-structured concerts I’ve gone for in a long time, Luszczewski’s playing was brilliant. He’s exceptionally talented, and the evening turned out to be one of the best I’ve had in the recent past.In the first part of the programme, he took the audience on a Journey through Europe.




Luszczewski began with a Prelude, Fugue and variation in B minor (Op. 18) by Cesar Franck (1822 – 1890), a Belgian composer who spent a large amount of time at Paris.A fugue is a piece which is structured in a subject-answer form, with the answer to the subject being in the dominant: in this case, in F. This particular piece was originally written for the organ. He played it so beautifully that just listening to it and being able to appreciate it was a challenge in itself.After that he moved on to ‘Sonetto di Petrarca’ which has been composed by the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) who is reputed to have written some of the most difficult music ever composed for the piano. Petrarca was an Italian poet.

The next piece was Ballade from Klavierstuck (Op. 118) by Johannes Brahms (1833 -1897). I hadn’t heard this piece before and listening to it for the first time ever felt so amazing. And then Luszczewski concluded the first part of the concert with two Spanish dances, one by Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946) and the second by Isaac Albeniz (1860 – 1909). He played Danza Espanola from ‘El Amor Brujo’ or ‘The Love Wizard’ by the former and ‘Puerto de Tierra’ by the latter.

‘Puerto de Tierra’ or ‘The Gate of the Earth’ is actually a piece from the suite ‘Memories of the Journey’ which is in seven movements. Albeniz was influenced by a number of well-known composers of the day such as Liszt and d’Indy and finally Felipe Pedrell who influenced him to incorporate elements of the vibrant and rhythmic traditional Spanish folk music such as dances from Asturia in the North, Andalusia or flamenco dances from the south of Spain, into his work.

After that came the interval and the second part of the programme where Luszczewski concentrated on polish composers: Ignacy Paderewski (1860 – 1941) and Frederic Chopin (1810 – 1849). He played Cracovienne Fantastique (Op. 16), which was based on a traditional folk dance from the Krakow region of Poland by Paderewski who was both a pianist and a politician. Luszczewski played both Fantasie – Impromptu (Op. 66) and Andante Spianato and Polonaise (Op. 22) by Chopin, who needs no introduction. In fact, Paderewski although well known for his own compositions, was particularly famous for his renditions of Chopin.

The point of this write-up, however, isn’t to list out the programme: I only wish there was some way that music could possibly be captured in words: I want to be able to remember the concert forever, and I don’t want to rely solely on my memory to be able to do it. Listening to Luszczewski play was such a pleasure and it must give him so much joy to be able to play so beautifully.