Polish-born conductor Michal Dworzynski was in Israel to conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the gala opening concert of the 2009 Israel Festival on Sunday May 24th in the Henry Crown Symphony Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre. This event, closing the “Polish Year in Israel”, included works by two Polish composers - Henryk Gorecki (b.1933) and Frederic Chopin. Of the three soloists, soprano Iwona Hossa and pianist Jacek Kortus were from Poland; they were joined by Israeli pianist Dorel Golan. I had the pleasure of talking to Maestro Dworzynski on May 21st.
Pamela: Maestro Dworzynski, when did you begin learning music?
Michal Dworzynski: When I started school at age 6, I wanted to learn the piano but my father, an orchestral bassoonist, was against it, insisting that a pianist’s life was too difficult. So I took up the violin, which I studied for twelve years. But I was interested to conduct and started to teach myself the art of conducting at age twelve, watching conductors at concerts and on video films. I later graduated from the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy, studying conducting there with Antoni Wit and took graduate studies with Christian Ehwald at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin.
Pamela: So here you are in Israel to conduct the IPO. Is this your first meeting with the orchestra?
M.D.: Yes. This is my debut with the IPO. Of course, I have heard recordings of the IPO and then I was present at their concert in Warsaw where they played under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta. I have always known it was a top class orchestra and now I have first-hand experience of the fact. Each player is a fine musician. Every orchestra has its signature sound: the IPO’s sound has a velvety, blended quality; the musicians play as “one group”. They are also friendly people.
Pamela: This is going to be a very interesting program. Would you like to say a few words about Gorecki’s Symphony no. 3, the “Symphony of Sad Songs” ?
M.D. Yes. Composed in 1976, it uses different Polish texts for each of the movements. Here, they will be sung by Iwona Hossa, with whom I have worked before. The work is very beautiful, it is almost an hour long and has three slow movements. The score itself does not appear to be difficult; indeed, the problems in it are not technical problems. The essence of the work is in its deep sadness, its sense of hopelessness. In the second movement, for example, the text is a message scratched into the wall of a Gestapo cell during World War II. It is the first time the IPO will be performing the symphony and, after two days of rehearsals with them, I am enjoying the fact that the players are getting a good and authentic feel for the work.
Pamela: There are two Chopin works on the program.
M.D. Yes. The Variations on “La ci darem la mano” in B flat major from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” constitute one of Chopin’s first works for piano and orchestra. Here we have a very young Chopin, sometimes a little naïve; however, in some of the variations, his genius shines through. Some might say the orchestral score is “not very interesting”; the truth is that it needs thorough reading into to find the small musical gestures lying there and the IPO players are certainly doing that.
Chopin’s Concerto no. 1 in E minor for Piano and Orchestra is also quite an early work, written around the time the composer was 19 years old, still in Warsaw. Chopin had just fallen in love and was inspired to compose. So it is a very romantic work, the slow movement in particular, with young emotion running throughout the concerto.
Pamela: Maestro Dworzynski, we welcome you to Israel and wish you much joy and satisfaction working with the IPO on this interesting project. Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us.