After the 2004 release of Grzybowski’s first solo CD, Dialog, juxtaposing works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Alban Berg, Pawel Mykietyn, Arnold Schönberg and Pawel Szymanski, (Universal Music Polska), critics raved:
· “His interpretations of Bach, Berg, Schönberg, Szymański and Mykietyn show the touch of genius! There are certainly none today to equal his readings of Bach! (...) How refreshing and exciting it is to be in the presence of such great art of interpretation, akin to a genius!” (Bohdan Pociej).
· “The performance of Berg’s youthful Sonata and Schönberg’s Sechs kleine Klavierstücke could easily stand alongside the recordings of Gould or Pollini.” (Marcin Gmys).
While admitting to a personal bias towards someone who has dedicated years of his life to the music of Paweł Szymański, one of the greatest Polish composers who ever lived (as it will become apparent in 50 years, when the dust settles and musical diamonds will be found in the sea of ashes), I had no doubt that by bringing Maciej Grzybowski to California, I offered our audiences a special treat. His recital exceeded even my already sky-high expectations. First the program: arranged in two distinct parts, pairing composers of different generations in a surprising dialogue of musical ideas.
The youngest of the composers featured by Grzybowski was Paweł Mykietyn (b. 1971), his colleague and co-founder of the Nonstrom Ensemble where he has played the clarinet. In an entry on the Polish Music Information Center’s website affiliated with the Polish Composers’ Union, Mykietyn’s style is described in the following way: “The composer ostentatiously applies the major-minor harmonies, introducing tonal fragments interspersed with harmonically free sections. He also makes use of traditional melodic structures, transforming them in his own individual manner. Mykietyn could be described as a model postmodernist, deriving his inspiration as well as material from all the available sources without any inferiority complex.” These words could well be applied to the virtuosic and wistful Four Preludes (1992) that opened the program with their contrasting moods, textures and tempi.
|Grzybowski with Howard Myers and Prof. Walter Arlen.|
Under Grzybowski’s fingers, these charming miniatures sparkled with a caleidoscope of colors and rhythms. The pianist brought out the complexity of inner voices in seemingly simple pieces and endowed folk melodies with an aura of nostalgia and drama. In a stroke of genius, Grzybowski followed the folk arrangements with an entirely hypnotic and modernist reading of Drei Intermezzi, Op. 117 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). A standard in every music theory textbook on Schenkerian analysis, Drei Intermezzi could be heard as small interludes only in comparison with Brahms’s majestic symphonies. Composed in 1892, the intermezzi (No. 1 in E-flat major, No. 2 in B-flat minor and No. 3 in C-sharp minor) transverse cosmic landscapes of feeling evoked in Rainer Maria Rilke’s timeless poem, An Die Musik.
|Grzybowski with the Modjeska Club Board|
After a well-deserved standing ovation, the pianist relented and added a melancholy and thoroughly modern version of a Scarlatti’s sonata as an encore to the evening’s inspired and inspiring program. One thing is certain: the name recognition problem mentioned at the beginning should be resolved, once for all, in the case of Maciej Grzybowski: just go to every concert of his, and if you cannot go, buy his CDs.