Friday, November 20, 2020

Farewell to Elizabeth Zapolska, President of Szymanowska Society in Paris (Vol. 11, No. 2)

After a turmoil in the world and hiatus on this blog, we return to Chopin and Szymanowska to say our farewells to a wonderful music historian, singer, culture promoter, and friend, Elisabeth Zapolska-Chapelle who died after a brief illness on September 26, 2020.  She was busy  to the last minute collecting articles for a book to be published in French with the most outstanding papers presented during the Szymanowska- A Woman of Europe international symposia, held in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
Zapolska and Prof. Irena Poniatowska review books at the first Szymanowska Symposium 2011.

According to the Szymanowska Society website, Elisabeth Zapolska was a Polish opera singer (mezzo-soprano) and philologist, based in France, long engaged in the promotion of Polish culture and female authors. She was the President of the Maria Szymanowska Society founded in Paris on her initiative in 2009, the was the author and driving force of the project Maria Szymanowska ( 1789-1831 ), a Woman of Europe, including many lectures, concerts, and three international symposia. In 2011, in a world premiere with Bart van Oort - on a 1825 Broadwood piano - she recorded Ballades and Romances by Maria Szymanowska (CD published by Acte Préalable). I had the pleasure of providing English translations to some of the texts, including Historical Chants by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. 

Zapolska's last interview appeared on the portal, conducted in August 2020 and published in October 2020.

Portrait of Maria Szymanowska in Naples, with Vesuvius erupting outside the window, 1825,
Polish Library in Paris. 

Societe Maria Szymanowska, founded in Paris on 14 December 2009 on the initiative of Elisabeth Zapolska Chapelle, declared on 30 January 2010 in the French “Journal Officiel” had the purpose to "promote the figure of Maria Szymanowska, and creative women." The honorary committee included the following scholars and artists: Prof. Irena Poniatowska - President, Agata Preyzner, Monique Stalens, Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, and Thierry Pied.

Elizabeth Zapolska with Dr. Maria Smolarzewicz of Poland, 
at the Polish Academy of Sciences during a break in the Conference, 2015.

Poster from a 2013 Concert of the series, Szymanowska - A Woman of Europe

Maria Szymanowska - a Woman of Europe

The international project, Maria Szymanowska (1789 – 1831), a Woman of Europe was carried out by the Maria Szymanowska Society in collaboration with its private and institutional partners, thanks to funds collected since 2011. Its ambition has been to promote the figure of Maria Szymanowska, one of the first female professional musicians in Europe, to highlight her modernity and her role in the history of the status of women. 

Poster from the 2015 Szymanowska Symposium

The project thus intended to draw the attention of researchers, artists and a wide-ranging public to the emblematic character of Maria Szymanowska. European before the creation of the term, she was modern in her desire to override cultural, religious and geopolitical differences, in her search for personal and professional fulfillment, her constant preoccupation with effectiveness and development.

Participants of the 2011 Szymanowska Symposium.

The First International Symposium « Maria Szymanowska and her times» took place on 30 September 2011 - The Polish Historic and Literary Society in Paris, and 1 October 2011 at The Polish Academy of Sciences' Research Center in Paris. During the Symposium, attendees could visit a special Exhibition, "The composer Maria Szymanowska ( 1789-1831 ) in the collections of the Polish Historic and Literary Society/ Polish Library in Paris" at the Polish Library. The events took place under the patronage of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. 

Maja Trochimczyk at the Szymanowska Exhibition in Polish Library.

  • Irena Poniatowska (The F.Chopin Institute, Warsaw) : Maria Szymanowska, grande dame de la musique polonaise
  • Jean Pierre Armengaud (The University of Evry) : Le style et le toucher pianistique de Maria Szymanowska
  • Anna Czarnocka (The Polish Historic and Literary Society in Paris) : Maria Szymanowska et la Société Historique et Littéraire Polonaise
  • Adam Gałkowski (The University of Warsaw) : La Famille Wolowski, ses origines, son histoire
  • Elena Grechanaya (The University of Orléans) : La sociabilité russe à l'époque de Maria Szymanowska
  • Florence Launay (Mannheim) : Sophie Gail (1775-1819), compositrice sous l'Empire et la Restauration
  • Maria Rose van Epenhuysen The City University of New York) : Hélène de Montgeroult (1764-1836), a Woman of the Revolution
  • Ewa Talma-Davous (Paris) : Maria Szymanowska et Pierre Baillot, une amitié musicale
  • Maja Trochimczyk (Los Angeles) : On Genius and the Virtues of “Sense and Sensibility” in the Image of Maria Szymanowska
  • Benjamin Vogel (Swedish Society for Musicology) : The pianoforte of Maria Szymanowska

Selected papers were published in the 2012 (vol.XIV) Annual Journal of the Polish Academy of Sciences Research Centre in Paris (

I wrote a report and posted it on this blog:

Participants of the Second Szymanowska Symposium, 2014.

The second International Symposium « Maria Szymanowska and her times » under the patronage of the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, took place in Paris, on  Monday 28 April, and Tuesday 29 April 2014 at the Scientific Centre of the PAS (74, rue Lauriston, Paris 16e).

Audience of the 2014 Symposium, Polish Academy of Sciences, Paris.

♦ Irena Poniatowska – The F.Chopin Institute, Warsaw, Lumières et décadence de la musique de salon au XIXe siècle

♦ Karen Benedicte Busk-Jepsen – Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, A for Amity, Admiration and Attachment. On the Neglected Contact between Maria Szymanowska and Bertel Thorvaldsen

♦ Halina Goldberg – Indiana University, Bloomington, The Topos of Memory in the Albums of Maria Szymanowska and Helena Szymanowska-Malewska 

♦ Anna Kijas - University of Connecticut, Storrs, Szymanowska Scholarship: Ideas for Access and Discovery through Collaborative Research

♦ Maria Stolarzewicz - Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Weimar-Iena, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's connections to Maria Szymanowska and her sister Kazimiera Wołowska

♦ Maja Trochimczyk - University of Southern California, Los Angeles, History in Song: Maria Szymanowska and Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz's Spiewy Historyczne

♦ Piotr Daszkiewicz - Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, Humboldt, Cuvier, Jarocki et les autres - les naturalistes et les salons artistiques au temps de Maria Szymanowska

♦ Adam Gałkowski – University of Warsaw, Femmes de talent, femmes d’action au temps de Maria Szymanowska

♦ Hubert Kowalski – University of Warsaw, Legacy of Thorvaldsen in nineteenth-century Warsaw

♦ Jerzy Miziołek – University of Warsaw, Artistic culture of Warsaw in the time of Maria Szymanowska and Frederic Chopin

♦ Benjamin Vogel – Swedish Society for Musicology, Lund, Piano – the main atraction of the Polish and Russian drawing rooms during the Maria Szymanowska time

♦ Jean-Marc Warszawski – Paris, Mutations, mouvements, évolution dans le monde de la musique au temps de Maria Szymanowska

Moderator: Elisabeth Zapolska-Chapelle (Maria Szymanowska Society, Paris)

Elizabeth Zapolska in conversation with Irena Poniatowska and Benjamin Vogel, 2014.

The Symposium was organized by the Maria Szymanowska Society & the Scientific Centre of the PAS, together with their partners: Polish Academy of Sciences, Polish Institute in Paris, Polish Historic and Literary Society/ Polish Library in Paris, Air Franc & KLM Global Meeting, Polish Music Information Centre & .

The texts of the Symposium were published in the 2014 (vol.XVI) Annual Journal of the Polish Academy of Sciences Centre in Paris.

Elizabeth Zapolska with Prof. Miziolek and Maja Trochimczyk, 2014.

Audience at the 2015 Szymanowska Symposium.

The Third International Symposium "Maria Szymanowska and her times" entitled "Talents of Women: myths and reality" took place from 25 to 27 November 2015 at the Paris Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences (74, rue Lauriston, Paris 16e) under the honorary patronage of the Polish Ambassador in France, His Excellency Andrzej Byrt.

Participants: Valérie COSSY (Lausanne) - Jérôme DORIVAL (Lyon) – Helen GEYER (Weimar) - Irène MINDER-JEANNERET (Bern) - Françoise PITT-RIVERS (Paris) - Irena PONIATOWSKA (Warsaw) - Maria STOLARZEWICZ (Weimar) - Maja TROCHIMCZYK (Los Angeles) - Jean-Marc WARSZAWSKI (Paris)

Moderator: Elisabeth ZAPOLSKA-CHAPELLE (Paris)

Guest artists: Ekaterina GLAZOVSKAYA - Marcia HADJIMARKOS - Claudia Dafne SEVILLA CARRION - Petra SOMLAI - Françoise TILLARD - Edoardo TORBIANELLI - Bart VAN OORT – Elisabeth ZAPOLSKA

Fortepiano: Johann Alois GRAFF in Wien 1825 (collection Petra SOMLAI & Bart VAN OORT, NL)

Participants of the 2015 Szymanowska Symposium

Elizabeth Zapolska with Irena Poniatowska, 2015 Symposium.


 ♦ Helen GEYER, The four women conservatories of Venice : models of life, rivalry and outstanding examples of quality

♦ Valérie COSSY, Du « talent » pour demoiselle à l'expression de soi : la musique selon Isabelle de Charrière et Jane Austen

♦ Maja TROCHIMCZYK, Szymanowska in the Circle of Duchess Maria Czartoryska de Wittemberg

♦  Françoise PITT-RIVERS, Madame Vigée Le Brun, Angelica Kauffmann, deux peintres musiciennes

♦ Jérôme DORIVAL, Influence d’Hélène de Montgeroult sur la génération romantique, avec l’aimable participation de Marcia HADJIMARKOS, piano 

♦ Jean-Marc WARSZAWSKI, Musiciennes au temps de Maria Szymanowska : un contrepoint d’inégalités et de préjugés

♦ Irena PONIATOWSKA, Etudes et Préludes de Maria Szymanowska : leur apport dans l'art pianistique européen des premières décennies du XIXe  siècle

♦ Maria STOLARZEWICZ, History of a musical friendship : Michał Kleofas Oginski & Maria Szymanowska

♦ Irène MINDER-JEANNERET, Entre cosmopolitisme et patriotisme : les « airs nationaux » dans les compositions de Caroline Boissier-Butini (1786-1836)

♦ Salon musical de clôture : Invite à la danse

Elizabeth Poniatowska with Maja Trochimczyk and conference participant, 2015.

The Symposium was organized by the Maria Szymanowska Society & the Paris Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Partners: Polish Embassy in Paris, Polish Institute in Paris, Polish Library in Paris, Société Française de Musicologie,, Pro Saeculo XVIII° – Societas Helvetica, POLMIC, CID - Femmes, Fondazione Adkins Chiti Donne in Musica, Furore Verlag,  Moonrise Press, AIR FRANCE & KLM Global Meetings.

My reports from this conference are posted on the Chopin with Cherries blog:

Maja Trochimczyk in conversation with Irena Poniatowska, 2015

I had a distinct pleasure to be invited to speak at all three symposia and to spend three wonderful weeks in Paris, luxuriating in the cultural atmosphere of the great European center of culture, learning about Maria Szymanowska and other women composers, researching her life and works at the Polish Library, and enjoying the friendship of Elizabeth Zapolska. We met in 2010 when she contacted me by email - searching for scholars and researchers who had worked on Maria Szymanowska, she found me in California to invite me to the first symposium in Paris in 2011.  I had previously edited Six Romances for publication and published articles about Szymanowska's Songs (in Slawomir Dobrzanski's book on Szymanowska), and careers of women composers. 

Participants of the Third Symposium, 2015

Thanks to the inspiration by Elizabeth, I wrote three papers on new topics - the first one centered on the creation of image of the Queen of Tones in Szymanowska's portraits, fashions, and behavior that earned her admission to aristocratic palaces across Europe and the title of the Court Pianist to the Tsarinas. Then, I focused on Szymanowska's contribution to Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz's monumental Spiewy Historyczne / Historical Chants, and the role of this opus in the history and culture of Poland.  I presented this paper during the second symposium in 2014. Finally, continuing the research on Spiewy Historyczne I focused on the circle of Polish aristocratic women centered around Maria Czartoryska de Wittemberg, who was Szymanowska's patron and friend, and who was the main inspiration for Niemcewicz's collection of patriotic historical chants. Elizabeth encouraged me to explore these new areas of Polish cultural history, focusing on the role of women as culture creators, sponsors, and promoters.  I'm truly grateful for her insights, energy, and talents.

Szymanowska Symposium Participants, 2015

Elizabeth Zapolska also greatly appreciated my poetry. In fact, my brief bio on the Szymanowska Society website reads "a musicologist and fascinatingly creative poet, she has long been involved in the promotion of Polish culture in the United States, particularly Polish music and female authors." I was given an opportunity to present my newly written and older poems during the artistic salons that culminated each symposium with musical and poetic presentations by the participants, and with a general discussion of the conclusions of the conferences.  I wrote new poems specifically for the conference and read them in English and Polish. Alas, I still do not speak French!

Elizabeth Zapolska at the Third Szymanowska Symposium, 2015

Artistic Salon at the end of the Third Symposium, 2015

Participants of the Third Szymanowska Symposium, 2015.

Reading poetry at the Artistic Salon at the Third Szymanowska Symposium, 2015

I'll end this brief commemoration of the amazing artistic and organizational achievements of Elizabeth Zapolska Chappelle with two poems of mine, written for her symposium and published elsewhere...
Since the title of the final symposium in 2015 was all about the dance, I wrote a cheerful poem about the joy of dancing. 

An Invitation to the Dance

And the angels are dancing.

Did you say dancing? Yes, dancing. Making somersaults  
and jumping two hundred yards in the air.

Air? Are they here? I thought they lived in infinity, 
Or eternity, or the great beyond, or whatchamacalit.
No. Here. They are laughing their heads off.  Giggling, 
smiling, smirking, guffawing. Laughing.

What’s so funny? Nic. Nada. Naught. It is just that they are so happy.
So incredibly,  exorbitantly, blissfully happy.

Why?  Oh, because of that quirky thing from the country song.

What thing? Don’t you know? Have you not heard
that love conquers all?  That love triumphs 
over lies, fear, anger, shame and despair? 
That it is? Love is. True love. Our love…

It blossoms in us, through us. 
It opens its petals.  The world is more tranquil, 
serene in the luminescence of our love.
New stars are born and cherries are sweeter when we 
are together, immersed in this love. When we 
find it. Return to it. Share it. Cherish it. When we 
are not giving up. No matter what. No matter how hard.
No matter how late.  It is soo simple, very simple.
Impossible? Yet, it is here to stay.

So what about these angels, then…
Oh, yes. Would you like to go dancing with the angels? 
Boogie-woogie, waltz, tango or salsa?

Maja Trochimczyk

Published in Altadena Poetry Review 2016, edited by Thelma T. Reyna.

Lady with an Ermine, Cecilia Gallerani, by Leonardo
Czartoryski Museum, Krakow, on deposit at the National Museum, Krakow, Poland.

Lady with an Ermine

              after Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, 
              in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland

Her eyes follow me around the room
with that secretive smile she shares
with her famous cousin.

Filled with the knowledge of what was, what will be
she slowly caresses the smooth warm ermine fur.

Tesoro, amore mio, sii tranquillo, ti amo*

Leonardo’s brush made a space for her to inhabit,
a grey-blue sky painted black much later –
she was pregnant, her son – a Sforza bastard,
the white ermine – the emblem of her Duke.

Sheltered by Polish royalty, she revealed
her charms only to their closest confidantes.
In 1830, exiled in a precious wood box, to Paris,
In 1919, returned to taste the Polish freedom.

Amore mio, sii tranquillo, ti amo

In 1939, hidden again, found by the Nazis
for Hitler’s last dream, the Linz Führermuseum,
Art among red flags and swastikas, flourishing
in the dark cavern of his mind. Never built.

Berlin, occupied Krakow, Governor Frank’s
hunting lodge, Bavaria. The Red Army’s closing in.
Train tracks. Crisp winter air. American soldiers,
The cameras of Monument Men.

Sii tranquillo, ti amo

Back home in Krakow, she is safe
in the recess of a museum wall. Under a muted spotlight,
Children play a game: walk briskly from right to left,
don’t let your eyes leave her eyes, see how she is watching you.

Her eyes follow me around the room
Filled with the knowledge of what was, what will be
she slowly caresses the smooth warm ermine fur.
She knows that I know that she knows.

Amore mio, ti amo

* Tesoro, amore mio, sii tranquillo, ti amo – fragment of a love letter in Italian, “Sweetheart, my love, be quiet, I love you”

© Maja Trochimczyk, 2015, published on

I'm sure that all other participants in Elizabeth's Szymanowska Symposia in Paris are as grateful for her energy, kindness, talent to inspire and connect others.  We are all so grateful for our own Queen of Tones (to paraphrase a phrase from Adam Mickiewicz's poem about Szymanowska). She was with us for a short time, and with boundless energy brought us all together, opening new horizons, and new ways of hearing, performing and perceiving music of the romantic times, and the most modern romantic of two centuries, Maria Szymanowska. 

Thank you, Elizabeth for all your love of music, poetry, women composers, especially Maria Szymanowska, and thank you for such incredible work bringing together researchers, musicians, and audiences, and promoting the wonderful music that you loved.