Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto

During two concerts with Kitchener – Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the great Tchaikovsky piano concerto will be framed by two Slavic composer’s works. In that case, two works, I have very deep memories about.

My first public concert with a professional string orchestra, led by me many many years ago, opened with Lutoslawski Overture for String Orchestra. It is not at all a simple work, neither for the musician, nor for the public. Very short – 5 minutes – and in the same time, full of technical difficulties, always leaves the public with a bit of insufficiency – a hunger for more notes. Already Lutosławski understood that and always explained little interest for his work by technical difficulties. Although Overture has an inner energy, announcing his future great works.

My first “meeting” with the score of Taras Bulba took place in 2007, during my preparations for the International Prague Spring Competition for Conductors. It was between two other works in the final round and it happened that I was in the final with two other candidates. Before the final round, all three of us, we had to draw lots to see who is conducting which piece during a short rehearsal and the concert – all evaluated by the Jury members. My colleagues drew Till Eulenspiegel and Firebird, me – Taras Bulba. What a coincidence for a Polish woman to conduct with a Czech Orchestra Taras Bulba – a work based on Gogol’s novel, where he tries to describe Polish people in the worst possible way. The novel recounts the battle between Cossack and Poles. But for me, the cruelty was, of course, by Cossack’s side; reading the novel, I could not understood Taras Bulba’s deeds who killed himself and his own son because of his love to the Polish general’s daughter. Working with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra was not easy, they knew this piece by heart, and were led by such maestros like Jiri Belohlavek, Vaclav Neumann, Karel Ancerl, Vaclav Talich and me, trying to show my history in it.

The work is divided into three movements, telling us the story of Taras and his two sons. The rhythm is fitful and melody line differential. The sounds of battles, as well as internal struggle are clearly presented by the composer. In the same time, the form is not simple to assume. But there, in Prague I wanted to show this variety of ideas and extract its expressiveness. And the most important thing after all, when we were waiting for the results until after midnight, were the words of almost all musicians from the orchestra, who came to my wardrobe to congratulate me after the concert. Recounting the history of Taras Bulba I won second prize there.