The Polish Way?

Until mid afternoon, Monday was one of those days that made me think that all was right with the world. My car is working (after 3000 pln cash-in-hand to the mechanic for a “big job”), in this time of work scarcity, there seems to be enough money in the bank to survive May and a little beyond, the Minister of Culture wants to discuss music education and Waldemar Dabrowski already has. Yes, as I set off from home on my cycle, I had a distinct feeling that all was right with the world. So strong was the feeling that I even crossed myself to preserve it.

A kilometre from my destination the gear and braking system, which is all contained in the  bike`s rear hub, siezed up with an ominous wrenching sound. From then on, I had to push the cycle backwards since it would not go forwards. If you have never tried this, I assure you, it is not easy.

As it happened, I had to pass the shop where I bought the bike. The English speaking, Canadian educated mechanic was unencouraging.

“Who did the service?”

I said it should have been done by him on the guarantee, but I had left it too long, despite his advice: the first service after three months. This was about the eighth.

“It will be a big job. Its ruined.”

Nor did he have room for it in the shop: the sun was shining, the skies were blue and people were choosing  new bikes. So I had to risk a lamp post for the night

The following day when I returned, the sun was grey, the shop was empty and there was another mechanic. He promised to phone when it was fixed.

This morning the call came. I paid my money and headed off. But, when I tried to change gear I couldn`t. I went back to the shop.

“Yes, we can’t fix the gears. At least it goes forward.”

At least. But why pretend it was fixed? Or rather, why not tell me there was a problem?

Much to his credit, the shop owner made the mechanic give me back my money. But, it has started me worrying about my car.

Katia Kabanowa: see it!


Since the absurd and awful production of Lucia three years ago, I have avoided the Opera Narodowa. However, yesterday I was offered a free ticket to the opening of Katia Kabanowa. I took it and I am glad I did.

This KK is well worth seeing. David Alden`s new Warsaw production from London`s ENO is about the best performance of any opera I have seen from this inconsistent company.

Of course, there are all the usual Alden props: the moving chairs, the moving wall, the street lamp, but they are intelligently and, except for the frenzied smoking at the beginning, unobtrusively used.

The drama in the text is allowed to speak with clarity, a great relief from the usual Trelinski clutter and confusion. After a shakey start, the orchestra maintained a high level of playing, though I should have liked a little more passion. However, the balance between the stage and the pit was never compromised.

Whilst a couple of the singers could do with some more acting lessons and the Mother has an unpleasant voice (though she is an unpleasant character), the standard of singing is even and high. The whole cast gave focussed and committed performances. A memorable evening. Go!

TVP. Close it.


We are trying to ensure that all children in Poland have an active and enriching experience of music. We have written a musical for schools about young Chopin (before he emigrated and set a trend for young Poles)  in which children sing, dance and act.

We have held worshops in seven schools: the children and teachers were delighted. But, many schools still dont know about the project and many teachers are fearful of attempting the musical by themselves. They need a model.

Thus, we proposed to two TVP channels a “fly on the wall” documentary showing how a school prepares for a performace. This would be an invaluable aid for teachers.

TVP2 loved the idea but, guess what, it has no money. The other channel has not even bothered to reply. So much for “public service”.

What is the point of a public service broadcaster if, in the Chopin Year, it cant even find a small amount of money (and willingness) to ensure that every child in the country has a practical experience of music making and some knowledge of who Chopin was? Condemned by its own inactivity.

TVP, public service broadcaster? Dont make me laugh!


A public service broadcaster has the obligation to educate, to make programmes that dont make money, that dont appeal to a mass audience but which enrich the viewer. This precious obligation is immediately compromised once the public service broadcaster has to compete for advertising revenue. Such is the lot of TVP, a company that seems to have been allowed to ignore its responsability to the licence payer, you and me.

What should we do as law abiding citizens? Put it out of its misery. Stop buying the products of the mainly multinationals that advertise with TVP, bancrupt the channel, close it down, get rid of all the “public servants” on the payrole who do nothing all day and start again, create a smaller, entirely state funded public service broadcaster. I`ll tell you my personal reasons for wishing this tomorrow.

The Warsaw Voice: fit for the bin!

  From the paper that is heavily advertising the benefits of having 200 Chinese children exhibit their pianistic dexterity on poor Chopin`s music, on Chinese made Polish pianos, in open-air Warsaw, in August (with 1.5 million pln of public money from the Ministry of “Culture” plus private sponsorship) we have the following in the April edition:     “…the Chopin celebration was attended by Piotr Anderszewski, who played pieces by Bach,Beethoven and Schumann that he apparently felt most at home with. Anderszewski did not risk playing Chopin because he probably never aspired to succeed in such repertoire. Even though A`s musical intelligence is impressive, his skills, especially his limited range of technique, could be a serious obstacle.”   Now, if you don`t know who Piotr Andreszewski is, I suggest you Google him to find out. Without a shadow of doubt, he is the most prominent Polish pianist of the last 20 years though, it must be stated, he has rather turned his back on Poland and its nasty little cliques or “salons”, as they call them here. Suffice it to say, his recordings of Chopin have been highly praised by the top London critics and newspapers.


In the same piece of “objective” criticism the author, a certain Jan Popis, praises to heaven the abilities of Rafal Blechacz. It may surprise you to know that Mr. Popis, in his biographical note, claims to have advised Mr. Blechacz for the last ten years; advice which has, let us hope, contributed to his successful career. Good old Mr. Popis, giving a helping hand to the young and deserving.


But why is Mr. Popis so mean about Anderszewski? In fact, with such absurd views, why is Mr. Popis a critic at all?

I wrote to the editor.


A reply came by return from the  arts editior of the Warsaw Voice. I quote,” I think he skipped Chopin not because of his technique (manual) reason Mr. Richard. And its okay. Mr Popis can give his view that that Anderszewski is not a Chopinist player that`s all. Its not so big reason to be unfit for critic`s job I think.”  Thanks. As clear as day!


So lets look at little closer at The Buzz, the arts pages of the Warsaw Voice. A whole page is dedicated to a photographic exhibition. It overflows with compliments, which I certainly do not intend to repeat here. But, guess what? Who is this amazing photographer? None other than the editor of The Buzz! The author of the email from the Arts editor. Dominik Skurzak! Smell a rat? I do.



And for those in the know, I`ll quote Mr. Popis a little further. “Zimerman`s interpretation of Chopin set the highest standards….after his take on Sonata No2, it seems the legendary recording on which Rachmaninoff played the same piece over 70 years ago is destined for the dustbin of history.The same is true of the  opus 58 and its legendary rendition by Dinu Lipatti. Chopin by Zimerman is the Chopin of 21st century.


In my view, Mr. Popis and his views, the 200 Chinese piano marathon and its promoters: the WDA, the Pendereckis and this wretched Warsaw Voice are all fit for one place only: the bin!