Sokolov, coughing and Sulek


I went to Sokolov`s recital at the National Philharmonic on Saturday. Sold out, and rightly so. The first half of the programme was Rameau and Mozart which I could have done without. I can`t listen to early music on the piano. Neither do I find a romantic approach to Mozart particularly fulfilling. However, the second half, devoted to Brahms, was probably the most monumental performance of anything I have heard in my time in Poland. Applause seemed a futile response to such magisterial playing. Oh, that we could have left in silence.

Talking of silence, would that we could have had more of it from the audience during the concert. Loud coughing seems to have become a competitive activity. In London, concertgoers are instructed to cover their mouths when coughing. The decibel level can be reduced hugely. Not in Warsaw. Perhaps Mr. Wit enjoys the distraction when he is on the podium? Actually, Poles rarely cover their mouths when coughing where ever they are, which is probably why I developed a cold yesterday morning.

Andrzej Sulek, dismissed director of the Chopin Institute, showed up for Sokolov. We were sitting a row apart. Standing together at the end of the rows, we found ourselves shaking hands almost without realising it. Yes, there should be a public enquiry into his dismissal and the misuse of the one-off bonanza of state funds that hit classical music during the “Chopin Year”, something I have called for and which Minister Smolen doesn`t seem to know what to do about. (She is in-charge of music at the Ministry of Culture). Two years on I dont suppose anything will happen about the half started projects, the scandal of NIFC management or anything else that requires public servants to stand up and be accountable.

Sulek didn`t seem very pleased to be shaking hands with me. I shouldn`t have been very pleased to be shaking hands with him either, and for better reason. But, I am a generous soul and can appreciate how the sysytem can ruin the good intentions of even the best intentioned, least self-serving.

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