Rarely does a single piano recital take the audience on a trip through four centuries of Western music, starting from Baroque Italy, to Chopin’s Paris, and finally to Paderewski's Californian vineyards.
At Columbia Director of the Music Performance Program Magdalena Baczewska’s recital Wednesday evening at the Italian Academy, audience members took that very journey with a program featuring pieces by Clementi, Berio, Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Debussy, and Chopin.
For Baczewska, her recital was an opportunity to educate her audience—many of whom were students in her Music Humanities class—in an effort to bolster their waning interest in classical music.
“I want the audience to feel educated, but more importantly, included,” she said.
The program opened with works of Italian origin from different eras, beginning with a Clementi sonata, followed by two Encores by Berio, a short canzonetta by Monteverdi, and concluding with six Scarlatti sonatas. After the intermission she played “Images,” an impressionistic masterpiece by Debussy, followed by a nocturne and a scherzo by the great Romantic composer Chopin.
Baczewska explained that Italian-native Scarlatti was influenced by Spanish flamenco while Clementi was influenced by Schubert, demonstrating how a piece of music may contain allusions to different styles, eras, and cultures while still remaining a unique and cohesive work.
The pianist also elaborated upon her own personal connections to the pieces in her program. Like Chopin, Baczewska is of Polish descent and is an expatriate living abroad. She was brought up listening to and playing Chopin’s distinctly Polish works.
Baczewska told Spectator on Tuesday that this historical aspect of her program is especially relevant now, citing increasingly visible protests in Poland as a result of the wave of radical nationalism spreading across Europe.
“November 11 was Poland’s Independence Day, so it made me think about the future of my country,” she said. “This certainly left me worried and hoping that Poland will see its 100th birthday.”
This reflection came through in the encore of her recital, a dreamlike nocturne by the former Polish statesman and composer Paderewski. As Chopin wished that he could return to an independent Polish state, Baczewska hopes that her country will retain its hard-fought autonomy.