Andrew Eales film

Filming “Music from Chopin’s Land”

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing educational piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by my new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review the music of Chopin’s land…

Back in May, I received an email from my friend Tracey Connell suggesting I might be interested in a collaborative project with the legendary Polish publishing house PWM Edition: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne. And so began an unexpected journey…

PWM Edition (for short) were commissioning well-known piano teachers from France, Italy, Germany, Japan and the UK to film a short series of promotional tutorial videos supporting their range of educational piano music.

Would I like to fly out to Poland and feature in the English films?

Though this seemed a slightly surreal suggestion in the middle of a global pandemic, I sensed that taking part would give me something to shift my focus in a positive direction. And my excitement grew further when, a few days later, an enticing box of music arrived from Kraków.

Quite apart from selecting the five pieces/collections that I would like to discuss in my films, I was immediately taken with many of the other titles. How come this music isn’t better known here in the UK?

An Adventure in Lusławice

As the weeks went by, contracts were signed, scripts were written, new music was assimilated. And on September 8th, I packed some of my favourite shirts, boarded a near-empty flight from Luton to Kraków, and about two hours later touched down in Poland.

I learnt that PWM Edition was founded in 1945 as Poland’s state music publisher. Today PWM thrives as an independent company with a catalogue of more than 1,000 titles but receives additional funding to support the promotion of Polish music.

In their own words:

“As a cultural institution, Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne has been active for 75 years, publishing scores and books on classical music, jazz and film music.
Its broad publishing offer comprises both early and contemporary music works, Polish and world repertoire, scores for amateur and expert musicians, teaching, academic and popular publications, as well as an extensive catalogue of book and lexicographic works.
PWM is one of the key music institutions in Poland, promoting works of Polish composers in the international community. Responding to the expectations of the contemporary audience, PWM has expanded its activity with a new phonographic brand – Anaklasis.”

Filming took place at the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music in Lusławice, roughly an hour’s drive from Kraków.

The Penderecki Centre is a stunning facility on the edge of the small village where the great composer himself lived until his death earlier this year. The Centre houses two state-of-the-art performance halls, as well as residential quarters for artists and around a dozen practice rooms, each housing a grand piano. 

I was joined there by the French and Italian pianists Ernestine Bluteau and Maddalena Giacopuzzi, the producer, filming crew and project team from PWM. For the next three days this became our home-from-home.

The story of how this project unfolded and these films were made is a surprising and joyous one, especially set against the background of “COVID year”, national and local restrictions, social distancing, face masks and hand gel.

Over five days, I met lovely people, made wonderful friendships that I trust will be lasting, ate new cuisine, drank several unexpected flavours of vodka, and scratched the surface of an extraordinary country and culture that I am absolutely determined to get to know better in the years ahead.

But at the heart of all this, the reason for the project, lies a stunning treasure trove of brilliant piano repertoire, suited to players at all levels. And aside from sharing the films themselves, I hope you will enjoy a brand new series of articles coming to Pianodao, looking at around 20 of these superb publications.

A Reviewer’s Independence

Pianodao is hopefully known as a site where reviews are written with fairness and integrity. And although I have become friends with so many world-class pianists, composers, teachers and publishers, I continue to set myself high standards of impartiality. Once a music book hits my desk, its provenance must have no value: any publication has to be judged solely on its own merits.

So, much as I would love to share these glorious PWM Edition gems with readers, it would not be appropriate to simply do so as part of my regular Sheet Music Reviews cycle.

Instead, I have set up a brand new series of articles to tie in with the international educational project itself: Music from Chopin’s Land.

Each article will include the factual information readers expect on Pianodao, as well as my own opinions about who the music would suit. And as a bonus, the videos from Lusławice will be embedded, with examples of the music, playing tutorial and teaching tips.

The articles will include links to PWM’s UK distributor, who can mail worldwide and will be offering a 20% discount on all these publications (as always) to Pianodao Music Club members.

The format of these articles then, beginning with the five collections I filmed and then going on to include those that other leading pedagogues presented, will include:

  1. Overview of the Music
  2. Overview of the Publication
  3. Tutorial Video where available
  4. Pedagogy Reflection
  5. Purchase Link

The Press Release

For now, let me leave you with the promotional video for the project, and the PWM Press Release:

Press release, 4 November 2020

Music from Chopin’s Land” – an international project of PWM Edition

PWM Edition has launched a campaign and an international educational project, which brings the works by Polish composers closer to the audiences worldwide. “Music from Chopin’s Land” encompasses more than just pieces by Chopin: it also means Paderewski, Szymanowska, Moniuszko, Kilar, Kurpiński and many other composers.

Fryderyk Chopin’s pieces need no introduction, and no pianist needs to be encouraged to play them, as his compositions showcase Polish piano music all over the world.

The “Music from Chopin’s Land” international project, addressed to beginner and intermediate pianists and their teachers from Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and Austria, encourages them to broaden the basic educational and concert repertoire with works by Polish artists. We encourage exploring and using the works by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Stanisław Moniuszko, Karol Kurpiński, Maria Szymanowska, Wojciech Kilar, Tekla Bądarzewska and many others, lesser known composers whose works make up a substantial educational and concert oeuvre for young piano students.

Piano teachers from the United Kingdom can take advantage of a series of five videos presenting the educational aspects of works by selected Polish composers, presented by Andrew Eales, pianist, teacher and writer. All five videos cover performance and interpretation, along with proposed technical solutions.

Andrew Eales encourages teaching pianists to expand their educational repertoire with works by Krystyna Gowik, Feliks Rybicki, Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Tekla Bądarzewska. One of the tutorials is devoted to Chopin’s preludes. The tutorials are complemented by recordings of full performances, added as a bonus to each of the five educational videos. 

The distribution of films in the United Kingdom will start on 9 November; it will be accompanied by a publication of a set of reviews on Pianodao, as well as campaign announcements in International Piano and Music Teacher magazines.

The “Music from Chopin’s Land” project is financed from the funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the “Inspiring Culture” programme.

A new page for this project now exists on Pianodao here.

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Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.