The Beginnings 

"Adam Żukiewicz has a assembled a program here that should be a model for other young pianists. this fine artist brings a gracious sense of beauty to all of the music here, all the more admirable given the invigorating variety of this material."
Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine

"W każdej z przedstawionych na płycie konwencji pianista ujmuje nas czystą i szlachetną grą, łącząc precyzję i klasyczną elegancję ze spontanicznymi emocjami. "The Beginnings" to doskonała fonograficzna wizytówka znakomitego wirtuoza, którego mam nadzieję, usłyszeć będzie można częściej również na polskich scenach."
Robert Ratajczak, LongPlayRecenzje

The album is available in stores and online on Amazon, iTunes, and at: http://www.dux.pl/beethoven-kloppers-the-beginnings-zukiewicz.html

It is my honor to present to you The Beginnings: an album offering a unique diversity of musical experiences, all being significant influences in my musical career. The following program notes present main ideas of the works recorded on this album. If you would like to find out more about them, I invite you to listen to it and connect with me. I would be thrilled to converse with you about these wonderful works and discover your insights and opinions. Thank you for listening.

PROGRAM NOTES

The first work, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 90 is a remarkable work of genius. It provides us with an insight into the creative process of the composer heading towards greatness in his late style. Encapsulated within two movements, it represents statements of intellect and sentiment.

The three Mazurkas, Op. 59 by Chopin, are some of the most intricate works of the composer. Despite their rather complex design, they charm the audience with variety of direct emotional expression and a natural flow. Alike other late works of Chopin, the influences of the great masters of the past are manifest through elaborate counterpoint, textures, and complexity of form. Chopin manages to create intricate masterworks from the simplest of Polish dance forms, offering homage to the cultural heritage of his Homeland, and fully realizing their creative potential.

The Paintings of the Polish composer Krystian Kiełb were written especially for this album. The miniatures create a set of musical depictions of five famous impressionistic paintings by van Gogh, Munch, Kokoschka, and Dali. These short works, full of dramatic and sonorous effects, are accomplishments of a compositional workshop of the highest level. Although unintentional, the evocative musical elements strikingly resemble the paintings, providing an extraordinary aural interpretation of these visual masterworks.

The legendary Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson wrote Goodbye Old Friend when Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen left the group in 1986. It is a work celebrating long lasting friendship between the two musicians. A unique arrangement of Goodbye Old Friend (by Don Thompson) has been generously shared with me by Mrs. Kelly Peterson, the late wife of Oscar Peterson.

The Reflections... of the South African/Canadian composer Jacobus Kloppers express a musical story of the South African people. Kloppers, who, as an Afrikaner, went into voluntary exile from South Africa in protest to the Apartheid policies, writes a beautifully intricate musical masterpieces. Reflections are  based on the popular musical themes of various historical associations and meanings relevant to the history of this fascinating nation.
Below are notes on the Reflections by the composer:
 
"Inspiration for this work was drawn from my Afrikaans cultural heritage, which had its linguistic roots in the Netherlands of the 17th Century. The Afrikaans folk song Jan Pierewiet, which forms the basis for the piece, has its origin in Europe and may have been imported to South Africa by the 17th century French Huguenots (perhaps as Jean Pirouette). Its simple yet elegant character is reminiscent of the Minuet, but particularly of the Polish Mazurka. In some German and American folk song albums the tune appears as Varsovienne (Warsaw Dance). As an adopted Afrikaans folk song/dance it is deeply ingrained in the Afrikaans culture and was still regularly performed as one of the folk dances ("Volksspele") at Afrikaans cultural festivals during my time in South Africa.

In this arrangement the folk song becomes a symbol and somewhat of a reflection of some key events in Afrikaans cultural history – not as "objective history" or "descriptive" program", but rather as a way that Afrikaners subjectively experienced their history (which naturally differs from the way other South African cultural groups may view it). The quest to preserve its own culture through political independence – something that occurs in many countries where a strong cultural minority exists – has been one of the dominant factors in the history of the Afrikaner. It gave rise to the "Great Trek" away from British domination in the Cape in 1838, was a dominant factor in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 and in the subsequent quest to preserve the Afrikaans language. Afrikaans culture (literature, music, drama, fine arts) flourished after the Anglo-Boer War. Already recognized as a new language derived from Dutch by the late 19th century, Afrikaans became one of the official languages and medium of instruction in Afrikaans schools and universities after 1910. The Afrikaners, who had been predominantly farmers (Boers) in the 19th century and had been impoverished by the war, became successful in all spheres of society and more cosmopolitan. Their party, the National Party, won the election in 1948. The ideal of preserving the Afrikaans culture in a country where the Europeans were a minority among the black indigenous peoples, also gave rise to the official policy of political and social Apartheid in South Africa (1948-1994), i.e. of "Balcanizing"/carving up the country into politically independent "homelands". This policy of "separate but equal" appeared "fair" and idealistic in theory – and was largely embraced by the Afrikaners – but was impractical, discriminatory and suppressive in practice. Black resistance to Apartheid grew consistently, led by the African National Congress and inspired by the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Violent armed conflicts followed. The moral problem of Apartheid was obscured by the global Cold War (1945-1989) since it manifested itself also as an East-West vying for political influence in Africa. Russia and Cuba provided the African freedom fighters with weapons to overthrow the Apartheid government. The African National Congress was consequently viewed by the Afrikaners as "Communist", which led to the mistaken idea that the racial conflict in South Africa is one of preservation of a "Christian European culture against black Communism". Following the collapse of the Communist Empire in 1989 Apartheid was finally disbanded and a full democracy was established in 1994 under President Nelson Mandela. With that, the historic Afrikaner ideal of a socio-political independent nation came to an end. With it the long-term future of Afrikaans as one of the two official languages in South Africa became an open question, especially since it was viewed by blacks as "the language of the oppressor". (Note: In 2016 Afrikaans was banned as medium of instruction in all traditionally Afrikaans universities).
 
Prologue: Synopsis of the Afrikaner's struggle for cultural survival – conflicts but also ultimate resignation and acceptance of rival aspirations (i.e. British Empire and African Nationalism).
Theme: Slightly stylized version of the folk song.
Variation:

  1. De Zilveren Vloot (early Dutch settlement, in South Africa, 17th century)

  2. Thanksgiving (Dutch Reformed Worship, 17th century)

  3. Nostalgic Celebration (an evening of folk dancing, early 18th century)

  4. Annexation (British annexation of the Cape, end of 18th century)

  5. Trek to the North (the Great Trek of the 1830's, the hardships and battles, culminating in the establishment of the two independent "Boer" Republics).

  6. The  Anglo-Boer  War  (1899-1902,  won  by  the  British  following  the destruction  of  the  Boer  farms  and  the  establishment  of  concentration camps in which 26,000 women and children died of malnutrition and disease).

  7. Empty  Cradle  (aftermath  of  the  war),  the  folksong  as  an  unwinding musical   box.

  8. Awakening   (the   growth   of   Afrikaner   nationalism   following   the establishment of the Union of South Africa, 1910).

  9. The Cosmopolitan (the economic and cultural success of the Afrikaner and entrepreneurial  success,  which  lead  to  international  travel,  cultural  and economic relations with Europe and North America and exposure to the American  movie  world  –  symbolized  by  the  Ragtime/Blues  character  of the folk song, 1910-1948).

  10. Illusions  in  a  world  apart  (the  era  of  the  Cold  War  and  official "Apartheid"; the contrast between a prosperous white lifestyle and dismal black  living  conditions;  mistakenly  viewing  the  ideological  dream  of "racial  harmony  by  mean  of  separate  states/homelands"  for  reality; hardships and growing tide of anger and revolt by blacks, 1948-1994).

  11. Realization  (the  end  of  the  Afrikaner  dream  of  cultural  and  political independence,  1994).

Epilogue: Adapting in "the New South Africa" since 1994 – anxiety amid conciliation and cooperation and an uncertainty regarding the future of Afrikaans culture in the "new" South Africa (a somewhat chromatic and contrapuntal treatment of the folksong)."
 

© 2020 by Adam Piotr Żukiewicz

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