Legendary Polish Pianists in East Germany ∙ 2CD


This double album features a collection of historic radio recordings made by four renowned Polish pianists in Germany. Henryk Sztompka and Barbara Hesse-Bukowska enjoy impressive accompaniments under the noted conductor Hermann Abendroth. Marian Filar‘s teacher Gieseking was supposed to record the Tchaikovsky First Concerto for Radio Frankfurt, but the latter offered the soloist part to Filar. Regina Smendzianka gained notable popularity in the German Democratic Republic, which resulted in a series of radio recordings.

Henry Sztompka, a renowned pianist and pupil of Turczyński and Paderewski, participated in the inaugural international Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1927. He was awarded the Polish Radio Prize for his outstanding interpretation of Chopin’s Mazurkas. Sztompka subsequently relocated to Paris, where he resided for several years to establish his international career. He made his debut solo recital in France at Salle Pleyel in 1928 and embarked on concert tours throughout Europe. In 1936, Sztompka accepted a teaching position at the Conservatory of the Pomeranian Music Society in Toruń, Poland, where he mentored talented pianists such as Regina Smendzianka, who is also featured on this album. Sztompka remained in Warsaw throughout the entire Nazi German occupation of Poland. After the war, he undertook several international tours in Europe before passing away in 1964 at the age of 63.

Barbara Hesse-Bukowska, hailing from a musically inclined family, commenced her studies with Maria Glińska-Wąsowska at the Conservatory of Warsaw in 1938. She gained international recognition in 1949 when she participated in the fourth International Chopin Piano Competition. Polish pianists garnered eight out of the thirteen prizes, with Hesse-Bukowska securing the second position. Her exceptional talent attracted attention across Europe, Australia, and the United States. From 1963, she held a teaching position at the State College of Music in Wrocław, and later at the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw from 1972. Hesse-Bukowska passed away in 2013 in Warsaw at the age of 83.

Marian Filar studied under the esteemed pedagogue Zbigniew Drzewiecki in Warsaw. During the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany, Filar was captured and endured internment in several concentration camps, including Buchenwald and Majdanek. Filar found refuge in a displaced persons (DP) camp administered by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration near Frankfurt. It was in Wiesbaden that he sought guidance from Walter Gieseking, who generously provided piano lessons for a period of five years. Filar emigrated to the United States in 1950, where he performed under notable conductors such as Eugene Ormandy, Alfred Wallenstein, and Rafael Kubelík. In 1953, he joined the faculty of the Settlement School in Philadelphia and embarked on concert tours in South America and Europe. Filar passed away in 2012 at the age of 94.

Regina Smendzianka received instruction from Maria Zofia Drzewiecka and Henryk Sztompka at the Toruń Conservatory in Poland. However, her further education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Smendzianka and her parents sought refuge near Kraków, concealing their identity. Her talent gained broader recognition when she performed with the Warsaw Philharmonic at the World’s Fair in Brussels in June 1958. She frequently gave concerts and solo recitals in the German Democratic Republic and embarked on her first tour of the United States and Canada in 1961 under the patronage of impresario Sol Hurok. Smendzianka dedicated herself to teaching and mentored several generations of aspiring young pianists in Kraków and Warsaw. She passed away in 2011 in Warsaw at the age of 86.


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CD 1

CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No 1 in E Minor, Op 11
Barbara Hesse-Bukowska ∙ piano
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Hermann Abendroth ∙ conductor

Recorded ∙ 20 February 1955 ∙ Berlin ∙ Fernmelderechnungsamt · Rundfunk der DDR · Radio Studio Recording

CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No 2 in F Minor, Op 21
Henryk Sztompka ∙ piano
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Leipzig
Hermann Abendroth ∙ conductor

Recorded · 05 May 1952 · Leipzig ∙ Funkhaus Springerstraße · Rundfunk der DDR · Radio Studio Recording

CD 2

TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No 1 in B-flat Minor, Op 23
Marian Filar ∙ piano
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt
Winfried Zillig ∙ conductor

Recorded ∙ 16 February 1949 ∙ Frankfurt ∙ Altes Funkhaus ∙ HR · Radio Studio Recording

PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No 3 in C Major, Op 26
Regina Smendzianka ∙ piano
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Leipzig
Herbert Kegel ∙ conductor

Recorded ∙ 20 April 1959 ∙ Leipzig ∙ Funkhaus Springerstraße · Rundfunk der DDR · Radio Studio Recording

Article number: MC 1063
UPC barcode: 791154050859
Release date: 1 April 2022
Booklet: 12 Pages
Total timing: 65:25 CD1 ∙ 59:24 CD2
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2021 Meloclassic

September 2022 ∙ MusicWeb International ∙ Rob Challinor ∙ Legendary Polish Pianists in East Germany
Meloclassic’s grand unearthing of radio treasures continues with four concertos played by pianists who have fallen into neglect. I have loved discovering these pianists and especially Hesse-Bukowska and Smendzianka who deliver performances that I will return to again and again. Production is excellent as always with good transfers of these broadcast recordings and there is plenty of detail in the biographical notes as well as a photo of Smendzianka and Sztompka at two pianos surrounded by his other students at the Conservatory of the Pomeranian Music Society. A set well worth exploring.
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