Thursday, November 12, 2015

ArtsEmerson Continues To Amaze With Innovative Programming - "Chopin Without Piano" Is Stunning Music And Theater

Famed Polish composer Frederyk Chopin is known for his piano compositions.  So, imagine an evening of Chopin music with a symphony orchestra, but without piano.  Polish artists Barbara Wysocka and Michal Zadara have constructed this piece replacing the piano part in two Chopin Piano Concertos with Ms. Wysocka's dramatization of political, philosophical and artistic commentary. She times her performance to match the exact rhythms of the piano line that she is replacing.  The music sometimes requires her to speak in dotted sixteenth notes! At first, it is a disorienting experience for the audience.  What is going on here? But as she captures and conveys the passion and despair of Chopin's life and his music, the text washes over one like a tsunami.  It is a performance that had the ArtsEmerson audience at the Paramount Theater leaping to their feet in praise of what they had just seen at the hands of Ms. Wysocka and the Boston Conservatory Orchestra, under the baton of Franck Ollu.

The life of Chopin is in many ways a microcosm of the story of his beloved Poland.  He suffered persecution at the hands of the repressive Czarist elements who found his innovations in music unsettling and unacceptable.  His personal piano was destroyed in a kinetic act of censorship.  He fled to Paris to compose - and to compose himself.  In Paris, consumption cut short his life. In leveraging these historical facts, this unique piece asks the questions: "What is Chopin without his piano?  Does he and does his life history have something to say to us today so many years later?"
The piece is performed by Ms. Wysocka in Polish, with English surtitles displayed on a screen. Issues of death and being an immigrant far from his Polish home haunt his music and the text of this piece. It is part concert and it is part theater.  It is like nothing else I have seen before - which is something I often find myself thinking and saying when I drink at the rich fountain of ArtsEmerson's offerings. This program is presented in partnership between ArtsEmerson and Polish production company Centrala.  The Word on Stage, indeed.

"Chopin Without Piano" will be performed only through this Saturday, so the window is short to see this amazing presentation.  On Sunday, a free concert will be offered at the Paramount with the Boston Conservatory Symphony playing both Chopin Piano Concertos with the piano parts re-integrated into the pieces.

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