Day 39: Polish Music -- Chopin

Joanna Sochacka sat before the piano, fixed her hair, coughed, breathed in and out, took a deep breath, positioned her hands over the keys and froze for a moment.

She closed her eyes, exhaled and began to play one of Chopin’s piano pieces.

A light melody fell gently from her hands. High notes intermingled with low notes. Soft. Light. Summery. Her eyes remained closed. Was the music playing through her?

The melody quickened. Faster. Precise. I think her eyes were still closed, or maybe she was squinting. Though I didn’t know this part of the song, she never faltered over a note. Her timing was perfect.

Trust was established—she played as if she were entertaining a theater filled with people without a hint of annoyance that there were only 20 of us who showed up tonight.

I relaxed.

She played as if she was sharing her personal history. Slowly. Carefully. Without hurrying or holding back. At times she leaned close to the keys, like Schroeder, the fictional piano playing character from the Peanuts cartoons. As the song slowed she leaned away from the piano as if she needed to distance herself from the story.

I felt like she was sharing secrets with us in the most vulnerable and open-hearted way. Her fingers played out some kind of truth and I teared up again.

I’ve always loved piano music, especially solo piano music. Jazz. Classical. Pop. Alternative.

It was as if the music moved through her body; her body was the outlet for this music.

The man at the Fryderyk Concert Hall (Chopin’s first name is Fryderyk.) in Warsaw who introduced the pianist wore all black. He gave a playful speech in Polish about Joanna Sochacka, then translated the talk into English.

He said she studied music in Krakow and Geneva and that she has won many competitions and performed in Carnegie Hall and all over the world.

He explained that she would play some of Chopin’s most recognizable compositions then listed them off too fast for me to write them down. I caught only a few words.

Something about #45. Opus 15 #10. F# minor. B major.

Usually when I go to a concert, I’m there for the music. But there was something about her intense articulation of the feelings inside the music that gave me notice.

Her music wove a web around us all and gave the impression that the whole world reflected in this song. There was nothing else.

My focus narrowed. My mind settled.

I breathed in rhythm to her music, or was it that the music controlled my breathing?

This was a beautiful moment.

Earlier today when my train arrived in Warsaw and the doors opened, classical piano music played over the intercom.

It was a calming addition to an easy train ride and brought tears to my eyes. I love Chopin as much as Poland does. The composer was born near Warsaw and even though he moved to Paris where he did his best work, Poland claims him.

Most touristy shops boast Chopin statues, t-shirts, musical scores and even flags that are ready for purchase.

Many streets performers play classical music and they earn as many tips as the buskers who cover the pop hits of the day.

I wanted to find a venue where I could sit and listen to a skilled pianist perform on a good piano.

While walking through Old Town, Warsaw, I saw a woman with a sign that read, “Chopin Concert Tonight.”

I asked for information.

The sign holder was so startled that someone talked to her that she fumbled and almost dropped her stack of invitations.

The performance was in a small concert hall. On a Steinway piano. With a celebrated Polish pianist.

Count me in.

I had time for dinner before at a restaurant that had gluten-free food listed on the menu.

Cold cucumber/salmon soup. Lamb chops, roasted veggies and roasted potatoes.

People in every age group showed up at the music hall to sit on plastic chairs in a beautiful room hung with wallpaper and sparkling chandeliers. A painted portrait of Chopin hung on the wall behind the Steinway grand piano.

I chose a seat where I would be able to see the pianist’s hands. Everyone in the room spoke in hushed voices while we waited for her to arrive.

She showed up in a long, backless white gown and bowed low before us.

It was the first piano concert I had attended since Covid hit. What a joy it was to be out in public listening to piano music.

After the intermission, she played the “Minute Waltz”, one of his most known compositions that was used in the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Hyde and Hare.” The song is fast/slow/fast/slow.

I smiled at hearing it performed live and imagined Bugs drinking the formula that turned him into a monster.

Nobody else smiled.

Maybe it wasn’t the first time they heard the “Minute Waltz” performed in Poland.

This time my first class ticket on the train got me drinks and a meal served on breakable dishes.

Visited the Barbican Museum. This small building protected the entrance to the castle.

Polish Pottery is collect around the world.

The churches in Warsaw aren't as ornate: they were rebuilt after WWII.

A street in Warsaw.

Many of the artesians selling along the streets are older men and their art notable.

Goodnight Warsaw. Goodnight moon.





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