Paderewski’s Home Resonates With Music: 2013 Paderewski Cultural Exchange in review

August 2, 2013

by Marek Zebrowski


The third biennial installment of the Cultural Exchange Program between the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, California and the Province of Tarnów, Poland was held during the last 10 days of June 2013 in Paderewski’s former manor house in Kąśna Dolna. Two 13-year old pianists from California’s Central Coast—Daniel Ha and Jack Raventos—travelled to Poland to participate in an intensive program of piano workshops, master classes, and chamber music sessions. Cellist Lars Hoefs, a USC Thornton School of Music graduate and current professor of cello at the University of Campinas in Brazil, joined pianist and USC Polish Music Center Director Marek Zebrowski in providing daily solo and chamber music instruction to participating young musicians.

In order to qualify for the program in Poland, the two students from areas near where Paderewski once owned land in California competed in the annual Paderewski Youth Piano Competition in Paso Robles. In addition to the young Californians, two finalists from Tarnów who took part in a series of locally-held piano master classes and competitions—Michał Niedbała (13) and Paulina Ostrowska (18)—also participated in this year’s Kąśna Dolna program. They were joined by two more students, Nazar Kozlyuk (16) and Olha Pokhvata (14), who arrived in Kąśna from the Ukrainian city of Khmilnyk, located about 15 miles from Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s birthplace of Kuryłówka.

After a week of lessons and rigorous practicing (pictured below), students from the three countries linked by Paderewski’s personal history presented a concert of solo works and chamber music to an overflowing audience at the great pianist’s former manor house. The gala event was held on June 29, commemorating the seventy-second anniversary of Paderewski’s death.

After a week of lessons and rigorous practicing (pictured below), students from the three countries linked by Paderewski’s personal history presented a concert of solo works and chamber music to an overflowing audience at the great pianist’s former manor house. The gala event was held on June 29, commemorating the seventy-second anniversary of Paderewski’s death.


Jack Raventos opened the June 29 program with assured performances of Haydn’s Sonata No. 47 and Chopin’s Grande Valse Brillante, Op. 18. He was followed by Olha Pokhvata’s intimate interpretations of Chopin’s Mazurka Op. 67 and Pashchenko’s Polonaise in Memory of Taras Shevchenko. In turn, Michał Niedbała gave elegant readings of Mozart’s celebrated Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman Variations and Chopin’s “Minute”  Waltz Op. 64. Next, Nazar Kozlyuk gave a solid reading of Bach’s Sinfonia BWV 789 and Tchaikovsky’s August from The Seasons. Daniel Ha continued the concert with sweeping readings of Paderewski’s Nocturne and the last movement of Ravel’s Sonatina. The solo part of the concert concluded with Paulina Ostrowska, who showed a wide palette of colors in Debussy’s Clair de lune and Beethoven’s stormy finale of the Moonlight Sonata.

The next section of the Exchange Program concert featured duets for piano 4-hands. Three groups of two students each presented selected movements from Robert Schumann’s Kinderball, Op. 130. Here Olha Pokhvata and Jack Raventos performed a charming Waltz, Paulina Ostrowska and Nazar Kozlyuk raced through a lively Ecossaise, and Michał Niedbała and Daniel Ha closed the piano duet segment with the sweet Française.

The June 29 program then continued with a chamber music section presented in collaboration with cellist Lars Hoefs. The six movements of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Pequena Suite provided an opportunity for each of the six young pianists to accompany Mr. Hoefs in the consecutive sections of the Suite: Romancette, Legendaria, Harmonias soltas, Fugato all’antica, Melodia, and Gavotte-Scherzo.

After a brief intermission, Mr. Hoefs was joined by Marek Zebrowski for a program of intimate music for cello and piano. Stojowski’s Romance sans paroles was followed by Karłowicz’s Serenade and Różycki’s Nocturne Op. 30 no. 2. The Hoefs/Zebrowski duo closed on a very rarely-heard virtuoso firework potpourri written by the duo of Chopin-Franchomme, entitled Grand duo concertant sur des thèmes de Robert le diable, based on themes from Meyerbeer’s opera.



A day later, the same program was repeated at the Kino Baszta Auditorium in the charming town of Czchów, about 20 miles west of Kąśna Dolna. This concert was co-organized by the Unified Music School in Domosławice and the town of Czchów, represented by Director Kazimierz Wojnicki and Mayor Marek Chudoba. All performers were treated to an elegant lunch before the Sunday afternoon concert, hosted by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Czchów. The expansion of the Cultural Exchange Program to Czchów is a development welcomed by all parties who

 participated in planning and executing this event.

Besides lots of daily piano and chamber music practicing and rehearsing, a few official receptions and sightseeing trips were planned. Roman Łucarz, the new supervisor of the Province of Tarnów, welcomed the official delegation representing the Board and sponsors of the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles at an elegant dinner at the Galicja Restaurant in Ciężkowice on Wednesday, June 26. This dinner was also attended by long-time co-organizers of the Exchange, Krystyna Szymańska (Director of the Paderewski Center Tarnów/Kąśna Dolna) and Ryszard Żądło (Head of the Office of Culture and Promotion for the Province of Tarnów).


The following day, the official delegation from Paso was taken on a sightseeing trip to the Castle of Łańcut.  The American visitors were able to learn some Polish history and spend an afternoon travelling through the picturesque region of southeastern Poland.

Friday, June 28, was devoted entirely to sightseeing. At precisely 9 a.m., Ryszard Żadło accompanied by a friendly driver arrived at Kąśna Dolna on a large mini-bus provided by the Province of Tarnów and welcomed all 14 visitors aboard. In spite of rather rainy weather, spirits were high. Frequent downpours were less of a concern since the itinerary began with the Bochnia salt mine (pictured at right, with Daniel Ha), which opened in 1248 and operates to this day. Taken in two shifts by service lifts about 1500 feet underground, the group visited this fascinating and very historical place for almost 3 hours.



From Bochnia, the mini-bus navigated a few miles of narrow roads leading to the town of Nowy Wiśnicz. The view of the town is dominated by a 14th century castle, surrounded by fortifications. Extensively renovated in the mid-1600s by the Lubomirski family, the castle had a serious fire in 1831 and was gradually rebuilt only during the past fifty years. The tour guide provided many interesting details about the castle’s history, the many lavish banquets, and the royalty who liked to visit this imposing place. A quick lunch in a restaurant in the center of town provided much-needed sustenance before continuing on the sightseeing trail.

The clouds began to break up when the group arrived at the next attraction: tea and cakes at the “Bacówka” in a hamlet of Jamna. Located on top of a mountain, this charming wooden structure is a place where hikers and tourists can shelter overnight. Built in a traditional highlander style, the once modest shack used by shepherds only during the summer months is now a hostel with a café and a large terrace. The owners served tea, coffee and several trays of freshly-baked apple charlotte cakes, too delicious to describe! Following a local custom, the adults were offered shots of vodka as well, so that by the time everybody arrived at Kąśna for supper, the spirits were unquestionably high.

The last day of the Cultural Exchange Program was devoted to a master class and sound check at the manor house for all performers in preparation for the final recital described earlier in this article. In the meantime, the official delegation visited the nearby town of Ciężkowice for sightseeing and shopping.

Monday July 1 was a day of farewells. Right after breakfast everybody thanked Witold and Kasia Baran, the charming and helpful staff at the manor house in Kąśna, and boarded cars for a trip to Tarnów. This truly charming and elegant city is the administrative seat of the Province. Morning rounds of the Old Market Square with its Renaissance Town Hall ended with a press conference at the Province of Tarnów Assembly Hall. Attended by all participants in the Exchange Program, the session was chaired by Supervisor Roman Łucarz. By early afternoon, two students from Khmilnyk, Olha and Nazar, and their chaperone, Lyudmila Naumova, departed for the Polish-Ukrainian border, where they would be collected and transported another 250 miles east to Khmilnyk.


At the same time, the American group was taken in two cars to Kraków. Members of the official delegation and the two students—Jack Raventos and Daniel Ha, together with Jack’s father, were installed at the Europejski Hotel. Lars Hoefs and Marek Zebrowski were hosted by the Paderewski Institute of Musicology and welcomed by Director Andrzej Sitarz. After getting settled in, everybody went for an afternoon sightseeing of Kraków’s Old Town. The weather was excellent with sunny skies and hot temperatures and everybody was overwhelmed by the great beauty of Kraków.

The last performance of the Exchange Program took place on July 2 at the Institute of Musicology. This venerable institution is a division of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, one of the oldest universities in the world. Dr. Andrzej Sitarz introduced the program and provided a historical overview of Paderewski’s ties to the Jagiellonian University and its cooperation with the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles and the Cultural Exchange Program. Then it was time for music, this time featuring Daniel Ha, Jack Raventos, and Michał Niedbała, performing solo, then piano 4-hands repertoire, and closing with performance with Lars Hoefs. The concert ended with the program of Stojowski, Karłowicz, Różycki and Chopin presented by Lars Hoefs and Marek Zebrowski.

The afternoon concert was just a prelude to another important item on the visitors’ agenda: the Independence Day celebration, organized by the U.S. Consulate in Kraków on July 2. As the sun slowly began to set, the Exchange Program participants travelled in two taxis to Kopiec Kościuszki (pictured at left), an old fort at the foot of a large, man-made mound on the outskirts of town.

The newly-renovated 19th century fort with ramparts, courtyards and many interesting spaces was a great location for a lavish party. It was attended by the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Poland, Stephen Mull, and co-hosted by Consul General of the U.S. in Kraków, Ellen Germain. The delegation was able to meet with the Ambassador and Consul General and present them with some souvenirs from Paso Robles. With the evening skies slowly turning inky-blue, the Independence Day fireworks lit up the night sky. It was an occasion to remember and everyone retired for the night looking forward to a full day of sightseeing ahead.

July 3 was another sunny and hot day. Although seeing Kraków in its full splendor took a whole day, many important sights were still left unexplored. After breakfast, the American visitors stopped for a tour of Paderewski’s Library at the Institute of Musicology, given by Justyna Szombara, the chief researcher in charge of the archives.

Following signing the guestbook and commemorative photos near the Paderewski monument (bravo Kristen!), the visitors walked through the Planty—an old moat turned to a park in the 1800s—following in the footsteps of Paderewski, who had many ties to this historic city. The group stopped briefly by the National Theatre, where Paderewski’s close friend and mentor, actress Helena Modrzejewska (known as “Modjeska” in the U.S.), had once performed.

A short walk from there through the St. Florian’s gate led the group to the Grunwald Monument, a 1910 gift to Kraków by Paderewski to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald-Tannenberg, where Polish and Lithuanian army defeated the Teutonic Knights.

Lunch at the elegant Saski Hotel was a quick side-trip to a bygone lifestyle. An excellent prix-fixe menu was delicious and very reasonably priced. Thus encouraged, the group moved on to see a variety of churches on the way to the Royal Castle, located at the opposite end of the Old Town. The Castle is a conglomeration of many buildings and interesting sites. It was decided that the visit to the Royal Chapel and climbing up the famous bell tower would be the best use of the remaining time that afternoon. Besides the resplendent interior of the Chapel, where since 1300s Polish kings were buried, the visitors also toured the crypts, where many distinguished Poles have been laid to rest. They include poets Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, as well as political leaders, including Józef Piłsudski, Władysław Sikorski, and Lech Kaczyński.

After enjoying an exhilarating climb up the bell tower and admiring beautiful vistas of Kraków, the group retired for much-needed refreshments on the Wawel Castle plaza.  Before leaving, some photos were taken of the Vistula River that rounds the hill on which the Castle is located. An evening meal at the Wawelska Restaurant nearby, featuring Polish delicacies of all kinds was the closing event of the 2013 Cultural Exchange Program in Poland. The next morning the remaining Paderewski Festival board members and the Central Coast students with their indefatigable chaperone, Joe Raventos, boarded their flights at Kraków airport.

It has been a third installment of this unique program that binds the cities and communities once touched by Paderewski’s presence. The good-will and friendly cooperation of the Supervisor and leaders of the Province of Tarnów, the hospitality and generosity of the Paderewski Center in Tarnów/Kąśna Dolna and its Director, and the collaboration between the School of Arts and City of Khmilnyk and the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles continue to blossom. We are looking forward to welcoming our Polish and Ukrainian friends on California’s Central Coast in 2014 and are already counting the days until the next installment of American guests will travel to Poland in summer of 2015!

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