Pianist Daniel Wnukowski Performs U.S. Premiere At Karol Rathaus Festival
A longtime advocate for music suppressed by the Nazi regime, Polish-Canadian pianist Daniel Wnukowski (vnoo-koff'-skee) makes his New York debut this February as part of a festival dedicated to the music of Galician-Jewish composer Karol Rathaus (1895-1954). Little-known today, Rathaus was a protégé of Franz Schreker and built a successful career in Berlin before fleeing in 1932 due to the deteriorating political situation in Germany. He first migrated to Paris, then to London in 1934. He settled in New York in 1938 and joined the music faculty of Queens College two years later as its first professor of composition.
The upcoming festival is presented by Queens College's Aaron Copland School of Music and features Mr. Wnukowski in both of its concerts: first performing solo and chamber music by Rathaus, including the U.S. premiere of his recently rediscovered Piano Sonata No. 2, on Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan, then performing the composer's Piano Concerto with The Orchestra Now under Leon Botstein on Sunday, February 24 at 3:00 p.m. at LeFrak Concert Hall on the campus of Queens College.
Prior to these performances, on Tuesday, February 19 at 3:00 p.m., Mr. Wnukowski leads a festival master class at the Aaron Copland School of Music on the piano works of Rathaus and other composers of the early- and mid-20th century. The festival also includes a film screening of the 1936 British drama Broken Blossoms, which features a score by Rathaus, and a lecture by four-time Grammy Award-winning record producer and director of Vienna University's Exil.Arte center Dr. Michael Haas, who is currently co-producing a documentary about the composer titled Discovering Karol Rathaus. The Aaron Copland School of Music presents the festival in cooperation with The American Society of Jewish Music, Bard College, and The Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College.
For more information about the festival, click here. For ticketing information, see below.
Mr. Wnukowski is a devoted advocate of the music of Karol Rathaus. He has performed the composer's works around the world, including in Vienna, Los Angeles, and Toronto (see below); has recorded an all-Rathaus solo album of previously unrecorded repertoire, to be released by Toccata Classics in the spring of 2019; and is participating in the production of the documentary Discovering Karol Rathaus.
Mr. Wnukowski says:
"Karol Rathaus is a composer I've become increasingly fascinated with over the past five years. As I hear and perform more and more of his music-which was championed before the war by luminaries like Wilhelm Furtwängler and Walter Gieseking-I'm more and more shocked by how little recognition it receives today. Composed mostly during the bleak years between the wars, his music is often dark and melancholic. Yet it also teeters on the edge of frenzy and fiendishness, perfectly capturing the spectacular energy and grit of Weimar Berlin."
Mr. Wnukowski opens the festival on February 21 with the first U.S. performance of Rathaus's Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 8 (1924), thought to have been lost, but rediscovered in January 2018 among the Karol Rathaus Papers at Queens College.
Composed in Vienna, the sonata was also premiered there in 1924 or '25 by Belgian-Polish pianist Stefan Askenase, best remembered today as a Chopin interpreter and pedagogue whose students included Martha Argerich and Mitsuko Uchida. Rathaus delayed publication of the sonata in order to make revisions, which were made in 1927 during a stay in Berlin, but the finished score was never sent to his publisher (Universal Edition), nor is there any record of performance beyond the world premiere.
The extant manuscript was discovered after having been misfiled for 20 years with the composer's Symphony No. 2, Op. 7, which also receives its U.S. premiere as part of the festival. Mr. Wnukowski's upcoming all-Rathaus album includes the world-premiere recording of Piano Sonata No. 2.
The February 21 recital program, titled "Composer Karol Rathaus and His Circle," also features Mr. Wnukowski in the composer's Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 27 (1929), in which he performs alongside Samuel Katz. Additional works on the program are the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 22 (1928) by Rathaus, Seven Hebrew Songs (2004) by Leo Kraft (1922-2014), and Fünf Jüdische Lieder (1935-37) by Max Kowalski (1882-1956). The event also includes a roundtable discussion with Drs. Leon Botstein and Michael Haas about Rathaus and his circle of fellow composers whose careers were derailed by the Nazis.
Three days later at LeFrak Concert Hall, Mr. Wnukowski takes the stage with The Orchestra Now (of Bard College) under Music Director Leon Botstein for a performance of Rathaus's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 45 (1939)-part of an all-Rathaus orchestral concert that also includes the U.S. premiere of Symphony No. 2. The Piano Concerto, which the composer began in London and completed in New York, is in three movements and was originally premiered in 1942 by E. Robert Schmitz at the I.S.C.M. Festival in San Francisco. Additional works on the program are the Louisville Prelude, Op. 71 (1953) in its New York premiere and Rathaus's 1936 incidental music for The Merchant of Venice, heard for the first time in a new symphonic arrangement by Ariel Davydov.
Tickets for the February 21 performance are priced at $18 for general admission, $12 for AJHS / ASJM / CJH members, and $9 for seniors and students, and are available online or by calling (800) 838-3006. Tickets for the February 24 performance are priced $40-50 and are available from kupferbergcenter.org or by calling the box office at (718) 793-8080. Attendance at the February 19 master class is free and open to the public. Participation is limited to piano students of the Aaron Copland School of Music. For application details, click here.
Daniel Wnukowski is a Polish-Canadian pianist whose insightful interpretations of the classics are complemented by projects that shed light on overlooked corners of the repertoire, particularly those that connect with his Polish and Jewish cultural heritage.
He has performed throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia in many prestigious concert halls, including at The National Philharmonic in Warsaw, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Salle Pleyel in Paris, Wigmore Hall and the Barbican in London, and the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. In addition to championing the music of interwar Jewish composers, he has an affinity for the music of Frédéric Chopin and other important Polish composers, having performed at Chopin societies around the world and won the 2000 Polish National Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition.
His recordings include exiled composer Walter Arlens' complete piano works and his chamber music with violinist Daniel Hope, soprano Rebecca Nelsen, and baritone Christian Immler; works by Chopin and Szymanowski; and a DVD release of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue performed live on Polish television with the Warsaw National Philharmonic conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk. His performances have been aired on radio and television stations throughout the world including CBC Radio, Polish Radio 2, Rai Uno, and WGBH Boston.
For more information, visit wnukowski.com.