Boleslaw Woytowicz

My first professor

Boleslaw Woytowicz, my first professor

Bolesław Woytowicz - “Capriccio”, n° 1 from the cycle “12 Etudes”
Aleksander Woronicki, recorded live by Radio France Musique (1985)
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Pianist, composer (Wikipédia), pedagogue in the two fields and a very active editor for the Polish Edition of Music (PWM). He edited, to mention just the most important, all the Sonatas of Beethoven and the complete works for piano by Debussy. On this page you will find information on his pianistic origins, which go back up to Chopin.

Moreover, he was a remarkable person of very wide interests. Before beginning his musical career, he studied slave philology, law and mathematics (Wikipedia). And there was more! Professor Woytowicz told me, that in his youth, he performed in a circus where he did... salto mortale!

When Professor was young, Josef Hofmann, renowned not only for his interpretations and his technique, but especially for his colossal repertoire, enjoyed a great fame. During his multi-weeks tours, Hofmann played every day a different program in a different town. The adolescent Bolesław Woytowicz followed then Hofmann from town to town to hear all these works.


Bolesław Woytowicz - repertoire 1915-1965 (page 1)


Bolesław Woytowicz - repertoire 1915-1965 (page 2)

Woytowicz also had an enormous repertoire - here is a copy dated 1965 and covering 50 years of his concert activity. It includes among others: Mozart - all the Sonatas, Beethoven - 24 Sonatas, Debussy - the complete works for the piano (with the exception of the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra), Chopin - all the Etudes, Ballades, Scherzos, Preludes, Nocturnes and the Sonatas in B-flat minor and in B minor...

His activities as a concert artist during the nazi occupation of 1939-1945 at the cafe "Nowy Swiat" (name of the street "New Word" in Warsaw), better known under the name of "cafe Woytowicz", give a better idea of his repertoire and pianistic capacities. There were two concert Steinways on the podium and under this same podium - an arms and ammunitions depot... On the cafe’s tables were copies of his repertoire containing 200 or 300 pieces (depending on the sources). At least half of them were underlined in red and the Professor could immediately interpret them following the public’s wishes. The remaining pieces (not underlined) could be ordered for the next concert. This repertoire included also Chopin’s works although Chopin was forbidden by the Germans at that time. The booklet of Woytowicz’s memoirs, published in 1969 (in Polish), mentions that those concerts were at times attended by... German officers!

Miron Białoszewski recalls one of these concerts, a very particular one, in his “Memoirs of the Warsaw Uprising”:

I was then more surprised that Woytowicz had organized a Chopin concert at the ground floor of his cafe. For the insurgents. It was evening. The artillery fires started. Woytowicz was playing the Revolutionary Etude when shells began to whistle and strike. Very close. Woytowicz did not stop. No one moved. Only the crockery fell and broke. That is what Irena P. told me afterwards.
Miron Białoszewski - “Memoirs of the Warsaw Uprising”, p. 129, PIW, Warsaw 2009 (in Polish)

You will find below a few recordings
by the Professor himself or of his works.

Bolesław Woytowicz - “Canon enigmaticus”, n° 12 from the cycle “12 Etudes”
Minika Sikorska-Wojtacha, studio recorded
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Professor Woytowicz has composed two didactic cycles for the piano: “12 Etudes” and “10 Etudes”. The first of these was recorded by Monika Sikorska-Wojtacha, my late colleague, also Professor Woytowicz’s student.

The “Capriccio” placed at the beginning of this page and the “Canon enigmaticus” were my favourite Etudes during my school years. The latter’s title “enigmaticus” comes from the fact that the two hands play exactly the same thing, yet not in a musical sense but according to the keyboard’s configuration. In other words, the hands play in mirror image in relation to the keyboard’s axis of symmetry on the D and the G sharp. As a result, RH and LH perform exactly the same mechanical exercises and that is not found in any other piece.


Chopin - Etude in A minor op. 25 n° 4
Bolesław Woytowicz, 1959
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In the description area of YouTube, you will find the links to the remaining 26 Etudes of Chopin recorded by Boleslaw Woytowicz in 1959. This recording of the complete Etudes by Chopin is highly appreciated abroad, whereas in Poland, as it’s generally the case with us, it is often criticized and neglected. Of course, you can find some inexactitudes, but there are real gems too, as the above recording, the Etudes:
    op. 10 n° 5,
    op. 10 n° 6,
    op. 25 n° 9
    or this marvelous Prelude in C-sharp minor, op. 45.

Besides, I would like to remind that except Woytowicz, nobody among the many Polish pianists of the time, dared undertake the recording of all 27 Etudes, and that the time was limited because the edition on records of the Complete Works by Chopin was to be ready for the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth (1810-1960). The Professor told me about the difficulties of this recording realized - due to the shortages of the after-war period - in two days in the gymnastics room of a school with blankets hung to improve the acoustic! The Etudes interpreted by Woytowicz are of great clarity thanks to the very limited use of the pedal, and comprise a lot of interesting interpretative details, some of which coming probably from Chopin himself.

Boleslaw Woytowicz - Symphony n° 2 “Warsaw” (1945)
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Boleslaw Woytowicz - Symphony n° 3 concertante
Recording from the 1970 Warsaw Autumn festival.
At the piano, the composer,
Grand Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio and Television is conducted by Jan Krenz
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Aleksander Woronicki - Variations in F minor (or almost)
I also mention the Professor in the description area of YouTube.
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This page will be completed.


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