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Polish-American Symphony Orchestra


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In 1995 Polish conductor Wojciech Niewrzol Victor, a new transplant to Chicago's western suburbs, founded the Naperville Chamber Orchestra and began to recruit top graduates from local conservatories. Now the NCO serves as the nucleus of the Polish-American Symphony Orchestra, which convenes whenever a score calls for something bigger than a chamber group. The epic centerpiece of the orchestra's concerts this weekend, Polish pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski's Symphony in B Minor (Polonia), premiered in 1909; it winds through the history of his people and climaxes with a depiction of the ill-fated uprising against czarist Russian rule in 1863. Unabashedly emotional and enlivened with dramatic and colorful quotations from folk dances, it's sort of a Polish answer to Smetana's tone poem Ma Vlast, though much more obscure. Paderewski's works have rarely been performed since his death in 1941, perhaps in part because his advocacy of a Polish republic earned him the posthumous disfavor of the communists. But during the first decades of this century, he was as revered for his virtuosity and patriotism as Chopin was almost a hundred years earlier--though Chopin's ideas had been revolutionary, and by the time Paderewski embraced nationalism in his music it had already been popularized by Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov, and others. But his commitment to his country was very real--after the 1918 reestablishment of an independent Polish state, he served briefly as the young nation's prime minister--and his slim catalog of compositions includes some real gems, his sole symphony among them. An abridged version of it, less than 50 minutes long, accompanies Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 1 on this Polish-American Symphony Orchestra program, which marks the 150th anniversary of the great romantic's death. (Paderewski oversaw the assembly of the first complete edition of Chopin's oeuvre.) For the concerto Victor has enlisted Piotr Paleczny, Poland's leading pianist, whose passionate rubato is said to resemble Paderewski's. Also on the program: Fanfare in Memory of F.C., a commission from U. of C. professor Marta Ptaszynska; and Stanczyk, a symphonic scherzo by another turn-of-the-century Polish nationalist, Ludomir Rozycki. Saturday, 8 PM, McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 22nd, Glen Ellyn; 630-942-4000. Sunday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Wojciech Malkowicz.

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