KVT – Alicja and Friends Guide us into Wonderland

KVT – Alicja and Friends Guide us into Wonderland

Posted on

KVT 2014
kvt-alicja 1
kvt-alicja 2

KVT is Smietana smitten for the third time

kvt-alicja 3

Wednesday, June 28.

Once again the Poles, like cream on milk, came out on top. Every year they give us at least one outstanding musical event, and this year for the third time since 2011 they gave us one of the world’s most sparkling violin talents, Alicja Smietana.

That year I headed my article Alicja Gave Us Wonderland. Five years later she has led us further into the realms of that wonderland that she is able to create with her well loved violin.

kvt-alicja 4

This year, at the Youth Theater, Alicja was joined by another famous compatriot, Grzegorz Mania, accompanying her on the grand piano.


They started off with two movements from Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano 454-one of the 16 that the maestro composed. The duo played with a rapport that flowed out to the audience, and in a manner that made this difficult sonata look and sound too easy

But the movements from the emotionally turbulent Sonata for Violin and Piano by another famous Pole, Karol Szymanowski, had us wide eyed with wonder, Another of those rare WOW times of your life that very occasionally crop up at classical music concerts and recitals and make you realize that if you had to leave at its conclusion and miss the rest of the program you’d be more than replete and waft out in a mini musical heaven.

In April 1910 Symonowski said about a performance of the Sonata in Warsaw: ‘Yesterday… Paweł Kochański and Melcer played my Sonata (lousily, by the way), but it was enormously popular, just imagine: I had to get onto the stage a few times. The reviews were excellent, although, as you might guess, very stupid,’…..and though the composer would similarly label my review, he would have definitely praised Smietana’s and Mania’s virtuosic interpretation and stayed firmly in his seat and clapped in awe and wonder at its conclusion.

After a brief interval for the performers to catch their breaths and stretch their fingers they came back on stage with another very famous compatriot in the musical scene, Adam Czerwiniski who is internationally renowned as a percussionist with some of the best jazz musicians such as Lee Konitz, John Abercrombie, Garry Bartz, Eddie Henderson, Larry Koonze, Harvie Swartz, Cameron Brown, Jean Poul Bourelli, Bennie Wallace, Hamiet Bluiette and James Newton.

In Poland- and much further- he was associated with outstanding Polish jazz Guitarist Jarek Smietana-who died in 2013 and who was Alicja’s father….which makes understanding the second half of the concert a breeze

Czerwiniski sat, down with one drum….as pictured…

kvt-alicja 5

and many in the audience were very perplexed until, like Alicja is able to do with a violin and Mania on a keyboard, he started to produce percussion magic as the trio launched into Bela Bartok’s six ‘Romanian Dances’….. a fusion of pure classical with a delicious fragrance of improvisational jazz brushing through. The five or so minutes had us under his visual spell

Now you have to be talented to take on either Leibesleid or Liebesfreud (Love’s Sorrow and Love’s Joy) by the Liberace of the Violin, Fritz Kreisler. They are simple pieces with ‘little syncopations that open out into vibrato-drenched passages that are like teardrops’. The sort of stuff that had my dear old grannie blubbering her eyes out whenever she heard the wax cylinder or 78 rpm recording sounds of Kreisler pouring from her huge bakelite radio.

The fusion of Polish talent turned Leibesleid into a delcate piece that was pure crystal and even Grannie would have approved its new translation.

The trio made a memorable snack of excerpts of Albert Schnittke’s 1973 satirical, animated film scores from Russian children’s animations. In Baroque style the Suites were fresh and the last with striking pizzicatti and dissonance playing from the violin was eye bogglingly good and made me want to get hold of the entire 18 minutes of the Suites…which, thanks to You Tube, I have been able to do

A real jewel of the second half was Satie’s ‘Gymnopedie no 1’, transposed from its piano version and which is often, frivolously dismissed as a bit of furniture music. But here under the fingers of Magic Mania, the improvisational work on the drums by Amazing Adam and through the singing strings of Smietana, it took on a new freshness and purity…like a cold and clear mountain brook tumbling over glistening pebbles.

Gershwin preludes were on the menu but for me, being a huge Piazzolla fan, the transpositions and improvisations of his ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Libertango’-with an attention grabbing drum intro- were worthy of the standing ovation we gave them and ‘Oblivion’ in the trio’s hands as an encore was a superb way to conclude a superb night……so superb that memories of parents who needed their bums smacked for not supervising their kids, and of the funny photographer scrabbling around the auditorium and even onto the stage at a sensitive moment, faded into another oblivion

Thank you, you grand and gorgeous poles for giving us another grand night’s music with more of your gorgeous musicians….and more please!

Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.

Similar Articles


Leave a Reply