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Poland celebrates The Pianist's 100th birthday

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 05.12.2011 11:15
  • The Pianist's 100th birthday
President Komorowski met this morning with widow of Władysław Szpilman and daughter of the German officer who saved the musician, a moment captured in the Polanski movie The Pianist.

Left to right: Halina Szpilmanowa, Pres Komnorowski and Jorinde Krejci-Hosenfeld; photo - PAP/Jacek Turczyk

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the musician's birth, President Bronislaw Komorowski met with Jorinde Krejci-Hosenfeld, the daughter of the German officer who saved Szpilman in Nazi-occupied Warsaw at the end of 1944, Szpilman's widow Halina and son Andrzej at the Presidential Palace.

Later in the day Andrzej Szpilman and Jorinde Krejci-Hosenfeld will take part in a commemorative event in Sosnowiec, southern Poland, the Pianist’s birthplace.

The event will include the finals of a competition for the best interpretation of Szpilman songs which was open to amateur singers.

Yesterday, members of Szpilman’s family and Jorinde Krejci-Hosenfeld, who is now 78 years-old, attended a highly moving ceremony of unveiling a commemorative plaque on the wall of the house on Aleje Niepodległości 223 in the centre of Warsaw, Szpilman’s last hiding place where he came face to face with Wilm Hosenfeld.

The ceremony brought together the US Ambassador Lee Feinstein, representatives of German and Austrian Embassies, a secretary of state in the Prime Minister’s Chancellery Władysław Bartoszewski, as well as many of Szpilman’s friends and lovers of his music.

The inscription on the plaque reads: “Władysław Szpilman – the outstanding pianist and composer of classical, film and light music. Author of occupation memoirs ‘The Death of a City’. Hero of Roman Polański’s film The Pianist.

During the Warsaw Uprising, he was cut off from the hitherto assistance of his Polish friends. He was rescued from the Nazi folly by Wermacht officer Captain Wilm Hosenfeld”.

After studying the piano and composition in Warsaw and Berlin, Szpilman worked at Polish Radio for four years until the outbreak of war.

He miraculously avoided capture by the Nazis. In the final months of the war, he found shelter in the ruins of Warsaw and survived thanks to the help from his Polish friends and Wilm Hosenfeld.

After the war, he served as director of Polish Radio’s music department for 18 years.

Szpilman then founded the Warsaw Piano Quintet, which toured around the world for more than two decades. His compositional output includes some 500 songs, many of which became hits, and several symphonic works.

Szpilman published his war-time memoirs soon after the war ended but the book was soon banned by the Stalinist authorities. It was re-published by Szpilman’s son, Andrzej, in 1998, in German and English, and has since been translated into over thirty two languages.

Władysław Szpilman died in 2000 at the age of 88.

Wilm Hosenfeld died in 1952 in a prison camp in the Soviet Union. In 2009 he received the title ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ from the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, which honours gentiles who saved Jews from the Nazis. Two years earlier, he was honoured by Polish President Lech Kaczynski with the Order of Reborn Poland.

Plans are currently under way for a stage adaptation of The Pianist to be produced on Broadway. (mk/pg)

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