Edward Wolff’s music is nowadays almost forgotten. It does not appear in concert programmes and it exists only in the minds of a few performers and devoted music lovers. The composer was born in the early-19th century in Warsaw. He studied composition under Józef Elsner, who was also Fryderyk Chopin’s teacher. After finishing his musical studies in Vienna and Warsaw, he settled in Paris. Wolff had close family ties with Henryk Wieniawski. He was the brother of the mother of this brilliant violin virtuoso and composer.
How did you manage to discover Edward Wolff’s music?
My renowned friend, professor Renata Suchowiejko, a musicologist at the Jagiellonian University, asked me to record Edward Wolff’s works for teaching purposes. At that time she gave lectures on Polish musicians in Paris and she couldn’t find any recordings. It turned out that they simply didn’t exist. She brought me tonnes of scores from Paris, though.
I was fascinated by this project. I have a special, personal relationship with the Wieniawski family, so naturally I was excited at the possibility of approaching them from yet another side, while the music itself also turned out to be of high value.
What kind of problems does a pianist face when performing the music of the uncle of the Wieniawski brothers?
Edward Wolff was a representative of the style brillant and a great pianist himself, as proven by enthusiastic opinions of his critics and fellow musicians, and particularly by the musical material he left.
In my opinion it requires from the artist a melodious tone, lightness of performance and virtuosity, as well as ideas for interpretation solutions which may be diversified and sophisticated.
Is Western Europe aware of the existence of this composer?
I don’t think so, although there’s a chance that this might change. There is a general tendency to extend the repertoire with the music of forgotten composers. My friend Roman Markowicz gave my CD to a very well-known pianist who is famous not only for his phenomenal technique, but also for his work for reviving the works which have been forgotten. I’m talking about Marc Andre Hamelin. If he includes a few pieces by Edward Wolff in his repertoire other pianists will surely follow suit.
Is there any chance for Wolff to become popular with music lovers?
I would very much like that. He surely deserves it. Although this depends on a number of factors, I’ve had some good experiences so far. I can see a lot of interest among dedicated music lovers and professional musicians always keen on novelties, as well as among ordinary music recipients who simply enjoy this music which is “pleasant to listen to”, as Wolff’s critics would write about his works at the time.
Apart from his compositions for piano, did Edward Wolff also compose for other instruments?
Yes, he did. There is a number of duets for violin and piano. Another interesting project…
Wolff’s music is very similar to Chopin’s style, at times almost copying it. Do you find any exclusively personal features in Wolff’s music, characteristic for his own imagination only?
Surely Wolff didn’t create his own language of harmony and melody, which is of course not a drawback. Not many have managed to do that. His main strong points include his mastery of composition means and tools, interesting texture solutions, and that tune of melancholy and nostalgia often present in his music.
When and where will we be able to enjoy your next recitals?
In November I will play six recitals with Edward Wolff’s music. They also constitute a part of the project co-funded by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage promoting two albums: one with Edward Wolff’s music and the other one called “Piotr Janowski. The Legend” with the archive recordings by Piotr Janowski. Grudziądz, Warsaw, Poznań, Szczecin – these cities will host our concerts during which we tell the tale of these great musicians, for whom Henryk Wieniawski is a joining factor. This spring I gave concerts in smaller places, sometimes not for very discerning audiences who would nevertheless show their sincere interest in the music I played.
The jubilee concert on the 200th anniversary of Edward Wolff’s birth will take place on 15 November 2014, at 6.00 pm in the “Willa wśród Róż” Feliks Nowowiejski Music Salon and Museum in Poznań, Poland. Details available at the website of the Henryk Wieniawski Music Society.
The interview was conducted by Adam Olaf Gibowski for “na:temat.pl”
The photography by Piotr Bilski, http://www.teatr.grudziadz.pl/index.php?p=galeria&q=teatr&r=koncerty&s=maklakiewicz