CHOPIN IN AFRICA – Warsaw to Bloemfontein

Lunch Hour Concert

15 November



Ensemble from POLAND:

Maria Pomianowska ~Katarzyna Gacek-Duda ~ Gwidon Modest Cybulski

Karolina Matuszkiewicz ~ Wojciech Lubertowicz

together with

Nicol Viljoen (piano) & Chris van Zyl (cello)

Entrance Free

We can promise you this: you haven’t heard anything like it. Unless, that is, you’ve written an ethnomusicology dissertation on Polish folk music or have access to a functioning time machine.

Alexander Varty: Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly

Maria Pomianowska (Professor of Folk Music at the prestigious Kraków Academy of Music in Poland) and her a quintet of fellow musicians will present a lunch hour concert at the Odeion School of Music on 15 November at the Odeion. This concert is entitled Chopin On 5 Continents – Africa. Pomianowska and her ensemble will join forces with Prof Nicol Viljoen (pianist) and cellist Chris van Zyl (BMus Performance) studying under the tutelage of Prof Anmari van der Westhuizen.

Pomianowska and her ensemble will mainly play on string folk music instruments known as sukas. Aesthetically and proportionally a suka closely resembles an ancient violin, but is played vertically like a cello and positioned on the lap.

Pomianowska literally revived the suka from obsolescence with only a dusty painting as the as a point of reference. She was curious to research the connection between her Polish heritage with the South and Central Asian instruments she was studying as part of her own ethnomusicological research.

Pomianowska remarked: “I reconstructed the instrument and rediscovered the performance technique in collaboration with the musicologist Ewa Dahlig-Turek and the late luthier Andrzej Kuczkowski. “We reconstructed the instrument, which had not existed for 100 years in our culture. The last generation of suka musicians became extinct during the beginning of the 20th century, and the only information we had available was from ethnographical sources.”

The suka is played with a bow, and by stopping the strings with the nails - not the fleshy pads - of the left hand fingers. It is a seemingly awkward technique, but one that Pomianowska says produces a uniquely vocal timbre.

It is not enough to play Chopin’s music as written, Pomianowska contends, noting that her famous countryman was also renowned as an improviser. “We want to share with him that creation moment,” she says, “to connect on these different levels of emotion and imagination.”

So what does this have to do with Frédéric Chopin? The Warsaw-born, Paris-trained, composer was a keen student of folk music, and almost certainly heard the suka during summer vacations in his native land. Unlike later musicologist-composers Béla Bartok and Leoš Janácek, Chopin didn’t transcribe folk melodies note for note, but fragments of rural tunes appear in many of his best-loved compositions, and the mazurka was one of his compositional staples. He wrote at least 59 works for piano based on its lively barn dance beat.

She is also preparing to take Chopin far beyond his ethnic origins she has transcribed several of Chopin’s mazurkas for her touring quintet, which will be amplified by local artists, pianist Nicol Viljoen and cellist Chris van Zyl, and encapsulate the concert with a distinct South African flavour. Viljoen has a remarkable favour for the Chopin Mazurkas and gave a memorable recital in Krakow in 2015.

Pomianowska and her ensemble’s concert tour to South Africa is taking place in celebration of Poland’s membership of the UN’s security. The concert at the Odeion School of Music is positioned with the incentive to serve as a catalyst of the planned bi-lateral agreement between the Academy of Music in Kraków and the OSM, which is currently in process.

This event is fully sponsored by the Embassy of Poland in South Africa and the OSM and the University of the Free State would like to extend their gratitude to the Embassy of Poland for this initiative.


Ninette Pretorius
Officer: Professional Services & Concert coordinator
Odeion School of Music


Marius Coetzee
Innovation & Development Manager Odeion School of Music

Grazyna Koornhof
Political & Economic Section
Embassy of the Republic of Poland Pretoria South Africa

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