Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Bolesław Kon

Bolesław Kon

Bolesław Kon

*9 XII 1906 Warszawa, †10 VI 1936 Warszawa

Bolesław Kon – winner of the 3rd award II Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw (1932).

Bolesław Kon was born into a poor Jewish family of tailors. He began his musical education during World War I at the Moscow Conservatory under the direction of Constantine Igumnov. After his return to Poland in 1924, he initially began his musical studies at the Chopin Higher Musical Academy in Warsaw under Bolesław Domaniewski, later continued, first under Aleksander Michałowski, later under Zbigniew Drzewiecki, at the Warsaw Conservatory. He received a diploma with distinction in 1928.

As an exceptionally talented virtuoso pianist Kon came to public attention during his studies. After one of his recitals, hosted by the Warsaw Music Society in April 1926, the pianist left his listeners dumbfounded by his masterful playing. Juliusz Wertheim, composer, pianist and musical critic, couldn’t praise Kon enough writing: “Undoubtedly among ‘miracles’ should be counted the youngster pianist Bolesław Kon’s inspired playing, which amazed, illuminated and above all moved everything with an absolute complete, almost masterful production of Bach-Busoni’s Prelude and Fugue in D major. The definitions of the phrasing, the touching simplicity, the perfectly felt rhythm, combine to form an imposing whole. While the lively momentum in Paganini-Liszt’s Variations completed the impression that we are dealing with a phenomenal talent.... Granted with God’s gift, he is destined for lofty celestial flights and will shortly alight in the artistic heavens as one of the brightest stars.”

After receiving his diploma from the Warsaw Conservatory, Bolesław Kon quickly moved to Cracow, where he accepted the post of professor of piano at the Music Society Conservatory. He acted as director from 1929 to 1931. Aside from engaging in pedagogical work, the pianist developed his concert career. He played in Cracow, Warsaw and other Polish cities as a symphony concert soloist; he gave recitals. As eyewitnesses of his performances testify he felt comfortable with all pieces he performed, always finding the appropriate mode of interpretation.

In 1932, at the suggestion of Zbigniew Drzewiecki, Kon took part in the Second Chopin Competition. In competition against 90 participants from 18 countries, he took 3rd place as well as the Polish Radio prize for most outstanding Polish winner. From that moment Kon’s career skyrocketed. On 20 January 1933, with the Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra, he played Rachmaninov’s II Piano Concerto C minor, presenting the work as one reviewers wrote: “with great fancy,  irreproachable cleanliness of technique in the details and with  the most elegant taste.” A month-and-a-half later he performed, among others, Chopin’s Etude 12, op. 10, in Warsaw, after which appeared the following review: “I had the impression that it was precisely in this manner, and not any other, that Chopin himself would have played Etude 12.[...] Compared to Kon Artur Rubenstein is a sham [...] nonchalantly flaunting about with the substance of performed pieces.”

Between the months of May and June 1933, Bolesław Kon lived in Vienna, where he was taking part in the International Music Competition. The extensive, international jury awarded him first place. At the time, the Polish pianist beat out pianists who would later go on to great renown, such as: Gina Bachauer, Dinu Lipatti, Győrgy Sándor and Maria Fotino. Kon’s success in Vienna led to numerous invitations to perform concerts in France, Holland, Italy, Romania, Austria and Hungary.

Despite numerous travels abroad, Kon never forgot his Polish public. He eagerly performed in concerts organised by the Society of the Lovers of Early-Modern Music, Society of Contemporary Polish Music as well as an institution which sought to bring music to rural Poland, under the name Musical Movement Organisation (Organizacja Ruchu Muzycznego (ORMUZ)).

Bolesław Kon was a neophyte, highly devotional in regards to his religion. His manic religiosity combined with the richness on his internal metaphysical, intellectual and artistic experiences were likely the cause of mental illness. He often fell into melancholy, contemplated the sense of life and wrestled with his own conscience and sense of guilt. He experienced episodes of deep depression, which led to his suicide. He departed from life on 10 June 1936 in Warsaw.


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