*15 XI 1901 Jekatierynodar, †12 VI 1957 Paryż
Stanisław Szpinalski – winner second place, I Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw (1927)
Stanisław Szpinalski was born into a family of organists and military conductors originally from Warsaw. He began his musical education as a young child, under his father’s tutelage. However, he was soon taken under Presman’s pedagogical wing; a renowned teaching in Rostov.
In 1911, Stanisław Szpinalski became a student at the Moscow Conservatory in Karol Kippa’s piano class. He completed the Conservatory in April 1918; in a performance for the diplomatic core he, with full accompaniment provided by the Conservatory’s orchestra, performed Chopin’s Fantasies in A major on Polish Folk Themes, op. 13 .
After Poland regained independence in 1918, the Szpinalski family returned to their homeland. In 1921, the twenty year-old pianist took up studies at the Warsaw Conservatory under the tutelage of Prof. Józef Turczyński. He finished his studies four years later in grand style, graduating with honours. The following two years (1925-26), Szpinalski spent in Paris pursuing post-graduate studies under Ricardo Viñes for piano and Louis Aubert for composition. In December 1925, he debuted in Paris with a piano recital (at the Salle Pleyel), which brought him to the attention of local music society. The results of this favourable reception were positive reviews and invitations to perform.
Despite a successfully burgeoning artistic career, the young pianist remained uncertain as to whether he should dedicate his life to music. The breakthrough came in 1927, when he took second place at the First Chopin Competition. As he stated in a radio interview: “Then I finally decided to dedicate myself to playing piano.”
Szpinalski was always critical and demanding of himself; sub-par achievements did not satisfy him. Striving to attain an ideal in his musical interpretations, he came to the conclusion that he ought to hone his talents, but only at the feet of the greatest master. At the time, this master was Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Szpinalski turned to Paderewski in the summer of 1928, and, after a careful listening Szpinalski consulted with him in the summer months, over the next five years.
“Paderewski,” wrote Szpinalski in a newspaper article, “does not teach... does not in the least replicate his own playing. He teaches art uncompromisingly, which we [then] ourselves colour with our personal traits. I believe that fidelity to the texts is a two-sided guarantee against personal mannerism and imitating the master.”
The contact with Ignacy Jan Pederewski was the crowning of the formative process of Szpinalski’s artistic being. Now, the Polish pianist could develop his stage career unrestrained; he could also write ‘a student of Paderewski’ on his posters, which was an advertisement in itself.
From 1932-1939, Szpinalski enjoyed a highly successful concert career that took him to Switzerland, England, Belgium, Holland, France, Spain, Germany, the United States and Canada. On 2 May 1939, he took part in a symphonic concert at Carnegie Hall where, along with the New York Philharmonic, with Artur Rodziński conducting, performed Karol Szymanowski’s IV Symphonie concertante.
Stanisław Szpinalski’s performances were everywhere met with an enthusiastic public reception and adulatory reviews. After one performance, where he performed Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor, op. 21, one reviewer wrote: “Szpinalski played so nicely, that he had to add a half-dozen other numbers.... Chopin can rejoice that his interpreter developed in the person of Szpinalski, and so smoothly, so simply and with such restraint performs his romantic piece. And what souplesse in those hands, what a sparkling and pleasant tone! And that forte, that sounds with a full tone.”
In 1934, Stanisław Szpinalski moved his residence to Vilnius, where he took a position as professor of piano and director of the Conservatory. He spent the years of World War II in Vilnius.
After the war, he spent time in Lublin, Łódż and Poznań and in 1951 took over piano classes and the position of rector of the State Higher Music Academy in Warsaw (presently the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy). He was associated with the Academy until his untimely death on 12 June 1957, in Paris.
In 1949, the musical world celebrated the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s death. Stanisław Szpinalski played several-dozen well-receives concerts marking the occasion throughout Poland and England. His artistic career, disrupted by war, began to renew itself. The wonderful pianist and fascinating virtuoso was at the height of his popularity. Luck did not abandon him until he suddenly developed rheumatism, which caused the pianist to loose control over his fingers. This was followed by years of struggle against his disease until...victory! On 22 November 1955, Szpinalski emerged onto the stage at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw. Step-by-step he began playing more often - outside of Poland, in England and Germany. Unfortunately, there shortly arrived a new illness, this time cancer, which forever extinguished the life of this wonderful artist.