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Maryla Jonas

Maryla Jonas

Maryla Jonas

*31 V 1911 Warszawa, †3 VII 1959 Nowy Jork

Maryla Jonas – winner 13th award II Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw (1932). She was born in Warsaw. She began playing piano as a young child under the tutelage of the renowned Warsaw pedagogue Włodzimierz Oberfelt. In 1922, having barely reached 11 years of age, she was accepted to the Warsaw Conservatory in Prof. Józef Turczyński's class. She gave her first public concert at eight years of age as a so-called 'wunderkind’.

In 1927, she participated in the First Chopin Competition (at the time she was 16 years old!), but didn't rank. Only her performance at the Second Chopin Competition in 1932 brought her to the winners' circle with the 13th award. Prior to the competition she briefly went to visit Ignacy Jan Paderewski in Morges and Emil Sauer in Vienna for artistic consultations. In 1933, she tried her luck at the International Competition in Vienna where she received 'distinction'. Five years later she took part in the Eugène Ysaÿe International Music Competition in Brussels.

Until the outbreak of World War II, Maryla Jonas frequently played concerts throughout Poland. She played the Henryk Melcer's First Piano Concerto, Alfredo Casella’s Partite for Piano and Orchestra, among other pieces, at the Warsaw Philharmonic; she gave recitals that included a broad selection of works by both Polish and foreign composers. She took part in Chopin concerts transmitted by Polish Radio.

In the first months of the war a German bomb killed her father, mother, husband and two brothers. Shortly thereafter she herself fell into the hands of the Gestapo and was imprisoned. After seven months, a German officer, who had once heard her play some concert, got her released and suggested she get herself to the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin. Walking from Warsaw on foot, she reached Berlin after several weeks. There the personnel of the Brazilian Embassy supplied her with false documents and sent her on to Lisbon, which was the transfer point for those seeking to escape Europe for South America.

The pianist reached Brazil in a state of complete physical and psychological exhaustion. She had to seek treatment. By sheer coincidence she met Artur Rubinstein. Thanks to him she regained her self-possession, belief in herself and began practising piano.

On 25 February 1946, in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Jonas gave her first concert following her wartime experiences. The Hall was all but empty, but Jerome D. Bohm of The Herald Tribune was in attendance obediently fulfilling his professional duties. Delighted by the Polish pianist’s talents, the following day he wrote that she was “the greatest pianist since Teresa Carreño”.  Six weeks later, when Jonas was again to play a concert at Carnegie Hall, the hall was full to overflowing. New York hadn’t seen such a stellar success in years. On 10 October 1946, the pianist performed with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Artur Rodziński. During the 1947-48 season she played in Chicago and New York, among others. From year to year an increasing number of cities in the United States sought to play host to the exceptional artist.

It is likely that Maryla Jonas would have had a global career had her life not been cut short. She died on 3 July 1959 in New York.


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