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Heightening the Awareness of Poland's Music

November 06, 1987|KENNETH HERMAN

SAN DIEGO — Starting a list of notable Polish composers is easy--Chopin immediately comes to mind. But continuing is challenging even for classical music sophisticates.

Polish organist Marek Kudlicki is trying to overcome this musical ignorance by playing the music of little-known composers such as Gorski, Nowowiejski and Surzynski whenever he tours in America and Western Europe. Kudlicki lamented that American audiences suffer from a kind of musical isolationism.

"You don't know Polish music, and you don't know Czech or Russian music. And Polish organ music is really unknown territory," he said. He admitted, however, that even in his native Poland, those composers who wrote primarily organ music--Surzynski and Gorski--are unknown.

Kudlicki, who is in the middle of his eighth North American tour, will play on the Fritts-Richards organ at 4 p.m. Sunday8 at All Souls' Episcopal Church in Point Loma. Although the 39-year-old organist has made his home in Vienna for the last dozen years, he frequently finds that Americans assume he is an authority on Polish politics.

"When I recently played at a Methodist church in Greensboro, N.C., the church organized a meeting for people who wanted to meet me and ask questions," he said. "I was not prepared to talk about politics, but the first thing they wanted to know was what was going on in Poland. Since I visit Poland regularly and phone my friends and parents there, the situation is known to me."

When asked if he found it prudent to be guarded in his political observations for fear of being denied reentry into Poland to visit his parents and cousins, he shook his head.

"I simply said what I thought. I told the truth. It's not a secret what is going on in Poland--the economic situation, the depression, and people standing in lines," he said.

Unlike the West, where even the hint of a recession gives arts administrators ulcers, the dire Polish economic situation has not hurt that country's musical life.

"Although the depression there is serious," said Kudlicki, "they have money for culture. My recording (of organ concertos) with orchestra, for example, was especially expensive, and the fees for making recordings and giving concerts are comparatively high, compared with the salaries of working people. Even the organ concerts in churches are organized by the state philharmonic societies."

Even though he is an emissary of Polish music, Kudlicki has received only a few invitations to perform from the Diaspora of Polish-American communities in this country. Two years ago, he was invited to play in a Bach festival in Seoul, South Korea, but he has never performed in Chicago, where he visited friends on his way to San Diego.

"You know that Chicago is the second-largest Polish city after Warsaw," he said. "But I am negotiating to play a concert there next year."

Kudlicki left Poland 12 years ago to study in Vienna. When he obtained a position with the Austrian Radio Symphony the following year, he decided to make the city the home base for his concert career.

He said that a performing career in Poland would have been possible only if he had agreed to teach in a university, and that his freedom to perform in the West would have been significantly restricted.

In addition to the Polish pieces, Kudlicki will perform organ works by Pachelbel, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Karg-Elert and Busoni during his Sunday recital.

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