The Poland Pavilion of the World Expo in Shanghai (XINHUA)
The music of Frederic Chopin appeals not only to the ears, but also to the soul—and it has been for 200 years. Even at the World Expo in Shanghai, the much-revered Polish musician is too important to be ignored. To celebrate the maestro, the Poland Pavilion has prepared a series of events to honor the bicentennial celebration of Chopin's birth. On May 8, Slawomir Majman, Commissioner General of the Polish Section of World Expo 2010, sat down with Beijing Review reporter Hu Yue to discuss the planned events and share his views on Chopin's music.
Beijing Review: What's your opinion on the achievements of Chopin?
Slawomir Majman: I am very proud that Chopin is my compatriot. And also, I cannot imagine an occasion in my life without his music, as if it has been something integral under my skin. Here at the Expo, we want to show the Chinese people that Poland is a modern, open and friendly European country. But still, we cannot forget to present the music of Chopin because it is an important part of modern Poland as well.
Slawomir Majman, Commissioner General of the Polish Section of World Expo 2010
His melodies stick in mind like no one else's and draw the listeners into a world of spirit that is the very essence of the Romantic artistic experience. No classical composer, before or since, has devoted himself so exclusively to this kind of music. In Polish culture, there is no other figure who is as well known as Chopin.
Do you think Chopin has represented the music and spirit of Poland?
During World War II, the Germans occupied Poland and forbade Poles from playing Chopin because they were sure Chopin's music was a powerful element of patriotism in the country. This is the best proof that Chopin is not just a musician, but also part of our culture, education and national pride.
Undergoing several wars and struggles for independence, Poland has had a traumatic history. You can feel all this bravery and sentimentalism in Chopin's music. You can hear in his music a deep nostalgia for his motherland, and the unique composition styles rooted in Polish folk music.
Of course it does not mean everyone in Poland has to listen to Chopin. But at least from the very beginning, you are surrounded by his music. The extraordinary variety of feelings and moods is a great characteristic and value of his music, setting it apart from other music styles. Compared with other Polish musicians, he is simply more passionate, emotional and poetic. It's the quintessence of Polish music, overflowing with all emotions—sadness, joy or love. My favorite piece of Chopin music is the powerful and turbulent Revolutionary Etude, an exquisite expression of his sorrow for the fate of the war-torn motherland.
This year marks the 200th birthday of the beloved Polish composer and pianist. What celebrations will the Poland Pavilion have?
The pavilion has planned and organized a variety of events to remember the brilliant musician. On May 22, the National Day of Poland, a piano recital will be performed by Ewa Poblocka, a distinguished Polish pianist, at the Shanghai Grand Theater to honor Chopin. But we do not want people to get bored with standard celebrations. In an event called Let's Dance Chopin, music is performed in rock or pop styles to let visitors dance in the pavilion.
The celebrations will culminate in September and we will announce September 4-12 as the Week of Chopin. During the week, many nightclubs in Shanghai will feature Chopin's classics, but it will be played by DJs in styles appropriate for club dancing so the younger generations can enjoy it.
How do you think these celebrations will facilitate cultural exchanges between the two countries?
I think Chopin's music is a perfect bridge between the cultures of Poland and China. I spent quite a big part of my childhood in China, as my uncle was a medical doctor during the Long March of the Red Army and my parents worked in Beijing for many years in the 1950s. So I am deeply convinced that there are plenty of overlaps between Polish and Chinese cultures as well as sentimental characters.
For example, we both went through invasions by foreign countries and also a massive migration of farmers into cities. Former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski even said a couple years ago that Poles are the Chinese of Europe. That is part of the reason why many Chinese people can understand and have deep feelings for Chopin's music and Chinese pianists have won top awards at the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition.
The Expo is a good start for promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries. An increasing number of Chinese visitors have come to our pavilion to catch a glimpse of the distant country. But we still have room to improve. Vigorous efforts will also be made to attract more tourists and students to each other, and also build a closer economic tie-up.