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Felicja Blumental

Language available : english
Felicja Blumental was one of the more highly respected pianists of the twentieth century, known for her advocacy of new works, her incisive Mozart interpretations, and for performance of neglected repertory from the early nineteenth century. She was one of the relatively few women born in the first quarter of the twentieth century to have achieved an important career as a concert pianist. She was a gifted child pianist who developed an interest in composing, as well. She studied both composition and piano at the Warsaw Conservatory, the former craft with Karol Szymanowski and the latter with Joseph Goldberg and Zbigniew Drzewiecki. She launched her career as a concert pianist in pre-World War II Poland, when political turmoil and impending war impeded public notice of her unusual talents. She fled her homeland in 1942 and settled in Rio de Janeiro, from where she slowly built her career. She gave her debut concert there that same year and made many extensive tours in South America in 1940s and 1950s. After the war, Blumental was a bit slow to establish connections abroad and thus did not return to European concert stages until 1954, when she made appearances in London (with the London Philharmonic Orchestra), Paris (Orchestre National de France), and Vienna (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra). The following year, she appeared in several memorable concerts, among the most notable being her 1955 premiere of the Villa-Lobos Piano Concerto No. 5 in London, with the composer conducting. Villa-Lobos had written the work for her (and dedicated it to her) after being favorably impressed the previous year by her performance at a concert in Brazil of his 1938 Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3. The two teamed up to record the concerto with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in 1955 (taped at sessions just after the premiere), an effort that has been reissued several times. Beginning in the 1960s, Blumental began unearthing neglected compositions from the early nineteenth century, works by Hummel, Czerny, Field, and several others. In many respects, she was instrumental in establishing a climate favorable to the rediscovery of numerous unjustly neglected compositions in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Blumental's talents drew the attention of Krzysztof Penderecki, who became a strong admirer and friend. He composed his 1971 Partita for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra for her. She would subsequently record the work for EMI, with the composer conducting the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Blumental's performing and recording activities also included serving as accompanist to singers and other instrumentalists. She made many appearances with her daughter, Brazilian soprano Annette Celine. The pair collaborated on a memorable recording in 1973 of Chopin's complete songs. Blumental remained quite active in the 1970s and 1980s and appeared with increasing frequency in Israel. She died in Tel-Aviv on December 31, 1991. A music festival was established in her honor in 1999 in Tel-Aviv, the Felicja Blumental International Music Festival, a yearly event that presents mostly classical music in performances by established as well as new artists.
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