A Polish Affair

Ahead of their first concert at the NCPA, we had a quick chat about Polish music and life with the musicians from the Baltic Neopolis Virtuosi.

The Baltic Neopolis Virtuousi are bringing a piano quintet for a very special concert at the NCPA this month. Concertmaster Emanuel Salvador, who has been described by The Strad magazine as one of the finest Portuguese violinists of his generation, has enjoyed a multifaceted and critically acclaimed career after graduating from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Royal College of Music in London. Emilia Goch Salvador, founder of the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra in 2008, which is becoming one of the most exciting chamber orchestras in Poland, plays the viola and has collaborated as both soloist and member of chamber orchestras with renowned artistes like Vasko Vassilev, Tomasz Tomaszewski, Bartosz Bryła, among others. Graduating with honours from the Academy of Music in Łódź, violinist Sławomira Wilga is the recent first prizewinner of the Szymanowsky Competition. The orchestra’s cello leader, Robert Dacko, has performed more than 100 concerts around the world – in the USA, Japan, China, Tunisia, France, Germany, Ukraine, Slovakia as a chamber musician and concertmaster. Michał Francuz is one of the top Polish pianists. His repertoire covers compositions from Baroque to 21st century music, with particular emphasis on works by Polish composers, as well as pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt and Sergei Rachmaninoff, among others.

We spoke to them about Polish music and what they are most looking forward to in India.

Sławomira Wilga

ON Stage (OS): Could you tell us a bit more about the Baltic Neopolis Virtuosi?

Baltic Neopolis Virtuosi (BNV): Baltic Neopolis Virtuosi is the brainchild of the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra, a conductorless string orchestra based in Poland. The Baltic Neopolis Virtuosi project presents the valuable trends in Polish music through concerts of a Baltic ensemble comprising of outstanding musicians. We are all internationally recognised musicians who share a passion for chamber music and enjoy sharing it through various successful concert tours. Our main goal is to do chamber music tours with the best Polish and international musicians in order to promote Polish music across the world.


OS: Tell us more about your formative years in the study of music.

BNV: In Poland, music education starts quite early, and all of us started to study music while in primary school. In the beginning, you are expected to study two different instruments, normally a melodic one (like the violin) and a harmonic one (ie. piano). From an early age, concerts and auditions are a regular part of studies and music competitions are an intrinsic part of the system in order to encourage faster development. Each of us has different reasons why we started to study music, but in general, our families inspired us to do so. From then on, the love for music developed and our lives were full of music – our friends were musicians, our daily routine had a lot to do with music, etc. After a point, we couldn’t imagine ourselves doing anything else.

Emanuel Salvador

OS: Who has been the most influential when it comes to your music?

BNV: Our professors have been pillars of support in our development. Also, each of us loves the golden era of music, so legends like violinists David Oistrakh, Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, among others and pianist Vladimir Horowitz have been huge influences.


OS: Is this the first time you will be visiting India? What are you most looking forward to?

BNV: Emanuel and Emilia have been to India before and the others will be visiting India for the first time. Hopefully, the two of them still remember all the amazing places the rest of us should visit before we head back home.

Emilia Goch Salvador

OS: At the NCPA, you will be presenting works of some great Polish composers. How has their music shaped yours?

BNV: Our history at the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra mostly revolves around the Polish repertoire. Our discography is also mostly Polish. Therefore, we always feel at home when we bring Polish music to our audiences abroad. It is wonderful to see the public that have sometimes never heard of these composers, fall in love with their works. There is so much of our music that is not known outside of Poland. To celebrate the hundredth anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with India, we want to present contemporary Polish classical music. Together with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Polish Embassy in India, which are supporting our tour, we also want to thank the audiences who have shown interest in Polish classical music.

Robert Dacko © H. Grygielewicz

OS: What are some of your favourite pieces of music and why?

Emanuel Salvador: Composer Karol Szymanowski is very close to my heart. Apart from the innovative idiom in which he wrote, his music was like a prelude for my move to Poland, as it was one of the main works I studied for my master’s thesis at the Royal College of Music in London. I had never imagined that a few years later, I would be living in Poland and visiting all the places I read about in my research on Szymanowski’s life.

Sławomira Wilga: One of the most breathtaking pieces of music for me is the Serenade, after Plato’s Symposium, by Leonard Bernstein for solo violin, harp, percussion and strings. It one of his most elegantly fashioned orchestral works. Each of the five movements represents the view of a Greek philosopher and speaks about matters of love, whether emotional, physical or spiritual. However, for me, the most significant is the actual music content which is profound and perhaps, the only one of its kind. My dream to play it came true last year on the birth celebration of Bernstein with Bydgostiensis Capella in Bydgoszcz. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

Michał Francuz

Emilia Goch Salvador: Dmitri Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata is probably one of my favourites. Apart from being a huge fan of his music and life, the range of emotions of this sonata touch me every time I play it or listen to it.

Michał Francuz: If I had to pick, it would have to be Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major by Beethoven – the atmosphere, power and dialogue between the piano and orchestra, feels as though you’re touching the sky.

The Baltic Neopolis Virtuosi will present Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 and works by Polish composers on 9th October at the Tata Theatre.

This piece was originally published by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, in the October 2019 issue of ON Stage – their monthly arts magazine.