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Cracow Duo to perform music by Chopin and other Polish composers in El Paso

The acclaimed Cracow Duo – made up of pianist Marek Szlezer and cellist Jan Kalinowski – will bring music by three Polish composers to El Paso tomorrow night: Frederic Chopin, Mieczysław Weinberg, and Aleksander Tansman. Friends since childhood, the Cracow Duo is committed to presenting both known and lesser known Polish composers wherever they perform. The free concert was organized in part to publicize the upcoming first “Borderland Chopin International Competition,” which UTEP will host in May.

“I met the Cracow Duo a few years ago,” said pianist Oscar Macchioni in this Zoom interview with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin. Macchioni traveled to Cracow two years ago, a city where he had studied thirty years earlier, met Szlezer while there, and invited the Duo to perform in El Paso. By featuring music by Polish composers, the concert is meant to be “a little bit of a preview and a little bit of a warm-up for the final event of this year, which will be the big, big competition in May,” Macchioni said. Macchioni was on the piano faculty at UTEP until this year, and now teaches at the University of North Texas in Denton, but he will continue to coordinate the competition.

“This is truly an international competition,” Macchioni said. “We have judges that are of international caliber, Van Cliburn competition winners, even the [1990] Chopin Competition in Warsaw winner Kevin Kenner, and fantastic faculty and judges from all over the world.” More than fifty pianists have already applied, and the top ten will come to El Paso for the competition from May 22-25. The top winner will perform with the El Paso Symphony the following year and the other two winners will perform recitals in El Paso.

The free concert by the Cracow Duo was originally scheduled for Saturday, but will take place on Friday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fox Fine Arts Recital hall.

Pianist Oscar Macchioni on a Zoom call.

Musical clip in the interview is from the “Introduction & Polonaise Brillante” by Frederic Chopin, not performed by the Cracow Duo, but performed by UTEP cello professor Zuill Bailey and pianist Simone Dinnerstein (Delos #3326).