Plaque commemorates Wladyslaw Szpilman

A plaque to commemorate the great Polish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman was unveiled in Sosnowiec Dec. 5.
The plaque, made by Stanislaw Wozniak and Arkadiusz Koniusz, was placed in the tenement house in which the Szpilman family lived before World War II.

“A good thing for us (not for him, as one has to admit) that Wladyslaw Szpilman, our Cole Porter, Gershwin, McCartney, was born in Poland,” said Wojciech Kilar, composer of movie music.
“Szpilman’s songs evoke the sound of an era of elegance, of good manners, of gracious women and of jazz music.”

Also dedicated to the composer is part of the main square in Sosnowiec, where local authorities have placed a piano that automatically plays Szpilman compositions.

Works by Wladyslaw Szpilman include Waltz in the Olden Style (1936) for orchestra, Concertino (1940) for piano and orchestra, Little Overture (1968) for orchestra.

In the 1950s, he wrote about 40 children’s songs, for which he received an award from the Polish Composers Union in 1955.
In 1961, he initiated and organized Sopot International Song Festival in Poland and founded the Polish Union of Authors of Popular Music.

The pianist was born in Sosnowiec in 1911.
After early piano lessons with his mother Esthera, he continued his piano studies in the early 1930s at the Warsaw Conservatory under A. Michalowski and at the Academy of Arts (Akademie der Kunste) in Berlin under Artur Schnabel and Leonid Kreutzer. He also studied composition with Franz Schreker.

On April 1, 1935, he joined Polish Radio, where he worked as a pianist performing classical and jazz music. His career was abruptly broken off by Germany’s attack on Poland in 1939.
He and his family, with all people of Jewish roots, were forced to move to the Ghetto, where he continued to work as a pianist in the restaurants of the Ghetto.

When the rest of his family was deported to Treblinka, an extermination camp in the east, Szpilman managed to flee from the transport loading site with the help of a friend, who grabbed him from the crowd and took him away from the waiting train.
None of his family members survived the war.

As set out in his memoir, Szpilman found hiding places in Warsaw and survived with the help of friends from Polish Radio and by a German captain, Wilm Hosenfeld, whose real name Szpilman discovered in the early 1950s, when Hosenfeld’s wife wrote him a letter.

Despite the efforts of Szpilman and other Poles to rescue Hosenfeld, he died in Soviet captivity in 1952.
Outside Poland, Szpilman is widely known as the protagonist of the Roman Polanski film “The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945, by Wladyslaw Szpilman,” recounting how he survived the Holocaust.

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