Feeding body and soul

  • Contributed photo

    Hawaiian concert pianist Robert Nakea

  • Contributed photo

    Pani Zakrzewska

The Etudes of Frederic Chopin present a double plethora of two dozen keyboard masterworks displaying unparalleled pyrotechnics from the 19th century, where instrumental virtuosity ruled and concert artists were the rock stars of their day.

Chopin’s Etudes are the Mt Everest in the world of piano playing, which despite their daunting exigence of labor that may endure for years in acquiring them into one’s fingers, bring pleasure to both musician and listener by their sheer beauty and pathos.

It was precisely these latter characteristics of Chopin’s Etudes that were so revolutionary for their time, where musical substance is equally matched to the vertiginous level of technique required. Up till Chopin’s time, Etudes, or “Studies”, were composed and treated like exercises, with scant regard to loveliness of melody or harmonic complexity.

At 7 p.m. tonight in the sanctuary of Church of the Pacific, the Etudes of Chopin, will be played in their entirety, by Hawaiian concert pianist, Robert Nakea. The concert is also part of an effort to build awareness of Church of the Pacific’s food pantry, a charitable food assistance program for needy families on Kauai’s North Shore.

A portion of ticket proceeds will go toward the food pantry. In addition, concert attendees who bring a food donation (canned good, dry good, commercially packaged food product) will receive a discount on their admission ticket.

Nakea has toured much across the United States and Europe over the span of his career, including such venues as Wales’ Llangollen International Festival, the Bergen International Festival in Norway, and Operafestival di Roma.

This summer Nakea completed a two-week tour of the Western United States performing the Chopin Etudes, and will be coming out with a CD recording of them sometime next year.

Nakea has had the good fortune of studying with very fine teachers from his youth through adulthood. However, one in particular, with whom he studied for 25 years and exercised the greatest influence was Dr. Lidia Janina Zakrzewska, a Polish pianist trained in the Warsaw Conservatory between the 1920’s and 1940’s.

“Pani Zakrzewska instilled in me a reverence for every note of Chopin,” Nakea said, “where not a single not is to be disparaged as insignificant, or overlooked.”

“This makes the music even twice as expressive, as every thread of the compositional structure from top to bottom is played as though sung, lending the music greater humanity, thereby, creating numerous pathways that lead directly from the instrument chorus of voices to the listener’s soul,” he added.

Illustrating the Polish people’s depth of devotion to their art, and favorite son Chopin, Nakea recounts a tense, but inspiring moment during World War II, when his teacher, who had joined the Resistance against the Nazis, miraculously discovered a piano while conveying messages from one Resistance unit to the next.

It was being used to cover a hole in the wall of a bombed-shattered building. Knowing full well the danger, and that there were German soldiers on the other side of that wall with machine guns, she mustered her courage, and began playing Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude,” in defiance before the Nazis of all the death and destruction she had witnessed at their hands.

The soldiers immediately started firing in the direction of the totally unexpected sounds of the piano. Fortunately, their bullets hit the piano’s wood casing, but not the teenage girl playing the impassioned strains of her countryman.

Halfway through the piece, the gunfire stopped, allowing her to finish the Etude, whereupon she could hear the soldiers clapping and pleading with her “Noch einmal! Noch einmal!” (“Encore! Encore!”)

Tickets for Nakea’s concert are $24 for adults, which is discounted to $20 along with a food donation at the door. Students are half price $12, ($10 with food donation.) Church of the Pacific is located off of Kuhio Highway, less than a mile before Princeville’s Main Gate, on Kapaka Road.

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