“Ich spiele immer und gern Steinway-Flügel, sie sind f?r mich die schönsten Instrumente.”

Halina Czerny-Stefanska

Halina Czerny-Stefanska (1922-2001) was first taught the piano by her father. Her teachers later were Josef Turczynski and, from 1946, Zbigniew Drzewiecki. She officially reached stardom in 1949 when she was joint winner of the first post-war International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, sharing first prize with the Soviet Union's Bella Davidovich. She also won the prize for the best performance of Chopin mazurkas.

Her playing caused controversy at the time because her interpretations departed from the sentimental way of playing Chopin which had become the norm. She adopted a more austere approach, nearer to the composer's revolutionary and innovative intentions. In later years, she would revert to a more romantic and indulgent style.

Her success in the Chopin competition made her an international sensation. She made her British debut in 1951 with Chopin's E minor concerto. However, the recording was misattributed to Dinu Lipatti, so Czerny-Stefanksa did not receive immediate credit for the piece. The recording was released in 1966 by EMI, and on the 1971 British release was a note to the effect that, although the name of the conductor and orchestra were not known, there was no doubt the soloist was Lipatti. The BBC broadcast the recording in 1981, and a listener wrote in, noting the similarities between it and a Supraphon recording from the early 1950s with Czerny-Stefańska under Václav Smetáček. Tests revealed these were one and the same recording. The so-called Lipatti recording was withdrawn, and Czerny-Stefanska was credited for her piece.

Although she performed in America and throughout Europe, Halina Czerny-Stefanska eventually reduced her touring in order to devote herself to her family. She also complied with the Communist regime. She once described the post-war years in her country as "the greatest and fullest flowering of Polish culture" and was even happy to give recitals under the auspices of the military rule of General Jaruzelski.

Czerny-Stefanska was appointed a professor of musicology at Krakow Conservatory and frequently participated as jury for international piano competitions, including the Leeds in 1972. A Japanese piano competition was named in her honor.

Czerny-Stefanska was married to the pianist Ludwik Stefanski, with whom she occasionally performed. Their daughter, Elzbieta Stefanska-Lukowicz, is also a pianist.

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