Reviews

Talents of Polonia
Several weeks ago, on December 10, 2006, I had a great pleasure to attend a concert “When Stars Collide” at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron, Ohio. I decided to spend this beautiful Sunday afternoon by going to the concert at E.J. Thomas Hall for two reasons: I needed to relax in the middle of my difficult exam session, and most importantly, I wanted to hear a young, very promising musician of the Polish origin.

Konrad Binienda (17), a senior at Firestone High School in Akron, appeared as a soloist with the Akron Symphony in the world premiere of his own composition Piano Concerto in e-minor. When asked before the performance what was his inspiration for writing this concerto, he replied that he began working on this composition just after the departure of John Paul II. The death of “the Polish national hero,” as he put it, inspired him to write this very beautiful music. I am writing “beautiful” because this is the only word that comes to mind as appropriate to describe my experience. In this music I heard Zygmunt tolls from Wawel Hills, birds singing over Polish meadows, and all my nostalgia for Poland, albeit I would never be able to paint it with sound like Konrad painted it. A more experienced ear could easily discern Chopin’s motives woven into the structure of the concerto. Konrad himself remarked that Chopin has been his icon.

I am led to believe that Konrad’s Concerto made as big of an impression on me as on the rest of the audience. The big concert hall was full that day. Konrad’s Piano Concerto, one of four works presented during this concert, received long and thunderous standing ovation.



If you see his name in the program – I recommend not thinking twice but going to the concert.

Dorota Mrochem Tomaszewska
Polish-American Culture Center
A Rising Star and a Constellation Shaped Like an Orchestra
.." I have to admit I’m no fan of Chopin’s E Minor Concerto (though I do love the F Minor). Whether Binienda convinced me to reconsider this or not, the point is his performance of it got past my prejudices about the piece enough I was able to enjoy it thoroughly, and that’s no mean accomplishment.

There were things in the phrasing that surprised me: maturity? You don’t learn that sort of thing from imitating recordings, you play that way because you understand the music. Fast fingers? Sure, even though once in a while, I might think some of the more treacherous ornaments that Chopin writes – you have to fit like 49 notes into two beats and still keep it sounding “delicate” (which is one reason why most pianists stretch the beats so much, just to fit in all those little notes) – could have been a little cleaner or maybe not as strictly in tempo. But I never heard a sour note in either performance – no jumping up to hit that E and landing on an F or a D by accident. And while Chopin himself had a “small sound” even given the piano of his day and may have had that in mind when he was balancing the solo part against the orchestra, Binienda always managed the right balance, particularly when both hands were playing simultaneously at the extremes of the keyboard, very difficult to maintain.

Not many pianists get to realize even this much of a dream: born in Poland and raised on Chopin’s music, here he is, the same age when Chopin wrote and performed this music, playing it for a live audience (and having written a concerto of his own, besides). But it’s quite possible, ten years down the road, he may not have time in his schedule to play in Harrisburg again (certainly his fee will be higher, then), but at least this time, no one in the audience was complaining, “whoever heard of... Konrad Binienda?"
Dick Strawser, Harrisburg Symphony Blog

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Radio

Chopin: Concerto for Piano no 1 in E minor, B 53/Op. 11
Binienda: Suite In The Style of Bach
Debussy: Etudes (12) for Piano


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