Weather permitting, Polish pianist Marcin Koziak, 24, could bike over to Bass Performance Hall from his home in Fort Worth. (We don’t recommend it—creases the suit.) Koziak (along with Texas-based pianist Alex McDonald—bio to come) is just one of two Cliburn competitors who live in the area: since last year, he’s been a student at Texas Christian University under the tutorship of pianist Tamas Ungar, though he continues to be affiliated with the Academy of Music in Krakow as well.
If Koziak were the tour guide for his temporary Texas home, where would he take out-of-town visitors (say, young pianists from across the globe)?
“I would recommend the Stockyards rodeo,” he says. “It is a place very connected with Texan culture.”
Koziak was born into a musical family in Krakow, and remembers making his orchestral debut with the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra at age 11.
“That was very special,” he says. “Everybody in my family was nervous about how it would go, but the performance went well. I was playing a piano concert written by a Polish composer who mostly was known for writing music for cartoons and movies for children. And there were also other performers, children from Japan who played other pieces with the orchestra. I was the only boy from Krakow, so I felt like a very important person!”
Koziak seems to have a knack for landing unusual and interesting concert dates. In 2011, he gave a special recital for Queen Silvia of Sweden and the First Lady of Poland, Anna Komorowska—and two months later played for a grand concert in Rome to celebrate the first Polish president of the European Union. And then there was the very special day last year…when he got to play at the London Olympic Games.
The Polish Olympic Committee, remembering that ancient Olympic Games also included music competitions, decided to honor Polish music and culture by inviting two of the nation’s best young pianists—Marcin Koziak and Pawel Wakarecy—to play a duo concert.
“It was a special experience,” Koziak recalls. “We played in Cadogan Hall, a great hall in London with wonderful acoustics. It was like a musical dialogue. I would play one piece, then Pawel the next, and so on. And so sitting on stage we were not just performers, we were also listening to another artist. This was something different from my previous experience.”
Koziak has performed extensively throughout Europe, Japan and the United States, and was a semifinalist at the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2010. He says he “truly and deeply loves many masters who composed for piano” and can’t pick just one or two.
“In Bach’s music, I especially admire that his music is fulfilled by prayer,” he says. “In Chopin’s music, it is the noble Romantic spirit. In Brahms, there is strength and introverted depth; in Debussy’s music, colors and imagination; and in Rachmaninoff’s, Russian unstopped emotionality.” And when he isn’t listening to classical, he finds himself “widening my horizons” by listening to jazz; favorites are Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, but he adds “I also love Bobby McFerrin, who is a real artist sharing good energy with the people.”
Just before the Cliburn competition begins, Koziak will be in Houston for a recital given as a tribute to the late Van Cliburn.
“Van Cliburn was a great person and artist,” he says. “His sensitivity in music and in life was powerful…and because of his recordings, his music is still multiplying goodness in the world.”
◊ Here is a video of Marcin Koziak playing Chopin in 2010:
Marcin Koziak's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire:
Preliminary Recital, Phase I
CHOPIN Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat Minor, op. 31
CHOPIN Nocturne in F-sharp Major, op. 15, no. 2
SZYMANOWSKI Mazurkas, op. 50, nos. 1-4
RACHMANINOV Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, op. 36 (1931)
Preliminary Recital, Phase II
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, op. 13 "Pathetique"
BRAHMS Sonata No. 1 in C Major, op. 1
DEBUSSY Preludes, Book I
CHOPIN Polonaise in A-flat Major, op. 53
BRAHMS Piano Quintet in F Minor, op. 34
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, op. 23
◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here.