How about you? How do you see the collaboration with your family members?
Ewa Leszczyńska: It is definitely stressful and challenging. You need to be careful what you say and how you say it. We also deal with the additional baggage of our mom being such an experienced and accomplished musician. I thus find it more difficult to pose my own suggestions. I am sure this is somehow connected with the defiance coming from a peculiar nature of the mother-daughter or younger-older sister relationship. My sister is a very talented young musician, and her playing is out of this world, but her personality is as strong as our mother’s. My role in this trio is to alleviate all conflicts. The moment we go on stage, however, all tensions disappear and something unfathomable connects us all. This is most beautiful! Our toil during rehearsal pays off.
Is playing with your family as difficult for you as it is for your mom and sister?
Maria Leszczyńska: On the one hand, it is easier because we know each other so well, but sometimes we have a short fuse. When we play with other people, even with friends, it is easier to keep a distance.
Have you ever managed to convince your mother to your music vision?
ML: I try doing it all the time [laughs]. Yes, sometimes I get it through. My mom and I have similar personalities—we want everything our way. But we are all open to suggestions, and we strive to get consensus so that each of us is comfortable in her playing. This is really important.
Passing on the Baton
with members of the Multi Trio,
Ewa Pobłocka (piano),
Ewa Leszczyńska (soprano, piano)
and Maria Leszczyńska (cello, piano)
By Bożena U. Zaremba
Bożena U. Zaremba: As a 12-year-old student in a music school, you started accompanying your mother, a classical music singer, on the piano. Now you play with your two daughters. Can you see any difference?
Ewa Pobłocka: Definitely, because whereas I listened to my mother, my children contest everything.
So it is more difficult?
EP: Exactly. The generation gap is enormous. I was used to a notion that everything my parents said was sacred. I tried to raise my children in the same way, but they always want to have it their own way. Then again, I must say that this collaboration brings me a lot of satisfaction. Let me assure you that I don’t play with my daughters just because they are my daughters, but because they are both very sensitive musicians. They are inquisitive and interested in the world around them and in music. They don’t consider playing or singing merely a profession; they treat it with passion, so it is worthwhile to invest time in such people.
I conclude you are pleased that your daughters chose a career in music?
EP: I will say this: As a musician, I am, but as a woman, I am not sure, because only I know what my life looked like on the other side of the stage. It is not so simple. It is especially difficult nowadays as everything needs to be done faster—you need to make decisions faster, get to recitals faster, and you have to even play faster [laughs]. In the past, I could afford to sit at a window and watch the rain, while young people today don’t give themselves this time.
How did you manage to be a successful musician and a mother at the same time?
EP: I tried. The moment I dashed home from the airport, I put on the “mother suit,” trying to make up for the time I was gone. It does not work that way, though, because you need to be there for your children regularly. You need to have time to talk to them, and to listen. In this profession, you need to choose—either you spend more time practicing or more time talking to your children.
Did you try to get them interested in things outside of music?
EP: To be honest, in our home, there was no time for anything else, because we are all musicians and our life revolves around music, either making music or organizing musical events (that’s my husband’s job), such as opera shows, concerts, or festivals. On the other hand, my career has taken a slightly different path these days than, let’s say, fifteen years ago, and I now give myself more time to do things I didn’t have time for. For example, I will stay at a museum longer, rather than just dash in and out only to check it off.
How did it come about that Mikołaj Górecki and Roxanna Panufnik wrote compositions especially for your trio?
EP: Our trio is unusual, first, because I have not heard of a mother dragging her two daughters on stage [laughs], but also because of the lineup: piano, soprano, and cello. When we created our ensemble a few years ago and worked on our repertoire, we hit a wall, because there was nothing to play. We found one or two 19th-century pieces, and also asked a composer to transpose Schubert’s songs, but it was really an ersatz. At one point, I realized that we need to ask someone to write music especially for us. I decided on Mikołaj Górecki, because I know and like his music. This choice was purely instinctive. I met with him and told him who we are, what we are capable of, and what we are all about. I also told him about our distinctive personalities. Roxanna Panufnik was an automatic choice since I used to play her father’s compositions. It turned out that she had written compositions to Shakespeare’s texts for an English tenor, and so she adapted them for us. These compositions will debut in Poland in a few days, but the American premiere will take place during our U.S. tour.
Mikołaj Górecki is a son of the renowned composer Henryk Górecki. Roxanna Panufnik’s father Andrzej Panufnik was a fantastic composer as well. Now you are passing the baton to your daughters.
EP: I was just thinking about that today, about those connections, not only family but personal as well. I think it will all play out during our concerts. Some things are difficult to put into words, but they are revealed through emotions.
The program of your recitals—with pieces by Polish composers only—shows the depth of Polish classical music.
EP: Absolutely. We have rich repertoire of songs, solo pieces and chamber music. Interestingly, I presented two program options [to the organizers], the other one with an international repertoire, but everyone chose the program with entirely Polish music. We will eventually expand our repertoire, because these are fantastic concerts, though difficult, at least for me. The biggest problem is one mirror in the dressing room, as we all ladies want to look beautiful [laughs]. But on a serious note, I remember the reaction of the audience during the recitals with my mom, and those unique additional emotions. The audience can sense them perfectly.
Is your mother still the most important role model in music?
EL: Mother is simply a mother. I appreciate all her musical achievements and success, as well as her experience, but she is first and most of all my mother.
Why did you decide to be a singer rather than, like your mother, a pianist?
EL: Maybe because she is a pianist [laughs]. At the beginning I did not really have a choice. I simply started with the piano. Singing was my choice. Perhaps I really needed to make my own decision.
What kind of singing are you interested in—songs, opera or choral?
EL: I am interested in all forms of singing and in all kinds of music, although Baroque is my favorite period. I don’t like to be labeled and to limit myself to one kind of form. It is true that so far, I have focused on songs, but I have just had an important operatic debut in Semiramide riconosciuta by Leonardo Vinci, which has not been staged for 300 years.
Which singers have influenced you most?
EL: I have always appreciated Jessie Norman and Cecilia Bartoli; I also like a contemporary singer Dorothee Mields, who sings mainly Baroque music. But to tell you the truth, I have been more influenced by pianists, especially Dang Thai Song, Maria João Pires, Nelson Freire, and Martha Argerich.
What do you admire about them most?
EL: Phrasing. Also something that I would call a “non-instrumental” treatment of the instrument.
What do you value in Chopin’s songs? They say they are not easy to sing.
EL: It is true, because they are considered to be simple. It applies both to the singing and the accompaniment. But this is a misconception. Especially nowadays, all simple things are most difficult, and keeping the interest of the audience is exceptionally hard to do. It requires an effort on the singer’s part, as well as the audience’s, because we don’t deal with dazzling virtuoso arias.
How did you choose cello as your main instrument?
ML: I started with the piano, because it provides the basis for music, but as a child I always wanted to play the violin. It was my sister who convinced me to pick up the cello. And I fell in love with it.
Which cello players are your role models?
ML: My teachers, Professor Marcin Zdunik and Professor Andrzej Bauer, have been most instrumental and inspiring. If we talk about international players, I would say Gautier Capuçon and Jacqueline du Pré have been most influential. Unfortunately, Jacqueline du Pré is no longer alive, but what she left behind is unbelievable.
Did you ever think of a profession outside of music?
ML: Of course. When I was considering middle school, I wanted to go to the art school; I wanted to be a painter. But I settled for music, which was hard to escape.
Do you listen to music other than classical?
ML: Yes, I do, even though I was brought up with listening to classical music. When I prepare for a recital or competition, I often listen to pop music, which works as a stress relief.
What do you think about the compositions written specifically for your trio?
ML: This is very cool. It is a new experience for me, because I have never played pieces written just for us. It is fantastic to go deep into a composition which has never been performed before. I have always worked on pieces that have been played, recorded, and analyzed, and here, we are in a sense creating the template for other people to follow—or defy.
You will be graduating from high school next year. What next? Music academy?
ML: Definitely. I am not sure where, though. Many people try to convince me to study abroad. Maybe it will happen one day, but right now, I need to start from where I am, where I have been raised. Then we will see.
Do you want to have a solo career?
ML: I would love to. I love to be on stage. It is my dream to play with a philharmonic orchestra— to bow, sit down, and play the whole cello concerto. This must be an incredible feeling.