Barbara Wysocka and Michał Zadara’s Chopin Without Piano, which was performed at Philadelphia’s Fringe Arts last week, begins like an ordinary orchestral concert. A conductor and a soloist bow in front of an orchestra; the soloist sits behind a grand piano, and the orchestra begins to play Chopin’s e minor piano concerto.
But, as its title suggests, Chopin Without Piano takes a turn when the piano would enter. Instead of playing, the “pianist” begins to declaim the piano part, words replacing the piano’s voice. What follows is a wide-ranging reflection on Chopin’s life, legacy, and place in official Polish culture–as well as, of course, consideration of the concertos themselves. The text, by Wysocka (who performs it as the “pianist”) and Zadara (who directed) is assembled from Chopin’s letters, writings about Chopin, writings from Chopin’s day, and more contemporary work.