2017. április 24., hétfő

Interview with Ewa Jaślar for Harpa Magazine

Ewa Jaślar
You have a long professional experience in harp playing. What have been the main stations of your curriculum?

After graduating from the Academy of Music in Warsaw where I was studying harp with Prof. Janina Rzeszewicz I went to Hartford, Connecticut in the U.S. to represent Poland at the First International Harp Competition organized by Aristid von Würtzler at the Hartt College of Music at the University of Hartford (1969). As a result of this competition, I was offered a one ear scholarship to study harp with Prof. von Würtzler. One year later the New York Harp Ensemble was born, and we moved to New York. There I enrolled as a graduate student at NYU and received my American Master Degree in 1974. In 1978 I had my solo début at the Carnegie Recital Hall, and a year later I began my postgraduate studies at NYU towards my PhD.

How did the foundation of the New York Harp Ensemble happen?

The NYHE was the brainchild of Aristid von Würtzler who was inspired by the number of young, talented and hard working harpists who came from behind the “iron curtain” and decided to stay in the USA. So I was the initial member of this group together with his wife, also Polish - Barbara Pniewska and two American sisters: Martha and Rebecca Flanery. Very soon the two sisters were replaced by a Czech harpist Dagmar Platilová and a Rumanian one - Dorela Maiorescu. In my opinion, it was the best combination - European members of the American harp group. We performed a lot, made numerous recordings, did radio and TV programs and travelled extensively. We worked on our repertoire and inspired composers to write for us thus enriching the harp literature. We had different managers around the world and for a couple of years, we belonged to Columbia Artists Management.

What were the most impressive performances you can remember?

Probably the most impressive performances were at the White House in Washington D.C. I played for three presidents – Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior, in Vatican for the Polish Pope John Paul II and in presidential palaces of Tegucigalpa (Honduras), Bogota (Colombia), Teheran (Iran) or places like Bombay, Manila, Shanghai, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur, plus a memorable concert tour of Canada and northwest USA in place of Four Harps from the Soviet Union (1978). Also, the concert tour around the world that lasted 10 weeks and took us to most wonderful places. And still another one of Central and South America... I believe that the time will come when I will sit down and write my memoirs - just like everybody else.

President Bush, First Lady and New York Harp Ensemble
in the White House
How is the awareness, knowledge and use of the harp in the Polish musical life?

Harp is doing well in Poland. There are a number of good and excellent professional harpists for whom composers write new music and there are numerous schools of music where the harp is taught. New harp classes are sprouting around thanks to (among other factors) the possibility of harp rental from Salvi. At the moment the company is renting only the small, Celtic harps, but with the Camac competition, we might see in the future also bigger harps offered for rental or sold on instalments.

What did move you to create the Polish Harp Society?

I had lived in the US for 22 years and all that time I was a member of the American Harp Society. Reading the semi-annual AHS Journal was most enjoyable and educating. I would like to give our Polish harpists a similar tool that would help to learn about or from one another and would create a nationwide net of harpists. The main goal of the Polish Harp Society is to assist the young generation of harpists in finding their own place in the musical life of Poland and/or Europe.

With His Holiness John Paul II at the Vatican
What are the structure and the persons involved?

Polskie Towarzystwo Harfowe – PTH (Polish Harp Society) is really the Harp Society of Poland because our members are not only harpists but also people who are our friends and give us their support. They are mostly the parents of our pupils, but also prominent figures from the city council of Cieszyn and Katowice - the two towns that are most vividly engaged in the promotion and development of the PTH at the moment. But our society is trying to gather all harpists in Poland and in big places like Warszawa or Krakow we would like to have our branches. And since there are harpists who are ready and willing to work under the auspices of the PTH I see a bright future ahead. The Harp Society of Poland is and organisation that gathers not only professional harpists and harp students but also people who are interested in promoting and supporting the harpists’ endeavours. The organisation has its Board of Directors, advisory board – the founding members -, has its internet site www.harfa.pl and a quarterly bulletin. The Society’s headquarters are in Cieszyn where the PTH is given full support of the city council. Also, the Academy of Music in Katowice has become the Society’s partner.

Is there support from official and private institutions for the new Harp Society?

I believe that in 10 years time the Society will be successful in having as its members all Polish harpists living not only in Poland but also abroad. Since our main goal is staying in touch and giving our support to the new generation of Polish harpists I trust that this goal will unite us and will make the Society grow in number and importance.

Ewa Jaślar with students
What do you expect from the adherence to the EU for the musical life of your country?

Polish artists, musicians, intellectuals have always been known to contribute to world culture – not only European. So in this respect, nothing will change. But the EU will definitely open many a door for the young who will be able to seek diverse education and experience and later on work in the whole of Europe.

Ewa Jaślar, Ursula Dudziak jazz singer and students
What are your further professional plans?

I think I did enough in my professional life as an active performer and a globetrotter. Now I would like to help the young and ambitious harpists in getting ready for their musical careers. My other plan is to put together archives of Polish contemporary discography that would serve as a source of learning and inspiration for the young generation of harpists.

(Cieszyn, August 2, 2004)