Violinist Margot Zarzycka Bows Beautifully


Notes from Dale Jensen – On SMC’s January Concert

The Music Clubs of Sarasota and Manatee Counties shared the early goal of encouraging fine music performances in our small communities, both by local musicians and by bringing in professional performers from “outside,” meaning as far away as (gasp!) Tampa. As this involved a six-or-seven-hour slog through Florida swamps, probably in a horse-drawn wagon, it was No Minor Thing. So the program on this Friday morning fit right in, as the featured performer initially came all the way from (double gasp!) Europe.

Margot Zarzycka was born and musically trained in Poland. The traditional classical schooling she received there showed in her physical approach to the violin: the graceful right hand draped over the bow, the left hand making awkward stretches and lightning shifts look effortless. When asked about this afterwards, she said, “Really? I don’t even think about it.” Precisely the point! The early training was intended to make it possible for her to do the difficult things required to perform for us the challenging music of Brahms, Kreisler, Franck, Wieniawski, As some of those were violinists themselves, they knew what they were asking. That Zarzycka responded to their written notes with such skill and artistry is to her credit, and the credit of the generations of teachers that helped shape her.

Fritz Kreisler came onto the musical scene just as the Age of Recorded Music was blossoming. The early commercial records, pressings on fragile shellac discs, were limited to only three- or four-minutes’ duration. A single movement of a symphony or concerto could require four or five discs. Music intended for popular consumption was kept short enough to fit on one side of one disc. (So, no, people of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation did not necessarily just suffer from short attention spans!) Pop songs and dances were kept short. Kreisler, one the best concert violinists of his time, wrote many pieces to fit the time limits of those discs, and then presented them as having been written by an earlier, little-known master. Thus he “discovered” them, and was lauded as a fine music historian! As the years passed, his little trickery was revealed, and he became equally acclaimed for his composition skills.

Kreisler’s Liebesleid opened the program, followed by pieces by Brahms, Elgar, Wieniawski, and Franck, which, like the King’s daughters, were each more beautiful than the other.

Complicit in this sequence of auditory beauty was pianist Michael Stewart, a very skilled and sensitive collaborator. I hope to hear more from him! (Talking with him after the show, I found he was, indeed, the same Michael Stewart that taught at the Manatee School For The Arts alongside my daughter Laura for the last several years, both having succumbed to the lure of a steady living wage. Think of it, a teacher’s salary being a step up from a concertizing musician!)

Stewart was tied to the piano, but Zarzycka was free to move around, and she did, constantly dancing forward and back, and at the end of the concert, moving down to the center aisle and on, as though she were a Pied Piper. We in the audience would gladly follow her, all the way out of town!

Coming back onto the stage, she treated us to one of her extravagant bows, throwing her long hair over her head then sweeping it back with a flourish. Those of you who know me know why I find this so charming, and so difficult to emulate!