Paul Ulanowsky Quotes

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In a 1963 article in
The Piano Teacher titled ``On Musicianship and Style,'' Ulanowsky wrote:

      ``It is very difficult at times to discriminate between the legitimate, artistically acceptable, or at least debatable, reflection of a composer's work in the facets of the player's personality on the one side, and its erratic or downright irresponsible disfigurement on the other, except in its most conspicuous outgrowths. For proper judgement, we would have to rely on a very well developed sense of values, of balance and proportion, in addition to specific information concerning history, style, scope, and content of the music we are listening to. All these ingredients serve in their various departments as yardsticks for inherent limitations on individual freedom of movement and digression....

      ``As we discover various discrepancies between the original score and its performances (some highly imaginative and supra-original editions of standard literature belong in this field of consideration), we find that some are far-reaching extensions of the composer's intent, while others are outright contradictions of it. Such liberties have a compelling authority when they come from the head and hands of a master; they may be based on a logic which deviates from that of the Urtext [original score], but as they are organically developed from the same point of departure, they are artistically defensible to a degree, even though they seldom represent a demonstrable improvement.

      ``The real damage, of course, happens when a neophyte sees fit to adopt such a variant, or worse, only part of it, without possessing the same personality, authority, and penetration of the subject that is manifest in his model. Upon inquiry as to the raison d'etre of these cuckoo's eggs in the performance, we will be told, `That's how X played it on this record or in this recital.' ''

In the same article cited above, after a humorous section on ultra-slow tempi, he wrote:

      "We must also be on guard against the glorification of speed, especially where it merely serves to show Technique Triumphant. It is a hard and sad fact that excessive speed triumphs not only over problems of execution but also over music itself. Speed is a poor substitute for spirit or any nicety of detail which needs a certain minimum of time to manifest itself. Responsibility for this very conspicuous trend in our concert halls must be borne by those virtuosi who set the pace with their dazzling tempi and exert an insidious pressure of professional and, let us admit it, commercial character on their colleagues to enter the race. This phenomenon is not limited to virtuoso literature where its existence is arguable but has wormed its way into the precincts of chamber music where it wreaks its proportionate havoc, more's the pity."

From a 1962 interview with Studs Terkel:

   ``I think the most important thing, is the honesty with which you try to identify yourself with the composer, or, when it comes to the vocal literature, with the composer and poet. To go back to what they wanted to put down in their combined work of sound and word, to go to the ends of your imagination in recreating the atmosphere out of which they have written this particular song, and then transmit it in terms of your own perception, as well as in terms of your own artistry and vocal or instrumental gifts, still, however, trying to be their spokesman, rather than consider whatever you do as a playground for your personal endowment. If you do that, and if you keep that foremost in your work, I think the rest will take care of itself. It's just a matter of schooling and education.''

To listen to the interview, click here.


In Lotte Lehmann's  farewell speech to her New York Town Hall audience, after thanking various managers and friends, she spoke of her friend and accompanist thus:

      ``Paul Ulanowsky has been the ideal accompanist for me. We understood each other musically in perfect time; and always, when I sang with him, it was as if the hands of an angel have supported me. [Turning to him:] Now don't you get conceited! I only mean you were an angel when you played; otherwise you were not so angelic. He has a very keen sense of humor, and you can believe me, that is a great asset on concert tours, where many incidents happen where one gets hysterical and upset, but he smoothed out everything, and he always made me laugh, and he turned every tragedy into a joke. So, really, he's quite a wonderful guy! I hope that my successors, who will sing with him in the future, will be as happy with him as I have been, musically and personally. Thank you, Paulchen.''
      Ulanowsky recalled and explained the final moments of that recital, in which he completed the final encore, Schubert's An die Musik, as Lehmann was unable to, at the beginning of his interview with Studs Terkel (link above).


         Portraits of Lehmann and PAU on my piano

Portraits on my piano. The inscription on Lehmann's portrait reads, "To Paulchen  ̶  my ideal accompanist, my dear companion through all these years of sunshine and dark "veils..."
Gratefully   ̶  ̶  ̶
Lotte Lehmann
1937  ̶  1951.

Ulanowsky was reportedly proud of his Ohio College-Conservatory commencement speech  ̶  and justly so. Today, it shows remarkable prescience as well as insight.

Click here to read it.

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