Igor Lipinski at the Lakes Area Music Festival in Minnesota

On August 2, 2015, Igor Lipinski performed a highly successful orchestral version of his music & magic show entitled “Symphonic Magic” with the Lakes Area Music Festival Orchestra. According to Brainerd Dispatch, Lipinski’s performance of “Symphonic Magic” brought out the largest audience since the beginning of the festival. The following interview was published by the Lakes Area Music Festival on July 31, 2015. Photo credit: David Boran.

Tell us about your background. Where are you from? How did you get into music? Where and how did you train?
I was born in Tarnow, a small town in southern Poland, sixty miles east of Krakow. I went to a performing arts high school. In my junior year, I won an audition for the role of a pianist in a theater play production at the University at Buffalo. Before the final dress rehearsal, I traveled to Rochester, New York and visited Eastman School of Music for the first time. I fell in love with the school and applied there the following year. I came to Eastman in 2005 and graduated with my BM and MM in Piano Performance in 2011. In 2012, I moved to Evanston, Illinois where I’m currently finishing a DMA in Piano Performance at Northwestern University. I’m writing my doctoral thesis on the performance practice of the most extraordinary pianists of the past: From Liszt to Victor Borge: A Legacy of Unique Piano Performances.

How did you develop your programs? Where did the idea to combine magic and music come from?
As musicians we sometimes forget about the most important aspect of performing in front of people: making a meaningful, lasting connection with the audience, creating a sense of wonder. Classical music is a bridge that connects with people on a very intimate level. Magic shares the same qualities, but differs in one principal aspect. Music is essentially an auditory experience while magic relies on the visual stimuli. I realized that a clever, visual magic can amplify audience’s appreciation of a complex musical work. In addition, magic brings back the much needed level of interaction between the performer and the audience so familiar to the nineteenth-century concert goer, but often forgotten in the twenty-first century concert hall. As a side effect, the new audio-visual collaboration becomes an engaging and memorable concert experience.

I owe interest in magic to my great-grandfather. He wasn’t a professional magician per se, but I vividly remember him entertaining the kids in our family with a few simple magic tricks. When he passed away, I inherited a book on card magic from his drawer. I was just six years old and that’s when it all started. I was essentially self-taught. There were only a few books written on magic in Polish so I had to learn English in order to learn the new techniques and meet other magicians. I traveled to magic conventions and performed at festivals throughout the Europe, from France to Czech Republic. When I was sixteen, I went to Dubai, United Arab Emirates to give sixty shows at the Dubai Summer Surprises Festival.

My heart, however, has always been with music. During my undergraduate years, along with completing my piano performance degree, I enrolled in an honors program with an ambitious senior project: I was finally going to combine my lifetime interest in magic with a piano recital. I worked with a theater director from the University of Rochester, I researched performance techniques of the nineteenth-century artists, conceived the script and premiered “An Evening of Music & Magic” in 2009. I sent the DVD of the performance to my friend Harold Weller, Conductor Laureate of Las Vegas Philharmonic, who in turn forwarded it to Teller of the Las Vegas magicians duo Penn & Teller. Teller, a one-of-a-kind performer and one of the most inspiring minds in magic, invited me to Vegas where we created a piece of magic based on a fugue by J.S. Bach that won the 2011 WQXR Classical Comedy Contest at Caroline’s on Broadway.

What are some recent projects you are particularly proud of? Any upcoming shows you’re looking forward to?
I’m fortunate to be constantly working on new ideas for the show. I love collaborating with orchestras and have worked on wonderful concerts with an immensely creative conductor Jung-Ho Pak and the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra. In the upcoming season, I’m making my concerto debut at the Symphony Hall in Chicago and I’m taking my show to New York City and Hong Kong, among other places. I’m also working on an all-consuming book project based on my doctoral research.

Why music? What do you think makes classical music valuable in today’s world?
Two quotes come to mind. Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman once said that music is more than just an organized sound. Music is a flow of emotions organized in time. Musical work is an emotionally-charged story. By listening, learning and disseminating these stories with each other, music empowers us to connect, understand and strive to be better to one another. One of my mentors I have never met, Leonard Bernstein, said that “the best way to know a thing is to learn it in the context of another discipline.” Discovering the vast wealth of classical music can be a transformative experience to someone from outside of the music world: a medical student looking to become a virtuoso neurosurgeon, or a public school teacher searching for ways to inspire her students in the classroom. Finally, attending a live concert is a rare opportunity to focus, as simple as it sounds, on one activity, forgetting – if for a moment – the fast-paced hours of the day, disconnecting from the digital world and connecting with real people.

“Igor Lipinski: Magician at the Piano”

The following article written by Jana Hanchett was published on March 13, 2014 at the Oregon Artswatch.

In his Northwest debut on Friday, pianist Igor Lipinski will bring with him a love of Polish composers, of theater and magic — and of surprises. “I don’t reveal the repertoire until the night of the concert,” he says. “I value the element of surprise. I’m always introducing pieces from the stage in fashion of Franz Liszt’s first piano recitals, especially his 1839 Monologues Pianistique in Rome.”

While audience members at Portland’s Polish Hall will be kept guessing what particular pieces by Chopin, Paderewski, Stojowski, Leschetizky, Godowsky, and Friedman he will play next, Lipinski indicates that all of them were composed for a salon-type atmosphere in which people gathered for drinks, conversation, and pleasantries.

“As musicians we sometimes forget about the most important aspect of performing in front of people: making a meaningful, lasting connection with the audience, creating a sense of wonder,” Lipinski explains. “Leonard Bernstein said that the best way to ‘know’ a thing is in the context of another discipline. My piano career, my background in theatre, and my lifetime interest in magic performance are all connected. I’m inspired by the sheer human interaction that the world of theatre provides, hence — I hope — this makes my own performances more accessible and breaks that fourth wall of superficiality so often attached to the piano recital format of recent years.”

The evening would not be complete without some actual Lipinski magic. Along with majoring in piano performance at New York’s Eastman School of Music, Lipinski also enrolled in an innovative, one-of-a-kind honors program that culminated in a senior project: incorporating magic into a classical music concert.

I wanted to tell a story hidden behind a piece of music with a visual aspect of an interactive magic,” he recalls. “It does sound crazy, I agree. Over two years, I participated in a series of independent studies with a theatre director, I researched performance techniques of the 19th century artists, conceived the script for the 75-minute concert and premiered it to the sold-out house. The DVD of the performance was forwarded to Teller (of the brilliant Las Vegas magician duo Penn & Teller) by my friend Hal Weller, conductor emeritus of Las Vegas Philharmonic. Teller was kind enough to call me and invite me to Las Vegas. It turned out that he loves Bach, so we worked together on a routine that involves a Bach fugue, a deck of cards and a random spectator from the audience. It won the 2011 WQXR Classical Comedy Contest at Caroline’s on Broadway. You may even see it on Friday at the Polish Hall.” But you never know; Lipinski likes surprises.

“Pianist dazzles with Rhapsody”

The following article written by Leanne Heaton was published in the Butler Eagle on February 10, 2014.

Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff as performed by pianist Igor Lipinski was truly the star of the Celestial Fantasy concert of the Butler County Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night at the Butler Intermediate High School.

Rachmaninoff was a brilliant composer and pianist who was notorious for writing extremely difficult piano concerti as exemplified in the 1996 film “Shine,” which suggested that the strain of a performance of the “Rach 3” triggered the mental breakdown of an aspiring Australian pianist. Fortunately, Lipinski suffered no dire consequences from his masterful playing of the 24 variations. The nine-note theme was introduced by the trumpets and accented by the piano at the beginning of the first variation. Each subsequent variation was distinctly different in style and allowed Lipinski to showcase his dazzling versatility. He shifted minute by minute from crisp to lyrical to melancholy to grandiose with aplomb. One moment he played with frantic speed, lapsed into a languid theme, then a brisk march or a sweeping waltz and ended with a grandiose final movement that ended with a sudden sweet, almost humorous, pair of quiet notes. Variation 18 brought sighs of pleasure to the audience as they recognized the romantic theme that was used in the film “Somewhere in Time”.

As an encore, Lipinski offered Chopin’s “Nocturne in C Sharp” which was a favorite of Rachmaninoff. His control and interpretation were exquisite.

Igor Lipinski, Chopin i Fazioli – perfect match!

The following article written in Polish by Barbara Bilszta is a review of Igor Lipinski’s recital for the Chicago Chopin Society at the salon of Piano Forte Foundation that was published on October 25, 2013 in the Monitor Chicago.

Utalentowany pianista utwierdza nas w przekonaniu, że ma wiele do przekazania słuchaczom. Polska muzyka fortepianowa i Chopin, jakiego jeszcze nie słyszeliśmy – to, ujmując krótko, program pięknego recitalu zorganizowanego 19 października przez Chicago Chopin Society w salonie koncertowym firmy Fazioli w Chicago.

Miałam to szczęście, że byłam w gronie słuchaczy recitalu fortepianowego Igora Lipińskiego, który odbył się 19 października w salonie Fundacji PianoForte w Chicago. Zostaliśmy uraczeni prawdziwą artystyczną ucztą, na którą złożyło się wiele elementów: program, wykonanie, miejsce, czas. Z radością dzielę się z Państwem szczegółami tego wieczoru.

Igor Lipiński jest pianistą, który, mimo młodego wieku, dokonuje świadomych, przemyślanych wyborów, wynikających zarówno ze zdobytych w najlepszych uczelniach umiejętności i wiedzy, jak i z własnych poszukiwań artystycznych oraz doświadczeń wielu pokoleń wirtuozów fortepianu. Potrafi dzielić się swą wiedzą i robi to w sposób miły i bezpretensjonalny – bez cienia nonszalancji, nawiązując przy tym doskonały kontakt z publicznością – nie dla poklasku, ale dla ukierunkowania uwagi i ułatwienia aktywnego słuchania.

Gra Lipińskiego jest piękna: spontaniczna, ale nie bez kontroli, świeża, ale doskonale przygotowana, wrażliwa, naturalna, efektowna, a przy tym daleka od efekciarstwa, imponująca, lecz nie nastawiona na popis – po prostu: wspaniała!

Niespodzianką był program przygotowany przez pianistę. Pierwszą część koncertu wypełniły utwory polskich pianistów-kompozytorów, w jakimś stopniu związanych także z Ameryką. Utwory – trzeba podkreślić – niebanalne, ciekawe, warte prezentacji i poznania.

Usłyszeliśmy Ignacego Paderewskiego Nokturn op. 16 nr 4 B-dur w zestawieniu z Nokturnem op. 9 nr2 Es-dur Chopina, Teodora Leszetyckiego Arię op. 36 nr 4 B-dur, Leopolda Godowskiego„Alt Wien from Triakontameron”, nr.11, Zygmunta Stojowskiego„Chant D’Aour”, Ignacego  Friedmana „Mazurek g-moll” w zestawieniu z Mazurkami Chopina. Ta swoista lekcja uświadomiła nam, jak wiele jest mało znanych kart w historii muzyki polskiej i jak ważne jest poznanie i popularyzowanie dorobku naszych twórców. Igor Lipiński czyni to w sposób wzorowy.

Drugą część koncertu wypełniły 24 „Preludia” Fryderyka Chopina. Słyszeliśmy je kilka tygodni temu w wykonaniu tego samego pianisty podczas spektakli „Tańcząc Chopina” z udziałem grupy baletowej LA Dancers z Oregonu. Wówczas wykonywana na żywo muzyka musiała odpowiadać potrzebom baletu – Igor Lipiński dostosował tempa do potrzeb tancerzy, aby mogli wykonywać we właściwym czasie skoki, piruety, podniesienia itp. Podziwialiśmy wówczas nie tylko wspaniałą technikę w forsowanych niekiedy tempach, ale też elastyczność, umiejętność błyskawicznej adaptacji, zmiany interpretacji na inną, zawsze sensowną muzycznie.

Tym razem usłyszeliśmy te same „Preludia” w interpretacji własnej artysty. Pamiętać trzeba, że są one najczęściej wykonywane pojedynczo lub po kilka, przy czym stanowią wyzwanie każde z osobna – nawet te, które trwają zaledwie kilkadziesiąt sekund.  Grane jako cały cykl są bardzo ryzykowne i kuszące zarazem: mogą obnażyć niedoskonałości, ale też mogą potwierdzić artystyczne mistrzostwo pianisty. Igor Lipiński wykonał je jako muzyczną całość, z kilkoma niewielkimi, zaledwie kilkusekundowymi pauzami. W Preludiach różnorodność charakteru, budowy, czasu trwania, użytych środków przekłada się w najlepszych wykonaniach na bogactwo nastrojów, klimatów, ekspresji – i w rezultacie na całą gamę przeżyć słuchaczy: od radosnych po głęboko wzruszające, i poruszające w dramatycznych porywach. Taki właśnie metafizyczny seans podarował słuchaczom Igor Lipiński. Długa owacja na stojąco i bis, a potem gorąca wymiana wrażeń po koncercie świadczą o tym, że odczucia innych słuchaczy były podobne.

Jednym z głównych tematów pokoncertowych rozmów i dyskusji był fortepian Fazioli. Dodam, że choć słyszałam o marce, tego wieczoru miałam po raz pierwszy okazję sprawdzić na własne uszy krążące o niej legendy i przyznać muszę, że fortepian Fazioli brzmi zachwycająco. Skala możliwości tego instrumentu jest niezwykła: rozpiętość barw – od jasnych, słonecznych w górnych partiach, do ciemnych, aksamitnych, głębokich – w najniższych; klawiatura reagująca na muśnięcie palcem, wytrzymuje doskonale także gwałtowne lawiny dźwięków w potężnym fortissimo; selektywność, a jednocześnie wyrównane brzmienie – wszystko to daje pianiście nieograniczone możliwości. Potwierdził to Igor Lipiński po koncercie przyznając, że kilka razy zaryzykował ekstremalną dynamikę gry czując, jak instrument „rozumie” jego intencje – i za każdym razem fortepian sprawdził się. Oczywiście nie omieszkaliśmy obejrzeć egzemplarze Fazioli zgromadzone w obszernym salonie sprzedaży. Opowiem Państwu więcej za tydzień. Pasjonująca historia (…)

“Gershwin tunes a lovely summer treat.”

This following article written by Garaud MacTaggart was published in the Buffalo News on July 22, 2012.

The BPO Summer Nights series showcases the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra playing short, well-crafted programs of symphonic bonbons combined with special pre- and apres-concert offerings; it’s a good way to spend the first part of a Friday evening (…) All of this led up to Lipinski’s take on the solo part in Gershwin’s most popular work, “Rhapsody in Blue.” From the first smear of a clarinet wailing, floating over the brass section and leading into the piano’s brief opening flurry of notes, the excitement packed into the score was made palpable. Thrilling as the music was, there were still parts where the piano role was obscured, albeit briefly, by the orchestra. The bottom line for the performance was the standing ovation that Lipinski got for his playing. It all added up to an encore, a solo rendering of Gershwin’s brief Prelude no. 3, a scripted flurry of notes that threatens to bust the knuckles of lesser pianists, but not Lipinski. The pianist, a talented magician/musician hybrid, made an appearance at the post-concert program, a swing dance-oriented affair, to perform his other art. It involved a deck of cards, a person from the audience who was dragooned to assist Lipinski, and the pianist playing a quick Bach fugue. You had to be there.