A Remembrance: Music and Spirit of a Great Artist
You will find recordings of her live performances on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-SnQ-ovD64. There is also an interview on You Tube with her regarding the 32 Piano Sonatas of Beethoven, which she performed in a complete cycle in each of numerous venues throughout the United States over two decades, along with several recordings of her live performances by other composers, such as Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, Ravel.
Other links of interest:
My sister, the pianist, Anne Koscielny, died, February 15, 2015, at her home in Heath, Massachusetts, in the presence of her daughter, Cecile, and me and her gentle health member, Ryan.
She had been diagnosed with incurable glio blastoma brain cancer on her 78th Birthday in May, following an operation to remove a tumor from her right frontal lobe.
Amazingly, she was able to perform a demanding concert in her home for 30 people a month later. However, her choice to have chemotherapy and radiation treatments interfered with her quality of life, and her energy began to decline, steadily, although her brilliant mind never faltered, her memory and sense of humor remaining intact.
Miraculously, she, her daughter, grand-daughter, and her son-in-law and I traveled to France in August. Her joy of being in Paris and Provence was worth all the difficulties associated with wheelchairs, international flights and connections, taxis, restaurant access, museums, and churches. She wished she could stay there, forever. And, so did we.
In her last weeks, when she spoke less often, she had said, in response to me, as I told her daughter I thought Anne was trying to teach all of us how to communicate without words, “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.” Of course, that was what she did so well, as a musician, and what I have also dedicated my life to doing as an artist. Listening, and looking, directly, into the eyes of our loved ones tells us much of what we need to know. One must open up silence to give and receive the message.
She gained courage in the face of something she had always feared, with her quest for the “answers” to the mysteries of life, and of death, continuing to the end.
The last few moments were peaceful and, as she took her final breaths, her beautiful aquamarine eyes brightened as she looked, directly, into mine. She was no longer afraid. Her soul passed out of her eyes, peacefully.
It was a sacred moment.
I am grateful for some of the more important lessons my older sister taught me throughout my life. Among these, were proper grammar, how to drive a car, the vast piano repertoire, musical taste in performance derived from listening to the masters of the art. Her greatest lesson was her last gift to me: how to die with grace.
A brief summary of her career follows:
Her career as a pianist spanned several continents: Europe: beginning in Poland, where she was a finalist in the 1960 Chopin Piano Competition, performing with orchestras in Warsaw and throughout Poland; Germany, Italy, Austria, London, England, where she debuted at Wigmore Hall; Brazil, South America; Taiwan, performing with the Taipei Symphony; The Peoples Republic of China; and the United States, where she debuted at Kennedy Center, performed at the National Gallery and the Phillips Gallery in Washington; in New York, where she won the Kosciusko Foundation Award, The Fulbright Award for study in Vienna; performing throughout the United States as a soloist as well as with orchestras, such as the Boston Pops, the National Gallery Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony, and The Jacksonville Symphony. Her perfomances were heard on NPR, as well.
She was an celebrated Professor of Music at the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Ct, for 27 years, and, beginning in 1987, at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she was invited to be Artist-in-Residence, becoming a Full Professor there, retiring in 2000.
Her former students came from all parts of the world. Many of them traveled to be with her during her illness, from Asia, Ireland, New York, Washington, Boston, Baltimore, and other cities, regardless of weather. Her colleagues, as well, made the difficult trek to the northwest corner of rural Massachusetts to be there with her, for support, and, finally, for her funeral on February 21, a day which ended in the silence of heavy snow.
She lived her life kindly, and well: a spontaneously joyous (often hilarious), generosity of spirit shared with friends, family, students, and audiences.