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February 28, 2003 - Image 72

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-28

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Arts & entertainment

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A Son's Tribute

Andrzej Szpilman, son of "The Pianist" Wladyslaw
Szpilman, releases CDs of his father's music.



"MON.,71

NAOMI PFEFFERMAN
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hen Andrzej Szpilman
was 12, he furtively rum-
maged through a chest
high on a shelf of a closed
wardrobe in his Warsaw home. Inside
the closet he found 10 copies of a book
and, recognizing his father as the author,
he hid one in his third-story bedroom.
"I read it and received a shock," said
Andrzej Szpilman, 46, a dentist and
record producer who emigrated to
Germany in 1983.
Music of The Pianist Wladyslaw
The book was Death of a City, his
Szpilman, recently released by
father Wladyslaw's grittily brutal, dis-
Universal's Hip-0 Records, is a well-
passionate 1946 memoir of hiding in
received collection of jazzy ditties
and around the Warsaw Ghetto.
Szpilman (1911-2000) wrote from the
Since Roman Polanski turned the
1930s to the 1960s.
book into the searing film The Pianist
"In the film, we see [Poles] helping
— which has won four National Society my father because they knew his
of Film Critics Awards in addition to
Chopin performances, but the real
best picture awards from the equivalent
reason most people knew him and hid
of the British and French Oscars —
him was from his hit songs," his son
Szpilman has become one of the best-
said. "He owes his survival to this kind
known Holocaust survivors in history.
of music."
But on that fateful
Last spring, with his
1968 day, his dramatic
friend Sherman Heinig,
story was news to his son.
a German music indus-
"He had never once spo-
try veteran based in Los
ken of his experience,"
Angeles, Andrzej
Andrzej Szpilman said.
Szpilman brought in
"He never even told me
producer/arranger John
he was Jewish. I think it
Leftwich, who had
hurt him to talk about it,
worked with Rickie Lee
because he survived and
Jones.
all his family perished."
Together they hired
`Music Inspired by the
The film is up for
writers to create new,
Motion Picture 'The
seven Academy Awards
English-language lyrics
Pianist' " includes the
next month.
and auditioned about 30
Gershwinesque
"Our family is deeply
singers before selecting
"Concertino for Piano and Canadian-born
moved and honored by
the Academy's support of Orchestra," which
chanteuse Wendy Lands.
Wladyslaw Szpilman
my father's story,"
The venture is unusual
Andrzej Szpilman added. wrote while languishing in because few scripted
the Warsaw Ghetto.
"We are proud to share
films have been able to
in these accolades with
generate non-soundtrack
Roman Polanski and the film's extraor- albums, according to Variety.
dinary cast and crew.
Andrzej Szpilman said he initially
"These nominations remember the
invested his own money in the project
heroism of the Polish Jews and the
because his father, while famous in
humanity of all those we lost in World
Poland, never had the chance to pro-
War II. Sixty years have passed, but we mote his work in the West.
must 'never forget."'
"His career was essentially [stunted]
by the Nazis and then the
Communists," he said. "But it was
Enjoying A Revival
painful for me that people thought of
More than three decades after he dis-
his music as only good enough for the

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covered his father's memoir hidden in
that wardrobe, Andrzej Szpilman has
made it his mission to bring his father's
life story out of the closet, literally.
In 1999, he spearheaded the reissue
of the memoir, which had been
banned by the Communist regime and
ultimately captivated Polanski.
When Polanski's screenplay depicted
his father only as a virtuoso pianist, he
produced CDs highlighting his father's
work as a classical composer and the
author of more than 500 pop songs.
The latest, Wendy Lands Sings the

ti

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