Schnitzel and Sushi
by Janina Fialkowska
The Comparative Merits of Schnitzel and Sushi at 65
As I slowly approach my 65th birthday, which happens to be in May and which I share with Messrs Tchaikowsky and Brahms (perhaps a good thing?), I tend to find myself combating a tendency to reflect on my past.
"Live in the present!" I say, because there is certainly enough going on now, and to dwell on the past is an admission of declining curiosity ... the death-knell to creativity and relative happiness. Is 65 the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? I'd hazard a guess that it is right in the thick of things and this is exactly how I shall tackle it.
Already in January I was feeling like a youngster, grey hair, wrinkles and all, having fun running my own Academy/Festival in the Bavarian town of Marktoberdorf- which means gorgeous views of the Alps from every window of the Academy building. The five days were pure self-indulgence; throughout 2015 I had looked for exceptional young talent and I had found it during the course of sitting on three international piano competition juries ( Tromse, the Honens in Calgary , and the Liszt in Weimar) and giving Master Classesin Greece. I tend to invite those who, to my ears, deserve many first prizes but don't always get them. I will not go into Competition pros and contras here.....suffice it to say, unintentional injustices happen. So I was deliriously happy listening to wise Tolga Un from Turkey, sensitive Florian Glemser from just down the road in Wurzburg, brilliant Henry Kramer from Massachussetts, Charles Richard Hamelin-my Canadian pride and joy, and Vitaly Pisarenko, my favourite young Russian.
Immediately afterwards I flew to Japan. My seven days were enveloped in a cloud of jet lag, Chopin, kindness kelp. I battled with chopsticks and won although it still puzzles me why a lonely grain of rice on my platewhich I would totally ignore in the West, becomes an irresistible challenge in the fork-less East.
My recital programs in Nagoya and Tokyo were all- Chopin. After Poland it is perhaps Japan who loves Chopin most fervently so, with admirable instruments to play on, attentive audiences and lovely Halls, it was hard to fail.
Throughout I was shepherded around through the haze of jet-lag by my absurdly generous former pupil (from Juilliard) Keiko and by my indomitable manager Yuichi who , upon discovering one evening that Iliked eating the grilled eels he had ordered for me ( they taste like smoked duck) got rather over-excited and for the rest of my stay plied me with such delicacies as raw sea urchin, raw anything with fins and various other exotic creatures who tend to live under rocks and boats in the sea of Japan and whose identity remain a mystery to me. I certainly felt healthy enough after eating all that seaweed.
The students I taught the day after my Tokyo recital were talented and charming...in fact, everyone was charming and delightfully respectful towards me. I loved my trip to Japan but I am so happy to be back home again with Harry for a few days before the next adventure.