Tomasz Górny, one of the two pianists of the Piano Etudes, was born in Zebrydowice, in Poland, 1985. This village is situated close to the Czech border. Before the First World War, this area had been part of the Hungarian-Austrian empire. After the war it became Polish. During the Second World War the area became German, and although most of the inhabitants were speaking German, from an earlier period they considered themselves under German occupation, after 1945 it became Polish again. All these languages and cultures have influenced this region. The school was in Cieszyn, exactly on the border, the river Olza went through the middle of the town, one side Czech, the other side Polish.
The religion was mainly protestant in contrast with the mainly catholic Poland. Before the war there was also a huge Jewish community. All these geographical, historical, religious and cultural influences have contributed to the tolerance in this area; each identity being built up from many layers. This was an area in which people were living together sharing different languages, backgrounds and beliefs, with an open mentality.
Tomasz’ father worked in a mine; he had to make the won gas useable. His mother worked in a small grocery, a mini supermarket avant la lettre. Tomasz has an elder sister and a younger brother.
How is it possible that a boy like him, without a specific musical background, has entered this path of music? He told me that he always felt attracted to music especially as an acolyte in the church, listening the organ music. Absorbed by these sounds, he decided during his fifteenth year, I have to start making music myself; it’s now or never. He approached the organist Pan Zbyszek Foltyn, the only one he knew to have an entrance to music and he asked him if he could teach him to play the organ as well. The man was amused and surprised, asked a week’s time to consider and after the week Tomasz was allowed to learn to play the organ, lessons being after the weekly ceremony. The man did in fact play the violin and was not trained to play the organ, but he was very musical and stimulated the young boy. He became his first master and immediately a very good one, not only teaching him technically, but also paying attention to his life development, in this way he became a mentor.
Tomasz’s route went via the secondary school to the music school in Krákow, to study organ, without his family and friends, in a big strange city. In the meantime he studied literature at the university. This literary choice was not that strange, because in his parents home had perhaps not much music but always a lot of books. His father, just as his grandfather, read a lot. The heritage of the grandfather consists only out of books.
In Krákow he matured, with good teachers around, not only for the organ but also to learn to play the piano. One teacher, Celstuna Koziak had a big influence on him, a very empathic women, with whom he had conversations all the time, and also a good teacher in techniques and the feeling for music. She often gave assignments close by the extreme of his capabilities, in fact a continuous challenge to extend his borders. He also learned in that period to play before an audience. He told me he is still in contact with her, visiting her regularly when he is in Krákow. He also mentions her as a master, with a lot of respect, speaking of her as Madame Professor.
This is characteristic for all Tomasz’ masters, also later on, they became music teachers in life itself. This constantly fed his curiosity and pushed him to search beyond the borders. The child of the border would not be stopped. It’s not that surprising that he crossed my way in the Piano Etudes, or maybe it is, because what is the role of chance…
photo: Marta Golebiowska