The Peabody Institute held a wonderful recital this weekend by pianist and Peabody student Tomasz Robak and his colleagues Mateusz Strzelecki, a violinist, and Christopher Hartung, a baritone singer at Peabody.
Their musicality and the hard work they put into their playing were evident throughout the entire performance. The program consisted of works by Beethoven and Schumann.
Tomasz Robak, student of critically acclaimed Professor Alexander Shtarkman, is a doctoral candidate at Peabody.
Raised in North Carolina and currently working as a departmental collaborative pianist at Davidson College, Robak holds degrees from Rice University (B.A., B.M.’13) and Peabody (M.M.’15). He is also a recipient of a 2018-19 Fulbright Scholarship to go to Poland, where he studied at the Academy of Music.
His achievements as a soloist include solo performances with numerous orchestras, including the New North Shore Chamber Orchestra, the Memphis Repertory Orchestra, the Manassas Symphony Orchestra and the Southwest Symphony Orchestra. His solo debuts extend to various cities across the U.S., including Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Memphis and Washington, D.C., and also in various countries, including Poland, Austria and Germany.
Robak has received recognition in several competitions over the years, including winning the Grand Prix at the 32nd Polish Tournament of Foreign Scholarship Holders, an honorable mention at the 1st International Chopin Competition and second prize at the International Beethoven Sonata Competition and the American Prize concerto category.
Witnessing such a talented musician deliver a moving performance live on campus was a great privilege and an educational experience. He was deeply immersed in the music throughout the performance, and his full dedication was nothing short of inspiring.
Being an accomplished concert pianist has its perks, one of them being the company of distinguished colleagues with whom to collaborate. The violinist, Masteusz Strzelecki, flew all the way from Poland just to play in his friend’s recital. Strzelecki is a doctoral student at the Academy of Music in Poland and studies with musician Tomasz Krol. He has performed all over the world; some of the countries he has toured in include Russia, China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam.
Strzelecki and Robak performed Beethoven’s Sonata No. 5 in F major, better known as the “Spring” sonata. Known as one of Beethoven’s major works of the first of his three compositional “periods,” its graceful melodies demand full orchestral knowledge as well as experienced Classical Era-style playing.
Personally, this is one of my favorite Beethoven sonatas that are in a major key. I remembered how much intent and focus was required of this sonata when I had played it. Strzelecki really played it beautifully and did the piece justice. Not only that, but there was also a strong emotional connection between the two players that elevated their level of performance of this sonata.
Second and last on the program that night was a piece by Schumann called “Dichterliebe.” Robak and his colleague, Christopher Hartung, truly mastered this long and challenging piece in which the lyrics were all in German.
Dichterliebe, which translates to “A Poet’s Love,” was inspired by Schumann’s love affair with Clara Wieck, whom he finally was to marry in September of 1840. “Dichterliebe” was known to have originally included 20 songs but was eventually published as a setting of 16 selections from Heinrich Heine’s 65-poem collection, Lyrisches Intermezzo. Hartung and Robak performed the entire “Dichterliebe,” and it was truly an astounding rendition. As beautiful and showy as the piano part is in this piece, the vocals and German lyrics were likely just as challenging, if not more.
Hartung is a senior at Peabody and studies under the tutelage of Steven Rainbolt. A candidate in the accelerated Master of Music program, he has been seen in almost all of the Peabody operas, including the popular Pride and Prejudice this past year, and made his great breakthrough as a local soloist in Bernstein’s MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers last year.
Outside of opera, Hartung has recently been seen as a soloist in the “Bernstein on Broadway“ series, the Mozart C Minor Mass and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Symphonic Chorus.
To have such wonderfully talented musicians in Baltimore and to watch them collaborate at such advanced levels was nothing but refreshing and educational. I would highly recommend attending any of their upcoming recitals or showings and would like to congratulate Robak on a successful Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) performance.