July 30, 1922 Kraków - July 1, 2001 Kraków
Winner first prize IV Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw (1949.) She was born into a family of musicians. Her father, Stanisław Schwarzenberg-Czerny, a student of Jerzy Lalewicz and Egon Petri, was a pianist and pedagogue, her mother was a pianist (a student of Egon Petri's, among others.) She began her studies at age five, under her father's tutelage. She gave her first public concert at the age of seven, on the Kraków transmission of Polish Radio. In 1934, she took part in the Competition for Young Talents in Warsaw, where the jury awarded her the Alfred Cortot prize, which consisted of a stipend to study under the famous pianist in Paris. After her return to Poland, her teacher became Prof. Józef Turczyński of the Warsaw Conservatory with whom she worked until the outbreak of World War II. In 1938, she also went for artistic consultations with Egon Petri in Kraków.
She spent the German occupation in Kraków, where she performed in private and secret concerts, with her father and her husband, the pianist Ludwik Stefański among others and also played dance accompaniments for kindergarten classes.
After the war (1945-1949), she continued her piano studies at the State Musical Academy in Kraków under Prof. Zbigniew Drzewiecki. In 1949, she won the first prize (ex aequo with the Russian Bella Davidovich) at the IV Chopin Competition in Warsaw, she also won a prize from Polish Radio for the best performance of Chopin’s mazurkas. As it turned out, 50 years later, presenting the first place ex aequo was a political decision not reflecting an objective assessment of her playing; Halina Czerny-Stefańska had the most points from the jury and the first place should have been awarded to her alone.
First prize in the Chopin Competition certainly facilitated the launch of her artistic career, but it didn't guarantee her international success. Halina Czerny-Stefańska credits her high international stature to talent and everyday hard work. She performed publicly until the end of her days, maintaining great shape. She believed that one could not rest in the quest for an ideal performance, rather continuously develop ones skill and polish ones repertoire every day. Playing for the public was her life; some said she was born for the stage. As a result she spent more time in trains, planes and hotels than at home.
She played concerts on all continents; she played in the most famous concert halls of the world, she was a soloist for the best orchestras and conductors, such as Jan Krenz, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Henryk Czyż, Stanisław Wisłocki, Witold Rowicki, Vaclav Smetaček, Kirill Kondrashin, Adrian Boult, Georg Solti and Zubin Mehta among others. She went on a great number of tours as the soloist of the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, the New York Philharmonic, the "Mozarteum" Orchestra in Salzburg and others. In 1962, she spent several months on tour in China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.
For over half a century Halina Czerny-Stefańska's talents have amazed the whole musical world. Proof of this enthrallment are the concert reviews written in several dozen languages. The opinion of music critics, such as: "Since Paderewski there has not been a Polish pianist of such wonderful artistry as Halina Czerny-Stefańska." (San Francisco Call Bulletin); "sensitivity, musicality, grace and vibrancy" (Harold Schonberg, New York Times); "Again Czerny-Stefańska surprised with a different view, with a novel understanding the entirety of Chopin's works" (Gazeta Krakowska) – accompanied all of her concerts.
Halina Czerny-Stefańska's performances were not limited to solo concerts. She also played in chamber orchestra's with cellists (Chopin's works), in piano duets with her husband, Bella Davidovich and Rinko Kobayashi as well as her daughter, the pianist and harpsichordist, Elżbieta Stefańska, performing works for harpsichord and piano, for two pianos or four hands.
She began pedagogical work in the 70s, teaching master's courses for pianists in Weimar, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Lugano and Tokyo. In 1978-81, she taught piano at the Paderewski Music Academy in Poznań. As a visiting professor she taught at the National Academy of Arts in Nagoya and the University of Arts Geidai, where she earned an honorary doctorate. In 1993-2000, she taught master's courses in Los Angeles, Toronto, Basil, Paris, Wrocław and Duszniki among others. Many times she was invited to sit on the juries of international piano competitions, in: Warsaw (Chopin Competition 1960, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000), Paris, Bucharest, Zwickau, Moscow, Lipsk, Leeds, Bolzano, Athens, Budapest, Cologne, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Bratislava, Helskinki and others.
Her artistry is captured in musical recordings by the labels: Polskie Nagrania "Muza", Deutsche Grammophon, Supraphon, Telefunken, His Master's Voice, RCA-Japan, Pony Canyon, Selene, recording the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin (a large selection), Paderewski, Grieg and Zarębski.