Sept. 16, 1918 Łódź - Sept. 26, 1968 Warszawa
Winner 5th award IV Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warszawa (1949). Musical talents began to shine through when Władysław Kędra was four years old. In 1924, he became a student at Helena Kijeńska’s Music School in Łódź. His teacher was the owner of the school, who supervised the development of the boy’s talents for ten years.
In 1933, Kędra was accepted to advanced studies at Helena Kijeńska’s Music Conservatory, into Prof. Antoni Dobkiewicz’s piano class – who had been a student of Teodor Leszetycki’s. In May of the same year, the 15 year-old pianist debuted in Łódź at a symphony concert, performing Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D major and Saint-Saëns’ Rhapsodie d’Auvergne Op. 73 for piano and orchestra. The public and musical critics alike received Kędra’s performance enthusiastically. In February and March 1937 the pianist attempted III International Chopin Competition. Although he did not win any price, his performance did lead to one of the jurors, Prof. Magda Tagliaferro, to take a special interest in Kędra who invited him to study under her at the Paris Conservatory.
In June 1937, Kędra graduated with honours from the Conservatory in Łódź and following summer vacations left to study in Paris for two years. In 1938, Ignacy Jan Paderewski listened to him play in Morges and offered him artistic consultations. That same year, the young artist debuted on Polish Radio in Łódź, sensationally performing Schumann’s Toccata in C major, Liszt’s Six Great Etudes according to Paganini as well as Brahms’ Variations on Paganini Op. 35.
The budding artist spent the war years mainly in Lublin supporting himself by playing popular music in restaurants. He would travel to Warszawa once in a while to play private and secret concerts, performing the works of Polish composers banned by the Nazis (such as Chopin, Szymanowski, Maciejewski, Jurdziński, etc.) Frequent travelling, practice in inappropriate conditions, war troubles, caused illness in the pianist’s hands. However, thanks to a strong will and proper medical treatment, Kędra shortly minimised the effects of the illness and returned to working on his repertoire.
After the Warszawa Uprising (1944), the artist along with his family found themselves on a Nazi deportation transport. Taking advantage of a moment of inattention, he escaped from the train and made his way down to southern Poland. He returned to his hometown of Łódź in 1945, after the Nazi capitulation.
The pianist spent 23 September through 5 October 1946 in Geneva, where he took part in the International Competition of Musical Performance and was awarded a finalist’s prize. However, his performance at the Fourth Chopin Competition, in Warszawa (1949) earned him 5th prize. He took full advantage of this high award in a prestigious competition and performed intensively in Poland and several other European countries.
Władysław Kędra lived in Poland until 1957. On 1 October 1957, he moved to Vienna, where he was given a class at the Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst. However, he did not curtail his performances – to the contrary, he increased their number. Shortly, his name became so popular in Europe that he had to pick and choose between the numerous invitations he received. He gave several dozen performances in Europe and the USA annually.
Władysław Kędra was an artist of exceptional merit. He possessed the ever-readiness to play, which meant that he didn’t need to spend many tedious hours every day practicing. Moreover, he was gifted with a lightness of touch, great hearing, musicality and a photographic memory, which allowed him to learn a piece without benefit of a keyboard. He could improvise on any given theme in any style required. He had a broad repertoire at his disposal covering piano music from all periods. He was particularly fond of playing virtuoso works, which allowed him to showcase his fantastic range and talents as a pianist.
The artist left behind several recordings (Polskie Nagrania „Muza”, Eterna, Westminster), on which he immortalised Chopin’s compositions (all the Etudes, Sonatas, works for piano and orchestra), Albeniz’s, Infant’s, Granados’s, Debussy’s, Liszt’s, Moniuszko’s, Mendelssohn’s, Shostakovich’s, Gershwin’s among others.
The pianist served on the juries of international piano competitions in Budapest (1961) and Zwickau (1963, 1966). He died of cancer having reached 50 years of age.