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In the end he survived for several months alone, perhaps the only person alive in the burnedout ruins of Warsaw, drinking water frozen in the bathtubs of empty flats and eating whatever he could find hidden in destroyed kitchens.
Written in flat, almost emotionless prose, The Pianist evokes the strange mix of horror and elation Szpilman must have felt at that time.
Nearly identical in their selection of works, the two discs differ mainly in Sony's inclusion of a CD-ROM video feature of the aging Szpilman playing Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor in 1980. The dignity of the pianist's manner has infinitely more impact if you know that this is the piece he was playing when Polish Radio was destroyed by the Nazis and that he returned to five years later, after the Nazis had been destroyed.
Without asking for the slightest bit of sympathy, he was recreating a moment that was emblematic for his country and all Jewish survivors of World War II.
David Patrick Stearns Philadelphia Courier Sun, Mar.
30, 2003 London - 3rd May 2000 - The judges of the annual Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prizes tonight awarded this year's Non Fiction Prize to Wladyslaw Szpilman for The Pianist (Phoenix / Golancz).
I told him that this was my old flat, that I had come back to see what was left ..." So begins Szpilman's account of how, in the final weeks of the Second World War, having escaped the Warsaw Getto and survived months of hiding, he was rescued by a German: Captain Wilm Hosenfeld discovered him, ascertained that he was a pianist - to convince him, Szpilman played Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor on a battered, out-of-tune piano - and without much further ado found him a better hiding place.
"He noticed something I had not seen: that just beneath the roof there was a tiny attic ..." Together, they made sure Szpilman could climb into it, and pull up the ladder afterwards.
Even before hearing the two Szpilman discs that have hit the market amid the two-Oscar success of The Pianist, seasoned music lovers could have predicted that.Most arresting is a 1960 reading of Schumann's Fantasy in C major, the middle movement, which reaches an utterly singular, harrowingly intense climax.Nobody can really say this reflects Szpilman's wartime hardships, but my intuition tells me, unmistakably, that only someone who has paid rent in the abyss could conceive such phrase readings.The decision was announced by author and broadcaster Frank Delaney, chairman of the judges, who had selected it earlier this evening from a shortlists of four titles: "When you read this book - and you must read it - you will never forget it.The subtext asks whether good people were on the side of the evil people and shows how the human spirit is enlarged by the knowledge of such people."e lives in a neat, narrow house with a small, well-kept garden.
Over the subsequent weeks, the German officer regularly brought bread to the Jewish musician, and news from the Front.