Guitar and Piano Duo – Aleksandra Popiolek-Walicki and Jakub Walicki
The Walicki-Popiolek Duo is breaking new frontiers with new music for guitar and piano. After releasing their first CD Iberico, which featured rhythms and melodies of Spanish-speaking countries, they are now working with Polish composers to debut music specifically written for these two polyphonic instruments. These new compositions draw from Polish folklore and evoke landscapes in their next CD album aptly entitled “Made in Poland.
WHAT EDUCATION HAVE YOU COMPLETED, AND WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM THOSE EXPERIENCES?
Aleksandra: Hi, my name is Aleksandra Popiolek-Walicki and I’m a professional pianist. I’ve started my journey with piano playing when I was five years old. I’ve attended the Oskar Kolberg primary music school in Warsaw, Poland, after that to the Jozef Elsner musical high school, later on, I’ve passed entering exams at Karol Lipiński Conservatory in Wrocław where I’ve done my bachelor and master. Simultaneously I’ve graduated from high school with double language profiles and started studying Classics at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. I am now a Ph.D. student in Classics at the University of Wrocław. I’m also doing a two-year postgraduate course in chamber music at the Karol Szymanowski Conservatory of Music in Katowice. I’ve recently started there my Ph.D. project on chamber music. I guess in one word, besides the knowledge, artistry… good organization skills is the most important thing I gained from my school and academic paths.
Jakub: Hi, I’m Jakub Walicki, I am a trained, classical guitarist. I’ve begun playing guitar at the age of thirteen, before that I was learning piano. I’ve graduated the first-degree music school in piano performance, everyone said I was promising but I always wanted more from the instrument. I thought guitar with its wide range of articulation and sounds would fit me better. I’ve attended the secondary music school in Jelenia Góra and started wining the young guitarist’s competitions. I’m an alumnus of Karol Lipiński Conservatory of Music in Wrocław, currently, I’m working with professor Wanda Palacz at the Karol Szymanowski Conservatory of Music in Katowice, it’s a part of my postgraduate chamber music studies.
AS A DUO, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF TO AUDIENCE THAT HAS NEVER HEARD OR SEEN YOU BEFORE? WHAT HAS BEEN THE EVOLUTION TO YOUR SOUND?
Aleksandra and Jakub: Walicki-Popiolek Duo is a unique guitar and piano duet made by people who love classical music and love each other. Aleksandra is a pianist and Jakub is a classical guitarist and since 2014 they are working together.
We are searching for new opportunities, collaborate with composers from all over the world playing pieces never introduced to the audience before. We have an interest in arranging pieces also. In 2019, we released the first album “Iberico” with music from Spanish-speaking countries and we are about to release our second album “Made in Poland” with original Polish-folklore music written especially for us by carefully selected composers. We both received a prestigious scholarship from the Ministry of Culture “Młoda Polska”. Music means the world to us. Without rehearsals, a shared interest in listening to classical music we wouldn’t find the mutual development which is important to both of us.
It might not sound unique, but we’ve been known for forgetting our stage outfits. Once we drove back 100 km because of that. Interesting and unique is one of the projects we participated in Royal by hair designer Jaga Hupało. The whole project took place in the Royal Castle in Warsaw, and we were dressed as two characters from XVIII century. We had modern designer clothes on us but the hair and makeup were the recreation of two old paintings hanging on the castle walls. You can find the photos on Instagram and our Facebook page.
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU OVERCOME TO GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? WHAT ESSENTIAL LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM SOME OF YOUR MISTAKES?
Aleksandra: Practice routine implemented every day makes your life organized, but it also takes a lot of austerities from you. You cannot play some sports, do certain activities because of the threat of injuries. Pianists also spend a lot of time searching for an instrument when they travel. I cannot think about certain obstacles, but there were obviously many difficult or sad moments connected with my career path. What I’ve learned from these moments is that you should avoid jealousy of any kind – both jealous people and your own pride: it might take you somewhere you don’t want to be.
Jakub: I’ve been struggling with acceptance of my musician path since early childhood. Instead of playing soccer, I’ve rather practiced Giuliani sonatas in my room which was a bit odd for my family. Of course fortunately they understood that this is exactly what I want to do and gave me their support after I started winning competitions. I cannot think of any great mistakes but once I’ve started performing as a professional guitarist I’ve noticed that the most important thing on the stage is not to be too satisfied with what you play. I remember one time I felt too comfortable with virtuoso movement of the sonata I was playing, I’ve instantly made a minor mistake – no one noticed, but I did – and it was enough for me to learn not to be too confident on stage.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME OUTSIDE OF WORK? AND WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF YOU WERE NOT A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? WHAT WOULD YOU AND OTHERS SAY OF YOUR PERSONALITY?
Aleksandra: Honestly with two Ph.D.’s, postgraduate studies, and work at the University I don’t have much time for life outside of work but if I have some time I love to read. It might sound funny but what relaxes me most is reading Sheryl Woods romance novels in the bath. My husband is the person who I work with also, but I think we managed to divide work and life. We travel together while performing concerts but always have some time to sightsee, drink coffee, and laugh. I think that I would be a writer if I weren’t a musician. I think people see me as a cheerful and active person, extremely well organized. I like to think of myself as a hard-worker who believes that being diligent pays off.
Jakub: I’m working a lot with Aleksandra, traveling, performing, making recordings, but we love going for walks. Wandering in the forest is what relaxes us. Personally, I love making models. I’ve already made my first car model: connected and glued all the parts and painted it. It’s very meticulous work and I think this is one of my traits. It drives Aleksandra crazy sometimes. I think people see me as a responsible guy who knows exactly what he wants and isn’t afraid to go his own way.
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