New Year classical recital at the Unitarian

Celebrating the New Year is as much a family holiday tradition as celebrating Christmas.

Cellist Michal Palzewicz and his family, including his sister, Lucyna Palzewicz, and wife, Cecily Palzewicz, have chosen chamber music from composers Debussy and Shostakovich, along with a few other works, to present at an hour-long recital to celebrate the New Year on Monday, Jan. 4, at the Unitarian Center in Ashland.

"My sister is visiting all the way from Ireland," Palzewicz says. "So I thought of doing a concert. Jodi French, who is a wonderful pianist and friend, and Ian Greenberg, one of my cello students, also will perform."

The chamber music concert will include two cello sonatas performed by Palzewicz, accompanied by pianist Lucyna Palzewicz.

"The pieces by Debussy and Shostakovich have a lot of meaning for me," Palzewicz says. "The music is transformational. The Debussy has a lot of beautiful mood in it. The Shostakovich is full of darkness, but also has a lot of high energy. Both pieces have sadness in them, but then they transform into joy.

"We chose the pieces because we thought they would fit a New Year's theme with their transformational energy. They depict human suffering, but also how much joy and power we have. And how we can stay inspired even through the darkest times, especially the Shostakovich."

Palzewicz was born in Bulgaria in 1974, and his parents raised him in Warsaw, Poland, where his attended a conservatory music school, the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music.

"In 1996, I transferred to the Manhattan School of Music in New York City on a scholarship," Palzewicz says. "I studied with David Soyer of the Guarneri String Quartet." Other teachers included Julia Lichten, Tomasz Strahl and Barbara Musiej.

"I met my wife, Cecily, at the Manhattan school," Palzewicz says. "She was studying opera with Marlena Malas."

The couple moved to Ashland two years ago.

Cecily Palzewicz will sing an aria, "Donde Lieta," from Puccini's "La Bohème," during Monday's concert.

"It's her favorite aria," Palzewicz says, "because it moves her heart. It also fits with the theme of the concert. We love music of the heart. I think all of the pieces that we'll perform will bring the audience closer to the heart."

Palzewicz and his sister have played music together since they were small children. When he moved to New York City, she stayed in Warsaw. She now lives in Dublin.

"I enjoy playing with her because we know each other so well," Palzewicz says. "In performing chamber music, it is important to anticipate each other's musical ideas in real time."

To open the concert, French of Southern Oregon University will accompany cello student Greenberg, a senior at Ashland High School, in the first movement of Schumann's cello concerto.

"Ian is an exceptionally talented cellist," Palzewicz says. "I feel inspired to be his teacher. It's been rewarding."

Palzewicz is helping Greenberg to prepare for his college auditions. The student has 10 of them lined up. Palzewicz didn't want to say at which schools, lest he tempt fate. French also has coached Greenberg.

Palzewicz has been a member of the Elsner String Quartet for about nine years, a quartet that he founded along with other Polish students in Warsaw.

"I started the group with my friends from high school," Palzewicz says. "The quartet's music symbolizes all of the things that the members love the most: friendships and the joy of collaboration and making music together. We share our experiences as a chamber ensemble. Essentially, there's something beautiful about shaping the emotions of the music together.

"We are like mirrors of each other, asking each other to try new things and see if they work."

Palzewicz' past shows in Ashland have included work with French, solo cello suites by Bach and duos and trios that included pianist Alexander Tutunov.

In April, Palzewicz will be part of Oregon Shakespeare Festival's tribute to the American musical, "She Loves Me," to be presented in the Angus Bowmer Theatre.

"I'm really looking forward to that one," Palzewicz says.

His second passion is yoga, and he teaches the practice at Agile Healing Arts and at his home.

For information about Palzewicz' cello and yoga classes, visit and, respectively.

Tickets for Monday's show at the Unitarian Center cost $15, $10 for students and children and are available online at and at Music Coop in Ashland. Call 949-307-6133.

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