Pennies and friendship lure first-class cellists to festival in Towson


It was Cecylia Barczyk's love for her instrument that gave birth to the International Cello Festival in 1986. It is the personable Barczyk's talent for friendship that has sustained this truly international event on a shoestring budget over the years.

Cellists attending the festival, which begins tomorrow at Towson State University, come from as far away as China, Germany, Slovakia and Russia as tribute to the TSU professor of music.

Obviously, the Polish-born cellist's virtuosity is personal as well as musical.

"I have a lot of friends, and often they come for free or for very little," says Barczyk, 43, modestly explaining how she manages to present so many important cellists for so little -- this year's budget is $2,000.

Performers at past festivals have included such masters as Janos Starker, Aldo Parisot, Stephen Kates and Uri Wiesel. This year's festival, which continues until March 20, will showcase such well-known cellists as Semyon Fridman and Evelyn Elsing. Also attending this year will be future stars: Poland's 15-year-old Rafal Kwiatkowski and Russia's 20-year-old Kiril Kalmykov.

"I always believed the cello was the richest and most beautiful of instruments," Barczyk says in her lightly accented English, explaining why she started the festival in 1987. "Its expressive possibilities are greater than that of the violin because its range is much closer to the human voice. The cello doesn't have the literature the violin has, so I decided that the cello needed some promoting."

As in past years, the festival will introduce new works for the instrument. This year's festival will present new works by several Russian composers, including one by the celebrated Alfred Schnittke.

Barczyk has strong ties to the Russian cello tradition. She spent a year in Moscow studying with Natalia Gutman, the favorite student of Mstislav Rostropovich who has now succeeded her teacher as her country's greatest cellist. In almost every year of the festival's existence, distinguished string players from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev have visited.

Barczyk also has strong ties to the American school of cello playing. She came to this country in 1977 to study at Yale University at the invitation of the Brazilian-born Aldo Parisot, who has been one of the United States' greatest cello teachers. She originally thought she would return to her native country, but then met her future husband, Karol Borowski, a Polish sociologist at Yale specializing in the study of the Kibbutzim, the Israeli farming communities.

The couple lived in Cambridge, Mass., for several years when he was teaching at Harvard University, and they moved to Baltimore ten years ago, when she began teaching at TSU and he formed the Institute for Suburban Studies. They have three children -- Elizabeth, Emaanuel and Frances.

Barczyk's two oldest children already are musically accomplished -- Elizabeth, 10, on the piano, and Emaanuel, 6, on the violin. Frances is only 18 months old.

The future of Barczyk's festival seems bright. Everywhere she plays -- whether in her native country, in the republics of the former Soviet Union, in Israel or in China -- she proselytizes for the festival.

"I have a circle of supporters called 'International Supporters of the Cello,' " she says. "There are branches in Japan, Poland, Germany, Israel and here [in the United States]. Everywhere you you can always find wonderful people who want to do something to help the cello."

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