Halina Czerny-Stefańska was born in 1922 in Cracow. Her father, Stanisław Czerny was a professor in a conservatoire and her mother was a pianist. She started her musical education as a five-year old. At the beginning she was taught by her mother, however her first teacher was her father.
In 1929, when she was just seven years old, she performed at the opening of the Chopin concert in the “Chopin Hall” at Karowa Street in Warsaw. Her performance turned out to be a sensation and revealed outstanding talent of the little “virtuoso”. The press commented on her performance “Halusia is only seven. When sitting at the piano, she barely touches the floor with her feet and yet her little fingers are able to get the whole range of sounds. And in the passages and chords she plays as a mature virtuoso (...). The performance of this child prodigy. (...), the audience was overcame by emotion. Everyone greeted this new talent enthusiastically, including master Aleksander Michałkowski himself ...” (“From the concert hall” Mateusz Gliński).
She was blessed by the nature with, so called, good natural conditions – strong, wide and big hands as well as absolute hearing, which allowed her to master the keyboard swiftly. She was simply very gifted student of St. Ursula School in Cracow.
On March 27, 1936 in certificate no. 290/36 issued by the President of the National Conservatoire for Music in Warsaw, Emil Morawski and professor Józef Turczyński gave the following opinion: “We hereby certify that Ms. Helena Schwarzenberg-Czerny, aged 12, has musical gift verged on genius. After listening to her play in the National Conservatoire for Music in Warsaw we strongly believe that she should attend our conservatoire in order to receive thorough musical education. This child can become our national pride in a few years
12-year-old artist won the Competition for Young Talents in Warsaw and received the President of Warsaw Award (Stefan Starzyński) as well as a scholarship for master competition in Ecole Normale in Paris, which was run by, among others, famous professor Alfred Cortot (Alfred Cortot - 1877-1962, French pianist, professor of Paris Conservatoire, especially renowned for his poetic insight in Romantic period piano works and music of C. Debussy, author of a good deal of didactic prose on piano playing technique and piano works interpretations).She was then trained in Warsaw by Józef Turczyński – great connoisseur of Chopin’s music, and in Cracow by a brilliant teacher – professor Zbigniew Drzewiecki.
A turning point in her life was the first place and honourable mention for the best performance of the Chopin’s mazurkas on the 4th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1949. Since then her career of a brilliant performer of the Chopin’s and other great composers’ piano works gained momentum.
She performed in all European countries, Japan, North and South America, she gave over 20 tours in the former Soviet Union. Her performances gained recognition of the critics and raised admiration among audience. Her piano recitals in the UN and CARNEGIE HALL in New York were great artistic events. Helena Czerny-Stefańska performed with the most renown symphony orchestras all over the world cooperating with such famous conductors as Adrian Boult, Zubin Mehta, Georg Solti and Vaclav Smetacek.
She was also one of the most outstanding performers of chamber music. In her extensive repertoire she included the works of all periods – from the baroque period to contemporary music. However, Fryderyk Chopin’s music prevailed. She also recorded a number of CDs with mazurkas and nocturnes of Chopin and works of I. J. Paderewski. On numerous occasions, she was the member of jury of famous, international piano competitions such as Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel-Aviv, International Fryderyk Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Hummel Competition in Bratislava, Sibelius Competition in Helsinki, as well as competitions in Paris, Bucharest, Zwickau, Leeds, Leipzig, Moscow, Athens, Bremen, Havana, Pretoria and many other cities. Halina Czerny-Stefańska was a professor on many music and art schools all over the world, for example in Weimar, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Lugano, Tokyo, Nagoya.
The only Polish school in which she was leading piano class was I.J. Paderewski Music Academy of Poznań and her then assistant, now professor Bogumił Nowicki, has been the President of I.J. Paderewski Music Academy of Poznań.In the years 1993-1999, Halina Czerny-Stefańska gave concerts in Los Angeles and she ran master courses in Toronto, Basel, Lugano and Paris (Salle Cortot).In 1993, she gave lectures at University of Arts Geidai in Tokyo. In 1999-2001 she was a professor at University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo, Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima, Arts Academy in Nagoya, Seznoku Gakuen Uozu University in Tovama. In the Year of Chopin (1999) and in 2000 this brilliant pianist gave numerous concerts and recitals on famous stages all over the world: in Warsaw, Żelazowa Wola, Paris, Los Angeles, Tokyo.
On March 8, 2001 she gave outstanding piano recital in the Music Academy of Warsaw as a part of a concert of series “The Doyens of Polish Pianism” devoted to her professor Józef Turczyński. The schedule of the following concerts and recitals as well as her work in Geidai University in Japan was suddenly disrupted by her death.
Helena Czerny-Stefańska died on July 1, 2001 in Cracow. She was one of the greatest individuals of our music life in the last 50 years.
She was a brilliant Polish pianist wholeheartedly devoted to Fryderyk Chopin’s music.