MARYLA JONAS was born in Warsaw in 1911.
She began to study the piano when she was seven,
and at nine made her debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic,
playing a Mozart concerto.
Her fame spread,
and at eleven she received a personal invitation from Paderewski
to play for him.
Thereafter he gave her lessons whenever he was in Poland.
At fifteen she made her debut in Germany,
which earned her a contract to tour the entire country.
She worked for three years with the famous pianist Emil Sauer,
later winning one of the International Chopin Prizes of 1932
and the International Beethoven Prize of Vienna in 1933.
This was the beginning of a series of European tours
which earned her ever increasing success.
In 1937 and 1938 she gave a series of Mozart Festival recitals in Salzburg
which received the greatest acclaim.
With her fame growing by leaps and bounds,
and married to a famous Polish criminologist,
Miss Jonas felt happy and content.
Then the holocaust started.
When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939,
Miss Jonas and her family were in Warsaw.
They lived through the daily bombings,
like animals caught in a trap.
They did not hear the city's radio playing the Chopin Polonaise
with which the heroic officials signified their defiance.
She and her husband and parents and brothers and sisters were separated,
wandering from cellar to cellar seeking refuge
from the areas smashed by the bombs.
Resistance was crushed and Miss Jonas' home was gone.
She went to her father's house.
Her husband and brothers had taken up arms
and were somewhere with the retreating Polish forces.
The Germans requisitioned her father's house.
She was forced to move from place to place for shelter.
She was saved by one of those occurrences
which are only thought to happen in the movies.
A high German officer, who had heard and admired her,
got her out of danger and advised her to flee.
Miss Jonas started on foot from Warsaw.
It took weeks.
She walked from Warsaw to Cracow, from Cracow to Katowice.
She does not remember much more than that she walked.
Somehow she got to Berlin.
She scarcely ever ate, sleeping in barns and along roadsides.
In Berlin the Brazilian Embassy was more than kind to her.
She was given a passport and flew to Lisbon.
From there she sailed for Rio de Janeiro.
When she reached Rio in 1940 she was a sick woman—sick
in body and soul.
Her nervous state was not helped when news came
that most of her family had perished.
She felt she could never play the piano again.
It was Artur Rubinstein who saved her life and her career.
He came to
Rio and urged her to play,
reminding her that it was the duty of surviving Poles
to show what their people had given to the world.
She agreed, but still she could not play.
Then one day, while she was out, a piano was moved into her apartment.
When she saw it, she was first shocked
and then moved around it like a cat about a saucer of milk.
Still she could not attempt it.
One morning Rubinstein phoned her to come over to the Teatro Municipal
and hear him rehearse his program for that evening.
She did not want to go, but her sister, who had finally joined her,
insisted that she must,
that after all Rubinstein had done for her
she could not possibly risk offending him.
Miss Jonas smiles when she tells the story.
"It was a put-up job," she comments.
Then he asked her to try out the piano
so that he might sit down in the house
and hear how it sounded for acoustics.
She pleaded that her fingers were stiff.
Then, because she could not refuse him the favor, she sat down.
She recalls that it was about 2:30 when she put her fingers to the keyboard.
It was 7:30 when she rose.
In the mean time the hall had filled with many people,
from management to stage hands.
She got a rousing ovation.
A few days later she played for a gathering of musicians and critics
invited by Rubinstein.
A recital at the Teatro Municipal was arranged for a month thereafter.
She began practice and her repertoire came back with startling force.
Ernesto de Quezeda, South American impresario, sponsored her first tours.
She traveled through Central and South America and Mexico for four years
before deciding to come to New York and the success that lay in wait for her.
She came unknown and unheralded,
gave her initial recital at Carnegie Hall February 25, 1946,
and the next day was acclaimed in the press
as a brilliant new discovery in the musical world.
Jerome Bohm of the New York Herald Tribune wrote,
"Maryla Jonas is one of the finest woman pianists
since Teresa Carreno made her North America debut."
And Olin Downes declared,
"A poet and master of her instrument.
On the basis of yesterday's experience,
she has few equals as an interpreter among the leading pianists of the day."