Etkin-Moszkowska Róża

Róża Etkin-Moszkowska - Personal data
Date of birth: 24th December 1908
Place of birth: Warszawa
Date of death: ca. / around 16th January 1945
Place of death: Warszawa
Occupation: pianist

Etkin-Moszkowska Róża (24 December 1908, Warsaw – 16 January 1945, Warsaw) – an eminent pianist, chamber musician and educator.

She was born into a wealthy Jewish family. Her father, Lejb Etkin (ca. 1863 – 22 November 1929) was a merchant who ran a commercial inetermediation agency at 3 Nowolipie Street (ul. Nowolipie 3) before World War I; the pianist's family lived at the same address. We know almost nothing about her mother, Sara Etkin née Milewska (1871 – 02 May 1924). The matzevah of both parents are preserved in the Jewish Cemetery on Okopowa Street (ul. Okopowa) in Warsaw. Lejb and Sara's family was large. In addition to Róża, we know the names of two of her brothers: Samuel and Józef, and three sisters: Lida (Liza?), Felicja and Anna.

Exceptionally gifted, she began giving concerts at the age of nine, and in 1919, at the age of eleven, she passed the examination for the Frédéric Chopin Higher School of Music (Polish: Wyższa Szkoła Muzyczna im. Fryderyka Chopina) in Warsaw. She joined the class of Professor Michałowski, a respected pianist, composer and educator as well as an outstanding interpreter of Chopin's works. However, she had to interrupt her studies due to financial reasons. The bankruptcy of her father, who likely lost all assets deposited in Russian banks during the revolution, determined her life for several years.

In 1923, she performed a recital in Kraków, which was very well received. From that moment on, she consistently gave concerts, as she recalled: “almost in all major cities in Poland,” including three times in Warsaw. In 1924, together with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra (Polish: Filharmonia Warszawska) conducted by Grzegorz Fitelberg, she performed Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30, which is technically extremely demanding and considered one of the most difficult for pianists. Two years later, she returned to the Philharmonic with Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto in E-flat major No. 1 (S. 124) and Johann Sebastian Bach's Piano Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052). Press reviews highlighted the young pianist's virtuosic technique and expressive power, characteristic of mature artists. At the same time, she studied at the National Music Conservatory (Polish: Państwowe Konserwatorium Muzyczne) in Warsaw, in the class of Zbigniew Drzewiecki, a pianist and educator, one of the initiators of the International Chopin Competition.

A successful concert streak has not provided financial stability for Róża Etkin. Her father's long-lasting illness and costly medical treatment forced the young pianist to take up a job at the “Perskie Oko” revue theatre in Warsaw. The financial situation became even worse after the death of her mother in 1924.

In January 1927, thanks to the financial support of Henryk Rewkiewicz, the director of Monopol Zapałczany, a music lover and member of the Warsaw Music Society (Polish: Warszawskie Towarzystwo Muzyczne), the First International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition was successfully organised in Warsaw under the patronage of President Ignacy Mościcki. Róża Etkin, its youngest participant, won the Third Prize of two thousand Polish zloty. Thanks to this prize, she travelled to Berlin in May 1927. She enrolled at Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory, one of the most renowned music schools in the world. Her professor was the esteemed pianist and educator Moritz Mayer-Mahr, who remained a devoted promoter of the pianist's talent until the end of her stay in Germany. In Berlin, she also studied under the Austrian pianist and composer Artur (Aaron) Schnabel.

In September 1927, she made a successful debut at the famous Carl Bechstein Hall in Berlin. The costs of the concert were covered by Moritz Mayer-Mahr. The reviewer of “Musik”, German musicologist and pianist Hugo Leichtenritt wrote enthusiastically about the virtuosic performance and interpretation of works by Szymanowski and Scriabin.

Despite her successes, she continued to face financial difficulties, often struggling to make ends meet, as she had been reporting since January 1928 in correspondence to the Jewish charity B'nai B'rith in Kraków.

In the early 1930s, she divided her pianistic life between Berlin and Warsaw. She participated in music broadcasts on Polish Radio and lectured at the Frédéric Chopin Higher School of Music in Warsaw. As a pianist, she was incredibly versatile. Her repertoire ranged from Bach and Scarlatti to Rachmaninoff and Szymanowski.

In February 1939, she married Ryszard Moszkowski, an architect and sculptor. The couple likely lived in their own house on Promyka Street (ul. Promyka) in Warsaw's Żoliborz district.

During the occupation, she and her husband both remained in Żoliborz.  This is also where they hid after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising. They were murdered in unclear circumstances on 16 January 1945, one day before the Red Army entered Warsaw.

After the war, both as “ghetto fighters” were posthumously awarded. Róża was awarded the Silver Cross of Merit for meritorious service in the field of glory.

 Ewa Toniak

100 lat Filharmonii w Warszawie 1901–2001, studia pod redakcją Marii Bychawskiej i Henryka Schillera, Warsaw 2001.

Błaszczyk L.T., Żydzi w kulturze muzycznej ziem polskich XIX i XX wieku. Słownik Biograficzny, Warsaw 2014.

Correspondence between Roża Etkin and the Union of Jewish Humanitarian Associations B'nai B'rith in Kraków, National Archives in Kraków, files no 29/557/0/2.11/194.

Dybowski S., Słownik pianistów polskich, Warsaw 2003.

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Kronika Międzynarodowych Konkursów Pianistycznych im. Fryderyka Chopina 1927-1995. Compiled by I. Jarosz, B. Niewiarowska, T. Lewandowska, J. Zaremba, Warsaw-Gdańsk, 2000.

Methuen-Campbell J., Chopin Playing from the Composer to the Present Day, London 1981. 

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Rutowska M., Serwański E., Straty Osobowe polskiego środowiska muzycznego w latach 1939-1945, Warsaw 1977.

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