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Composer: Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek (1810-1849)

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EdinburghMoonlight Sonata by Candlelight

© Warren Mailley-Smith
Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Gershwin
Warren Mailley-Smith, Piano

SheffieldMoonlight Sonata by Candlelight

© Warren Mailley-Smith
Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Gershwin
Warren Mailley-Smith, Piano

LondonHélène Grimaud: Memory

Silvestrov, Debussy, Satie, Chopin, Rachmaninov
Hélène Grimaud, Piano

MadridOrquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid: Concierto XII

Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid: Concierto XII
Chopin, Tchaikovsky
Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid; Víctor Pablo Pérez; Rafał Blechacz

TokyoPrecious 1pm Vol.3

© Suntory Hall
Chopin, Fauré, Granados, Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Debussy
Naruhiko Kawaguchi; Akira Harada; Hitomi Niikura
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Final Edition for the Richard Alston Dance Company

Elly Braund and Nicholas Shikkis in Voices and Light Footsteps © Chris Nash
The final full stop for a much-loved company
****1
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Gerstein emphasizes the importance of flexible minds, not only fingers

Kirill Gerstein at Zankel Hall © Fadi Kheir
In his Zankel Hall recital, Gerstein underlined with purposeful clarity the fecundating power of just a few thematic ideas.
****1
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Music triumphs over tragedy: Marston’s moving The Cellist

Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcelino Sambé in The Cellist © ROH | Bill Cooper
In her first work for the Covent Garden main stage, based on the life of Jacqueline du Pré, choreographer Cathy Marston explores the profound bond between musician and instrument.
****1
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Intoxicating Gautier Capuçon and Yuja Wang in Franck and Chopin

Gautier Capuçon and Yuja Wang © Mark Allan | Barbican
A delicious programme from glamour duo Gautier Capuçon and Yuja Wang, reuniting in Franck and Chopin with dynamism and depth – and a killer encore.
*****
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Lise de la Salle's superb Bach the highlight of a varied recital

Lise de la Salle © Stéphane Gallois
The French pianist's approach may be uncomplicated, but crisp articulation, interesting dynamics and a fine sense of shifting moods enliven a recital full of variety.
****1
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Biography

Delicate, refined, passionate, emotive, romantic. Many music lovers consider Chopin's piano works to be the very greatest of all music written for the instrument. It's certainly distinctive: you can listen to an awful lot of music from the same period and be in no doubt whatsoever when you hear Chopin. 

A large part of the effect comes from Chopin's talent for melody. In every generation, just a few composers have the talent for writing tune after tune that sticks in your memory as soon as you've heard it, and Chopin was certainly one of them. But what makes him special is his ability to wrap intricate tracery around his melodies and to surprise you repeatedly with shifts of key and rhythm while always putting across a feeling that every note is in the right place. Perhaps the best descriptions come from the Paris Revue Musicale, which described the 22-year old Chopin as a young man who had found “an extravagance of original ideas that are unexampled anywhere” and from Robert Schumann, who found in his music the sound of “cannon concealed amid blossoms”.

Chopin was a less versatile composer than most of the greats with whom he is frequently and fairly bracketed. There is a handful of chamber pieces and orchestral works and a few songs, none of them massively distinguished. Through and through, Chopin was a salon composer: he wrote piano music to be played in the living rooms of the rich. And within that compass, he was matchless.

Part of Chopin's unique sound comes from a unique background. Born Fryderyk Franciszek to a Frenchman settled in Poland, he became an ardent Polish nationalist Polishness and is treated as one of the great men of Polish history. By the time he was eleven, the young Chopin was already acclaimed as a great pianist and had played for the Tsar of Russia at the opening of the Polish parliament; at twenty, he set off to make his fortune in Western Europe. Just 27 days after he left, the Poles rebelled against the rule of Russia in the November uprising, a rebellion which was crushed the following year, leaving Chopin distraught and providing the creative impulse for one of his most famous works, the “Revolutionary” Etude (Op.10 no.12). He suffered from ill health throughout his life.

Chopin settled in Paris, where he became “Frédéric-François”, the name by which he is best known in English-speaking countries today, although he never learnt French perfectly. He enjoyed great concert success, but became aware that his style of playing was not suited to larger concert halls, preferring to play at his home or in salons, often on his much beloved Pleyel pianos.

In 1848, Chopin’s life was transformed by revolution once again, as the French nobility who formed his clientèle fled Paris, leaving him without income and in sharply deteriorated health. His last concert was in London in November that year: an ill-fated benefit concert for Polish refugees (no-one knows what was played since he could not be heard above the chatter of the social occasion). He died a year later in Paris, with his sister Ludwika, who had given him his first piano lessons, at his bedside.

Every lover of Chopin has their own favourite works and their own favourite performers: his music seems to lend itself to an extraordinary variety of performance styles, with endless argument possible about tempos, rubato, accenting and many other features of a performance.

Famous interpreters of the past include Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Claudio Arrau and my personal favourite, the Romanian Dinu Lipatti. A “must have” play-list would include the Etudes, the Waltzes, the Preludes, the Ballades (a form that Chopin invented), and several of the Polonaises and Mazurkas. Also unforgettable are the Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. posth. 66, the Barcarolle in F sharp (a transcendent, lilting Venetian boating song) and the B flat minor Piano Sonata with its famous funeral march whose glorious gift is to uplift one’s spirits in the face of death.

David Karlin
18th December 2009

List of works
12 Etudes, Op.1012 Etudes, Op.252 Nocturnes, Op.2724 Preludes, Op.283 Mazurkas, Op.593 Mazurkas, Op.633 Waltzes, Op.64A Month in the CountryAndante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante, Op.22Ballade no. 1 in G minor, Op.23Ballade no. 2 in F major, Op.38Ballade no. 3 in A flat major, Op.47Ballade no. 4 in F minor, Op.52Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op.60Berceuse in D flat major, Op.57Bolero, Op.19Cello Sonata in G minor, Op.65Complete 4 Ballades Op.23, Op.38, Op.47, Op.52Etude in C Major, Op.10 no.7Etude in C minor "Revolutionary" , Op.10 no.12Etude in C sharp minor "Torrent", Op.10 no.4Etude in C sharp minor, Op.25 no.7Etude in G flat major, Op.10 no.5Etude in G sharp minor "Thirds", Op.25 no.6Fantaisie in F minor, Op.49Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66Impromptu in A flat major, Op.29Impromptu in F sharp major, Op.36Impromptu in G flat major, Op.51In The NightIntroduction and Polonaise brillante in C major for cello and piano, Op.3La Dame aux caméliasMazurka in A flat major, Op.50 no.2Mazurka in A flat major, Op.59 no.2Mazurka in A minor, Op.17 no.4Mazurka in A minor, Op.59 no.1Mazurka in A minor, Op.68 no.2Mazurka in A minor, Op.7 no.2Mazurka in B flat minor, Op.24 no.4Mazurka in C major, Op.56 no.2Mazurka in C sharp minor, Op.63 no.3Mazurka in F sharp minor, Op.59 no.3Mazurkas, Op.68Nocturne Op. 55 Nr. 2Nocturne in C minor, KKIVb/8Nocturne in C sharp minor, "Lento Con Gran Espressione", Op. posth, B 49Nocturne no. 10 in A flat major, Op.32 no.2Nocturne no. 12 in G major, Op.37 no.2Nocturne no. 13 in C minor, Op.48 no.1Nocturne no. 15 in F minor, Op.55 no.1Nocturne no. 16 in E flat major, Op.55 no.2Nocturne no. 17 in B major, Op.62 no.1Nocturne no. 18 in E major, Op.62 no.2Nocturne no. 19 in E minor, Op.72 no.1Nocturne no. 2 in E flat major, Op.9 no.2Nocturne no. 21 in C minor (posthumous)Nocturne no. 3 in B major, Op.9 no.3Nocturne no. 4 in F major, Op.15 no.1Nocturne no. 5 in F sharp major, Op.15 no.2Nocturne no. 9 in B major, Op.32 no.1Nocturnes: selectionPiano Concerto no. 1 in E minor, Op.11Piano Concerto no. 2 in F minor, Op.21Piano Sonata no. 2 in B flat minor 'Funeral March', Op.35Piano Sonata no. 3 in B minor, Op.58Polonaise no. 1 in C sharp minor, Op.26 no.1Polonaise no. 5 in F sharp minor, Op.44Polonaise no. 6 in A flat major, "Heroic," Op.53Polonaise no. 7 in A flat major "Polonaise-fantaisie", Op.61Polonaises, Op.26Prelude in A flat major, (Presto con leggerezza), Op. posthPrelude in C sharp minor, Op.45Prelude in E minor, Op.28 no.4PreludesRondo in E flat major, Op.16Rondo à la Krakoviak in F major for piano and orchestra, Op.14Scherzo no. 1 in B minor, Op.20Scherzo no. 2 in B flat minor, Op.31Scherzo no. 3 in C sharp minor, Op.39Scherzo no. 4 in E major, Op.54Trio in G minor for piano, violin and cello, Op.8Waltz in A Minor "Grande Valse Brillante", Op.34 no.2Waltz in F major "Grande Valse Brillante", Op.34 no.3Waltz no. 9 in A flat major "L'Adieu", Op.69 no.1