Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)

Leading up to The Chopin Experience on Radio 3, Donald Macleod introduces music and stories from the life of Fryderyk Chopin.

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
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2005012005101720100301

Donald Macleod explores Chopin's highly creative final years, spent at his lover's retreat

Donald Macleod explores Chopin's time at Nohant, the country retreat of his lover George Sand, where over seven long summers towards the end of his life he composed much of his finest music.

Donald focuses on Chopin's Mazurkas and his Second Piano Sonata, which shocked contemporary audiences.

‘Sliczny Chlopiec' (‘Handsome Lad'), op.74 no.8 (1841)

Elisabeth Soderstrom (sop) / Vladimir Ashkenazy (pno)

Decca 414 204-2, track 8

4 Mazurkas, op.41 (1, 3, 4 – 1839; 2 – 1838)

no.1 in e minor

no.2 in B major

no.3 in A flat major

no.4.

in c sharp minor

Artur Rubinstein (pno)

RCA RD85171,

CD 2 tracks 2–4, 1

Nocturne in G major, op.37 no.2

Garrick Ohlsson (pno)

Arabesque Z6653-2,

CD 1, track 12

Impromptu no.2 in F sharp major, op.36

Decca 443 738-2,

CD 1 track 28

Sonata no.2 in b flat minor, op.35

1.

Grave – Doppio movimento

2.

Scherzo

3.

Marche funèbre: Lento

Finale: Presto

Evgeny Kissin (pno)

RCA 09026 63535 2,

tracks 25–28

Donald Macleod begins a week of programmes about the Polish composer by looking at some important events and encounters in Chopin's early life - among them a visit to Warsaw by the staggeringly virtuosic violinist, Nicolò Paganini.

Each programme in this series features a historical performance by a great Chopin pianist of the past, starting today with a 1949 recording of Alfred Cortot.

Variations (Souvenir de Paganini)

Fou Tsong (piano)

Waltz in Bm, Op 69, No 2

Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)

Piano Concerto No 1 in Em, Op 11

Martha Argerich (piano)

Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Charles Dutoit (conductor)

Berceuse in D flat

Alfred Cortot (piano).

2005022005101820100302

Donald Macleod focuses on the final years, with the 3rd Ballade and the F minor Fantaisie.

Donald Macleod continues his exploration of Chopin's extraordinarily creative final years.

He looks at a brief fallow period, a domestic spat and a clutch of masterpieces, including the 3rd Ballade and the F minor Fantaisie.

‘Dumka' (‘Reverie'), Br.

132 (1840)

Urszula Kryger (mezzo sop) / Charles Spencer

Hyperion CDA67125,

track 16

Tarantelle in A flat major, op.43 (1841)

Vladimir Ashkenazy (pno)

Decca 443 738-2,

CD 13 track 12

2 Nocturnes, op.48 (1841)

no.1 in c minor

no.2 in f sharp minor

Maurizio Pollini (pno)

DG 00289 477 5718, tracks 3–4

Polonaise in f sharp minor, op.44 (1841)

Vladimir Horowitz (pno)

CBS MK 42412, track 10

Ballade no.3 in A flat major, op.47 (1840–41)

Artur Rubinstein (pno)

RCA RD89651,

track 3

Fantaisie in F minor, op.49 (1841)

Krystian Zimerman (pno)

DG 423 090-2, track 6

Donald Macleod looks at how Chopin's astonishing talent, both as a composer and as a pianist, was soon opening doors for him at home and abroad.

Étude in G flat Black Keys, Op 10, No 5

Murray Perahia (piano)

Scherzo No 1 in Bm, Op 20

Nikolai Demidenko (piano)

Variations on La Ci Darem La Mano, for Piano and Orchestra Op 2

Emanuel Ax (piano)

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Sir Charles Mackerras (conductor)

Mazurkas in Am and A flat Op 59, Nos 1 and 2

Vlado Perlemuter (piano)

Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise, Op 22

Arthur Rubenstein (piano).

2005032005101920100303

Chopin's best known love affair was with the cross-dressing novelist George Sand.

However, as Donald MacLeod explores in today's programme, there were several other significant women in the composer's life.

Melodia (Elegy or Lamento), Op 74, No 9

Urszula Kryger (mezzo soprano)

Charles Spencer (piano)

Polonaise brilliante in C, Op 3

Yo-Yo Ma (cello)

Emanuel Ax (piano)

Waltz in D flat, Op 70, No 3

Garrick Ohlson (piano)

Études Op 10 (Excerpts)

Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Waltz in A flat, Op 69, No 1

Allan Schiller (piano)

Nocturne No 9 in B, Op 32, No 1

Maria João Pires (piano)

Fantaisie in Fm, Op 49

Solomon (piano).

Donald Macleod continues his exploration of Chopin's extraordinarily creative final years.

Painter Eugene Delacroix was among the houseguests during Chopin's third summer at Nohant.

With music including the Polonaise Heroique, the 4th Scherzo and the 4th Ballade, which distils the experience of a lifetime.

‘Melodia' (‘Melody'), op.74 no.9

Elisabeth Söderström (sop) / Vladimir Ashkenazy (pno)

Decca 414 204-2,

track 9

Impromptu no.3 in G flat major, op.51

Decca 443 738-2,

CD 1 track 29

3 Mazurkas, op.50

no.1 in G major

no.2 in A flat major

no.3 in c sharp minor

Artur Rubinstein (pno)

RCA RD85171,

CD 2 tracks 5–7

Polonaise in A flat major, op.53 (‘H退roique')

Piotr Anderszewski (pno)

Virgin 5 45620 2,

track 10

Scherzo no.4 in E major, op.54

Evgeny Kissin (pno)

RCA 09026 63259 2,

track 7

Ballade no.4 in f minor, op.52

Krystian Zimerman (pno)

DG 423 090-2,

track 4

Donald Macleod focuses on late works by Chopin including the Heroique and the 4th Scherzo.

2005042005102020100304

Donald Macleod looks at the spell cast over Chopin by his visits to the opera, and the impact the dance floor had on his music.

Variations on a theme by Gioacchino Rossini (from the opera La Cenerentola) in E

Sharon Bezaly (flute)

Ervin Nagy (piano)

Nocturne No 3 in B, Op 9, No 3

Nikita Magaloff

Polonaise in B flat, Op 71, No 2

Peter Katin (piano)

Grand Duo Concertante in E on Themes form Robert Le Diable

Maria Kliegel (cello)

Bernd Glemser (piano)

Hulanka (Drinking Song) Op 74, No 4

Precz z moich oczu (Out of My Sight) Op 74, No 1

Urszula Kryger (mezzo soprano)

Charles Spencer (piano)

Waltz in C sharp minor Op 64, No 2

Allan Schiller (piano)

Ballade No 1 in Gm, Op 23

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.

Donald Macleod focuses on Chopin's close relationships - with George Sand and his sister.

Donald Macleod continues his exploration of Chopin's extraordinarily creative final years living in Nohant.

Cracks had begun to appear in Chopin's relationship with George Sand; then his father died; and there was a visit from his sister, whom he hadn't seen for 14 years.

2 Nocturnes, op.55 (1843)

no.1 in f minor

no.2 in E flat major

Vladimir Ashkenazy (pno)

Decca 443 738-2,

CD 4 tracks 3,–4

3 Mazurkas, op.56 (1843)

no.1 in B major

no.2 in C major

no.3 in c minor

Charles Rosen (pno)

Globe GLO 5028,

tracks 19–21

Sonata no.3 in b minor, op.58

Allegro maestoso

Scherzo (molto vivace)

Largo

Finale (Presto, non tanto)

Mitsuko Uchida (pno)

Philips 420 949-2,

tracks 5–8

200505 LAST2005102120100305

Donald Macleod concludes his exploration of Chopin's extraordinarily creative final years in Nohant.

As his relationship with Sand finally disintegrates, Chopin produces his three final masterpieces: the ultra-modern Polonaise-Fantaisie, the underrated Cello Sonata, and perhaps his most influential work, the Barcarolle.

Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, op.61

Maurizio Pollini

DG 413 795-2,

track 7

Sonata for Piano and Cello in g minor, op.65

1.

Allegro moderato

2.

Scherzo (molto vivace)

3.

Largo

4.

Finale (Presto, non tanto)

Martha Argerich (pno), Mstislav Rostropovich (vc)

DG 419 860-2,

tracks 1–4

Barcarolle in F sharp major, op.60

Dinu Lipatti (pno)

EMI 5 66904 2,

track 15

With three great works: the Polonaise Fantaisie, the Cello Sonata, and the Barcarolle.

In the final programme in this series, Donald Macleod takes the composer's temperature and looks at how the variable state of Chopin's health affected his music.

Funeral March, Excerpt from Piano Sonata No 2 in Bm, Op 35

Marta Argerich (piano)

Nocturne in Em, Op 72, No 1

Peter Katin (piano)

24 Preludes, Op 28, Excerpts

Håvard Gimse (piano)

Scherzo No 4 in E, Op 54

Claudio Arrau (piano)

Mazurka in Fm, Op 63, No 2

Evgeny Kissin (piano)

Barcarolle in F sharp, Op 60

Waltz No 1 in E flat, Op 18

Dinu Lipatti (piano).

200801Formative Influences20080512

The programme concentrates on Chopin's student years in Warsaw and an encounter with Paganini.

Variations (Souvenir de Paganini)

Fou T'song (piano)

Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 11

Martha Argerich (piano)

Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Charles Dutoit (conductor)

Berceuse in D flat

Alfred Cortot (piano).

200802Making An Impact20080513

The programme looks at Chopin's growing reputation and how he collected some celebrity fans including Robert Schumann.

Scherzo No 1 in B minor, Op 20

Nikolai Demidenko (piano)

Variations on La ci darem la mano, Op 2

Emanuel Ax (piano)

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Charles Mackerras (conductor)

Andante spianato et Grande polonaise brillante, Op 22

Artur Rubinstein (piano).

200803Young Love20080514

Chopin famously took the writer George Sand as his lover, and she became the most important among the various women who played a significant role in his life.

Polonaise brillante in C, Op 3

Yo-Yo Ma (cello)

Emanuel Ax (piano)

Etudes, Op 10 (excerpts)

Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Fantaisie in F minor, Op 49

Solomon (piano).

200804George Sand And Nohant2008052120080515

The programme tells the story of the famous relationship between Chopin and the writer George Sand, who were together for nine years and spent all but one of their summers at her country house at Nohant.

Their friends would come and go, and Chopin would compose on the piano given to him by his lover.

Impromptu No 2 in F sharp, Op 36

Peter Frankl (piano)

Sonata for piano and cello, Op 65

Martha Argerich (piano)

Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)

Ballade No 4 in F minor, Op 52

Alexander Uninsky (piano).

200805 LASTIn Sickness And In Health2008052820080516

Donald Macleod tells the story of Chopin's battle with tuberculosis and its effect on his music.

Piano Sonata No 2 in B flat minor, Op 35 (Funeral March)

Martha Argerich (piano)

Preludes, Op 28 (excerps)

Havard Gimse (piano)

Scherzo No 4 in E, Op 54

Claudio Arrau (piano)

Barcarolle in F sharp, Op 60

Waltz in E flat, Op 18 No 1

Dinu Lipatti (piano).

201501Roots20150406

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Chopin, zooming in on five key places on his lifetime itinerary - starting today in the composer's hometown, Warsaw, where he spent the formative years - 20 out of a total 39 - of his life.

Chopin's exceptional gifts - as both pianist and composer - were apparent very early. His first published piece is a creditable effort for a seven-year-old, and by the age of sixteen he was writing music that bore the hallmarks of his mature style. Trips to Berlin and Vienna - where two impromptu concerts at the Kärntnerthor Theatre caused a sensation - gave him a taste for foreign exploration, and heightened his sense that Warsaw could not give him all that he needed as an artist. So at the end of 1830, the 20-year-old Chopin set off on a coach for Vienna, little realizing that the failure of the Polish Uprising - which would be brutally crushed by Russia - was soon to make him a permanent exile.

Donald Macleod explores the importance to Chopin of his home town, Warsaw.

201502The Accidental Parisian20150407

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Chopin, zooming in on five key places on his lifetime itinerary. Today, after setting out from Warsaw on what was to have been an extended foreign tour, Chopin finds himself a permanent exile in Paris.

Chopin reached Paris via Vienna and Stuttgart, where he had learnt of Russia's brutal suppression of the Polish Uprising. Fearing that if he returned to Poland he might never be allowed to leave again, he decided to stay put - in what was, after all, in those days, the epicentre of the musical universe. An early appearance at the Salle Pleyel - enthusiastically reviewed by Francois Joseph Fétis, a famous musicologist and senior critic of the Revue Musicale - spread Chopin's name like wildfire, and he quickly became a major celebrity on the Parisian cultural scene. Uncomfortable in front of large audiences, he preferred to perform in salons, and made his living teaching piano to the well-heeled. It was at an extremely well-heeled soirée at the Hôtel de France, hosted by Liszt and his mistress, the Countess Marie d'Agoult, that Chopin first encountered the novelist George Sand - snappier pen-name of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dudevant. Chopin's initial revulsion with Sand gradually turned first to fascination, then attraction; they were to become one of the most celebrated - or perhaps infamous - artistic couples of the 19th century.

Donald Macleod explains how Chopin came to settle permanently in Paris.

201503The Holiday From Hell20150408

Donald Macleod on Chopin's stay in Majorca, where he wrote some of his best-known music.

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Chopin, zooming in on five key places on his lifetime itinerary. Today, the composer visits Majorca, where despite primitive conditions and appalling weather he produces some of his best-known music.

The trip to Majorca wasn't simply a vacation. Chopin and his new lover, the writer George Sand, were, in effect, on the run; they had to get away from Paris for a while. Sand's previous lover, one Félicien Mallefille, had cottoned on to his old mistress's new relationship, and took a potshot at her as she left her apartment building; the bullet, as the story goes, was deflected by a passing wagon. Sand was unscathed, but nonplussed. Majorca was remote enough in those pre-package-holiday days to provide her and Chopin with a bolt-hole until M. Mallefille was able, as they say, to move on, so they decamped there, with Sand's children Maurice and Solange, in November 1838. Initially Palma, where they settled, seemed like a paradise; Chopin wrote to a friend of "sky like turquoise, sea like azure, mountains like emerald, air like in heaven". But then the temperature dropped and the heavens opened. In the cold, damp conditions, Chopin's consumption kicked in, and the local authorities, worried about the risk of a contagion, insisted that the eccentric strangers should move out of town. They upped sticks to an old monastery at Valldemossa, a largely uninhabited area several hours' journey from Palma. Chopin threw himself into his work, but in the rudimentary conditions in which they were now forced to live he eventually became so ill that Sand decided to abandon Majorca and make the journey home to France.

201504Retreat20150409

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Chopin, zooming in on five key places on his lifetime itinerary. Today, we're at Nohant, a bucolic oasis some 150 miles south of Paris, where Chopin's lover - and, increasingly, carer - the novelist George Sand, had - by aristocratic standards - a modest country château. Here, over seven long summers, the composer produced much of his finest music.

If no-one's made a soap opera about Sand's household at Nohant, they should do. It would be a kind of French Upstairs, Downstairs, with squabbling servants, family tiffs, romantic intrigue and glamorous guests... all to the soundtrack of Chopin's extraordinary music, caught in the white heat of creation, which in the words of one of those glamorous guests, the painter Eugène Delacroix, "would waft over us from the windows opening onto the garden, while he worked away; the music mingling with the singing of the nightingales and the scent of the roses". Over the years, the cracks began to appear in Chopin's relationship with Sand, and it eventually crumbled - unlike the house at Nohant, which is now preserved as a national monument.

Chopin's life at Nohant, near Paris, where the composer wrote much of his finest music.

201505 LASTLondon Calling20150410

Donald Macleod focuses on Chopin's disastrous tour of Britain.

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Chopin, zooming in on five key places on his lifetime itinerary. Today, an invitation to London turns into an extended tour of Britain, with disastrous consequences for the composer's fragile health.

Chopin had visited London once before, in 1837, but on that occasion he went strictly incognito. This time, he was invited to play - and as the invitation coincided with fallout from the 1848 Revolution, he was more than happy to have an excuse to get out of the French capital for a few weeks. The main facilitator of Chopin's British sojourn was a middle-aged Scotswoman, Miss Jane Wilhelmina Stirling, a sugar heiress. She had studied the piano with Chopin in Paris, and clearly held something of a torch for him. After a hectic round of concerts, matinées and soirées in the English capital, Miss Stirling whisked her beloved teacher off to her ancestral home north of the border - then back down south to a concert in Manchester, attended by what must have seemed to Chopin an intimidatingly large audience, of 1,200 people - then up to to Scotland again for a round of aristocratic socializing he could well have done without, followed by concerts in Glasgow and Edinburgh - then down once more to what Chopin was by now calling "this hellish London", whose infernal fogs must have been a nightmare for the consumptive composer. Here Chopin performed one final engagement before returning, a husk of his former self, to Paris. He never recovered his health.

201701Konstancja20170605

Including Chopin's early years in Poland and his romance with Konstancja Gladkowska.

Chopin's precocious talent and romantic temperament both manifested themselves early: Donald explores his early compositions and the first of many affairs of the heart,with Konstancja Gładkowska.

Polonaise in A flat major, Op posth (1821)
Anatol Ugorski, piano

Variations in A major, Op posth, "Souvenir de Paganini" (1829)
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major, Op 3 (1829)
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Martha Argerich, piano

Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor, Op 21 (1830)
Martha Argerich, piano
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Charles Dutoit, conductor

Out of My Sight, Op 74 No 6 (1830)
Olga Pasichnyk, soprano
Natalya Pasichnyk, piano.

201702Maria20170606

Focusing on Chopin's arrival on the Parisian scene and infatuation with Maria Wodzinska.

Chopin threw himself into Paris life when he moved there in 1831, where he was feted by the great and good - but he was pining for the daughter of a Polish count.

Grande valse brillante in E flat major, Op 18 (1831)
Daniil Trifonov, piano

Variations in B flat major on "La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni", Op 2 (1827)
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Kazimierz Kord, conductor

Etudes Op 10 (1829-32)
Murray Perahia, piano

The Ring, Op 74 No 14 (1836)
Elzbieta Szmytka, soprano
Malcolm Martineau, piano.

201703George20170607

Focusing on music Chopin wrote during his relationship with his mistress, George Sand.

Toast of the town, Chopin was now producing some of his most iconic works. Donald explores music he wrote during the intense but unorthodox relationship with his mistress George Sand.

Handsome Lad. Op 74 No 8 (1841)
Ewa Podleś, contralto
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

24 Preludes, Op 28 (1838-9)
Martha Argerich, piano

Three Mazurkas, Op 50 (1841-2)
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Waltz in C sharp minor, Op 64 No 2 (1847)
Khatia Buniatishvili, piano.

201704Jane20170608

Including Chopin's physical decline, a UK tour and relationship with Jane Stirling.

Chopin's physical decline, UK tour, and unusual relationship with Jane Stirling. Presented by Donald Macleod

Chopin's ill health was becoming extremely serious, but one admirer managed to coax him on a tour of the UK. It would be his last voyage.

Two Nocturnes, Op 55 (No 1 in F minor; No 2 in E flat major) (1842-4)
Maria João Pires, piano

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op 65 (1846)
Jacqueline du Pré, cello
Daniel Barenboim, piano

Viardot: Aime-Moi (arr from Chopin Mazurka No 23 in D major, Op 33 No 2)
Olga Pasichnyk, soprano
Natalya Pasichnyk, piano

Chopin: Ballade No 4 in F minor, Op 52 (1842)
Georges Cziffra, piano.

201705 LASTLudwika20170609

Donald Macleod discusses Chopin's final moments and plays some of the last music he wrote.

As Chopin's friends gathered around his death-bed, it was his sister Ludwika he called for. Donald Macleod looks back at Chopin's final moments and plays some of the last music he wrote.

Mazurka in F minor, Op posth. 68 No 4 (1849)
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op 61 (1846)
Maurizio Pollini, piano

Melody, Op 74 No 9 (1847)
Olga Pasichnyk, soprano
Natalya Pasichnyk, piano

Piano Sonata No 2 in B flat minor, Op 35 (1839)
Murray Perahia, piano

Polonaise in A flat major, Op 53,'Heroic' (1842)
Maurizio Pollini, piano.

201901Polish Roots20190624

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, how Chopin’s Polish heritage shaped his music.

Chopin’s precocious musical gifts – not just as a pianist, but as a composer too – were apparent very early on. His first composition appeared in print in 1817, in Warsaw, when he was just seven years old. It’s a ‘polonaise’, the Polish national dance – a stately, triple-time number danced by aristocracy and country folk alike – a form Chopin continued to explore throughout his life. Even more so the mazurka; Chopin didn’t invent the genre, but he became its major exponent, producing almost 60 mazurkas, from his teens right through to his very last composition. The mazurka originated in a Polish folk dance called the mazurek, itself derived from the slow kujawiak and the fast oberek – both of which Chopin experienced ‘in the field’ when he spent two summers in his mid-teens in a village called Szafarnia, in the province of Mazovia, 125 miles northwest of Warsaw. This childhood experience left a deep mark, and it’s in his mazurkas that some of Chopin’s most adventurous and innovative music is to be found. The heroic ballads of the Polish nationalist poet Adam Mickiewicz left a more subtle imprint on Chopin’s consciousness – one that subsequently emerged in his wonderful sequence of Ballades, which, while they aren’t programmatically related to individual poems of Mickiewicz, draw their powerful narrative drive from his work as a whole. All of which suggests that though you may take the Pole out of Poland – Chopin left the country when he was 20, never to return – you can’t take Poland out of the Pole.

‘Życzenie’ (The maiden’s wish), Op 74 No 1
Eugenia Zareska, mezzo soprano
Giorgio Favaretto, piano

Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor, Op 21 (3rd mvt, Allegro vivace)
Murray Perahia, piano
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Zubin Mehta, conductor

4 Mazurkas, Op 17
(No 1 in B flat; No 2 in E minor; No 3 in A flat; No 4 in A minor)

Polonaise No 5 in C minor, Op 40 No 2
Polonaise No 6 in A flat, Op 53 (‘Heroic’)
Emil Gilels, piano

Ballade No 4 in F minor, Op 52
Krystian Zimerman, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The life and work of Fryderyk Chopin. Today, how his Polish heritage shaped his music.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201902Chopin's Correspondence20190625

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, we catch fleeting glimpses of the composer through his letters.

Chopin was a prolific if reluctant letter-writer on a wide range of subject-matter, from practicalities – instructions for negotiating with publishers, requests for items to be purchased and sent – to detailed accounts of his recent activities; his longest surviving epistle, a 6,000-word epic to his family in Warsaw, paints a picture of his time in Scotland during the summer of 1848. Around 800 of Chopin’s letters have come down to us. They’re an invaluable source of information about his life, but an exceedingly patchy one; for one reason or another, most of his correspondence seems to have been gone missing over the course of time, leaving holes in his biography that will probably never be filled.

2 Mazurkas (Mazurka in G; Mazurka in B flat)
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 11 (2nd mvt, Romance—Larghetto)
Jean Marc Luisada, piano
Quatuor Talich
Benjamin Berlioz, double bass

Preludes, Op 28 (No 1 in C, Agitato; No 2 in A minor, Lento; No 15 in D flat, Sostenuto; No 16 in B flat minor, Presto con fuoco)
Grigory Sokolov, piano

3 Mazurkas, Op 50 (No 1 in G; No 2 in A flat; No 3 in C sharp minor)
Janina Fialkowska, piano

2 Nocturnes, Op 55 (No 1 in F minor; No 2 in E flat)
Samson François, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The life and music of Fryderyk Chopin. Today, we glimpse the composer through his letters.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, we catch fleeting glimpses of the composer through his letters.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201903Chopin The Pianist20190626

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as "the poet of the piano". Today, the composer’s relationship with his instrument is centre-stage.

Martha Argerich once said that she loved to play the piano very much, but didn’t like being a pianist. The same words could have been uttered by Chopin, who resorted to playing in public only when he needed a quick injection of cash. As a result, his reticence became a marketable commodity, giving his ventures into the concert hall such rarity-value that they became lucrative money-spinners; and it doubtless didn’t escape him that after a public appearance, sales of his sheet-music shot up. Income-generation aside, Chopin was much happier as a performer in the more intimate and sociable surroundings of the salon, where his trademark light touch could be appreciated to the full. According to one contemporary account, “he appeared hardly to touch the piano; one might have thought an instrument superfluous”. That observation is borne out by the recollections of his pupils: “Caress the key, never bash it!”, he’s quoted as saying.

Etude in A flat, Op 25 No 1 (‘Aeolian Harp’)
Alfred Cortot, piano

‘Krakowiak’: Grand Concert Rondo in F, Op 14
Jan Lisiecki, piano
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Krzysztof Urbański, conductor

Mazurka in B minor, Op 33 No 4
Ignaz Friedman, piano

Andante spianato, Op 22 No 1
Benjamin Grosvenor, piano

Impromptu No 3 in G flat, Op 51
Stephen Kovacevich, piano

Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op 48 No 2
Ivan Moravec, piano

Barcarolle, Op 60
Dinu Lipatti, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The life and music of Fryderyk Chopin. Today, the composer's relationship with the piano.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, the composer’s relationship with his instrument is centre-stage.

201904Chopin By His Peers20190627

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, Chopin through the eyes of his most illustrious contemporaries.

“Every now and then, a breath of the music of Chopin would waft over us from the windows opening onto the garden, while he worked away; the music mingling with the singing of the nightingales and the scent of the roses.” Imagine being able to eavesdrop on Chopin in the act of creation. That’s what the painter Eugène Delacroix was lucky enough to do during his visit to Nohant, the country retreat of the composer’s lover George Sand, in the summer of 1842. Sand gave us the most intimate insight into Chopin’s creative process: “His composing was spontaneous, miraculous. He found the ideas without looking for them. But then began a labour more heart-breaking than I have ever seen. He shut himself up in his room for whole days, weeping, walking about, breaking his pens, repeating or altering a measure a hundred times, writing it down and erasing it as often, and starting over the next day with scrupulous and desperate perseverance.” Chopin’s relationship with Sand eventually soured, as did his friendship with the composer Franz Liszt; it didn’t help when Liszt published a lengthy and spiteful review of one of Chopin’s rare public performances. Robert Schumann also went into print on Chopin, a composer completely unknown to him at the time: “Hats off, gentlemen – a genius!” was his celebrated reaction on reading the score of Chopin’s Variations on ‘La ci darem la mano’.

Etude in C, Op 10 No 1
Moriz Rosenthal, piano

Ballade No 2 in F, Op 38
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Variations in B flat major on ‘La ci darem la mano’, from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, Op 2
Emanuel Ax, fortepiano
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Charles Mackerras, conductor

Scherzo No 4 in E, Op 54
Sviatoslav Richter, piano

Sonata in G minor for piano and cello, Op 65 (2nd and 3rd movements)
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Martha Argerich, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The life and music of Fryderyk Chopin. Today, the composer as his contemporaries saw him.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201905 LAST'dying All His Life'20190628

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, Donald considers the parlous state of the composer’s health.

“Chopin was dying all his life”, Hector Berlioz is supposed to have said. Whether or not the quotation is accurate, the remark has a grim resonance. Chopin has become the archetype of the Romantic composer – weak, sickly, world-weary, neurotic. By the time of his visit to Scotland in 1848, he was so enfeebled that he had to be carried upstairs to his bedroom by his manservant, Daniel. There’s been plenty of debate about Chopin’s constitution and the causes of his death, but the likeliest explanation for the ill-health that dogged him on and off throughout his short life and eventually ended it, is that he contracted the disease popularly known as ‘the White Death’ – the same condition that carried off many of his friends and family, and, indeed, millions of his contemporaries throughout Europe – in his teens, thereafter living with it as his constant companion. Against the bleak backdrop of chronic tuberculosis – sometimes a minor inconvenience, at others completely debilitating – the scale of his achievement seems almost heroic.

Mazurka in G minor, Op 67 No 2
Samson François, piano

2 Nocturnes, Op 27 (No 1 in C sharp minor, Larghetto; No 2 in D flat, Lento sostento)
Nelson Freire, piano

Scherzo No 3 in C sharp minor, Op 39
Maurizio Pollini, piano

Ballade No 3 in A flat, Op 47
Jorge Bolet, piano

Sonata No 3 in B minor, Op 58 (3rd movement, Largo)
Tamás Vásary, piano

Waltz in E flat, Op 18 (‘Grande valse brillante’)
Artur Rubinstein, piano

Berceuse, Op 57
Ivan Moravec, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The life and music of Fryderyk Chopin. Today, the parlous state of the composer's health.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, Donald considers the parlous state of the composer’s health.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.