Chopin’s Bicentennial – Retrospective Listenings

For those of you who missed Chopin's birthday, don’t feel left out. None of us were around when he was born. However, you should feel ashamed if you missed the 200th year celebration of his birthday that took place March 1st across the world. Rather than looking at the life of Chopin, Performance Today decided to air one very special celebration that I thought I’d share and elaborate on.

Very few people have heard Chopin’s music in its original form, and that’s because pianos were a very different beast back in his time. They had a soft sound, short sustain, and quick decay. While the sharper sound of a Steinway is preferable in most western-classical music, the fortepiano had a charm in its unique sound. The lower octave strings were loose and buzzed in a stern voice while the higher octaves struck with pinging chirps. One stark comparison of the two instruments can be found on Wikipedia’s article of Chopin’s piece, “The Ocean”.

I was drawn in at a very young age by the virtuoso’s elaborate pieces, but as I grew older, I began to understand the depth of emotion holding each note in place. Reading about his background and then hearing the dream world he fabricated in his mind, one can only get a more vivid understanding of Robert Schumann's words, “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius.”

Of all the celebrations across the globe in his honor, the one we’re most excited to bring you is from Chopin’s home town in Poland. American pianist Garrick Ohlsson gave a very special recital there yesterday. He played on an 1848 Pleyel piano once owned by Chopin, in a manor house in Chopin’s home town. The recital was broadcast live over Polish radio, to a nation that Ohlsson admits is “Chopin-crazy.” In today’s show, we’ll have highlights.*

1. Polonaise in A major, Op. 40 No. 1(3:59) (source)
2. Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40 No. 2(6:00) (source)
3. Ballade No. 3 in Ab major, Op.47(7:42) (source)
4. Scherzo in E major, Op. 54(11:21) (source)
5. Mazurka in C sharp minor, Op. 50 No. 3(4:43) (source)
6. Waltz in E flat major, op. 18(5:26) (source)
7. Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53(6:32) (source)

Full episode (Unedited, with commentary) – (59:00) (source)

(Thanks to oddbondboris for finding the mp3’s.)

Posted 2010-03-03 20:33:24 -0500