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.

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012005101720100301

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

Vladimir Ashkenazy (pno)

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

4.

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).

01Formative 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).

01Roots20150406

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

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.

022005101820100302

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).

02Making 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).

02The Accidental Parisian20150407

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

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.

032005101920100303

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

Vladimir Ashkenazy (pno)

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 (‘Hroique')

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.

03The 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.

03Young 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).

042005102020100304

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

04George 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).

04Retreat20150409

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

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.

0520080528
05London 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.

05 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).

05 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).