Happy Birthday Chopin; Congratulations, Hung-Kuan Chen

Celebrating Fryderyk Chopin’s birthday today with a gripping performance by pianist Hung-Kuan Chen, of the two Op. 62 Nocturnes.   Chen played them in the WGBH Fraser Performance Studio for a special live broadcast marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Hung-Kuan Chen, one of the most respected pianists and teachers in the Boston area, is about to decamp for New York: He was one of three faculty appointments announced by the Juilliard School just a couple of days ago, joining pianist Sergei Babayan and Juilliard Alumnus (and MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner) Stephen Hough on the school’s piano faculty beginning in the Fall of 2014.   Nice line in the press release too:

Hung-Kuan ChenRaised in Germany, Hung-Kuan Chen’s early studies fostered strong roots in Germanic Classicism, which is tempered with the sensibility of Chinese philosophy, earning him a reputation as a dynamic and imaginative artist.”

 

Watch the video to witness some of those sensibilities at play.   These two late Chopin Nocturnes are favorites of mine, for reasons beautifully articulated by pianist Bruce Murray in our Radio Chopin series for WDAV.    Take a couple of minutes and listen to the episode here.

Episode 5: The Inspired Simplicity of Utterance

 

‘Till The End of Time: Episode 200 of Radio Chopin.

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“So it has come to this: 200 years, 200 stories, and now our year of Chopin celebrations is out of time. And just what have we learned?

To tell this last Chopin story, we’ve recruited Perry Como, who in 1945 scored his first No. 1 hit by crooning “Till the End of Time,” an effective reworking of Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise. A song so popular it sold more than two million copies, and inspired two Hollywood films: both the eponymous Till the End of Time, as well as the Chopin biopic A Song to Remember……”

Thanks, everyone.  Thanks, Fryderyk.   It’s been quite a ride.  The complete episode is below!

Episode 200: ‘Till the End of Time

Three-Quarter Pole: Radio Chopin Episode 150….

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Hard to believe we’re three-quarters of the way through Radio Chopin.   Here’s episode 150.  Listen to it here, or read below:

Episode 150: Saved by the Choir

Charles Gounod’s opera, Faust. Act One, Scene One: Faust sits alone, bitter, despondent, reflecting on a life spent in a futile attempt to find the meaning of existence. He resolves to take his own life and is raising a vial of poison to his lips when …outside a joyous peasant chorus stops him.

When you listen to a moment right in the middle of one of Chopin’s most evocative Mazurkas, you hear unisons. Chopin used to fuss at his students over those brief bars. Wilhelm von Lenz writes:

“Nobody ever managed to satisfy him with these unisons, which have to be played very lightly; the chords were an easier matter: but these unisons! ‘They’re women’s voices in the choir,’ [Chopin] would say, and they were never played delicately enough, never simply enough. One was barely allowed to breathe over the keyboard, let alone touch it.”

This has to be a childhood memory. The Mazurka in B-flat minor is redolent with nostalgia from start to finish, and how it ends! If biographer James Huneker hears correctly, Faust’s impulse returns, only this time it’s the whole earth and the scene is set in a sorrowful heaven:

“Sweet melancholy driving before it joy and being routed itself, until the annunciation of the first theme and the dying away of the dance, dancers and the solid globe itself,” he writes, “…as if earth had committed suicide for loss of the sun. The last two bars could have been written only by Chopin. They are ineffable sighs.” – Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin is Halfway Home! Episode 100…

 

So, for episode 100 of Radio Chopin, we thought we’d visit Chopin’s original home, in the Polish town of Zelazowa Wola.

“Today, trees – and pianos – remain the story of Zelazowa Wola. The park surrounding the manor includes more than 500 species of trees and shrubs. Piano teachers make pilgrimages here to put “Chopin acorns” in the pockets of their promising students. Inside, there are three 19th-century pianos; outside, there’s a modern grand, where every summer, there is a daily Chopin recital, from soloists ranging from greenest amateur to the most established pro.”  Nicely told, Mike McKay!

Episode 100: Zelazowa Wola

The Mozdzer Motor

Fascinating visit with the remarkable Polish jazz pianist Leszek Mozdzer on the Spoleto Festival, as we recorded an interview between him and Jennifer Foster in the Cato Center.  Here’s the link to the program:
Spoleto Today 2010 June 1

Great dissection of how he channels Chopin into “the Mozdzer Motor” – and his John Cage-like habit of putting drinking glasses, combs, and even his own CDs on the piano strings to combat boredom.  Oh, and along the way we revealed to Mozdzer his unwitting hand in creating the Spoleto Today theme song!

We even had the chance to shoot a little video:

And here are more “Chopin Impressions” from Mozdzer:

Celebrating the Great Pole at the Quarter Pole: Episode 50 of Radio Chopin

Image  Episode 50 of Radio Chopin considers the saga of the wonderful Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter…“My parents met through Chopin’s music. It was during a party. Fifty years ago. My father was playing — as an amateur pianist — some Chopin waltzes in a party and my mother was there and that took her attention! That’s why she got in love with him. And that’s…that’s the reason why I say that if it wouldn’t be for Chopin music I wouldn’t be here!”   Check out the story…and why many consider her part of the new generation of Great Chopinists…here.

Episode 50: A Chopinist is Born