Nice story/podcast from my friends at WQXR today lamenting the current state of the encore in classical music. “It’s a failure of imagination and it’s a failure of artistic expression” huffs the critic from The Telegraph.
Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat, Op 27 N. 2, is wheeled out so often it’s a wonder the audience don’t sing along like the crowd at a rugby match. Traumerai, from Schumann’s Kinderszenen, I’ve heard so often it now has no more significance than elevator muzak. And as for [Liszt’s] La Campanella, if I never hear those bells again it will be too soon.
And surprise, surprise, who’s the pianist that bucks the same-old same-old trend for after-dinner treats? Our old friend Marc-André Hamelin of course, who even makes the conventional rather….er…unconventional. Hint: Listen all the way through…
Then’s there’s this “cake-smasher” of Percy Grainger’s arrangement (kinda sorta) of “In Dahomey…” If you can read music, follow along…if you dare!
16 pianists playing a single Chopin Polonaise, with even a few clams thrown in. A tour-de-force of editing, and a remarkable seven-minute-and-nineteen-second tutorial on, oh, I don’t know…technique, style, fingering, cinematography, lighting, dress, culture…. Enjoy!
And a second consecutive day of referencing Liberace, too!
PS – for another mashup involving this Polonaise, check out the 24 pieces crammed into two minutes that chronicles Chopin’s affinity for his favorite key signature.
Episode 73: That A-Flat Thing
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:
“Raised 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
Revisiting a startling discovery from the Radio Chopin series…
Take a listen to Chopin’s A Stranger Here Himself…
“A stranger I came, A stranger I depart…” These opening lines of “Good Night”, the first song in Franz Schubert’s cycle, Winterreise, or Winter Journey resonated with Chopin. So much so that they spilled over into the manuscript for his Sonata for Cello and Piano.
A dead ringer, so to speak! In Schubert’s song cycle the anti-hero is a dying poet. Themes of banishment, lost love and icy despair pervade. Just as they did in Chopin’s life at the time he composed his Cello Sonata. It was winter. His health was in rapid decline. He was twice exiled: he’d left his native Poland for good, and George Sand had just evicted him from their nest with the publication of an exposé thinly-veiled as a work of fiction.
Which brings us back to the first movement of Chopin’s Cello Sonata. It’s problematic. It puzzled even his closest allies. Was it too intimate? Wasting in his deathbed, Chopin asked to hear it, only to find he could bear no more than the first few measures. He omitted the movement from the sonata’s 1848 premiere. Clearly, it had profound personal significance. Most likely because he turned to—and quoted—Schubert’s song at the time of his separation from George Sand, which she had publicly portrayed as entirely his fault. Was it regret? Or, as in the final stanzas in Schubert’s song, did the ailing Chopin recognize his fate was sealed?
These are the last words spoken
Soon I’ll be out of sight
A simple farewell message
Goodnight, my love, good night.
– Jennifer Foster
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