Chopin’s Women, BBC Documentary

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost one year since Chopin’s 200th birthday! But here’s a treat for you as we approach his 201st. This BBC documentary is now available in eight parts. Watch the first part here and find the rest on YouTube.

To mark the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth, this film follows young pianist James Rhodes on a journey to Warsaw, Paris and London to discover the real women who had such a powerful influence on the composer.

Exploring the events of Chopin’s life, Rhodes encounters the singers who enchanted the composer with their voices: Konstancja, a young soprano and the object of his teenage affections; Delfina, the sexually notorious Polish Parisian emigre countess; fellow composer and opera singer Pauline Viardot; and, during the final few months of his life, the Swedish operatic superstar Jenny Lind.

Threaded through the narrative of the film is a selection of Chopin’s piano music performed by Rhodes, while rising young opera singer Natalya Romaniw performs some of the signature arias that thrilled Chopin.

Featuring contributions from Chopin experts including the interpreters Emanuel Ax and Garrick Ohlsson, his biographer Adam Zamoyski and piano guru Jeremy Siepmann.


Barenboim on Beethoven

Found this clip of Daniel Barenboim with Lang Lang at this morning from the Great Performances Series, Barenboim on Beethoven.

Chopin’s Birthday Party in Warsaw

Warsaw is celebrating Chopin’s birthday with a 170-hour birthday party and round the clock performances of his music. It’s estimated that about 25,000 people will be attending the party this week.

You could have heard jazz star Grazyna Auguscik as she improvised over Chopin melodies, or an unknown young pianist playing nocturnes at 3am to curled-up couples and solitary night-owls. Nearly 300 musicianssigned up to play at “The Longest Birthday”, the idea for which came from the doubt surrounding the composer’s actual date of birth.

Church records put it at 22 February, but Fryderyk Chopin and his family always said it was 1 March. In any case, it was 200 years ago, and Poles are determined to celebrate. The government has designated 2010 Official Chopin Year, and a “celebrations committee” is co-ordinating events around the world.

(read the entire article here)

Another big draw in Warsaw this month is the opening of a new multimedia interactive museum in the center of Warsaw. Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski hailed it as “the most modern biographical museum in Europe and even the world.”  The museum is housed in the Ostrogski Palace, home of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute which was renovated and expanded to house the new exhibit.  Read more here and here.

Erik Satie

Erik Satie

We have another new piano book in the house – this time the Dover Edition of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies, Gnossiennes and Other Works for Piano.  I never realized Satie was such an interesting fellow. For example,

After years of heavy drinking, Satie died on 1 July, 1925, from cirrhosis of the liver. At the time of his death absolutely nobody else had ever entered his room in Arcueil since he had moved there twenty-seven years earlier. What his friends would discover there, after Satie’s burial at the Cimetière d’Arcueil, had the allure of the opening of the grave of Tutankhamun: apart from the dust and the cobwebs (which, among other things, made clear that Satie never composed using his piano), they discovered numerous items that included:

  • great numbers of umbrellas, some that had apparently never been used by Satie,
  • a total of four pianos: two of which were back to back, two of which sat upside-down on top of the other two
  • the portrait of Satie by Suzanne Valadon,
  • love-letters and drawings from the Valadon romance,
  • other letters from all periods of his life,
  • his collection of drawings of medieval buildings (only then did his friends see a link between Satie and certain previously anonymous, journal advertisements regarding “castles in lead” and the like),
  • other drawings and texts of autobiographical value,
  • other memorabilia from all periods of his life, amongst which were the seven velvet suits from his Velvet gentleman period. (read more)

Click here for more articles and check out the video clip of Satie and Francis Picabia jumping up and down and firing a cannon on a Paris rooftop. (reminds me of a few goofballs I’ve met over the years….)

Two new Mozart pieces performed

The two new Mozart pieces were performed today in Salzburg by Austrian pianist Florian Birsak on Mozart’s own piano an a house in Salzburg where he once lived. According to the story on NewsDaily:

The concerto movement and a prelude were originally judged by their archivist, the International Mozarteum Foundation, to be anonymous works. Further analysis determined they had been composed by Mozart when he was 7- or 8-years-old.

Both pieces were transcribed in the writing of Mozart’s father Leopold but the analysis showed he must have done so from what his prodigy child was playing on a piano, the foundation’s Mozart researcher Ulrich Leisinger told a news conference.

He said the young Mozart almost certainly asked his father to put the pieces to paper because he could not yet do musical notation, and later made his own corrections.

“This was a young composer running riot to show what he was capable of. The piece does contain real technical mistakes and clumsy moments that an old hand like Leopold Mozart would never have made,” Leisinger said.

“Neither the compositional style nor hasty correction-ridden hand-writing are consistent with Leopold’s authorship.

How Many Mozart Pieces?

I started reading about the two new Mozart pieces that were discovered last week. They are currently in the possession of The International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, and set to be performed on Mozart’s own fortepiano at the family’s old Salzburg residence in a press conference on August 2.

Then I found this:

In 2006, a year filled with celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Austria’s favourite son, another piano score extremely likely to be the work of young Wolfgang Amadeus was discovered in Salzburg.

In May of last year, experts also identified three mystery musical scores discovered at Poland’s historic Jasna Gora Roman Catholic monastery in southern Poland, as possible Mozart creations.

And this from September 2008:

A French museum has found a previously unknown piece of music handwritten by Mozart, a researcher said Thursday. The 18th century melody sketch is missing the harmony and instrumentation but was described as an important find.Ulrich Leisinger, head of research at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, said there is no doubt that the single sheet was written by the composer.

Forget looking for another copy of the Declaration of Independence. It just might be easier to find another Mozart original!