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Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as 'the poet of the piano'. Today, Chopin through the eyes of his most illustrious contemporaries.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, Chopin through the eyes of his most illustrious contemporaries.

“Every now and then, a breath of the music of Chopin 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.” Imagine being able to eavesdrop on Chopin in the act of creation. That’s what the painter Eugène Delacroix was lucky enough to do during his visit to Nohant, the country retreat of the composer’s lover George Sand, in the summer of 1842. Sand gave us the most intimate insight into Chopin’s creative process: “His composing was spontaneous, miraculous. He found the ideas without looking for them. But then began a labour more heart-breaking than I have ever seen. He shut himself up in his room for whole days, weeping, walking about, breaking his pens, repeating or altering a measure a hundred times, writing it down and erasing it as often, and starting over the next day with scrupulous and desperate perseverance.” Chopin’s relationship with Sand eventually soured, as did his friendship with the composer Franz Liszt; it didn’t help when Liszt published a lengthy and spiteful review of one of Chopin’s rare public performances. Robert Schumann also went into print on Chopin, a composer completely unknown to him at the time: “Hats off, gentlemen – a genius!” was his celebrated reaction on reading the score of Chopin’s Variations on ‘La ci darem la mano’.

Etude in C, Op 10 No 1
Moriz Rosenthal, piano

Ballade No 2 in F, Op 38
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Variations in B flat major on ‘La ci darem la mano’, from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, Op 2
Emanuel Ax, fortepiano
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Charles Mackerras, conductor

Scherzo No 4 in E, Op 54
Sviatoslav Richter, piano

Sonata in G minor for piano and cello, Op 65 (2nd and 3rd movements)
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Martha Argerich, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Frédéric Chopin

    Etude in C, Op 10 No 1

    Performer: Moriz Rosenthal.
    • BIDDULPH : LHW 040.
    • BIDDULPH.
    • 8.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Ballade No 2 in F, Op 38

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • LONDON 443 738-2.
    • LONDON 443 738-2.
    • 2.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Variations in B flat major on 'La ci darem la mano'

    Performer: Emanuel Ax. Orchestra: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Conductor: Charles Mackerras.
    • SONY : SK-60771.
    • SONY.
    • 5.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Scherzo No 4 in E, Op 54

    Performer: Sviatoslav Richter.
    • OLYMPIA : OCD-338.
    • OLYMPIA.
    • 4.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Sonata in G minor for piano and cello, Op 65 (2nd and 3rd movements)

    Performer: Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich. Performer: Martha Argerich.
    • DG 419 860- 2.
    • DG 419 860- 2.
    • 2.

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