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Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as 'the poet of the piano'. Today, we catch fleeting glimpses of the composer through his letters.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, we catch fleeting glimpses of the composer through his letters.

Chopin was a prolific if reluctant letter-writer on a wide range of subject-matter, from practicalities – instructions for negotiating with publishers, requests for items to be purchased and sent – to detailed accounts of his recent activities; his longest surviving epistle, a 6,000-word epic to his family in Warsaw, paints a picture of his time in Scotland during the summer of 1848. Around 800 of Chopin’s letters have come down to us. They’re an invaluable source of information about his life, but an exceedingly patchy one; for one reason or another, most of his correspondence seems to have been gone missing over the course of time, leaving holes in his biography that will probably never be filled.

2 Mazurkas (Mazurka in G; Mazurka in B flat)
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 11 (2nd mvt, Romance—Larghetto)
Jean Marc Luisada, piano
Quatuor Talich
Benjamin Berlioz, double bass

Preludes, Op 28 (No 1 in C, Agitato; No 2 in A minor, Lento; No 15 in D flat, Sostenuto; No 16 in B flat minor, Presto con fuoco)
Grigory Sokolov, piano

3 Mazurkas, Op 50 (No 1 in G; No 2 in A flat; No 3 in C sharp minor)
Janina Fialkowska, piano

2 Nocturnes, Op 55 (No 1 in F minor; No 2 in E flat)
Samson François, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Frédéric Chopin

    2 Mazurkas

    Performer: Garrick Ohlsson.
    • HYPERION CDS44362.
    • HYPERION.
    • 24.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 11 (2nd movement)

    Performer: Jean-Marc Luisada. Performer: Talichovo kvarteto. Performer: Benjamin Berlioz.
    • RCA 74321 632112.
    • RCA 74321 632112.
    • 2.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Preludes, Op 28 (Nos 1, 2, 15, 16)

    Performer: Grigory Sokolov.
    • NAÏVE: OP30456.
    • NAÏVE.
    • 1.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    3 Mazurkas, Op 50

    Performer: Janina Fialkowska.
    • ATMA ACD22682.
    • ATMA ACD22682.
    • 1.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    2 Nocturnes, Op 55

    Performer: Samson François.
    • EMI 5 74457 2.
    • EMI 5 74457 2.
    • 2.

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