Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, the composer’s relationship with his instrument is centre-stage.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, the composer’s relationship with his instrument is centre-stage.

Martha Argerich once said that she loved to play the piano very much, but didn’t like being a pianist. The same words could have been uttered by Chopin, who resorted to playing in public only when he needed a quick injection of cash. As a result, his reticence became a marketable commodity, giving his ventures into the concert hall such rarity-value that they became lucrative money-spinners; and it doubtless didn’t escape him that after a public appearance, sales of his sheet-music shot up. Income-generation aside, Chopin was much happier as a performer in the more intimate and sociable surroundings of the salon, where his trademark light touch could be appreciated to the full. According to one contemporary account, “he appeared hardly to touch the piano; one might have thought an instrument superfluous”. That observation is borne out by the recollections of his pupils: “Caress the key, never bash it!”, he’s quoted as saying.

Etude in A flat, Op 25 No 1 (‘Aeolian Harp’)
Alfred Cortot, piano

‘Krakowiak’: Grand Concert Rondo in F, Op 14
Jan Lisiecki, piano
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Krzysztof Urbański, conductor

Mazurka in B minor, Op 33 No 4
Ignaz Friedman, piano

Andante spianato, Op 22 No 1
Benjamin Grosvenor, piano

Impromptu No 3 in G flat, Op 51
Stephen Kovacevich, piano

Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op 48 No 2
Ivan Moravec, piano

Barcarolle, Op 60
Dinu Lipatti, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Frédéric Chopin

    Etude in A flat, Op 25 No 1 ('Aeolian Harp')

    Performer: Alfred Cortot.
    • NAXOS 8.111052.
    • NAXOS 8.111052.
    • 13.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    'Krakowiak': Grand Concert Rondo in F, Op 14

    Performer: Jan Lisiecki. Performer: NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. Conductor: Krzysztof Urbański.
    • DG 479 6824.
    • DG 479 6824.
    • 3.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Mazurka in B minor, Op 33 No 4

    Performer: Ignaz Friedman.
    • NAXOS 8.110690.
    • NAXOS 8.110690.
    • 10.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Andante spianato, Op 22 No 1

    Performer: Benjamin Grosvenor.
    • DECCA : 478-5334.
    • DECCA.
    • 8.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Impromptu No 3 in G flat, Op 51

    Performer: Stephen Kovacevich.
    • PHILIPS 478 8662.
    • PHILIPS 478 8662.
    • 2.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op 48 No 2

    Performer: Ivan Moravec.
    • SUPRAPHON : SU-4097 2.
    • Supraphon.
    • 4.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Barcarolle, Op 60

    Performer: Dinu Lipatti.
    • EMI : CDH 7-69802-2.
    • EMI.
    • 15.

Broadcast

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

The production team reflects on 5 of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.