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Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as 'the poet of the piano'. Today, Donald considers the parlous state of the composer’s health.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin, often referred to as “the poet of the piano”. Today, Donald considers the parlous state of the composer’s health.

“Chopin was dying all his life”, Hector Berlioz is supposed to have said. Whether or not the quotation is accurate, the remark has a grim resonance. Chopin has become the archetype of the Romantic composer – weak, sickly, world-weary, neurotic. By the time of his visit to Scotland in 1848, he was so enfeebled that he had to be carried upstairs to his bedroom by his manservant, Daniel. There’s been plenty of debate about Chopin’s constitution and the causes of his death, but the likeliest explanation for the ill-health that dogged him on and off throughout his short life and eventually ended it, is that he contracted the disease popularly known as ‘the White Death’ – the same condition that carried off many of his friends and family, and, indeed, millions of his contemporaries throughout Europe – in his teens, thereafter living with it as his constant companion. Against the bleak backdrop of chronic tuberculosis – sometimes a minor inconvenience, at others completely debilitating – the scale of his achievement seems almost heroic.

Mazurka in G minor, Op 67 No 2
Samson François, piano

2 Nocturnes, Op 27 (No 1 in C sharp minor, Larghetto; No 2 in D flat, Lento sostento)
Nelson Freire, piano

Scherzo No 3 in C sharp minor, Op 39
Maurizio Pollini, piano

Ballade No 3 in A flat, Op 47
Jorge Bolet, piano

Sonata No 3 in B minor, Op 58 (3rd movement, Largo)
Tamás Vásary, piano

Waltz in E flat, Op 18 (‘Grande valse brillante’)
Artur Rubinstein, piano

Berceuse, Op 57
Ivan Moravec, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Last on

Fri 28 Jun 2019 12:00

Music Played

  • Frédéric Chopin

    Mazurka in G minor, Op 67 No 2

    Performer: Samson François.
    • EMI 5 74457 2.
    • EMI 5 74457 2.
    • 26.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    2 Nocturnes, Op 27

    Performer: Nelson Freire.
    • DG 478 2182.
    • DG 478 2182.
    • 7.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Scherzo No 3 in C sharp minor, Op 39

    Performer: Maurizio Pollini.
    • DG 477 9908.
    • DG 477 9908.
    • 5.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Ballade in A flat major, Op 47 No 3

    Performer: Jorge Bolet.
    • DECCA 417 651-2.
    • DECCA 417 651-2.
    • 3.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Piano Sonata No 3 in B minor, Op 58

    Performer: Tamás Vásáry.
    • DG : 477-5510.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
    • 7.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Waltz in E flat major, Op 18 (Grande Valse Brillante)

    Performer: Arthur Rubinstein.
    • RCA: GD60822.
    • RCA.
    • 1.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Berceuse in D flat major, Op 57

    Performer: Ivan Moravec.
    • VOX VXP7908.
    • VOX VXP7908.
    • 5.

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