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