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Jessica Duchen
Wednesday 6th January 2010
Chopin Year Ahoy

No music lover can have escaped the information that this is CHOPIN YEAR: the great man's bicentenary. (Along with Schumann's, of course, and there's a big deal about Mahler too, but they need separate attention.)

Chopin hat

Here are a few events and resources to get you started on your obligatory Chopin binge.

This is the official Chopin 2010 website: Fryderyk central, so to speak, fresh from Warsaw. 

Pianists all over the world are playing Chopin, Chopin and more Chopin. Here, the International Piano Series at the Southbank is dominated by him, and has scored a real coup by offering birthday recitals by both Krystian Zimerman (22 Feb) and Maurizio Pollini (1 March). Zimerman is playing both the big sonatas and I'm advised that tickets are like gold dust.There's a Chopin Forum and plenty of pre-concert talks by experts like John Rink and Adrian Thomas.

Over at the Wigmore, they're largely avoiding the anniversary, but Alexandre Tharaud, a rising star whose recordings I've adored, is playing some, alongside Couperin and Scarlatti. Date for the diary. Chopin fans in London should also keep an eye on the excellent activities of the Chopin Society, which has an ongoing programme of concerts and lectures: next dates are recitals by Cristina Ortiz and Piers Lane.

Record companies are churning out anniversary editions. For some it's obviously just a nice way to reissue old stuff yet again and hope that people will buy it, but DG's Complete Chopin Edition is superb, full of treasures like Zimerman's lavish concertos and ballades, Pires's astonishingly poetic nocturnes, Ashkenazy very engaging in the waltzes and mazurkas, Pollini's 50-carat fingertips on the etudes and polonaises, and Rostropovich and Argerich burning holes in the cello sonata. EMI's set includes some fabulous mazurkas from Ronald Smith and some specially recorded rarities from young Benjamin Grosvenor. 

And this is, of course, just the beginning. To kick things off, here is Zimerman in the Third Ballade. Enjoy!

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Jessica Duchen
January 6th, 2010
1:01 PM
James, thanks for your comment - *of course* I am embracing Chopin year. Anniversaries generally are a pain in the neck, and Chopin wasn't the nicest guy ever, but he's still one of the closest to my heart. Btw I spent a very pleasant postgrad year studying the Ballades, especially this one (which is why I chose it for the post). You can take the girl away from Chopin now and then, but you can't take Chopin away from the girl!

James Rhodes
January 6th, 2010
12:01 PM
Wow - are you embracing the year of Chopin?! Never thought I'd see the day . Outstanding Zimerman video too - he's so the man in these works :)

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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