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.)

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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