Happy Birthday, dear Fred

According to the Chopin Society, there is more evidence for today being Chopin’s real birthday than next Monday, so let’s do this now: HAPPY 200TH BIRTHDAY, FREDERIC CHOPIN! Here’s to the next 200 years.

The celebrations are in full swing: yesterday there were fireworks in central London, roads were closed, railways failed to run and the whole city was snarled up with the traffic as people became desperate to get to town…oh, what? that was Chinese New Year and the BAFTAs? nah…it was all for Chopin!

Murray Perahia has been playing him at the Barbican. And Piers Lane played the complete Nocturnes by candlelight for the Chopin Society in the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden; it was a real scrum to get in. A couple of friendly cats wandered along to help him during two of the most difficult pieces, the G major nocturne and the big C minor – perhaps they misread the letters of ACTors Church…He did a splendid job, introducing the pieces to us as he went along – did you know that the F major Nocturne of Op.15 includes Chopin’s musical signature in its main melody: F(r)EDE(ri)C CH(opin)? It is no mean feat to make a 2 & 3/4-hour concert consisting entirely of slow pieces fly by as if on a magic carpet.

Next up is Krystian Zimerman, who has made it to London despite apparently getting stuck in the Channel Tunnel during a nightmare journey, and will be playing the Two Big Sonatas tonight at the RFH (there was a nice interview in The Times with him the other day). I nearly told him to ‘break a leg’, but thought it was better not to tempt fate. Will report back tomorrow.

There’s more to come, much more, and in the meantime we hear that Abbey Road is actually not for sale after all that, though there is a strong move to List it and EMI wouldn’t mind some help from an investor. And my ‘Vladerview’ with Jurowski in the Barlines series after the Suk Asrael Symphony went beautifully on Saturday, as did the concert itself. Spring cannot be far away. Touchwood.

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"