The piano: Chopin, Alkan & Saint-Saëns

We British all know that Chopin was Polish but, once you cross the Channel, a strange aberration sets in. Ask any redblooded Frenchman/woman the nationality of the composer of all those Mazurkas and Polonaises and the answer will come back ‘bien sûr Monsieur/Madame, il était Français!’  Now, it must be – grudgingly – admitted that Chopin père was French and that the composer himself lived for the latter part of his life in Paris (eventually even taking French citizenship) but whether he’s styled Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin or Frédéric François Chopin, he was born in Żelazowa Wola, a village about 30 miles from Warsaw and that’s an end to it!!

Vladimir Horowitz plays Chopin Mazurka in b Opus. 33 No. 4:


Beyond dispute, however, is the lasting effect that Chopin had on French composers: Fauré, Debussy, Ravel…

Chopin: Barcarolle in F-sharp Op.60
[Spotify search term: chopin barcarolle 60 pletnev]

…but not, on the evidence of his Second Piano Concerto, Camille Saint-Saëns:

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No.2 in g
[Spotify search terms: Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.2 rogé]

and what about that mysterious virtuoso and genius(?), Charles Valentin Alkan?

Alkan: Symphony for solo piano, Finale
[Spotify search terms: alkan symphonie finale lindgren]

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