Open my heart and you will see/Grav’d inside of it, “Italy.”

What did holidaymakers do in the halcyon days before the internet, Wi-Fi, smartphones and tablets? They sent one another postcards, of course! And before the postcard?? In the 18th/19th century affluent young gentlemen and (rarely) ladies were packed off to do the Grand Tour; sent traipsing around Europe in the fond hope that – rather […]

Paderewski

… or, to give him his full name, Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a truly astonishing man: virtuoso pianist, composer, patriot, statesman, philanthropist, orator, film star, Hang on! Film star??? Well, after a fashion. In 1937 Paderewski appeared as himself in the British made film Moonlight Sonata. Here’s a clip from it; it’s a bit(!) mawkish for […]

Sonata in b-flat

Perhaps the most famous of Chopin’s piano sonatas is his second in b-flat minor. Most people, however, only know a bit of one of the movements of the work, and they may not even know the name of the composer! The funeral march which forms the slow, third movement of the sonata has been used […]

Cztery tańce polskie [four Polish dances]

While Chopin’s lifetime predates the rise of ethnomusicology  (he wasn’t a Cecil Sharp or Béla Bartók) there’s certainly no denying the profound influence that the music, and particularly the dance music, of his native Poland had on his work. Many dances – polonaises, mazurkas − are explicitly acknowledged in titles; but even elsewhere (the two piano concertos […]

Lydian

We heard last week how Mussorgsky used the Lydian mode to ‘flavour’ the Polish dance in Boris Godunov. Chopin, particularly in the mazurkas, is full of such modal flavourings. Here (at a slowish tempo) are two versions of the central section of his mazurka Op. 68 No. 3. The first example is what Chopin actually wrote: […]

Chopin

If we must use words to describe the indescribable in music, then Proust in Swann’s Way (it seems to me) got it about as right as is humanly possible: …those long sinuous phrases of Chopin, so free, so flexible, so tactile, which begin by reaching out and exploring far outside and away from the direction in […]