Chopin's greatest performers and works
Chopin. An emblematic name, which evocation works sometimes pretty much like a Proust madeleine. Indeed, it is often the case that it is through Chopin's work that music lovers have first learned to love, if not the whole music repertoire, at least music composed for the piano. On the social networks last Saturday, when we announced that this week would be dedicated to Chopin, many of you expressed their enthusiasm.
Yet, you did not know what we were programming! To celebrate Frédéric Chopin, whose 204th anniversary of birth is this week, we have selected the best performers of the Polish (and later, French) composer’s work. Evgeny Kissin, the wunderkind who already performed Chopin's concertos in his tender youth; Martha Argerich, whose tremendous career was launched when she won the prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition in 1965; Garrick Ohlsson, who won as well the International Chopin Piano Competition; Daniel Barenboim, a genuine titan of the piano; Murray Perahia, Arthur Rubinstein, Maurizio Pollini, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Artur Papazian, Van Cliburn, and of course, Daniil Trifonov and Jan Lisiecki, two young talents aged less than 25, two artists who have brilliantly integrated Chopin's works in their repertoire as the two videos presented here, recorded at the Verbier Festival, can bear witness.
Chopin's work, if it is almost exclusively dedicated to the piano – the preferred musical instrument of the Romantic era – is nonetheless diverse. It is elegant and records of the atmosphere of the Parisian salons in the first half of the 19th century. It is passionate and tormented, such as in the Nocturnes in which peace is often troubled by tumultuous passages. It is brilliant and skipping, and transforms polonaises, mazurkas, ballades and waltzes into masterpieces of the repertoire. It is melodious and obsessive. It is sometimes melancholic, such as in these preludes Chopin composed in Mallorca during his holidays with George Sand. It is influenced by Chopin's Polish roots, from which it borrows from time to time popular chords and sonorities. It is virtuoso as well, even if it does not sound like it, especially because of a particularly demanding left hand’s part.
For all these reasons, Chopin's work has become the speciality of many pianists. It is the case for most of the performers presented here today. In his legendary recital at the Royal Albert Hall, Evgeny Kissin caused a great hilarity when he announced a fourth encore with a work by Chopin. Beyond a mere speciality, Chopin is indeed quite often the object of a love story with his pianists.