Classical Music Talk

January 15, 2010


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Sergei Rachmaninoff (April 1, 1873, Novgorod, Russia, d. March 28, 1943, Beverly Hills, USA) was a Russian composer and pianist.
He spent his childhood in a mansion. A nanny took care of him; she was a Russian peasant woman who was able to take him to listen folk songs to assemblies that where a tradition in Russia. Russian folk music later inspired the great composer and pianist in his work.
Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff, son of an officer of Hussars, was one of the most appreciated artists of his generation. In 1882 he entered the Conservatory of St. Petersburg where he studyed with Alexander Siloti, and in 1885 he continued at Moscow, where he studied piano music and composition. After graduation, Rachmaninoff is more known as a conductor and composer than as a pianist. He was the pride of his Conservatory, seemed able to write, to direct, admirable at first reading, able to translate. He was eighteen years old when he first composed a Concerto for Piano (later revised) that was played in the next year. In 1895 he writes the Symphony no. 1, and the Concerto no. 2 for piano and orchestra (1900), he established himself in the world of music through with performances  (him unforgettable piano music) and his creations (symphonic works for orchestra or choir). Rachmaninoff develops an intense artistic activity until December 1917, when he leaves Russia (with the entire family) and lives in Switzerland, where he begins a new life, as virtuoso pianist. He had a repertoire of his own music career and was a good conductor. Rachmaninoff was the first conductor at the Imperial Theater and the Moscow Philharmonic. In 1935 he settles permanently in the United States, leaving Switzerland. Here he wants to give concerts and to write. He wrote important works for universal musical repertoire, and Concerto no. 4 for piano and orchestra (1926), “Variations on a theme of Corelli, for piano solo (1931),” Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini “for piano and orchestra (1934), Symphony no. 3 (1936) and “Symphonic Dances” (1940). He composed music opera “Aleko” (after a poem by the famous Pushkin – 1893), “Knight grabbing” (1903) and “Francesca da Rimini” (1906). His creation “Monna Vanna” was unfinished; he started to work on it in 1907. Rachmaninoff is and remains as popular as he always was. His music is a permanent part of the universal repertoire.


January 1, 2010

Chopin in Spain

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Chopin spent a few years in Spain from 1838 to 1839. The unfavorable weather has a serious impact on health and the composer’s chronic lung disease. So seriously that – to save his life – returns with George Sand and her two children to the beach in Barcelona and then to Marseilles, where he spent several months for recovery. Although his health condition improves, recovery is never complete. In his characteristic style, he complains about the incompetence of the doctors in Mallorca: “The first told me that I have to die. The second told me that I had last breath, and the third told me that I was already dead.

Chopin spent summers in the period 1839 – 1843 at the property of the writer of Nohant. This is a quiet and productive period for the composer. This consists in a Polish in E flat major, Op. 53 “Eroica”, one of his masterpieces. On returning to Paris (1839), he met pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles.

In 1845 a serious problem arises in the relationship between Chopin and Sand, with further deterioration of his health. Things get worse in 1846 because of family problems; this is the year when Sand published Lucrezia Floriana, considered a bad work by Chopin. The story deals with the relationship between a rich actress and a prince with a weakened health. The story was interpreted inspired from the two characters. Family problems finally bring an end to the relationship, which lasted for ten years (1837-1847).

When he appeared for the first time in his life George Sand, Chopin, composer and pianist, was the favorite of Parisian salons, he was the hottest artist. At the time he was 27 years old and his success is due primarily to his merits as pianist and composer. The artist lives in Paris the city that fully appreciates his piano music. The delicate style displayed by Chopin was what the atmosphere of that time asked for.

Before World War II was erected a statue dedicated to Chopin in Warsaw Lazienki Park. At its base are organized recitals of Chopin’s piano music every Sunday in summer. Stylized tree above the composer are pianist hands and fingers. In memory of Frédéric Chopin’s genius, the capital Warsaw hosts every five years Frederick Chopin International Piano Competition. The title Grand “Prix du disque” de F. Chopin is awarded periodically for outstanding interpretations of Chopin’s work.

Chopin and Sand

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Chopin visits Paris and the France. In 1834, with Hiller, visit a music festival held in Aachen by Ferdinand Ries. Both Mendelssohn and Hiller meet him visiting the cities Düsseldorf, Koblenz and Cologne, enjoying everyone’s company and performing music together.

In 1835 Chopin arranged a meeting with his family in Karlsbad. This makes the acquaintance of Count Franz von Thun-Hohenstein, whose daughter was a student of Chopin in Paris. Count calls the composer and his family spends their stay at his family castle on the Elbe, the Decín. After that, Chopin and his parents drive back to Warsaw and will never see each other again. Returns to Paris route Dresden, he spends there several weeks, and then visits Leipzig, where he met Mendelssohn, Schumann and Clara Wieck. Has an asthma attack during the return trip so severe that some Polish newspapers announced he died. His piano music is becoming more known as ever.

In 1836 Chopin became engaged to a Polish aged seventeen, named Maria Wodzinska, whose mother insisted that the bride must be kept secret. Next year, the girl’s family breaks this relationship.

Chopin and Sand

In 1836, during a party held by Countess Marie d’Agoult, the mistress of his fellow composer Franz Liszt, Chopin meets Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, Baroness Dudevant, and better known by her nickname, George Sand. She was a French Romantic writer, known for his numerous love affairs with Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset (1833-1834), her secretary, Alexandre Manceau (1849-1865) and others.

Chopin originally not considered her attractive. “She has something that causes disgust to me”, he said to his family. On the other hand, in a letter to Count Wojciech Grzymala, a close friend, dated June 1837, Sand debated whether to intervene in the relationship between Chopin and his fiancée, Maria Wodzinska, to abandon her current relationship in order to start one with Chopin. The writer had strong feelings for Chopin.

A notable episode during their relationship is conducted during the turbulent and miserable winter spent in Mallorca (1838-1839), where the couple encounter problems of accommodation, came to be hosted in the end to the monastery of Valldemossa. Then, Chopin has problems with the reception of a Pleyel piano that had been sent. It comes late from Paris, but remains blocked in Spanish customs, which requires a high import tariff. Ultimately he had the piano for a period of almost three weeks; the rest of the time the great composer used a rumbling piano, borrowed to complete his Preludes (op. 28) to write piano music.

Chopin in Paris

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Frederic Chopin

Frederic Chopin

In the year 1822, Niccolò Paganini participated in a recital of Chopin, while he meets him and the German pianist and composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Also in 1829 Chopin meets his first love, a student singer named Konstancja Gladkowska. This event inspires Chopin to include the human voice in his work.

In August, three weeks after graduating from the Warsaw Conservatory, Chopin made his brilliant debut in Vienna. He has here two piano  music recitals and received many favorable reviews, but also there are critical voices about his the piano  music.

In December, he had the first Piano Concerto in F minor at the Merchants Club in Warsaw. The first representation of the other piano concert in E minor, takes place at the National Theater on March 17 1830.

On November 2 1830, leaving Warsaw, Chopin has concert in Western Europe, then returns to his native country. Rebellion broke out at the end of November and with his friend, Titus Woyciechowski, returns home to attend the demonstrations. Chopin remains in Vienna, eager to hear news from his relatives, then visit the cities Munich and Stuttgart (where is the establishment of Russian military occupation in Poland), reaching Paris in October 1831. Already he had composed a large part of important works, including two piano concertos and some of the Etude Op. 10.


In Paris, Chopin is greeted by eminent Polish exiles and leading artists such as Heinrich Heine, Alfred de Vigny and Eugène Delacroix. Get acquainted with some of the foremost pianists of the day, including Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Ferdinand Hiller and Franz Liszt, while forming friendships with composers such as Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn, Charles-Valentin Alkan, and Vincenzo Bellini (along with who is buried in Cemetery Père Lachaise). Chopin’s music was already appreciated by many contemporary composers, among them was Robert Schumann who, in his criticism of Variations “La ci darem la mano” (from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni), Op. 2, and notes: “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius. ”

During the period spent in Paris, Chopin participated in a number of concerts. Their programs give a taste of the richness of Parisian artistic life during these times, such concerts were March 23, 1833, in which Chopin, Liszt and Hiller had solo scores of Johann Sebastian Bach concerto for three clavichords concert on March 3 1838, in which Chopin, Alkan, Pierre Joseph Zimmerman (Alkan’s teacher) and Adolphe Gutman (student of Chopin) made the arrangement of the eight hands of Alkan’s Symphony VII by Beethoven. He is involved in the composition Hexaméron (1837), the sixth variation of the theme of Bellini.

Frédéric Chopin

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Chopin was born in Zelazowa Wola, near Sochaczew, part of the Mazovia region, located at that time under the Duchy of Warsaw. His father, Mikolaj (Nicolas) Chopin, a French citizen of Polish origin leaves Lorraine in 1787. In Poland, Nicolas married Tekla Justyna Krzyzanowska, an aristocrat whose family faced financial problems.

According to the composer’s family, Chopin was born on March 1 1810. There is no birth certificate attesting to that. His certificate of baptism shows February 22 as his birthday, but this is considered an error made by the priest.

Years of training

In October 1810, when Frédéric was aged of seven months, the family moved to the capital Warsaw, where the father takes a job as teacher of French in the school hosted by a Saxon palace. The family lives in the palace.

Young Chopin received his first piano lessons from Ludwika, his older sister. Also, the mother attends his education. Because of his musical talent easily noted, Chopin’s reputation was appreciated as the “second Mozart”. At the age of seven years he was already the author of two Polish (G minor and B flat major), the first being published in the workshop of Father Cybulski, Director of Organist School and one of the few music publishers in Poland.

Articles about child prodigy appear in the press in Warsaw and “little Chopin” became an attraction in the receptions held by the aristocracy of the capital. All around this period he begins to support public charity concerts. First appearance as a pianist takes place at the age of eight years.

Under the direction of Wojciech Zywny, Chopin takes piano music professional lessons during 1816-1822. Chopin speaks with great admiration about his teacher, although the professionalism of the young pupil would quickly exceed those of his teacher. Further, the developing talent is supervised by Wilhelm Würfel, renowned pianist and professor of the Warsaw Conservatory. He teaches them valuable organ lesson, possibly piano music, but at irregular intervals. Between 1823 and 1826 Chopin attended the Highschool in Warsaw, where his father worked. In the fall of 1826, Chopin begins to study music theory, and composition with the composer Józef Elsner in the Conservatory. It is possible that Chopin have had contact with Elsner since 1822, the fact is that he was guided by Elsner particularly before 1823. Chopin completes his normal course of three years at the Conservatory in 1829.

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