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ClassicsOnline Home » CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Fantasia on Polish Airs / Andante Spianato
"In fact I cannot think of any competitor, at any price, who can offer better"
Chopin (1810 - 1849)
Concerto No.1 in E minor, Op. 11 Fantasia on Polish Airs, Op. 13
Spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22
early in his career Chopin realised that he excelled in performance of more intimate
delicacy than was generally possible in the concert hall. Nevertheless in a world that
still made little distinction between composer and performer, he provided himself with
compositions for piano and orchestra with which to make his name at the start of his
career. It was only once he had established himself in Paris in the 1830s that he turned
rather to the kind of playing that he made so much his own, performances that demanded
great technical proficiency, but made no attempt to impress, as Lisztand Kalkbrenner did,
by displays of sound and fury.
in Warsaw in 1810, the son of a French emigre father and a Polish mother, Chopin studied
with the director of the Warsaw Conservatory, at first as a private pupil and later as a
full-time student. At home he had already impressed audiences, but fame lay abroad, and in
pursuit of that chimera he set out for Vienna, a city where he had already attracted some
attention on an earlier visit. On the second occasion he achieved nothing, and travelled
instead to Paris, while his native Poland, to his dismay, was in the turmoil of political
disturbance that led to the firm establishment of Russian hegemony. It was in France that
Chopin was to remain, favoured by Society as a teacher and as a performer.
E minor Piano Concerto was the second of the
two to be composed and was written, like its companion, in Warsaw, before Chopin left
Poland. The concerto was tried out in private and then given its first public performance
on 11th October, 1830, at the composer's last Warsaw concert. On 2nd November he left home
for good. Chopin dedicated the work to his friend Tytus Woyciechowski, and while it
expresses something of his love for his closest companion, it summarises in its slow
movement his feelings for the young singer Konstancja Gladkowska. He described the Adagio
as "like dreaming in beautiful spring-time-by moonlight".
concerto relies heavily on the solo instrument, and Chopin himself played it on occasions
without the assistance of an orchestra. The orchestral exposition has been considered by
some to be too long, while others have found fault with the orchestration, and editors
have sometimes seen fit to make changes to remedy these supposed faults. The idiom of the
solo part remains entirely characteristic of the composer, with a slow movement
"reviving in one's soul beautiful memories", as Chopin put it, and a final rondo
providing a structure into which the composer's genius fits rather less easily.
Fantasia on National Polish Airs, Opus 13, was written in 1828 and published in Paris in
1834, with a dedication to the Mannheim virtuoso pianist Johann Peter Pixis. It came at a
time when Chopin, still a pupil of Józef Elsner at the Warsaw Conservatory, was beginning
to experiment more widely with forms beyond those of any prescribed syllabus and was first
performed in Warsawon 17th March, 1830, at a National Theatre concert that included the F minor Piano Concerto. The Fantasia opens with an
orchestral introduction, before the entry of the piano with figuration that bears the
unmistakable mark of Chopin's own musical language, to which the orchestra has little to
add. The first theme, the air Juz Miesiac Zaszedi,
is announced by the soloist and repeated by the orchestra, with elaborate piano
embellishment, testimony to Chopin's own technical proficiency on the instrument. The
second theme chosen is by Karol Kurpinski, principal conductor at the Warsaw Opera and
conductor of Chopin's first public concerts, and is thoroughly Polish in form and
inspiration. The theme is introduced by the clarinet, leading to a dramatic intervention
from the soloist, and a slower, gently lyrical version of the theme, which is later taken
up by the orchestra once more, with bravura embellishment from the piano. It is the latter
that ushers in the final Kujawiak, a theme typical of the Kujawy region, to the north-west
of Warsaw, and once again a framework for characteristic solo display.
more familiar Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise is a composite work. The Polonaise
itself was completed in 1831 and the introductory Andante Spianato in 1834. Both were
published together in Paris in 1836. Chopin w rote the Polonaise during his unsatisfactory
stay in Vienna in the winter of 1830 -1831 and it represents his last attempt at writing
for the orchestra. In Paris he performed the complete work on 26th April, 1835, at a
benefit concert at the Conservatoire for the conductor Habeneck. The introductory G major
Andante, for piano solo, is entirely typical of the poetic idiom that informed Chopin's
musical language. The orchestra embarks on the Polonaise, and after a pause, the soloist
enters with his own dashing version of the native Polish dance, now transformed into an
art-form and a vehicle for lyrical pianistic panache.
in Ankara, Idil Biret began piano lessons at the age of three. She displayed an
outstanding gift for music and graduated from the Paris Conservatoire with three first
prizes when she was fifteen. She studied piano with Alfred Cortot and Wilhelm Kempff, and
composition with Nadia Boulanger.
the age of sixteen Idil Biret has performed in concerts around the world playing with
major orchestras under the direction of conductors such as Monteux, Boult, Kempe, Sargent,
de Burgos, Pritchard, Groves and Mackerras. She has participated in the festivals of
Montreal, Persepolis, Royan, La Rochelle, Athens, Berlin, Gstaad and Istanbul. She was
also invited to perform at the 85th birthday celebration of Wilhelm Backhaus and at the
90th birthday celebration of Wilhelm Kempff.
Biret received the Lily Boulanger Memorial Fund award (1954/1964), the Harriet Cohen/Dinu
Lipatti Gold Medal (1959) and the Polish Artistic Merit Award (1974) and was named
Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite in 1976.
State Philharmonic Orchestra (Koice) The East Slovakian town of Koice boasts a
long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna
with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was
established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors
have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav slovak, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his
pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and
plays an important part in the Koice Musical Spring and the Koice
International Organ Festival.
Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by
Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the
orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and
Prague. The orchestra has contributed several successful volumes to the complete compact
disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.
Stankovsky was born in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in 1964, and after a childhood
spent in the study of the piano, recorder, oboe and clarinet, turned his attention, at the
age of fourteen, to conducting, graduating in this and in piano at the Bratislava
Conservatory with the title of best graduate of the year. Stankovsky is regarded as one of
the best conductors of the younger generation in Czechoslovakia. For Marco Polo Stankovsky
has recorded symphonies by Rubinstein and Miaskovsky in addition to orchestral works by
Dvorák and Smetana.
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