Tag Archives: Chopin

Marc-André Hamelin

Once again we have the great pleasure of presenting Marc-André Hamelin on our stage!  He will join us on Thursday, March 23rd for an evening of sonatas including the great Beethoven “Appassionata” and Chopin’s Sonata No 2 in B-flat minor, Op 35.

The entire evening looks like this:

Haydn – Sonata in C major, Hob. XVI: 48
Samuel Feinberg – Sonata No 2 in A minor, Op 2
Samuel Feinberg – Sonata No 1 in A major, Op 1
Beethoven – Sonata in F minor, Op 57, “Appassionata”
Scriabin – Sonata No 7, Op 64, “White Mass”
Chopin – Sonata No 2 in B-flat minor, Op 35

With a busy performance schedule and over 70 recordings already released, somehow Hamelin still finds time to record even more with Hyperion!  In June 2015, he was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame, recognizing this amazing work.  Since he was last on our stage in 2015, Hyperion released a recording of the Franck Piano Quintet in F Minor with Hamelin and the Takacs Quartet (May 2016).  And you can pre-order Hamelin’s next album on iTunes which will include Medtner’s Piano Concerto 2  and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto 3  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/medtner-rachmaninoff-piano/id1184264860?app=iTunes

To learn more about Marc-André Hamelin, visit his website at http://www.marcandrehamelin.com/index.php, or search our blog site for previous posts!


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Janina Fialkowska

Janina is no stranger to our regular audience members. This year she is celebrating turning 65 by touring and performing an all Chopin programme!

We last heard her exquisite playing in 2014 and you can read a bit about her in our blog post from then – https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/janina-fialkowska/

Adding to the many critically acclaimed CDs she has produced over that past 40 years of her career, since her 2014 visit to us, she has released two additional CDs – one of lyric pieces by Edvard Grieg and another with a few works by Franz Schubert. This week her recording of Chopin’s Sonatas, Etudes & Impromptus (2 CDs) was listed as part of the top 50 greatest Chopin recordings on Gramophone. http://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/the-50-greatest-chopin-recordings-2

You can read much more about Janina from Janina herself on her own website – http://www.fialkowska.com/home.html

Come and hear this great Romantic pianist on October 25, 2016 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts for a wonderful evening of Chopin!  http://music-toronto.com/piano/fialkowska.htm

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Peter Jablonski concert November 10, 2015

by guest writer Julie Berridge

On November 10, Peter Jablonski features in his performance, musical expressions of nationalism and culture: Mazurkas and a polonaise from Poland, and Mexican folk songs.

The polonaise is one of the five historic national dances of Poland. It started as a peasant dance and then later gained popularity with the nobility and townspeople. Chopin’s Polonaise Opus 25 No. 1 is often thought to be an expression of the love for his country Poland, and in his later polonaises, what has been interpreted as anger over the political fate of Poland, is a prominently heard. Robert Schumann referred to Chopin’s polonaises as “cannons buried in flowers”.

The mazurka is another historic national dance of Poland and Jablonski performs mazurkas from Chopin and Szymanowski. Chopin lived from 1810 to 1849 and Szymanowski, from 1882 to 1937. Szymanowski continued the nationalism in the twentieth century that Chopin had given musical expression to in the 19th century. Syzmanowski‘s mazurkas were directly influenced by Polish Highland folk music. Of the highlands, Syzmanowski wrote, “My discovery of the essential beauty of Goral (Polish Highlander) music, dance and architecture is a very personal one; much of this beauty I have absorbed into my innermost soul

Aaron Copland based El Salon Mexico on four Mexican folk songs that he had obtained while visiting Mexico in 1932: “El palo verde,” “La Jesusita,” “El mosco,” and “El malacate.” Copland quickly developed an affinity with its culture. Of El Salon Mexico, Copland noted “From the beginning it was associated in my mind with a dance hall in Mexico City called Salon Mexico, a real ‘hot spot’ where one somehow felt a close contact with the Mexican people…Bands played a kind of music that was harsh, flavorsome, screechy and potentially violent. El Salon Mexico is, I suppose, a sort of musical souvenir.” Composed originally as an orchestral piece, Bernstein later arranged it for solo piano and then for two pianos.

Jablonski also plays Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin

Grieg’s Ballade in G Minor followed the death of his parents and young daughter. In the Ballade can be heard angry and melancholy moments as well as moments of grandeur and beauty. Grieg said that it was written “with my life’s blood in days of sorrow and despair.

Rachmaninoff never elaborated on what inspired his Études tableaux. Instead, he said that he wanted listeners and performers to “paint for themselves what it most suggests”.

Scriabin and a nocturne born of necessity – In the summer of 1891, Scriabin was unable to use his right hand. So he composed Nocturne for the Left Hand which became a huge hit in America, after his New York publisher reprinted and sold thousands of copies of the piece.

Join us on Tuesday to hear Peter Jablonski perform the pieces above!  http://music-toronto.com/

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Janina Fialkowska

Towards the end of this month, we will have the pleasure of presenting Janina Fialkowska as part of our piano series. A brilliant pianist, she is known for her outstanding interpretations of Chopin and Lizst.

Janina was born in 1951 in Montreal and has studied piano since the age of 4. At 12 years of age, she made her soloist debut with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. By the age of 17, she had graduated with two degrees from the University of Montreal. She went on to study in Paris and at Juilliard. In 1974, she placed in the top three prize winners of the very first Arthur Rubinstein Competition (http://www.arims.org.il/index.php/1974). Rubinstein helped launch her international career and became her mentor.

Since that time she has played for many orchestras around the world, given countless recitals, and released several recordings. She founded Piano Six, a program that was dedicated to bringing classical music to small communities across the country. An Officer of the Order of Canada, she became the first female instrumentalist to receive the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Classical Music.

In early 2002, Janina’s professional career was put on hold. A tumour was discovered in her left arm. Removal of the tumour and subsequent surgery to repair damage to her arm didn’t stop her from performing. While her left arm healed, she gave several concerts performing with her right hand, even transposing pieces written for the left hand so they could be played with her right. In 2004, she relaunched her two hand playing career with continued success.

You can find out more about Janina on her website – http://www.fialkowska.com. And you can hear her live in Toronto on Tuesday October 28, 2014 at our concert! http://www.music-toronto.com

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A final note on Chopin

In spite of his short life, his ill health, and a relatively small number of public performances, Chopin is someone who achieved great popular status, similar to today’s pop stars superstar status! Chopin spent most of his life living as an artist. He paid the bills with his art form – music. Teaching, performing, composing, and publishing all played a part in his lifestyle from the age of 20 until his death at age 39. And his artistic lifestyle had an impact on his personal life.

In 1835 Chopin met old friends of his family from Poland. Their daughter, Maria Wodzińska, was now 16. He pursued her and proposed in the fall of 1836. Initially her family supported this proposition, however, they were concerned about Chopin’s health. He was prone to illness. By early 1837, Countess Wodzińska, Maria’s mother, had written to Chopin to let him know that the engagement would not end with a marriage. Aside some his ill health, there is speculation that his prospective mother-in-law did not approve of his lifestyle or his associations with other women.

In 1836, through mutual friends, Chopin had met Aurore Dedevant, the French writer known as George Sand. At that point, Chopin’s romantic interests lay with Maria. However, after the engagement and his heart were broken, the friendship between Chopin and Sand deepened and they became a couple from 1838 to 1847. They never married but did live together for much of this time. The early part of the relationship seems happy. And while he was often ill, Sand did a lot to aid in his convalescence over the years – moving them into her estate outside of Paris, and trips to warmer climates in particular. Chopin ended the relationship in 1847 and died 2 years later of tuberculosis, with his sister and Sand’s daughter at his side.

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Chopin in his twenties

As mentioned last week, Chopin continued to compose and perform while completing his studies in his late teens. A few weeks after finishing his formal studies, Chopin gave his first concerts in Vienna. The two concerts included a premiere of one of his own pieces. They were successful concerts with favourable reviews. His combined successes in Warsaw and Vienna gave him more opportunities in Europe and at the age of twenty, he left Poland intending to travel to Italy via Austria.

Shortly after he left, war broke out in Poland. His friend and travelling companion decided to return home to enlist. Staying in Vienna on his own, the following year found Chopin on his way to France instead of Italy. He ended up in Paris at the age of 21, stayed, and became a French citizen at the age of 25. He never returned to Poland but did communicate frequently by letter to his family.

He established himself as a musician and became part of the artistic community in Paris. During his years there, he gained the respect of his artistic peers and the favour of the public. Chopin was able to support himself by publishing his compositions and by providing piano lessons. His public performances lessened as he preferred the more intimate salon settings and private house concerts for playing. Chopin led what I think of as an artist’s life – involved in his art form entirely. Next week we’ll take a look at the impact that had on his personal life.

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Chopin’s childhood

Chopin was named after his godfather, Fryderyk Skarbek, an 18 year old pupil of his father’s with connections to his mother’s family. Frédéric was the only son in a family of four children. He had one older sister and two younger sisters. From about six months after Frédéric was born, the family lived in Warsaw. As mentioned last week, they lived in the Saxon Palace where Frédéric’s father taught.

In 1816, at the young age of six, he started to take formal piano lessons with Wojciech Żywny, the same teacher as his older sister, He had most likely already done some piano playing as his mother taught piano and his sister played. At the tender age of seven, he was giving concerts and starting to compose. Frédéric was an occasional playmate for the son of Grand Duke Constantine, the Russian Poland ruler. He played the piano for the Duke at Belweder Palace and did write a march for him. Frédéric’s earliest surviving piece dates to 1821, when he was 11.

From age of 13 to 16, he studied at the Warsaw Lyceum, where his father was a teacher. Frédéric started his formal music studies at the Warsaw Conservatory in 1826. He stayed there until 1829. While pursuing his education from age 13 to 19, he continued to compose. His first published piece was written in 1825 when he would have been only 15. He performed as well during this time. Small concert and salon performances took place the various locations in Warsaw, including a performance for Tsar Alexander I during his visit to Warsaw. That performance resulted in Frédéric being presented with a diamond ring from the Tsar. A pretty nice set of accomplishments all before the age of 20!

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Frédéric François Chopin

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born in 1810 in Poland. A well-known Romantic era composer, he lived a relatively short life, dying at the age of 39 in Paris. Let’s take a look at that life over the next couple of weeks.

His father was Nicolas Chopin. Nicolas was born in the province of Lorraine, France. His father, Francois, was the village administrator of Marainville and a wheelwright, much like Mathias Haydn (https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/mathias-haydn/). Francois married Marguerite Deflin, a respected teacher. Nicolas studied to become a teacher as well. Through connections of his father, Francois, Nicolas was introduced to Weydlich, an estate administrator for a Polish count. When Weydlich returned to Poland, Nicolas had the chance to go with him and his family. At the age of 16, Nicolas started out on his new life in a new country.

Initially Nicolas worked in a tobacco factory where Weydlich was the supervisor. Most likely he worked in the accounting department and as Weydlich’s personal assistant and probably tutored Weydlich’s children. When the factory closed down 1792, Nicolas had to reconsider his options. While returning to France was a possibility, he chose to stay in Poland. He spent some time with the militia and eventually found himself employed as a tutor with the Laczynski family. Through these connections he met and eventually married Justyna Krzyżanowska – twenty years after coming to Poland.

In 1810, a few months after the birth of Federic, the Chopin family moved to Warsaw to live in the Saxon Palace where Nicolas taught at the Warsaw Lyceum.

Nicolas and Justyna were both musical. Nicolas played the violin and flute and Justyna played and taught the piano. Both Frédéric and his sister, Ludwika, learned to play the piano and did sometimes play duets together. Next week we’ll look at the adventures of Frédéric as he grows up and begins his life of music.

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