Tuesday 23 February 2010

Chopin: 200 already

It's official, according to the UK Chopin Society: the baptismal register indicates we ought to have celebrated the master's birthday yesterday, not on 1 March. Well, Zimerman certainly did, though the vanitas vanitatum of the gaping hordes made it a less than spiritual occasion, as I've bad-temperedly noted for the Arts Desk.

The problem was that I couldn't get Elisabeth Leonskaja's November programme featuring the same towering sonatas - or at least the half of it I heard - out of my head. I use the phrase 'recital as sacred rite' again, and I don't care: not since Richter in Chichester Cathedral have I experienced such depths from a single instrument. Another Russian with a sense of profound philosophy was Emil Gilels. Here he is in what I may go overboard and declare as the most ineffable piano-sonata slow movement of all time, the Largo from Chopin's No. 3.

Louis Lortie told me in our November interview that the sonata is the one that pianists discuss and compare notes about the most. And I can see why. That Largo is also the bedrock of John Neumeier's amazingly good choreography of Chopin piano pieces and concertos, La Dame aux Camelias. I do recommend that you invest in the Opus Arte film of the Paris Opera production and take a look at Alessandra Ferri in unembeddable YouTube excerpts (especially as Ferri is partnered by the handsomest of male dancers, and possibly the most beautiful man in the world, Roberto Bolle). In the meantime, here's a chopped up minute or so of the riveting Agnes Letestu and Stephane Bullion.

It's always an amazing experience to hear Verdi's operatic treatment of the camellia-lady's plight in La traviata well done, and Sunday evening's Chelsea Opera Group concert performance yielded much alongside the more-hits-than-misses spectacle of veteran diva Nelly Miricioiu professionally pacing herself as Violetta in the wake of a heavy cold. Romanian tenor Cosmin Ifrim and Gianluca Marciano, conducting the wonderfully engaged COG orchestra, were revelatory. Read more about it once again over at the Arts Desk.

Later: delighted to find on YouTube a testament to what made Ifrim's 'Parigi, o cara' Sunday evening's true moment of grace. Quite some breath control; and on Sunday he wasn't singing even the slightest bit sharp. The Violetta here is good, too. Shame the audience coughs more than she does.


JVaughan said...


Hoping this is not ignorant, did the Julian vs. Gregorian conflict exist as late as the early 19th Century, thus the discrepancy between 22 February and 1 March for Chopin's birth? I think I have sources listing both dates. Of course one of _MY_ big birrthdays was yesterday, and I celebrated with two _Chandos_ _Anthems_, the first two parts of _Joshua_, and the beginning of the _Water_ _Music_, finishing the latter just a while ago and hoping to finish _Joshua_ later. Today's work is the _SUPERB_, in my opinion, McCreesh recording of _Solomon_!

I had a message from Presto yesterday to the effect that my Melodiya CD's have been delayed.

J. V.

David said...

It did exist, well into the early 20th century (1918, wasn't it) - but was always around twice as long as the gap between Chopin's real and official birthdays, so that wouldn't account for it.