He arrived in Manchester towards the end of August [1848], and was put up at the house of a German Jew called Salis Schwabe, who had settled in England thirty years before and amassed great wealth. The Schwabes were widely travelled and cultivated, and their fine mansion just outside Manchester, Crumpsall House, was often used by visiting artists.

Chopin was a little astonished to find that “in this smoky place there is the most charming music room imaginable”.

(Adam Zamoyski, Chopin: A Biography)

Depending on whether you believe official records, or the composer himself, Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born either on 22 February or 1 March, 200 years ago. He died thirty-nine years later, of tuberculosis.

I find his music rather depressing, mainly because I am painfully aware that I will never write anything for the piano half as well as he did.

This hasn’t stopped me “borrowing” some of his more chromatic passages for use in my own compositions, which are frankly atonal and dodecaphonic, although admittedly in the sense that Alban Berg’s music is atonal and dodecaphonic.

The greatest interpreter of Chopin, for me, is Horowitz, although my young friend Melissa has a soft spot for Tamás Vásáry.

I find it interesting that the world’s greatest pianist, Alfred Brendel, rarely performed Chopin’s music, possibly because it lacks humour.



Arts

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