This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending a concert performance by pianist Brian Ganz. The program consisted entirely of works by Frederic Chopin. I’ve not been listening to this music of late, and I’m most grateful to Mr. Ganz for reminding me of its ineffable grace and beauty. (Brian Ganz’s appearance was the first in a chamber music series called Sundays at Three.)
I’ve spent some time combing through YouTube videos in search of some of the same, or at least similar, pieces played for us by Brian Ganz. I’ve been frustrated of late to find that a goodly number of the musical selections that I’ve embedded in blog posts have been subsequently deleted by the folks at YouTube. Nevertheless, I’m going to take a chance and place several of them here, in the hopes that they’ll remain available for viewing.
Murray Perahia plays Etude No.10, Opus 4:
This past March, I had the privilege of seeing Murray Perahia in concert in New York. Initially he seemed almost lost in the cavernous space of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. But his playing was so rich and dynamic, he soon overcame the disadvantage of the venue. The formality of that occasion stands in marked contrast to Sunday’s concert, in which Brian Ganz spoke to the audience at frequent intervals and even held a question and answer session after the intermission. In addition, the setting – Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia, Maryland, allowed for a gratifying closeness to this fine performer, who was at pains to remind us that he is ‘a home town boy’ from Columbia.
Maurizio Pollini plays the Fantasie, Opus 49:
The amazing polymath Charles Rosen plays Nocturne in B Major, Opus 62, No.1:
Martha Argerich plays the haunting Prelude No.4 in e minor, Opus 28:
This exercise has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to see and hear some of the great pianists of the past century. Here is Artur Rubinstein playing a selection of Chopin’s Etudes. (Watching this and other videos featuring Rubinstein made me extremely nostalgic: my mother idolized this legendary performer.)
Vladimir Horowitz plays the Mazurka in b minor Opus 33 No.4:
Here, Sviatoslav Richter, one of my great favorites, tears into the Revolutionary Etude:
I can’t resist including here this clip of Richter playing Etude Opus 10 No.4.:
I’m sure you’ll agree: this is some kind of ferocious piano playing! A commenter on the Etude, on the YouTube site, relates an anecdote to the effect that when Richter was asked why he played the piece so fast, he replied, “Because I can.”
Born in Rumania in 1917, Dinu Lipatti displayed exceptional musical gifts early in life. This was fortunate, because that life was destined to be tragically short. Hodgkin’s Disease claimed him in 1950; he was 33 years old.
Here is Lipatti playing Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 27 No.2:
Dinu Lipatti performed in public for the last time in 1950. The occasion was a concert, in Besançon, in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. That concert has attained legendary status in the annals of classical music. Click here to read Peter Gutmann’s beautiful piece on this brief but edifying life and its culmination at Besançon.
Chopin himself did not outlive Lipatti by much. He suffered from a variety of ailments throughout his life and was at one time diagnosed with tuberculosis. He died in 1849 at age 39.
“Cannon-fire and blossom: the two sides of Chopin,” a thoughtful article by Tom Service, appeared in The Guardian in 2010.
Concert pianist Yves Henry observes: “On the piano Chopin invented an orchestral universe that belonged only to him.” All the more reason to thank fine artists like Brian Ganz and his fellow pianists for providing us with a glimpse into that magical realm.
Brian Ganz concluded his program with one of Chopin’s best loved works, the Polonaise in A-flat Major, Opus 53, popularly known as ‘the Heroic.” here it is played by Martha Argerich: