Showing posts from 2010

Chopin's Heart

I receive the most interesting correspondence on Chopin from many people distinguished in their fields.
I would like to share the latest with you from Professor Wilfred Niels Arnold Ph.D. who is Professor of Biochemistry at Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City. The fact he is another Australian from Queensland makes this 'leak'  all the more pleasurable.

As the Chopin Year draws to a close it is a strangely fitting modern scientific reflection on the shuffling off of the composer's 'mortal coil' and the beginning of his musical immortality.
We all know Chopin died of tuberculosis. I have always been interested in the more detailed conclusions of modern medical science on the deaths of great artists of the past. Professor Arnold has carried out extensive research on Chopin's tuberculosis, coming to especially interesting conclusions concerning the state of Chopin's heart at his death. Franz Liszt when viewing the organ after its removal commented tha…

Edward Cahill (1885-1975) - the brilliant but forgotten Australian pianist - plays Chopin


A few of Edward Cahill's ('Uncle Eddie') private recordings of Chopin made in 1935 miraculously survived his glamorous career of travel and royal engagements. They also somehow survived a disastrous fire at his home in 1932.

I have recently had them all sensitively re-mastered by Selene records in Poland who specialise in this type of thing for all the great Polish Chopin pianists of the past - Michalowski, Koczalski, Turczynski, Zurawlew.....
You will realise on hearing these remarkable interpretations that Cahill lies on the cusp of the the great nineteenth century Chopin pianistic 'individualistic' tradition of de Pachmann, Friedman, Lehvinne, Godowsky and Rosenthal and the advent of the more 'modern' less overtly 'personality' based approach of say ArturRubinstein. 
Please consult the numerous posts on Edward Cahill on this blog to fill in the gaps if you are interested further in this astonishing story and have not already done so.
Free do…

VIII International Paderewski Piano Competition Bydgoszcz, Poland

It is the 150th anniversay of the birth of Ignacy Paderewski - a very remarkable man indeed. The historian Adam Zamoyski wrote an excellent biography of the man entitled  Paderewski (London 1982) as well as his most recent brilliant biography of Chopin: Chopin: Prince of the Romantics (London 2010)

Not as much as I expected seems to be happening in Poland concerning this 150th anniversary which surprises me. All I can do at present is to refer you to the official competition website and radio link as there is little publicity concerning the event in Poland.

Perhaps people are suffering a musical hangover after the marathon International Chopin Competition. This is a rather different type of event with chamber music sections and a variety of piano concertos the competitors can choose from - pianists are able to display a more rounded talent than the narrow focus on a sole composer Chopin.
This is an interesting Polish Radio 2 (Dwojka) link of  interviews with the jury and prizewi…

The Fragility of Fame - Edward Cahill and the sculptor Felix de Weldon (Felix Weiss)


For many years I have had a bust of the pianist Edward Cahill in my study (my current biographical project - see multiple postings).
The bust is in plaster painted to appear like bronze. It has suffered many vicissitudes over the last 75 years. The fragile bust had an interesting history as it survived the bombing of Central London during World War II in a hatbox under the bed of 'a certain  lady'. Her house was severely damaged, almost completely destroyed, but the head survived. Eddie always referred to it as 'The Royal Head'. It is rather a beautiful and artistic production but the name of the sculptor inscribed on the base - Felix Weiss 1936 (1907-2003) - meant little to me.

As a result of my ongoing researches I discovered that his full name was Felix Weiss de Weldon and was considered in his day to be  'the Michelangelo of American sculpture'. Quite an appellation. On a journey to Rome he was inspired by this immortal sculptor. Despite this fame…

Polish Independence Day, Paderewski's 150th Anniversary and Kevin Kenner

A wonderful concert tonight in Bialystok. Kevin Kenner at his very best.

The Orchestra of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic

Marcin Nałęcz-Niesiołowski – conductor

Kevin Kenner – piano (Great Britain)


I.J. Paderewski – „Polish Fantasy on Original Themes”  for piano and orchestra, Op. 19

* * *

I.J. Paderewski – Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17
November 11 is a day of profound symbolic significance in Poland rather than the actual date when independence was formally declared - modern Polish history evolves over time rather than happens in discrete events - if you see what I mean. Six 'minor' wars were fought concurrently following that day but this is not the place nor am I the person to examine this - consult your Norman Davies or Adam Zamoyski.
Many people consider the emergence of the present independent sovereign state of Poland within the EU community as a type of 'miracle'. I am among them. Certainly if one is familiar with the fraught history of the country o…

The XVI International Chopin Competition in Warsaw 2010 - Final thoughts

Covering the competition was a difficult task that grew uncontrollably like a Triffid but it was worth ordering my ideas on what I was hearing day after day. Writing all this material forced me to think after each day's miracles rather than collapse with a scotch on the sofa at home in an envious blue funk.

Please read my concluding remarks at the end of the competition posting (to do with the results and especially Trifonov) and also my reservations about the competition itself which appear at the very beginning of the post. 

I tried to be fair to everyone – no pianist in this competition could possibly be 100% bad – I tried to give a balanced and just view of as many artists as I could - positive and negative characteristics. It was not intended as a technical musicological commentary or analysis of a 'faithful' or 'unfaithful' performance according to Chopin's score and the National Edition. These were simply general personal impressions of pianists not gospel…

The XVI International Fryderyk Chopin Competition Warsaw

Please Click on Photographs to Enlarge - a far superior result 

And so the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Competition begins in Warsaw, arguably the most important event in the Chopin Year 2010.

It runs from 30 September - 23 October 2010
I can hardly believe that five years have passed since I attended every single performance by every pianist in 2005. I shall not be doing that again this year. I have heard rather too much Chopin already in this bicentenary year.
In 2005 I found the decision of the jury and the politicking as the pianists moved from stage to stage absolutely inexplicable to the point of questioning my own musical judgement. I now know a great deal more of what transpires ‘behind the scenes’ at this competition and I am afraid it is not as straightforward a contest as it appears. I have a suspicion that many young pianists of outstanding talent are not attracted to this demanding experience because they suspect the final decision on their playing will be subject to to…