BBC Radio 3 is rolling out its six-week ‘Piano Season’, a celebration of this highly versatile if not very portable musical instrument.
In amongst the ivory-tinkling has been the unmistakable sound of Polish composer Frederic Chopin (1810 – 49). Even if you just have a passing interest in classical music, I do urge you to give him a listen.
Firstly, there’s the melancholy. Of course, from what I know of his short life, he fits the stereotype of the pale, fragile, angst-ridden artiste, so perhaps this mental picture of him influences what my ears are hearing.
But, whether the music is sad or lively, the second and more compelling reason for his ongoing appeal is that his solo pieces draw you into a new, strange world like no other composer’s. You can almost feel the textures and see the colours, and a veil lifts from your mind as you realise that only now do you understand something that had seemed obvious.
A good place for the new listener to start would be his set of waltzes. These are ‘idealised’ waltzes – I don’t suppose anyone would actually dance to them. But even if the music doesn’t move your feet, it will move your soul.