in: News & Features

June 13, 2010

Chopin Symposium Features Historic Re-enactment, Newly-Recovered Piece

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For years, pianist and pedagogue Roberto Poli has found himself intrigued by — if not obsessed with — the music of Frederic Chopin and is now five CDs into his recording project of all of this composer’s music for piano. Poli’s fascination with Chopin, many pianists’ favorite composer for their instrument, has recently resulted in two symposia, a two-day event last June and a much more involved Chopin Symposium this June 18-20 at the Rivers School Conservatory in Weston, Massachusetts where he teaches and co-chairs the piano department (with Angel Ramon Rivera).

This weekend-long event, like its predecessor which drew about 300 people, was to be scheduled every other year, but because 2010 was the bicentenary of Chopin’s birth, he forged ahead and asked a stellar cast — music historians and scholars, pianists and highly regarded local piano pedagogues and performers, to help celebrate the composer again this June.

A Friday night concert featuring Max Levinson opens the festivities with a program that includes Kreisleriana, which Robert Schumann dedicated to Chopin, and Chopin’s Second Ballade, which was dedicated to Schumann, also celebrating a bicentenary this year.

The closing concert on Sunday, June 20 at 7:30 pm., will be as close as possible to a reenactment of the last concert Chopin attended, organized for him by friends a year before he died.  “The hall at Rivers,” Poli noted, “is pretty much the size of an aristocratic salon, the same ceiling height, so it will be possible to recreate the sense of sound as they heard it.” Included will be the Mozart Piano Trio in E Major, which Poli believes Chopin “adored,” and Chopin’s Cello Sonata in its then-first performance. Pieces will be announced from the stage as they were in that era. The piano used will be a 1845 Pleyel, “a nearly exact match to Chopin’s piano. There will also be a piece for piano and voice written by Meyerbeer for Mario, the most famous tenor of his time. Published in 1839, the manuscript disappeared during World War II and was just recently found; most likely, it has not been performed since the 1850s.

Saturday’s sessions end with British pianist Edward Cohen in a 5 pm. recital playing works of Alkan (known best, regrettably, for an apocryphal story that he died when reaching for a volume of the Talmud, causing a bookshelf to fall on him) and  Hexameron,  which nearly deserves a symposium of its own.  Commissioned by Princess Cristina di Belgioioso to support Italian indigents, it consists of six short pieces by six composers (Chopin was the last) on a theme from I Puritani by Bellini. (Liszt played an important role in this piece).

Master classes will be led by Sally Pinkus and Ya-Fei Chuang. Lectures and roundtables will include some trying to address the eternal problems of pedal markings, rubato, and the role of genre in Chopin’s manuscripts, (of the three versions that were published; Chopin proofread only the French.)

Poli says, “It promises to be memorable.”  More information is here.

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