Getting in the weekend’s Chopin

An intensive Chopin weekend is underway on Radio 3 – details of programmes here. Interesting programmes include Discovering Music, which takes an analytical look at Chopin’s Four Ballades, and World Routes, which explores the folk music of Chopin’s native Poland.

The dedicated website contains tutorials, a profile and timeline of the composers life, video footage of performances, many external links and, for the interactively minded, an audio quiz. There is also a gallery of photographs relating to Chopin’s fraught holiday in Mallorca in 1838 with George Sand and her children. Sarah Walker‘s programme about this goes out at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon.

One of the tutorials, given by David Owen Norris, outlines the difference between the type of piano for which Chopin wrote and present day pianos. Those familiar with the music will not be surprised to discover that the touch of pianos back then was lighter and shallower, light and rapid playing. Classical guitarists will be familiar with a similar situation. The music of Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani, Dionisio Aguado etc. was written for a guitar which was not only smaller than the modern version but had a much lighter action (less tension in the strings). There is an impressive collection of such guitar in the Anne Macaulay Collection of Plucked String Instruments which is housed (alongside other impressive collections) in Edinburgh’s St Cecilia’s Hall.