Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Frédéric Chopin was a Polish composer and piano virtuoso of the Romantic period who lived most of his life in Paris, France. When he was a young man, he left his native Poland to go to Paris. There he met many of the important artists, writers, and musicians of his day including Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt. Chopin was one of the inventors of a new style of composition for the piano with singing melodies and ornamental flourishes. His melodies are beautiful and often contain a touch of melancholy. Chopin’s compositions are mostly for the solo piano, although he also wrote a cello sonata, two piano concertos, and a piano trio.
One of the first pianists to live long enough to be recorded was Vladimir de Pachmann. Vladimir de Pachmann (1848 – 1933) was a Russian/German pianist especially known for his performances of Chopin’s music. He also had an eccentric on-stage style. He was known for making gestures, muttering, and addressing the audience during his performances (even talking during some of his recordings). Vladimir de Pachmann was one of the top pianists of the 19th century. He died in 1933 at the age of 84.
Here is a recording of de Pachmann playing Chopin’s Nocturne in B Major, Op. 32, No. 1. The recording was made when Vladimir was 78 years old. Notice how expressive and elastic the playing is. This is a complete contrast to today’s pianists who are taught to play a piece in strict tempo without slowing down or speeding up too much during a piece. Enjoy!
John Field (1782-1837)
John Field was an Irish composer and piano virtuoso. His Nocturnes inspired Chopin.
Here is a recording of John Field’s Nocturne no.5 in B Flat Major played by the Irish pianist John O’Connor. John O’ Connor has performed in many recitals and has played with many of the world’s top orchestras. Enjoy!
Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993)
Mieczyslaw Horszowski was a Polish-American pianist. He had one of the longest performing and teaching careers in history. As a pianist, Horszowski was known for producing an unforced, beautiful singing tone, and for his skill in balancing the intellectual and emotional qualities of the music he was playing.
His repertoire was very diverse and extensive. It included composers as diverse as Honegger, d’Indy, Martinu, Stravinsky, Szymanowski, Villa-Lobos, and of course Chopin.
Mieczyslaw Horszowski was also a very respected teacher. Anton Kuerti was one of Horszowski’s students. Horszowski taught piano until a week before he died at the age of 100.
When Horszowski was 97 years old he gave a solo piano recital at Carnegie Hall. Here is a clip of him playing a Chopin Nocturne and Etude from that Carnegie Hall recital. Enjoy!
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was a French composer and pianist.
Debussy was an important figure in music history who broke away from the popular methods of musical composition in the 19th century. Debussy developed his own original concept of harmony and musical structure. According to Debussy, each piece of music was its own sound world and not something that should be bound by strict rules.
Here is a recording of a Nocturne for piano by Debussy.
If you like the recording of this piece you can buy it on eMusic or iTunes. You can also buy the complete cd which contains other piano works by Debussy including this piece.