I do wish they would stop telling me on the radio how many days it is until Christmas, it does nothing but put me in a blind panic and then I get cross because I can't work out when I am going to finish my Christmas shopping. At least it is still mild, although this has its downside. I have a very swanky new bird table outside and have spent a fortune on bird food but they aren't interested as there are still too many delicious things around to eat and clearly the idea of some dried old bird food just doesn't appeal. Can't say I blame them!
Chopin was born in a village near Warsaw and died tragically young aged 39 in an apartment in the Place Vendome, that most elegant 18th century square in Paris. The fact that it was elegant is fitting for Chopin, who despite suffering from ill health most of his life was himself elegant, well dressed, fastidious, a perfectionist and well mannered. In short one might describe him as a dandy.
As a performer and a composer, Chopin was slow to make impact largely because he preferred the salon to the concert hall and so his fame had to spread person to person. Infact he only performed in public some 30 times. However, he still managed to make the piano the essential instrument of the nineteenth century and of the 160 works he composed 147 are solely for the piano including two glorious piano concertos.
The Waltzes are some of his best loved works and have never lost their attraction for pianists either in public or in private. Their abundance of rhythm and melody, power to evoke moods, ability to create an atmosphere of excitement or nostalgia means there has been an irresistible fascination with them from generations of music lovers. The ultimate tribute to Chopin is the fact they are always in the repertoire of every great pianist.
Although the Waltzes are in typical 3/4 waltz time, they are different from the earlier Viennese Waltzes as they were designed for the concert platform and not to dance to. The composer started writing them in 1824 aged 14 and continued until the year of his death in 1849. On his deathbed he reportedly instructed his publisher Pleyel to destroy all unpublished work. Fortunately for posterity he didn't and five more waltzes were issued posthumously.
The recording I recommend of the Chopin Waltzes is by the Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter. When this recording was released it received an incredible review in Gramophone Magazine: "This is among the finest Chopin recordings of recent years. Why? Each waltz emerges as if a great actress were reading a short story with its own colour and character"