Chopin@200 Concert Series Starts This Week

What follows is a a blog entry by Wesleyan Senior and CFA Intern Lucy Strother:

This weekend kicks off with the first two concerts of Wesleyan’s Chopin@200 Festival, which celebrates the 200th birthday of the beloved composer, Frederic Francois Chopin! The concert series, a brainchild of professor and pianist Neely Bruce, will feature works by Chopin, his contemporaries, and composers who were influenced by him.

Neely Bruce describes how the festival came into existence:

In the mid-1990s I began systematically to relearn the piano repertory of my youth. I realized that Chopin, whose music I had always liked but to whom I had not paid a great deal of attention, was emerging as one of my favorite composers. If you play the piano because you enjoy the physical sensation, nothing feels better to a pianist than playing Chopin, so it was both instructive and fun to practice the music. I was also struck with his originality. Pieces that had baffled me for years started revealing their secrets—most notably the Polonaise-Fantasie. (I’m still waiting to figure out the scherzos.) I began to teach a music major seminar in Chopin, first in 2003 and again in 2008.

2010 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Chopin, and this semester I’m teaching the seminar for the third time. I asked my pianist colleagues if they would like to join me in playing some concerts. All of them responded, and the events quickly expanded their focus. 2010 is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann, the first critic to recognize Chopin’s genius in an unqualified, enthusiastic manner. He was also one of Chopin’s few close friends who was not a Pole. My pianist colleagues all wanted to include not just Chopin and Schumann, but compositions by composers in the intervening two centuries who were influenced by Chopin’s unique mix of strict classical training as a composer, immersion in Polish folk music, relentless experimentation with musical form and harmony, and undying popularity. (He may be the most popular composer who ever lived. Beethoven would seem to be his only competition.) So we have Liszt and Debussy and Szymanowski and George Crumb and Radiohead—and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The worlds of American pop music and jazz and even boogie-woogie are also influenced by Chopin (one of Jelly Roll Morton’s favorites).

So we are all going to get together, with eight of our students and former students, and our colleague David Westfall at The Hartt School, and Wesleyan alumnus Donald Berman, and have a blast playing for each other! We hope lots of people will join us in the audience.

This is an exciting opportunity to see dynamic performances by both Wesleyan piano faculty and talented piano students!

Chopin @ 200: Concert One

Saturday, October 9, 8pm, 
Crowell Concert Hall
$5, $4 Wesleyan Students

Chopin @ 200: Concert Two
Sunday, October 10, 3pm, 
Crowell Concert Hall
$5, $4 Wesleyan Students

More Chopin @ 200 concerts on November 5, 11 & 12.