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The Intersection of Science, Art, Music & Humanities

Celebrating Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The mid-September opening week of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic season is always filled with anticipation, particularly this season, since it will feature exceptionally stunning rising star Lise de la Salle performing Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 2, a favorite of all who appreciate young love fantasy expressed in classical form. The video above features de la Salle playing the first movement of three with the Pacific Musical Festival (PMF) Orchestra.

The PMF is an international educational music festival founded in Sapporo, Japan, in 1990 by beloved conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. This Colorado Springs Philharmonic nine-month season is dedicated to Lenny Bernstein and his 100th birthday year, as are symphonies and philharmonics all over the country. 


Another reason to look forward to the middle of September is Dr. Spencer Thornton's birthday.  He is celebrating this weekend with colleagues, children, grandchildren and dear friends. May we all continuing aging with the same grace, curiosity, energy and passion for life. 

On this Chopin piano concerto

Chopin laid out this concerto in three movements, fast-slow-fast.

According to Scott Foglesong,  Department Chair of Musicianship and Music Theory at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, "The first movement of Chopin's second concerto is cast in double-exposition form, a variant of classical sonata form dating back to the eighteenth century, typically employed in concertos. The movement opens with a long orchestral exposition initially characterized by dotted, mazurka-like rhythms. 

"Once the piano enters, the orchestra retreats into the background, the soloist carrying the musical argument from then on. The solo part enthusiastically offers up the full panoply of the virtuoso style yet tempers its razzle-dazzle showmanship with a degree of poetic cantilena atypical for concertos of the day. There is no need for a cadenza, given the nonstop virtuosity of the solo writing throughout the movement.

"Early Romantic virtuoso concertos tend to suffer from egregiously banal slow movements, but this larghetto, kissing cousin to a nocturne, lies at the innermost heart of the work. Chopin intended it as an expression of his first acute love for a woman, Konstancja Gladkowska, of whom he writes: 'I already have my perfect one whom I have, without saying a word, served faithfully for a year now, of whom I dream, in whose memory the adagio of my concerto has been put up.' (Apparently this perfect love affair was taking place entirely inside Frédéric’s head.) All of the treasured elements of later Chopin are to be found here in abundance—opulently limber melodies, sensual ornamentation à la Bellini, bewitching harmonies, and glowing pianistic sonorities.

"The finale, arranged in a three-part, rondo-like form, offers up unmistakable references to Polish folk music, in the piquantly off-kilter rhythms of the mazurka and its slightly slower cousin, the kujawiak. The entire movement is refreshingly free of the endless figurations and pointless bombast of contemporary concertos, but nonetheless brings the work to an appropriately vivacious close." 

We sincerely hope you enjoy today's Sunday Morning Stop at the Intersection of Science, Art, Music and Humanities. 


Ellen Troyer, with David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


Afterthought: De la Salle did not disappoint here in Colorado Springs last night. We experienced the exact same as a Washington Post critic once wrote, "For much of the concert, the audience had to remember to breath...the exhilaration didn't let up for a second until her hands came off the keyboard."  Even in our small city, the applause was long and thunderous. She truly is one of the worlds's most exciting young artists.