Chopin Waltzes – Felicia Blumental – Vol.6 – CB5045



Frédéric Chopin belongs with the small number of composers who have confined themselves exclusively to one medium of musical expression. With the exception of a few unimportant pieces, all of Chopin’s music was written for the piano. The mechanical improvement which the piano has undergone in the early part of the nineteenth century had greatly increased its potentialities, and theses were effectively revealed in Chopin’s compositions.

Chopin was Polish. He was born not far from Warsaw on 22nd February 1810, and was brought up in that city, receiving a somewhat limited general education. His musical talents manifested themselves when he was quite young, and when he was eight years old he appeared publicly as a pianist. His piano instructor was a local teacher, Adalbert Zwyny, who, when the boy had reached his twelfth birthday, declared he had nothing more to teach him. Studies in composition were undertaken under the guidance of the capable Joseph Eisner. Chopin’s Opus 1 was published when he was fifteen years old. It is important to note that Chopin as a boy came in close contact with the folk music of his native country. In 1830 he left Warsaw on a concert tour, in the course of which he appeared in the principal German cities. His destination was Paris, and it was here that he made his home for the rest of his short life.

His reception in Paris was an enthusiastic one, and he quickly became an idol of the salons as well as a teacher whose services were much in demand. He was on friendly terms with many of his fellow-artists in Paris, notably Franz Liszt, with whom he appeared at a concert given for the benefit of Hector Berlioz’ fianceé, Henrietta Smithson. The number of his public appearances was, however, quite small. As opposed to the prevailing tendencies of the day, his pianistic style was of an intimate nature, successful only in a small hall. From 1837 to 1847 he was intimate with the French writer of romantic novels, George Sand (Mme. Amandine Dudevant). His uneventful life came to a premature end when he finally succumbed to the ravages of consumption in 1849.

Chopin made many important innovations in the art of writing for the piano. Many of these innovations had their origin in the attempt to overcome the fundamental limitation of the instrument-its inability to produce sustained tones.

Chopin’s piano music is a world in itself, and unlike Berlioz’ symphonic realm, requires no literary explanations. He always avoided giving descriptive titles to his pieces, and deeply resented other people trying to do it for him (although there was no stopping the ladies who gushed “Play me your Second High” or “I love your Bells!”). On rare occasions even he would resort to these words. Describing his E Minor Piano Concerto to a distant friend, for example, he wrote that the second movement was intended to convey “the impression you get when you eye wanders over a moonlit landscape you know well and love much’’- a description that would have done credit to Heine. His real concern, however, was for the musical effect he was creating. “Have I made it haunting?” he asked. ‘‘I wonder – time will tell.”

The orchestra simply did not interest him, and his songs are a minor part of his output. His contribution to music consists of more than two hundred piano works that are, for the most part, as brief and brilliant as was his own life. He gave these works elastic forms that could express his moods of the moment: the impromptu, the scherzo, the concert waltz, the polonaise, the mazurka. In the hands of the right pianist they can still sound today as though they had just been freshly improvised.

Yet, there is much more hard work and artifice in Chopin’s works than meets the ear. “His creation was spontaneous and miraculous,” writes George Sand, “He found it without seeking it, without foreseeing it. It came on his piano suddenly, complete, sublime, or it sang in his head during a walk, and he was impatient to play it to himself.”

but then, she adds, began a period of agonising struggle, while he had second thoughts about what he had written. “He shut himself up in his room for whole days, weeping, walking, breaking his pen, repeating and altering a bar a hundred times, writing and effacing it as many times, and re-commencing the next day with a minute and desperate perseverance. He spent six weeks over a single page to write it at last as he had noted it down at the very first.”

Chopin worked with a range of chromatic harmonies that were like Dalacroix’ palette with its reds, yellows, and grays. Often the whole structure of a Chopin piece is determined by the contrasting “colours” of his harmony, as it moves from brighter to darker levels of sound. A previously mentioned his style is so subtle and luminous that it sounds most at home in the intimate acoustics of a drawing room. That, rather than any inability to play fortissimo, was why Chopin hated performing in large concert halls. His natural habitat was the aristocratic salon of a Prince Czartoryski or a Baron Rothschild, where he could play to a small, select circle of cultivated listeners. Berlioz recalled these occasions:


What emotions he could then call forth! In what ardent and melancholy reveries he loved to pour out his soul!

It was usually towards midnight that he gave himself up with greatest abandon, when the big butterflies of the salon had left.” then, obedient to the mute petition of some beautiful, intelligent eyes, he became a poet…


Everyone who knew Chopin agreed that he was “the most sensitive genius in existence,” and it was often remarked that in some mysterious way he resembled his music the way some people resemble their dogs. “The particular sound he drew form the piano was like the glance of his eyes,” noted Ernest Legouvé. “The slightly ailing delicacy of his fingers was allied to the poetic melancholy of his nocturnes, and the careful attention he conferred on sartorial details helped explain the worldly elegance of certain parts or his work.”

What was less evident in Chopin’s work was the energy and concentration that he brought to his task. A composer who dies of tuberculosis at thirty-nine and yet produces as many masterpieces as Chopin did could hardly have been “dying all his life,” as Berlioz suggested. He had to possess the kind of iron discipline usually attributed to men of action rather than poets and intellectuals. For that matter, his life should be written as a success story rather than a tragedy. A young man of humble origins takes foreign capitals by storm, becomes a world figure, dines with princes, but never loses the common touch. With his indulgent mistress, George Sand, he sometimes acted the spoiled child, but essentially he was rock hard and quite unspoilable. Robert Schumann sensed as much when he heard Chopin’s music; here, he decided, were “cannon buried in flowers.”

Felicja Blumental was born in Warsaw, where she studied at the National Conservatory, composition with Karol Szymanowski and piano with Joseph Goldberg and Drzewiecki. She began her international career just before the second World War, but in 1942 was obliged to emigrate to South America.

A successful debut in Rio de Janeiro led Miss Blumental to extensive tours on the Latin American continent. In 1955 she returned to Europe, appearing as soloist with the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. In Paris with the Société de Conservatoire, Pasdeloup, Colonne and National Orchestras as well as with leading orchestras in Switzerland, Austria and Scandanavian countries.

In Vienna, in one of her appearances with the Mozartgemeinde, Miss Blumental was acclaimed by the Viennese critics as an outstanding interpreter of Mozart. Heitor Villa- Lobos dedicated to her his last piano concerto, the fifth, recorded later by Felicja Blumental under the baton of the composer with the National Orchestra in paris. (Felicja Blumental played the world premiere of the fifth concerto in London’s Royal festival hall with the Philharmonic Orchestra on May 8th, 1956, Jean Martinon conducting.)

Miss Blumental’s many recordings include a series of 3 records of Spanish and Portuguese Sonatas and Toccatas, mostly by pupils of Domenico Scarlatti, Beethoven^ five piano concertos, Mozart’s Coronation and K.466, Chopin’s Concerto No.2, Schumann and Grieg Concertos,Paisello’s and Karl Stamitz concertos, Bachianas Brasileiras No.3 by Villa-Lobos and Rapsodie Espagnole by Albeniz, Faure’s Fantasie Opus 111, as well as the complete Chopin Polonaises, Scherzi and Waltzes.

Other Compact Discs Available On The Claudio Bohema Label Include:

Portuguese Keyboard Music Vol.l Carvalho I Jacinto I Da Silva/Seixas Felicja Blumental-piano Cat. No. CB4835-2

Portuguese Keyboard Music Vol.2 Seixas/Jacinto Felicja Blumental-piano Cat. No. CB4836-2

Mozart To Weill Mozart/Mendelssohn/Strauss Zemlinsky/Schönberg/Weill Annette Celine – soprano Felicja Blumental-piano Cat. No. CB4837-2

A Carnival of Songs Nepomuceno/Villa-Lobos/Poulenc E.Braga/Esteve-Dorumsgaard/Ravel Annette Celine – soprano Varda Shamban – piano Cat. No. CB4834-2

L’Invitation Au Voyage Debussy/Dupard Wagner Bizet/Granados/Obradors, Villa- Lobo s / Ovalle Annette Celine – soprano Christopher Gould – piano Cat. No. CB 4944-2