“I am not suited to give concerts.  The crowd intimidates me.  I feel asphyxiated by its eager breath, paralyzed by its inquisitive stare, silenced by its alien faces.”


No, that’s not Glenn Herbert Gould speaking after he quit the concert platform in 1964.  It’s a 25 year-old Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, speaking to Franz Liszt about his concert phobia.  “You have the wherewithal to overpower it,” Chopin told Liszt, maybe somewhat enviously.

Chopin was widely regarded as one of the great pianists of his time.  His phobia did not force him to give up public concerts altogether.  He needed the cash. He played to a crowd of 1,200 in Manchester, England, one year before his early death.

But, all told, Chopin gave barely 50 concerts in his entire lifetime.  That’s a little over two a year on average, from his official debut in Warsaw in 1830 until a small handful of ill-fated concerts in Britain almost two decades later.

Chopin, the quiet revolutionary, preferred the intimacy of the salon – and the salons of Paris, in particular.  Here he could be a poet at the keyboard, renowned for his singing tone.  A musician first and a pianist second.

Only known photo of Chopin, taken in his final years

“I don’t think that he was a great composer,” Glenn Gould told CBC around 1960. Gould said the same thing to journalist Tim Page two decades later: “I played Op. 58 [Piano Sonata No. 3] when I was younger, just to see how it would feel. It didn’t feel very good.”

Hm. German pianist Markus Groh would not agree. He’s bringing a Chopin sandwich of waltzes and polonaises to feast upon when he plays for MusicTORONTO.

Markus Groh, piano. Schumann/Chopin/Brahms. Tuesday, September 20, 2011 – 8:00 pm. Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East, Toronto

Posted by Keith Horner

I am not suited to give concerts | 2011 | Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,
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