New York Newsday writes “Every detail—thought through, internalized and spun into golden sound—matters.”
Frederic Chiu, appearing in our series for a third time, performs in major venues across five continents. He collaborates with classical music friends Joshua Bell, Pierre Amoyal, Gary Hoffman, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet, as well as non-Classical friends like jazz pianist Bob James, writer/storyteller David Gonzalez, Shakespearean actor Brian Bedford, and the clown Buffo, trying to bring the vivid live concert experience to as many people as possible.
For us, Frederic Chiu will perform works of teenage Chopin and Mendelssohn.
This concert is co-sponsored by the
Dr. Mary Louise Van Winkle Fund of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley
This concert is co-sponsored by Hudson Todd, LLC
Housing for Frederic Chiu is provided by The Chrystie House Bed and Breakfast, Beacon, NY
“Classical Smackdown” Teenage Felix Mendelssohn vs. Teenage Frederic Chopin
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Polonaise in G Minor (7 years old)
Polonaise in Ab Major (11 years old)
F. Mendelssohn (1809-1847): Sonata in G Minor Opus 105, mvt i – Allegro (12 years old)
F. Mendelssohn: Sonata in E Major, Opus 6 (16 years old)
Allegretto con espressione
Tempo di Menuetto – Più Vivace
Recitativo: Adagio e senza tempo – Andante – Allegretto con espressione Molto Allegro e vivace – Allegretto con espressione
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne in E Minor, Opus Posthume 72 #1 (17 years old)
Mazurka in A minor Opus 17 #4 (15 years old)
Four Etudes from Opus 10 (19 years old)
No. 9 in F Minor
No. 10 in A-flat Major
No. 11 in E-flat Major
No. 8 in F Major
Frédéric Chopin: Rondeau in C Major Opus 73 (18 years old)
F. Mendelssohn: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso Opus 14 (15 years old)
Program is subject to change
Tonight, vying for your attention and your vote, are two towering geniuses from the early 1800s: Felix Mendelssohn and Frederic Chopin.
Round 1 – Earliest pieces
Separated in age by only 1 year, Chopin and Mendelssohn were both recognized as musical prodigies, devoting their lives to music early on. Coincidentally, they were both 2nd among 4 children, with an older sister to look up to. Their living circumstances were quite different however; Mendelssohn’s family was well-regarded and well-off – his grandfather was a famous philosopher and his father, a banker. Chopin’s family was middle-class; his parents, music teachers (teaching well-off children not unlike the Mendelssohns), who worked hard to make a decent living.
Both received formal training from teachers with pedigrees, but there was a big difference between the cultural atmospheres of Hamburg and Warsaw. Mendelssohn was exposed to great music, art and literature, and threw himself into the main traditions of High German culture. Beethoven, At the height of his fame during Mendelssohn’s childhood years, was known among family and friends; the death of the great composer was felt as a personal loss, and probably inspired the young composer to pick up and carry the torch. Several of Mendelssohn’s earliest serious works were Piano Sonatas, Symphonies and Fugues, including the Opus 105 Sonata, written in 1821, at age 12.
As for Chopin, he quickly exhausted the cultural offerings of Warsaw (he stopped piano lessons at age 12) and began integrating folk songs and dances into his piano experiments. With a lesser emphasis on the great works and the great German lineage of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, his teachers must have focused more on keyboard technique – Chopin’s early works display a tendency for technical experimentation and virtuosity, even as he explored musical elements of the local Polish culture. Many of his earliest pieces were Polonaises, a form that he would develop in an unprecedented way later in his life.
Round 2 – Major contributions
Mendelssohn’s Classic/Romantic style was established early on and stayed relatively intact throughout his life. His major contributions fell in line with the great traditions established by Beethoven. At age 14, he wrote masterpieces such as the String Octet and the incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At 17, he produced a major Piano Sonata, Opus 6 in E Major, based on one of Beethoven’s last, enigmatic Sonatas, taking cues from the key, the theme and the overall structure, creating an homage to his great predecessor, all the while staying immediately recognizable as his own voice.
Chopin’s music evolved considerably during his short lifetime, and a major break came at the time of his emigration from Poland to Paris. The unique genius of his technical brilliance and folk flavor would meld and be reshaped into the great piano soliloquies that make up his legacy. His exploration of small forms – the Mazurka, the Polonaise, the Nocturne, even the humble Etude – all began in these early years pre-emigration, leading to his first experiments with bold lyricism and fusion of harmonies.
Round 3 – Rondo vs. Rondeau
The Final Round confronts two of the masterpieces of both composers from their teen years. Mendelssohn’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso is a work that many young pianists attempt, with its perfect balance of slow/fast and expression/virtuosity.
The number 4 appears often in Chopin’s major works: 4 Ballades, 4 Scherzi, 4 Impromtpus. We can add to that the 4 Rondeaux, the Rondeau Opus 73 in C Major being the most developed, good enough in Chopin’s eyes to merit an arrangement for 2 pianos as well for solo piano. Some of the most intricate technical challenges in all of Chopin’s work are in this piece.
Frederic Chiu, piano
Frederic Chiu performs at major venues on five continents: Lincoln Center in New York, Kennedy Center in Washington, The Chatelet in Paris, the Mozarteum in Buenos Aires, as well as touring extensively in smaller and unusual venues. He collaborates with Classical music friends Joshua Bell, Pierre Amoyal and the St Lawrence String Quartet, as well as non-Classical friends like jazz pianist Bob James or storyteller David Gonzalez, to bring vivid live piano experiences to all audiences.
Frederic Chiu has recorded the most extensive complete piano works of Prokofiev, and his personal relationship with the Prokofiev family has made him a world-recognized advocate of the composer. Across 28 albums, he has recorded works of Chopin, Liszt, Ravel, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Rossini and Grieg, and most recently the Beethoven/Liszt Symphonies V and VII. “Hymns and Dervishes,” music of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann, Distant Voices: Music of Claude Debussy & Gao Ping, and Schubert’s Fantasy for Violin and Piano demonstrate his wide legacy in recording.
His innovative programming includes “Classical Smackdown,” where composers face off in head-tohead comparisons, with listeners voting for their favorite composer: Debussy vs. Prokofiev, Bach vs. Glass, etc. Results tracked at ClassicalSmackdown.com. With his wife, Jeanine Esposito, he cocreated the arts non-profit, Beechwood Arts & Innovation, to explore collaboration across art genres and the use of the arts and technology to create community. His innovative vision of Romeo & Juliet – The Choice, an immersive, interactive production of the popular Prokofiev ballet, debuted in 2018. Frederic teaches at both Carnegie Mellon University and The Hartt School