Episode 109: Chopin and Camelot

rc-camelot-200“I have written an alla Polacca for the violoncello with accompaniment. It is nothing more than a glittering trifle for the salon…for ladies. I wanted Princess Wanda, the daughter of the cello-playing Prince, to learn it. She is still very young – perhaps seventeen – and beautiful.” - Fryderyk Chopin

That “cello-playing Prince” was Polish Prince Antonin Radziwill, described in the history books as a far more successful arts patron than politician. Beethoven dedicated an overture to him. Goethe was his collaborator. And in the fall of 1828, a restless teenager named Fryderyk Chopin was a guest at the Radziwill’s country estate, evidently interested in both dazzling the daughter as well as currying favor with the wealthy and influential father.

The resulting “glittering trifle” was the Introduction and Polonaise Brillante for Cello and Piano, Op. 3. But that’s not the end of the story. Chopin didn’t get the girl, NOR Dad’s money, but he felt good enough about the piece to add a stately introduction a year later.

Decades later, another great Polish artist, Emmanuel Fuermann, added an assist. As Carter Brey, principal Cellist of the New York Philharmonic, explains it, "The [Introduction and Grand Polonaise] was considerably altered by Emmanuel Fuermann, the virtuoso cellist from the early 20th century. The original version has a relatively simple cello part, and very florid piano writing, as you might expect with Chopin. Feurmann took some of the piano writing and gave it to the cello, so that there’s an equality of brilliance between the two instruments.”

Brey is a champion of Chopin’s early creation. And Brey plays at Lincoln Center, mere blocks away from the brownstone home of socialite Lee Radziwill…connected both to the Polish princes and the Kennedy dynasty. Now as then, no stranger to political wilderness…and artistic exaltation. If Chopin only knew. - Mike McKay & Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 109: Chopin and Camelot

Introduction and Polonaise Brillante for Cello and Piano, Op. 3