Episode 191: Fryderyk and Ferdinand

Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No. 2; Hiller: Etude No. 12 in F minor, Op. 15

rc-hiller-200“Hiller is an immensely talented fellow – a former pupil of Hummel – whose concerto and Symphony produced a great effect three days ago. He’s on the same lines as Beethoven, but a man full of poetry, fire, and spirit.”

Chopin wrote those words about his new pal Ferdinand Hiller to his friends back home in Poland in 1831. It’s easy to understand their connection: Hiller was a fellow new arrival in the City of Lights, and like Chopin, admired Bach, Mozart, and Mozart’s student Johann Nepomuk Hummel. No wonder Chopin dedicated his Op. 15 Nocturnes to his Frankfurt friend. Today, we might say that Hiller was Chopin’s wingman: for a while they were inseparable at social events. It was Hiller who was at Chopin’s side the fateful day he met George Sand. “What an unattractive person La Sand is,” Chopin reportedly whispered to his friend. “Is she really a woman?”

And, oh to have been there on the day in 1833 when Chopin, Hiller, and their mutual friend Franz Liszt were the soloists in Bach’s Concerto for Three Keyboards, or when Fryderyk and Ferdinand set off on a road trip the next year to visit Felix Mendelssohn. Felix told his family the three spent all their time together, playing each other’s music, but noted his two visitors “”suffer somewhat from the Parisian mania for despair and emotional exaggeration.”

And what of Hiller’s own music? Well, first you have to find it; Hiller’s been almost totally forgotten today. If you do, you’ll discover a mixture of Bach, Mendelssohn…and Chopin. Hiller’s magnum opus – a set of Etudes coincidentally labeled Op. 15, bears witness to a critical assessment of Hiller’s heyday in the 1830s: “A composer who influenced colleagues like Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Liszt at least as much as they influenced him.” - Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 191: Fryderyk and Ferdinand

Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No. 2

Hiller: Etude No. 12 in F minor, Op. 15