Frédéric Chopin and George Sand: A Collaborative Union


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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Frederic Chopin. Frederic Chopin. (titusjon/flickr)

By 1800 the piano had completely replaced the harpsichord; homes were now buying pianos in abundance. The Industrial Revolution had begun and Romanticism needed inflection.

Through manipulation of touch and pressure one could now create tone colors, mixed with the pedals, to be the core of romantic piano music. No one understood the dramatic and poetic powers inherent in the instrument better than Frederic Chopin. Host David Dubal features his music on this edition of The Romantic Piano.

Early in 1837, Chopin fell seriously ill. His pulmonary problems were beginning to badly trouble him. He had been jilted by Maria Wodzińska, and at that same time, Franz Liszt introduced to him a woman of much greater fascination and importance. Her name was George Sand. At first, prim and proper Chopin was repulsed by the notorious cigar smoking, trouser wearing novelist. Lacking traditional feminine qualities, he actually asked Liszt if she was indeed a woman. Chopin and Sand eventually formed a romantic relationship. In November of 1838, the couple spent three months in Majorca, where Chopin completed his 23 preludes in each of the major and minor keys.

The so-called honeymoon for Chopin and Sand proved to be a disaster. The people of Majorca were weary of Chopin's coughing, assuming it to be tuberculosis. And Sand did not attend church, which was seen as a scandal. Chopin, at first, thought the island a paradise, but several weeks later his health worsened and he was unable to enjoy the pleasures of the island.

Sand took great care of Chopin and insisted that he spend five months of the year at her country home in Nohant, France, where he would file and polish his compositions of the winter. Chopin and Sand spent almost nine years together and eventually ended their relationship. This was very unfortunate for Chopin because she protected and nursed the increasingly consumptive and irritable composer while attending to his every whim.

The separation with George Sand and his ill health broke Chopin. His weight dramatically decreased while his coughing became continuous. In the last two and a half years of his life, he only composed a few pages of music. He played his last concert in Paris on February 16, 1848; the year of the French Revolution. 

Legend says that George Sand paid a last-minute visit to him while on his deathbed, however this has not been proven to be true. His funeral was a major event held at the Madeleine Church (L'église de la Madeleine) in Paris. Mozart's Requiem was played at his own request. He was buried at the Paris cemetery, Père Lachaise, and it is said that there has never been a day since his death that flowers have not been placed on his grave.


Etude for Piano, Op. 10: no 4 in C sharp minor, B 74 / Vladimir Horowitz

Waltz for Piano in A flat major, B 131/Op. 42 "Grande Valse" / Josef Hofmann

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 16 in B flat minor / Josef Lhévinne

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 16 in B flat minor / Yuan Sheng

Impromptu for Piano no 4 in C sharp minor, B 87/Op. 66 "Fantaisie-Impromptu" / Samson François

Sonata for Piano no 2 in B flat minor, B 128/Op. 35 "Funeral March": 1st movement / Rexa Han

Waltz for Piano in C sharp minor, Op. 64 no 2 / Sergei Rachmaninov

Etude for Piano, Op. 10: no 9 in F minor / Leo Sirota

Etude for Piano, Op. 10: no 9 in F minor / Maurizio Pollini

Mazurka for Piano, Op. 41: no 1 in C sharp minor / Ignaz Friedman

Waltz for Piano, B 164/Op. 64: no 1 in D flat major "Minute Waltz" / Artur Rubinstein

Waltz for Piano, B 164/Op. 64: no 1 in D flat major "Minute Waltz" / Josef Hofmann

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 7 in A major / Víkingur Ólafsson

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 8 in F sharp minor / Víkingur Ólafsson

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 7 in A major / Yuan Sheng

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 8 in F sharp minor / Yuan Sheng

Nocturne for Piano in E flat major, Op. 9 no 2 / Vladimir Horowitz

Comments [16]

Silversalty from Brooklyn

Oops! Dubal's "Piano Matters" on WWFM is on Wednesday's at 10PM (not 8) and repeated at 12Noon on Sundays.

Feb. 07 2014 11:59 AM
david moran from wayland ma

Can we PLEASE, PLEASE stop saying 'Minute Waltz', as in clock minutes, accent on first syllable??

Either call it the 'Little Waltz' or just be brave and say 'My-Nyute' or however you pronounce minute, accent second syllable --- meaning small, petite, whatnot. Jeez louise, we Americans and our willful and promulgated misunderstandings. It has been way over a half-century of this misleading foolishness. How much ink has been spilt wrongly speculating whether anyone has ever played it under 60 seconds, whether indeed it can be, etc etc. My-nyute. NOT 'minute'.

Feb. 06 2014 09:01 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

If you'd rather something other than winter reruns of Dubal you can get current programs at WWFM. Dubal does a program called "Piano Matters" there which airs twice weekly (repeated on Sunday). Wednesday at 8PM and Sunday at 12Noon.

Previous shows can be downloaded (yes, DOWNLOADED, without any "hacking" ability) at:

Of course since these are the "really old oldies" reruns aren't unwelcome.

Feb. 06 2014 08:36 PM
T.Fox from New York

Every program on here is wonderful, thank you.
However, I was expecting more mention of George Sand, since the title does say "A Collaborative Union," but who am I to complain? It's a great program, and I have to say, I love how well everyone on this station speaks.

May. 26 2013 12:20 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

CHOPIN WAS THE POET OIF THE PIANO !!! The intelligenzia of his day were thrilled at the prospect of attening his soirees. Composers, authors, politicians and the wealthy were in great numbers attracted to his sensitive playing of his own compositions. Among them were Cherubini, Rossini, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Delacroix, Heine, Bellini, Berlioz, Maria Malibran, and Pauline Viardot-Garcia. Madame Dudevant the novelist known as George Sand were lovers but broke up in a quarrel in 1846 He never saw her again. And, more importantly, NEVER COMPOSED again. Nervous breakdowns and the weakness of his lungs and a never robust health contributed to his death , in Paris on October 17th, 1849.

May. 18 2013 12:27 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn


"Next we have a very old recording, but one that is dazzling in its originality, control and conception. Rachmaninov playing the C Sharp minor waltz, Opus 64, No.2. Here is playing of a genius recreating the music of another genius. For me, its an unforgettable experience. Every theme (the three themes of the work) are so intricately original in their phrasing. You may not even like it. It's not to our taste necessarily these days, but it is an amazing mind controlling those fingers."

May. 14 2013 09:27 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Looking at the wave file generated by the mp3 file the volume level seemed too low, condensing the dynamic range between soft and strong. On adjustment I got a much better feeling for the clarity and nuance of the playing.

Mr. Dubal is a life long practitioner, student and teacher of the genre and so the qualities that impress him may not be impressive to average (me) listeners.

But then who said I was average?!!

I've mistakenly wiped out the download mp3 file and so I can't transcribe the preface quote to the Rachmaninov piece but the gist was that it might not be to the liking of modern listeners. BS! There seems to be a jazz influence in the playing, making it very modern, though perhaps not orthodox. It might have been Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans playing with personal feeling transferred to an idiomatic/iconic piece. But the result is even more effecting.

Dubal is something like that computer program that analyzes old recordings for the intricate personal mechanical mechanisms (double talk?) that went into the result, enabling a modern version on a suitably programmed output piano. Static, noise, low-fi recording are all filtered out and only the virtuosity and beauty of the playing remains. I don't have that ability and therefore I'm somewhat swayed by the technicalities.

Ironically it's the more modern recordings that bother me. The Yuan Sheng pieces have a reverb that give the impression of listening from a hallway approach to a concert hall. For my taste that diminishes the quality of the experience.

A side note: The paired doublets towards the end of the program are misordered. The Yuan Sheng pieces are played before those by Víkingur Ólafsson.

May. 14 2013 08:54 PM

Folks, the audio has been re-posted to the site and is working now. Thanks for your patience and our apologies for the technical error.

May. 14 2013 01:57 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Well audio finally works, including the download (mp3 file) option. I don't know exactly when this happened but at least it finally did happen and those who couldn't listen Sunday night at 10PM (me) can hear what the two positive comments were based on. No time now to listen though.

May. 14 2013 12:53 PM

No audio for several days already... Very frustrating. Clearly David Dubal's program so precious and outstanding doesn't nonetheless makes high on WQXR priority list... It's a shame, while someone's bubbling (no names mentioned) takes so much time on the WQXR radio frequency, this by all means elegant and refined program has all the features of classical music "Cinderella"...
C'mon, WQXRites, give it a chance and a deserved credit!

May. 13 2013 10:09 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Still no audio. I tried Sunday night at 9:20 PM when the audio box had multiple choices back after only the stream option was visible (and non-functional) - and there was no audio. My impression is that the only audio available was during the station broadcast Sunday at 10PM.

Audio functionality is not a problem on my end because the prior week's shows work fine.

It's hard to see this as something other than an intentional effort to diminish the value Mr. Dubal provides to listeners.

And you're about to begin a fund drive. Cheeky.

There's something called TuneIn that allows Internet users (desktop and smartphone) to listen to dozens of Classical stations throughout the world, including specialized transmissions like 'solo classical piano' or 'classical piano trios,' etc.

And you have people here playing games with what is easily the best quality product on this station.

May. 13 2013 08:43 PM
Samantha Smith from Yonkers , NY

David Dubal's two chopin programs were magnificent in every aspect. He chose performances of sheer greatness. To hear Lhevinne, Friedman, Hoffman, Horowitz, and Rachmaninoff was an overwhelming experience. I was glad to hear the pianist Rexa Han in an amazing performance of the Chopin Sonata and William Kapell's immortal performance of the 3rd Sonata. Such programing is incredible. Everything perfectly placed and commentary on Chopin's life revelatory . Only radio can create such atmosphere. Congratulations to the staff of WQXR. Give me more and more. I am selfish.

May. 12 2013 11:13 PM
Robert from NYC

It sure is good to hear David Dubal on WQXR again. I don't know what the hell went wrong when WNYC took over and Dubal disappeared from QXR, but would you please mend things with him and bring back Reflections from the Keyboard?

And while I'm here, you need writers who know the language: "Lacking traditional feminine qualities, he actually asked Liszt if ...." As written, this indicates that Frederic lacked traditional feminine qualities; but obviously, you meant that George lacked them (most ostentatiously in her name, of course). Come on, this is basic English that any college grad should know, and, in a more perfect world, any high-school grad should know too.

If this is Dubal's error, then your editors should have caught it. Need help? Hire me.

May. 12 2013 10:59 PM
Bob from The Rotten Apple

I fail to see what "collaborative union" Chopin and Sand had, as implied by the article's title. But we all know that's irrelevant. In the pathetically liberal loonhouse that is New York City, we cannot possibly mention the name of a male composer with, at the very least, indirectly giving "credit" to someone with a vagina as well.

Sick liberal claptrap.

May. 12 2013 08:30 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn


Reset FROM May 9th.

To?? One week offset of the entire series?

May. 11 2013 12:19 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

No audio??

I guess available audio will have to wait for the initial broadcast day, now reset to May 9th.

Strange though how this is listed as one of the most "LISTENED" pieces on WQXR. A little frustration there. Your audio utility box should not be visible until it's actually functional.

May. 11 2013 12:17 PM

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