Chopin Year is here.
Spend an hour on YouTube and in very little time, you can hear many versions of, for example, his Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49. Two legendary performances by Vladimir Horowitz are there for the listening. You can also hear the Fantasy, composed by Chopin when he was 31, twice next week - live, here in Durango.
The Fort Lewis College music department wasn't about to let Chopin Year pass without at least one, or two concerts.
Especially with a Polish-born violinist on the faculty and a piano professor who believes every keyboard student must
Kasia Sokol, assistant professor of violin, has urged colleagues and students to find a way to join musicians all
over the world to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth on March 1, 1810.
I felt it was very appropriate for our department to celebrate Chopin this year," Sokol said last week in an
I am partial, of course, being Polish," she said. I love Chopin's music; it speaks 'home' to me more than any other
composer's music. Sokol's colleague, piano professor Lisa Campi concurred: The birthday anniversary allows the FLC
Piano Studio to celebrate Chopin's glorious contribution to music in general and the development of modern piano
technique and sonority in particular."
Planning an all-Chopin concert sounds daunting, but Campi said that it was fairly easy.
Most of my students have been working on Chopin anyway. They're all at various stages of mastering his music," she
Many critics have written that Chopin should be played by young performers. Born in Poland, Chopin lived a brief and
intense life. He came to musical maturity early, left for Paris, led a stormy life complicated by ill health, composed some of the world's most beautiful and compelling music, and died at age 39.
Enter a recent FLC graduate: Chauncey Larsen, 22. Larsen majored in music and business major but has one task to
perform to complete his degree - a senior recital.
Larsen will play the composer's Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49, on April 5. He's programmed the Fantasy along with works
by Beethoven and Prokofiev. A week later, Larsen will perform the Fantasy in the special Chopin Year Concert on April
13. Both performances will take place in Roshong Recital Hall and both are free.
I like to bring something new to the table, or to the concert hall," Larsen said in an interview last week. I look
for pieces that are not played all the time."
Beethoven's Tempest Sonata and Chopin's Fantasy apparently fit his requirements. The Beethoven follows standard
sonata form; three movements, fast, slow, fast. The Fantasy is a form unto itself, so fresh, it gives the impression
of pure improvisation. The whole piece, 12 to 14 minutes long depending on the pianist, constantly erupts in sudden
changes of mood, tempo and dynamics.
Larsen will reprise the Fantasy at the all-Chopin concert April 13. The recital, Campi said, brings together all the
FLC piano students. You'll hear 11 pianists including Larsen, Joe Albright, Rachel Carson, Chris Cooke, Sarah Gordon, Jack Maynes, Molly Verde, Michelle Jilek, Kayla Nelson and Daniela Soderback. Each performer will read a quote from
Chopin before playing.
Another pianist in the group, Joe Albright, has scheduled his junior recital before the Chopin night. On April 12, Albright will play works by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Chopin's Etude in E Major, Op. 10, No. 3. He'll reprise the
latter the next evening at the all-Chopin soirée. Albright is one of FLC's multi-instrument students, and he will
also play the flügelhorn version of Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, among other works.
Levi Brown, another recent graduate, has returned for the Chopin celebration. Brown recently performed in St. Mark's
Bach Festival. Last fall he won second prize in the Colorado Young Artist Competition, playing - what else - Chopin, the fourth ballad. He had scheduled that for the upcoming concert but recently changed his mind and will play the
Black Key" Etude, Op. 10, no. 5.
You'll hear two other etudes April 13 plus three nocturnes, a mazurka, the haunting Raindrop" Prelude in D flat
major, one waltz and one other fantasy - the C sharp minor, performed by Finnish foreign student Daniela Soderback.
The celebration also may include a few surprises.
Campi, a Chopin specialist herself, said she is proud of her students and delighted that a small town in Colorado
will mark Chopin Year. Sokol said she is planning a fall lecture-recital about the composer, his life and what his
music means to Poland.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.