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Chopin’s last public concert performance took place in Edinburgh on 4 October 1848, at the end of a concert tour through England and Scotland. Shortly after that Chopin returned to Paris and died a year later. The reconstruction of this historic concert program will be performed by German pianist Tobias Koch, on a historical fortepiano from Chopin’s time.
A collaboration with the Vancouver Chopin Society
This concert is generously supported by Chris Guzy & Mari Csemi
Click here for information about parking around / transiting to Christ Church Cathedral
A reconstruction of Chopin´s only solo recital concert program – Edinburgh on 4 October 1848
Mazurka in A-flat major, Op. 7 No. 4 (1831)
Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29 (1837)
3 Etudes from Op. 25 (1836)
in A-flat major No. 1
in F minor No. 2
in C-sharp minor No. 7
2 Nocturnes, Op. 27 (1836)
in C-sharp minor No. 1
in D-flat major No. 2
Berceuse in D-flat major, Op. 57 (1844)
Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat major Op. 18 (1831)
Prelude in E major, Op. 28 No. 9 (1839)
Nocturne in B major, Op. 62 No. 1 (1839)
Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op.45 (1841)
Ballade No. 3 in A-flat major, Op. 47 (1841)
3 Mazurkas from Op. 7 (1831)
in B-flat major No. 1
in A minor No. 2
in F minor No. 3
2 Mazurkas from Op. 59 (1845)
in A minor No. 1
in F-sharp minor No. 3
3 Waltzes, Op. 64 (1847)
in D-flat major No. 1
in C-sharp minor No. 2
in A-flat major No. 3
Chopin’s Public Concerts
Chopin’s 1848 Soirée Musicale in Edinburgh is unique in his concert career in that he performed only his own solo piano music. His other public concerts had involved other artists—most often singers, but sometimes other instrumentalists as well—in a variety of repertoire. The Romantic concept of the solo “recital” had been established by Liszt a decade earlier but the term (and the practice) only gradually gained usage.
Chopin gave only about thirty public or semi-public concerts during his life, most of these to an audience that rarely exceeded three hundred persons. His last public concerts were the six of 1848: his final concert in Paris on 16 February (where he had not performed publicly for six years); two semi-public concerts in London on 23 June and 7 July (both with singers); a huge public concert in Manchester on 27 August (in which he made two reduced solo appearances because of a coach accident); and the two Scottish concerts in Glasgow on 27 September (incorporating singers), and in Edinburgh on 4 October (solo).
The Edinburgh concert was technically not Chopin’s last public appearance since he performed again in London on 16 November in the Concert preceding the Annual Ball in Aid of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland. As in the Manchester concert, the programme featured a large number of singers and instrumentalists, with Chopin playing a few solo pieces including the first two etudes of Op. 25.
It is important to acknowledge that the roster of public and semi-public concerts is not indicative of the extent of his performance career inasmuch as he performed frequently in the private rooms of friends and nobility. In a highly-informative talk given in London in 2010, Rose Cholmondeley points out that with access to Broadwood ledgers tracking the transport of pianos, we know that Chopin performed at “countless” private morning concerts, afternoon concerts, evening concerts, as well as informally in salons. Cholmondeley also mentions that whereas Chopin may have performed more “daring” larger works in in his private concerts, he restricted himself to a limited set of pieces for public concerts, many of which are represented in this evening’s programme.
For all of his public concerts in England and in Scotland, Chopin used pianos provided by John Broadwood’s grandson, Henry Fowler Broadwood (1811-1893), who spoke French (Chopin’s English remained rudimentary) and whom Chopin referred to as “a real Pleyel” for the attention he gave to Chopin’s needs. In his student years Chopin was most familiar with Viennese-action pianos (including the Warsaw Buchholtz), but after his arrival in Paris in 1831 his allegiance turned to the instruments of Camille Pleyel who acted as both friend and supporter. Chopin brought the Pleyel Grand from his 1848 Paris concert to London where it remained his “own” piano—his favoured practice instrument—despite the generosity of Broadwood. (Broadwood had provided a Grand for Chopin’s London drawing room, as had Erard who owned factories in both London and Paris.) Chopin’s piano aesthetic was decidedly French.
The 1847 Broadwood Grand Pianoforte (No. 17,047) used in Chopin’s public concerts in London and Manchester survived and was later donated by the Broadwood Trust to the Royal Academy of Music. The Broadwood Grand Pianoforte (No. 17,001) which Broadwood shipped to Scotland for the 1848 Glasgow and Edinburgh concerts seems to have been bought shortly afterwards by John Muir Wood, its present whereabouts unknown. At Broadwood’s request, Muir Wood, a pianist who had studied on the continent and was now director of the new Glasgow branch of his father’s Edinburgh music shop, had accompanied Chopin and his Irish manservant Daniel on the train journey from London to Edinburgh on August 7, and was involved in the promotion of the Scottish concerts along with Jane Stirling. At Calder House, near Edinburgh, Jane made her Pleyel Grand available to Chopin in her drawing room, while Broadwood provided a piano for the composer’s own rooms. In Edinburgh Chopin stayed on several occasions with the homeopathic Polish-born Dr. Łyszczynski (anglicized Lishinski), whose Scottish wife recalled Chopin playing on an old Broadwood square piano of her childhood “with evident pleasure”. Before Chopin left London for Paris on 23 November 1848, he requested that a Pleyel piano be placed in his apartment in advance. Ultimately it was only on a Pleyel that Chopin could realize his unique musical gift.
The Programme of Chopin’s “Last Concert”
The advertisement for Chopin’s Soirée musicale which appeared in The Scotsman on the day of the concert in Edinburgh, 4 October 1848, is the only printed documentation we have of the six components of the programme (no printed programme has otherwise been found). Only two works are identified for certain: the Berceuse (Opus 57) in no. 3 and the Grande Valse Brillante (Opus 18) in no. 4. The impromptu in no. 1 and the prelude and ballade in no. 6 are not specified. Familiar genres are listed: etudes in no. 2, nocturnes in no. 3, mazurkas and waltzes in no. 6, without specific works being listed. In fact genre lists are quite typical of Chopin programmes where he seems to leave his choices for the concert itself. Most puzzling are the pieces identified only by tempo marking: Andante in no. 1, and Andante preceded by a Largo in no. 5. What might not be immediately obvious is evidence for a performance practice. Chopin was known to “prelude” (or improvise) or use a short introductory piece before beginning a larger work. This means that in no. 1 the Andante acts as a prelude to the impromptu, and in no. 5, the Largo acts as a prelude to the Andante. In no. 3, there is also the suggestion that the nocturnes act as a prelude to the Berceuse.
Tobias Koch has maintained the above order for his programme. For no. 1, he plays a Mazurka in A-flat major as a prelude to the Impromptu in the same key which follows. For no. 2, he supplies three etudes from Op. 25, the first two of which Chopin played frequently as a pair. For no. 3, he chooses two nocturnes which have the same tonic note (the first is just the enharmonic minor of D-flat major) as the Berceuse which follows. No. 4 is exactly as Chopin indicates.
To begin the second half of the programme (no. 5), Tobias Koch plays an independent prelude marked Largo followed by a Nocturne marked Andante. The keys are closely related. For no. 6, he selects a prelude, a ballade, five mazurkas, and three waltzes, following Chopin’s plan exactly.
The choice of specific works to play benefits from a comparison with the contents of the other four concerts given in England and Scotland in 1848. Especially useful are the handwritten opus numbers on a programme for Chopin’s Matinée Musicale in the Merchants’ Hall, Glasgow, on 27 September 1848, just eight days before the Edinburgh concert. (The Glasgow programme featured a soprano in three arias, but the programme is otherwise similar to Edinburgh.) The Glasgow programme likewise begins with “Andante et Impromptu” but handwritten below we find “No. 8 and 36”. In his essay, “Small ‘Forms’: In Defense of the Prelude”, Jeffrey Kallberg proposes the Prelude in F-sharp minor, Op. 28, no. 8, followed by the Impromptu in F-sharp major, Op. 36. In his new magisterial biography of Chopin, Alan Walker identifies the Andante as the Andante Spianato, Op. 22 (a number that conflicts with the annotated Glasgow programme) while keeping Op. 36 as the Impromptu as some earlier writers have done. Such discrepancies in identifying his concert works are often found in the Chopin literature. The fifth item in the published Edinburgh programme finds an interesting precedent in the printed programme for Chopin’s first Matinée Musicale at the London residence of Mrs. Sartoris (the singer Adelaide Kemble) on 23 June, which begins “Andante (Op. 22) précédé d’un Largo”, a choice not adopted by Tobias Koch in this evening’s programme.
An additional possibility for choice of nocturnes emerges in the annotated Glasgow programme, where the two Nocturne Op. 55 are inserted between Op. 27 (which Tobias Koch selected) and Op. 57, the Berceuse. Op. 55 was dedicated to Jane Stirling in 1844, the year after she began her piano studies with Chopin. (She had begun studying with his English pupil Lindsay Sloper in Paris in 1840.) Op. 55 is Chopin’s only dedication to her in all of his published works. She had sponsored Chopin’s Scottish tour even to the extent of buying up one hundred seats for the Edinburgh concert, in case it did not sell because of the ticket price or its clash with other events in the Caledonian Rout. It would seem a least a courtesy for Chopin to have included the Op. 55 Nocturnes in his Edinburgh concert as did in Glasgow.
The annotated Glasgow programme indicates that the etudes played were from Op. 25,but does not give numbers. However, the programme of his first London Matinée Musicale on 23 June specifies: “Andante Sostenuto, 13me et 14 Étude”. Etude no. 13 is Op. 25, no. 1, marked Andante sostenuto in the score. Etude no. 14 is Op. 25, no. 2, Presto, in F minor. Tobias Koch has indeed chosen these two etudes as the first of three that he performs this evening. A review in The Musical World confirms his playing of the F-minor Etude. >
The annotated Glasgow programme identifies Op. 28 for the Prelude, Op. 38 for the Ballade, Op. 7 for the Mazurkas, and Op. 64 for the Waltzes. While Tobias Koch adopts the Mazurkas and Waltzes from the Glasgow programme, his choices for the Prelude and Ballade are different, with the A-flat major Ballade replacing the F-major Ballade.
It is important to note that in a letter to his close friend Grzymala on October 3, the day before the concert, Chopin wrote: “Tomorrow evening I have to play, but have not seen the hall or arranged the programme.” There is some speculation that John Muir Wood, who was promoting the Edinburgh concert, decided simply to list in the newspaper advertisement some numbers from the Glasgow concert without having received final confirmation from the composer.
Another way to ascertain or confirm the works Chopin played is to look for reviews published after the concert. The review that gives most clues appeared in the Edinburgh Evening Courant on 7 October. It makes interesting reading after the above considerations. Aside from allowing us to experience the concert through the ears of a contemporary listener, the review contains intriguing descriptions of the pieces which might be matched (or not) with the hypothetical programme solutions given above. [For a facsimile of this review, see p. 3 of the following link: https://chopinsociety.org/files2018/chopin_koch_lastconcert.pdf ]
Tobias Koch is not the first pianist to attempt a reconstruction of the only public solo concert that Chopin every played. The centenary of Chopin’s 1848 Edinburgh concert was marked by a concert by the French pianist Alfred Cortot on 4 September 1948 during the second Edinburgh Festival. Cortot remarked in a preparatory letter that identification of the Andante and Largo was impossible and that the “Sonata funèbre and Polonaise in A flat should be included”. (Chopin had performed neither a sonata nor a polonaise in any of his 1848 concerts.) In their 1993 book, The Scottish Autumn of Frederick Chopin, Iwo and Pamela Załuski, state that the 1848 concert was recreated in 1959 at the French Institute in Edinburgh in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s birth, the pianist being Janet Walcer, but do not give the programme. Speculation on the music played in the 1848 concert appears in many of the books on Chopin. What we can enjoy this evening is a well-researched attempt by Tobias Koch to recapture that unique event.
About the Instrument
1852 london boudoir grand pianoforte by john broadwood & sons
by John Glofcheskie
No. 989 in a series of Broadwood Boudoir Grands manufactured between 1835 and 1890.
Oak case: 7’1″ in length, and 4’2″ in width.
Veneer: Bookmatch Brazilian Rosewood.
Open-bottom case covered with loose-woven burlap.
Lid with short stick only.
Iron composite frame has two tension bars to stabilize
Soundboard grain runs across the strings
(parallel to keyboard).
Soundboard is flat, not crowned as on modern piano.
Keyboard range: 6 ¾ octaves, from CC to a4.
82 keys covered in ebony and ivory.
Straight stringing: single in the bass from CC to FF,
double in the octave up to F, and triple for
the remainder of the instrument up to a4.
Tuning: A 430 Hz, slightly under modern pitch.
Tuning pins are oblong (not square as on the modern piano).
Two wooden pedals: damper and una corda.
Hammer action is simple (without Erard’s double escapement), but still allows good key repetition.
Marinus van Prattenburg, Abbotsford, Spring 2017
This 1852 Broadwood originated with an English family who brought it with them to British Columbia in the 1950s. The fact that the wood on the sustaining pedal is hardly worn is a good indication that the 1852 instrument was not much played. The original hammers, felts, and dampers were restored to playing condition and did not need to be replaced. All other parts are original except for the strings which were replaced by Röslau steel wire, using the original gauges. The result of the restoration is an instrument with a true Broadwood harmonic sound spectrum. This piano was bought for use by the Vancouver Chopin Society in 2018 and first used in two concerts of Chopin’s music performed by the renowned Janusz Olejniczak.
Marinus van Prattenburg
In a career spanning more than fifty years, Marinus has restored many Broadwoods, both squares and grands, the earliest being a 1784 square piano. Square pianos, both British and American, have been a special passion of his. He has restored French pianos including several Erard grands, and occasionally Pleyel and Gaveau instruments. His Viennese restorations include some fine 18th and 19th-century fortepianos. Steinway, Bechstein, and other modern pianos have also been through his workshop. The 1852 Broadwood was his final restoration. Now that he has retired, his final project is for himself—a new Viennese fortepiano, ca. 1800, of his own design. Marinus is also a published author whose books include Mr. Sebastian: the life story of a mid-nineteenth century grand piano.
Sound characteristics of a London Broadwood
from Richard Burnett’s book, Company of Pianos (2004),
about instruments in the Finchcocks Collection
“Considerable power, coupled, due to sympathetic vibrations, with an obfuscating sea of sound, are the salient characteristics of this piano [1846 Broadwood Grand similar to those used by Chopin in England and Scotland in 1848 and to the 1852 instrument being used this evening]. The dampers are light for such an instrument and quite fail to extinguish totally any notes in the bass for up to ten seconds, according to how forcefully one depresses the keys. Old traditions die hard, and the tonal wash, so relished by the first performers on English pianos, here reaches its pinnacle, before receding into the greater clarity of later nineteenth century instruments. The 1846 Broadwood thus represents in this respect the link between the classical and the modern grand.” (p. 54)
Sound ideal of the Paris Pleyel
(Chopin’s preferred piano) from the same source
“Like so many contemporary French grand pianos, the Pleyel  is essentially an English instrument, with four iron bars reinforcing the case to allow high tension wire to be safely used. The dampers, however, are longer than those found in pianos of similar date by Broadwood and so there is less aftersound, [a characteristic] which is more typical of pianos of Germanic origin. The instrument is of particular interest for pianists since it is the same model as the Pleyel of 1839 owned by Chopin. Chopin had enjoyed a very close relationship with the Pleyel firm, the instruments of which possessed a specially beautiful and intimate tone colour, which clearly appealed to the composer: … The expression of my inner thoughts, of my feelings, is more direct, more personal [than on an Erard, which produces its bright limpid tone colour effortlessly]. My fingers feel in more immediate contact with the hammers, which then translate exactly and faithfully the feeling I want to produce, the effect I want to obtain.” (p. 139)
To probe the mysteries of sound with open-mindedness, versatility and with a sense of joy for discovery is the musical credo of Tobias Koch. Right from the beginnings of his musical career, Koch has been fascinated by the expressive potential of period keyboard instruments; he plays the harpsichord, clavichord, tangent piano, fortepiano, orphica, piano-pédalier, organ, and romantic grand piano in unorthodox and spirited performances — “with disarming spontaneity,” as a large German weekly put it. Koch chooses the most suitable instrument after extensive musicological research and performance practice studies, always leading to new results.
For years, he has been considered one of the leading interpreters in the field of romantic performance practice, and particularly of the work of Robert Schumann. The German Radio MDR Figaro wrote: “Inspired and inspiring right from the beginning. Tobias Koch plays Robert Schumann’s music the way it should be played: revolutionary, romantic, with technical brilliance, emotional but without any hint of sappiness or pretence. Koch’s playing conjures up images that appear just as quickly as they fade away. Koch’s playing is infectious, every moment is an adventure.“
Koch’s comprehensive musical career as a soloist, chamber musician and Lied accompanist has taken him to music festivals throughout Europe including the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Verbier Festival, the Warsaw Chopin Festival, Rheingau Music Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn, the Schumann Festivals in Düsseldorf, Bonn, Leipzig, and Zwickau, and the Mendelssohn Days at the Gewandhaus Leipzig.
Koch gained valuable artistic impulses in master classes with David Levine, Roberto Szidon, Walter Kamper, Jos van Immerseel and Claire Chevallier. He is a recipient of the music sponsorship award of the city of Düsseldorf and teaches at the Robert Schumann Hochschule as well as at the Academies in Verbier and Montepulciano. Koch has worked with musicians such as Andreas Staier, Gottfried von der Goltz, Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis, Markus Schäfer, the Pleyel and Hoffmeister Quartets, Concerto Köln and the Stuttgarter Hofkapelle under Frieder Bernius. He also collaborates closely with instrument makers, restoration specialists, and major instrument museums.
Koch has published on the topics of performance practice, rhetoric and musical aesthetics. He has featured in numerous productions for radio and television and recorded over 25 CDs with works by Mozart, Beethoven, Burgmüller, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Wagner, and Brahms. Drawn to the irresistible sound of period keyboard instruments, Koch has performed exclusively on historic instruments for many years.