Chopin Piano Concerto in F-minor, opus 21 (remastered), Arthur Rubenstein, soloist, André Previn (c)

Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2

Though he published it second, Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor was actually the first concerto he composed. After a surprisingly successful impromptu solo debut in Vienna, the nineteen-year-old composer returned home to Warsaw to compose a concerto that he could play on tours in the future. Chopin completed it during the fall of 1829 and gave the premiere in Warsaw the following March, where it was enthusiastically received.

Chopin at 25, by his fiancée Maria Wodzińska, 1835.

In a letter to a friend, Chopin confessed that the slow second movement of the concerto was inspired by Konstancja Gladkowska, a young singer who was a classmate of his at the conservatory in Warsaw: “Perhaps to my misfortune, I have met my ideal and have served her faithfully for six months, without speaking to her about my feelings. I dream about it: under her inspiration, the adagio of my Concerto in F minor and, this morning, the little waltz that I’m sending you [the Waltz in B minor, Op. 69 No. 2], have been born….I tell to the piano what I confide to you.”

Unfortunately for the shy composer, this music is all that came of his unspoken infatuation. Many critics continue to regard this movement as one of his loveliest creations, comparing it to the nocturnes he would compose later.

There is a story that Rubenstein never played music again in Germany after the war. But he did have his piano repaired at the Steinway workshop in Hamburg. Here is the film of that.

Artur Rubinstein, Artur also spelled Arthur, (born January 28, 1887, Łódź, Poland, Russian Empire—died December 20, 1982, Geneva, Switzerland), Polish-American virtuoso pianist regarded by many as the 20th century’s foremost interpreter of the repertoire.

Rubinstein began study at the age of three and at the age of eight studied at the Warsaw Conservatory. The following year he became a pupil of Heinrich Barth in Berlin. Rubinstein was seven when he made his first public appearance, and he made his European debut in Berlin at 13. In 1906 he made his American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall but received a cool reception because of his youth. During World War I Rubinstein, who was fluent in eight languages, served as a military interpreter in London and performed there with the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. From 1916 to 1918 he visited Spain and South America and created a sensation by introducing works by Manuel de Falla, Isaac Albéniz, and Enrique Granados. Another trip to the United States in 1919 proved to be lackluster, however.

During the 1920s Rubinstein developed a reputation as a cosmopolitan socialite, but in 1932 he married Aniela Młynarski and began to seriously analyze his artistry. He renewed his dedication to music, practiced 12 to 16 hours a day, and brought a new discipline to his already brilliant technique. When he returned once again to the United States in 1937 and performed at Carnegie Hall, he was hailed as a genius.

Throughout the rest of his career, Rubinstein retained a high artistic reputation and had a huge repertoire that included works by landmark 18th- and 19th-century composers Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin, as well as important 20th-century figures such as Albéniz, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky. Rubinstein was considered a master interpreter of Chopin’s work. He moved to the United States during World War II and was granted citizenship in 1946. Rubinstein was known as a witty extrovert and an irrepressible raconteur, but he was also a serious musician whose stage presence enhanced his playing. He made more than 200 recordings. Rubinstein was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom in 1976.

And here is a little about me. The reason that I learned French was because of a PBS Masterpiece Theater program about the life of Georges Sand. She was Chopin’s mistress for many years. This series was shown in the 1970s, and it starred Rosemary Harris as Georges Sand. The theme music was the beautiful theme from the second movement of this second symphony. I was so taken by the history of the times and Chopin, that I decided to learn French. I was going to read Georges Sand’s autobiography. I never did that, but as a 15-year-old, it made me fall in love with French history. Now, I might know better!