I love this performance so much- there’s something very special about watching and hearing this great piano piece of Chopin’s being played on his very piano…
Laughter in the Rain, Sunrise over water – themes that remain some of mankind’s most dreamed of subjects… And Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat is the quintessential nocturne. It is dreamy but restless, just like the painting below. These three paintings show what can be achieved with a predominantly grey palette. These paintings show grey at its most lyrical and evocative.
NOCTURNE IN D FLAT
This work is 1.7m by 1.4m and painted in oils on linen. The painter James Whistler painted several “nocturnes” and like this one they were great in tone to suggest nocturnal themes. But this painting also suggests a nocturne as a musical composition, and more specifically Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat op 27 no 2. I have played and recorded this work at the piano, and it features in my novel, Love and The Art of Painting. The D Flat key of the nocturne is consistent with the colour scheme of this work. More importantly most of the work is placid and tranquil, but this tranquility is interrupted by turmoil in the lower centre of the painting. That is consistent with Chopin’s great musical composition which begins smoothly and calmly but wanders through a field of fiery emotions…
LAUGHTER IN THE RAIN
Oil on linen 1.8m by 0.9m 2015
by Ian Barton Stewart
A beautiful painting showing how the colour grey can represent a remarkable poeticism and diversity. The title is drawn from Claude Debussy’s piano work of the same name, which I have played and admired for many years. If I had to choose a particular passage in Debussy’s work that mirrors this work, it would be the middle section beginning in the key of G Major, which I think is one of the most remarkable passages of music ever composed. Here, the rain is suggested by the verticality of brush strokes, while laughter is evident in the patches of of white and dark grey in the lower half of the painting. But of course, each viewer sees a work himself, and not necessarily how others see it. The photo of course does not do the painting justice, so you will have to imagine what it looks like in real life and size, for it is a large and breathtaking painting, and the modulations of grey, white and darker hues form a single unified conception in the painting, that a photograph simply cannot capture…
SUNRISE OVER WATER
Oil on linen 1.7m by 1.4m by Ian Barton Stewart
This painting shows the sun commencing its arc across the sky, bringing forth blazing light and warmth on which nearly all life on Earth depends. The work has something of an old master quality about it, and the sun rises over a seascape of mystery. If I think of analogues in the realm of music I think of Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, Richard Strauss’s Sunrise from Thus Spake Zarathustra, and maybe even Chopin’s Barcarolle. Of course I did not paint this work to emulate these composer’s works. Nor did I paint it to emulate Manet’s Sunrise painting that heralded Impressionism as a style in the history of art. This painting can be seen as influenced by all of these works and themes, but you will not find another painting like it anywhere (unless someone has copied this painting). This painting reminds me of one of my favourite artists, JMW Turner, with its washes of colour over moody water, but also with a warmth that makes the painting appear illuminated from behind.
Enjoy listening to some excerpts from Nocturnes by Chopin played on a very rare 1848 Pleyel grand piano serial number 13816, the twin sister of Chopin’s Pleyel serial number 13819. The identical pianos were built by the same craftsmen, artisans and master technicians in the same atelier in Paris just a few months apart, in the same year of 1848.
Chopin purchased his Pleyel 13819 for 2000 French Francs and it was the only piano he described as his own in his letters. It adorned his apartment in Square d’ Orléans, Paris.
The only minor difference is that Chopin’s Pleyel 13819 was ordered with minor embellishments to the case, namely pearly wooden beads around the lower rim of the case, sculptured legs and a carving on either side of the keyboard. The rest and the inside, hence the sound produced on Chopin’s piano, was exactly the same as the piano in the video.
Pleyel 13816 we are listening to in the video, still carries all original materials, was never rebuilt and is in excellent condition. The strings are the same ones it was strung with in the Pleyel shop in 20, Rue Rochechouart, Paris, more than 160 years ago. The piano has been tuned to Neidhardt temperament – a tuning system which was used in Chopin’s times. Pitch is A425.
Enjoy the real sound which Chopin intended for his great masterpieces.
Chopin’s gorgeous Preludes played on an exquisite sounding 1848 Pleyel Piano.
The music evokes a scene of looking out through a rain soaked window into a flower filled garden…
Grand Fantasia on Polish Airs for Piano and Orchestra in A-Major, Op. 13.
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, on period instruments. Emanuel Ax, Érard piano. Conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. Composed by F. Chopin (1810-49).
I have the CD this is on- I highly recommend it! The Honourable 1851 Erard Piano sounds so beautiful. I find the following passages especially beautiful, with a haunting quality:
6:18-6:23, 6:29-6:31, 10:11-10:40.
Chopin wrote two sets of twelve etudes (studies) for piano- op. 10, published in 1833; and op. 25, published in 1837. Although each brings a set of technical challenges to the table for the student (hence being entitled “etudes”), they are still incredibly diverse and deep in their musical content, contrary to the etudes seen by earlier composers like Hanon or Czerny. They range from fast and jubilant (ie op. 10/1, the opening etude with cascading C major arpeggios), to slow and longing (ie op. 10/3, “Tristesse”), to stormy and furious (ie op. 25/11, “Winter Wind”). Their combination of virtuosity and musicality makes them a favorite among students and performers.
This particular recording was made by Tatiana Shebanova on an 1849 Erard piano. It comes from a box set entitled “The Real Chopin”. Compiled by a Polish record label in 2010 to commemorate the great composer’s bicentennial, the box set includes recordings (often multiple recordings of the same piece) of his entire works done on authentic period instruments. The recording quality is tremendous, and the playing is spectacular as well. Hearing Chopin played this way really casts his music in a different light.