Apparently when I was aged 4, I was watching Disneyland on the TV. My foot was keeping beat to the music on the TV. My mother saw this and declared to my father,
"This boy is musical. He will learn the piano."
Aged 9 I had my first piano lesson from a Mr Page in Griffith.
My family lived on a rice farm about 22 miles west of Griifith. The roads then (1966 ) weren't real flash. I used to catch a bus into Griffith each day to attend primary school.
As we didn't have a piano at home, my mother used to drive 8 miles, in all conditions, to pick me up off the bus at “Danny's Corner” and take me to the Warrawidgee Community Hall where there was a piano for me to practice on. This hall was set “somewhere in the middle of nowhere”, made of corregated iron, thus it was very hot in summer and very cold in winter. My mother would read her reader's digest magazine in the car and wait, in all conditions. No car air conditioning then. If it had been raining we hoped we wouldn't get bogged on the way home.
Fortunately I did enjoy learning and now playing the piano.
My bent has always been towards classical music. By far my favourite composer is Chopin. Why? Briefly- he wrote beautiful melodies and his composing style is so perfect.
His style leads to an intimancy of feelings. Pure, unencumbered and very genuine.
I once heard this quote,
"Anyone can come up with a melody. It's what you do with that melody that makes a good composer".
(Image of Phil Aughey shortly after playing in "Chopin's Last Tour" in Edinbugrh Fringe Festival 2015)
1st March 1810 - Frederick Chopin was born in Poland. His father, Nicolas was originally from France and his mother, Justina, was a Pole. He was born the second child of 4 children. His sisters were Ludwika, Isobella and Emilia.
Nicholas was a tutor/teacher. He taught at elite institutions in Warsaw. Rooms in their residences were rented out to students, thus, although Chopin had no aristocratic heritage, he was well used to mixing it with them. Nicholas quickly realised that his son was a child prodigy and went to great lengths to educate Frederick properly.
Being a Pole he was influenced by the native folk music and customs. Also was passionate about Poland's political plight.
Started taking piano lessons at 6 and was composing by 11. He quickly overtook his teachers and a lot of his techniques were his own inventions.
1831 - He arrived in Paris. He gained a reputation as a composer and teacher. He only gave 30 public recitals in his life. He didn't like doing them. He was welcomed into the Parisian lifestyle and was generally very popular. Recognised as a genius in his life time.
1838 - begins a relationship with Aurora Dudevant ( George Sand ),a novelist. In many ways they were opposites, however their relationship flourished till 1847. These were the most productive years of his life.
Together with Madame Sand's children, from a previous marriage, they became quite the family unit. This suited Chopin as he thrived on a family environment.
Chopin, however, was plagued with Consumption, ( Tuberculosis ). The disease became increasing debilitating. Madame Sand often referred to Chopin as her third child because he needed so much care.
1847 - The relationship failed.
1848 - Jane Stirling of Scotland, who was in love with Chopin, invited Chopin to Britan. It is while he was in Scotland that I have set this work.
October 17 1849 - Chopin died on in Paris.
This work, Chopin's last Tour, has been set in Scotland, about October 17th 1848. One year before he dies. It is perhaps not the happiest time in his life. He knows that he is dying, his relationship with George Sand has ended dramatically, his father has died 4 years earlier and he doesn't like his present company.
However it is a good time for a reflection upon his life. Give a large range of music to choice from and is an avenue into his feeling at an insecure time of his life.
I have chosen 6 of his works to play. Each representing a certain aspect of his life.
Etude no 3, Opus 10 “Tristesse” ( excerpt )
Etude no 12, Opus 10 “Revolutionary” ( excerpt )
Waltz in C Sharp minor Opus 64 no 2 ( excerpt )
Fantasie Impromptu ( excerpt )
Faced with the prospect of playing Chopin there are certain aspect of his persona that must be adhered to.
He was a very polite and likeable man. Well mannered and knew how to conduct himself in the best of company. Very popular amongst his peers but was rather shy and introverted.
He was patriotic to Poland and was very close to his family. Did not like large crowds but was very comfortable in the drawing rooms of friends.
In “Chopin's Last Tour” I have tried to humanise Chopin. His story is told through his feelings not as a narrative.
Certainly his worth as a composer can be measured by his popularity still to this day. Although fitting neatly into the Romantic Genre, his music is unique, stylised and intimate.
His music opens to me a very private section of my soul.