Flash in the Chopin

Did you know that here in Arizona we are, by order of the governor herself, smack in the middle of statewide tribute to composer Frederic Chopin? Yes, a proclamation signed by Jane Dee Hull on October 22 declares November 1, 1998, through February 28, 1999, "A Tribute to Chopin Season."

Each of us, of course, will want to celebrate the Tribute to Chopin Season in his or her own special way, but a logical one would be to attend one of the two remaining concerts at Kerr Cultural Center, sponsored by the Western Chopin Society for the benefit of a school for blind children in Chopin's native Poland.

The internationally admired Hamilton Trio will perform a program consisting of Bach, Debussy, Joseph Joachim and, of course, Chopin, at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 2, at Kerr Cultural Center, 6110 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Advance tickets, available at the Kerr box office and through Dillard's, are $15 (965-5377, 503-5555).

Chopin was born near Warsaw in 1810, and was performing publicly before 1820. The child prodigy eventually grew into a great romanticist of the ivories, relocating to Paris in the 1830s and writing voluminously for the solo piano or for the piano backed up by other instruments--two full concertos, along with numerous nocturnes and preludes, as well as Polish-oriented works like mazurkas and polonaises.

Though he hung out with a smart set that included Balzac, Berlioz and Liszt, Chopin's most well-known association was his 10-year friendship with Amadine Aurore Lucie Dupin, Baroness Dudevant, better known for the early feminist novels she wrote under the name George Sand. Their relationship appears to have been the basis for Sand's novel Lucrezia Floriani. The long-sickly Chopin died young of tuberculosis in 1849, two years after parting company with the baroness.

His work has gone in and out of fashion in the century and a half since his death, rated as everything from finely wrought schmaltz to some of the greatest European music of the 1800s, but he's always had a loyal core cult, especially among Poles and among pianists. That cult's local chapter is led by Tadeusz K. Zakrzewski, a doctor and founder of the Western Chopin Society, which sponsors concerts benefiting local classical-music students.

In November of 1994, the society found another cause to back when it hosted a performance by a blind Polish pianist named Edwin Kowalik. Zakrzewski, impressed by Kowalik's playing, asked where he had been educated, and learned that it was at a school for the blind in Laski, Poland. Since then, the society has devoted part of its funds to support of this institution.

Hamilton Trio is made up of Indiana native Robert Hamilton, one of America's premier pianists, his son, cellist Gregory Hamilton, and daughter-in-law, violist Kate Hamilton. For the Kerr performance, the three are scheduled to play Bach's Sonata in D major and Joachim's Hebrew Melodies on Poems of Byron, both for piano and viola, and Debussy's Sonata in D minor for cello and piano. Then, after the intermission, the trio will take on the Sonata in G minor for cello and piano by the great Chopin himself.

One more concert is slated in the tribute season--the Bukowski duet plays an all-Chopin program at 4 p.m. Sunday, February 28, also at Kerr.

--M. V. Moorhead

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M.V. Moorhead
Contact: M.V. Moorhead