Learn how the result of a piano competition had the power to shock an entire nation.
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The International Chopin Piano Competition takes place every five years and brings the most talented pianists from around the world to Warsaw, Poland. The one rule for the competition, as its name would suggest, is that pianists may only play the works of Frédéric Chopin. These types of competitions have an unfortunate reputation of being elitist and uptight, but, as you will learn, that could not be further from the truth in this instance.
In this episode, we bring you the story of the 1980 edition of the Chopin Competition and why it was one of the most contentious in recent memory. We’ll also tell you the fascinating story of Ivo Pogorelić, the most interesting yet controversial pianist you’ve probably never heard of. Finally, we’ll attempt to answer some of the difficult questions that the event raises about classical music and the nature of art competitions.
[03:30] The origins and background of the International Chopin Piano Competition
[06:04] Who is Ivo Pogorelić and what makes him so controversial?
[08:36] Should Chopin’s music be interpreted subjectively or objectively?
[09:50] Ivo’s playing style
[13:00] What happened that made this competition so contentious?
[15:04] Who won the competition?
[16:55] The aftermath of the competition
[18:02] Can we judge someone’s interpretation of a piece of art?
[20:39] Why do we even have competitions?
Performances we used in this episode
- Szymon Nehring, Etude in A minor Op. 25 No. 11 (first stage of the 2015 competition)
- Ivo Pogorelich, Chopin Piano Sonata No.2 Mvt 1 (1980 competition)
- Seong Jin Cho, Chopin Sonate B flat minor Op. 35 (second stage of the 2015 competition)
- Dang Thai Son, Chopin Nocturne in E Op.62 (1980 competition)
Frederic Chopin Institute / for all their help and allowing us to use their rich archives.
Paweł Kamiński / professor at Fryderyk Chopin Warsaw University, who kindly allowed us to interview him.
Christine Jezior / director of the stunning documentary Why Competitions for sending us a copy of the film and allowing us to use it in the show.
SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, Nitzan Reisner, John Beauchamp & Michael Keller