Hang onto your hat…

…we’re going in…

Ideally it would be good to get all interactive with this post. You will need:

  1. Something to play music on
  2. Some headphones (optional)
  3. A copy of Chopin’s piano concertos numbers 1 & 2 (op 11 & 21 respectively)
  4. About 70 minutes of listening time

Off we go then.

The curtains of Number 1 in E Minor open on a dramatic orchestral scene – we’re not quite sure what we’re in for… A nice tune in the strings, leading to a whole orchestral build up, and a bit of a cliff hanger. That’s the minor key for you – no matter how sweet the melody, it will always have an edge…

And here enters the star of the show, the principal actor, the piano. No doubt who’s boss, with this strutting, prancing arrival. Look at me and what I can do. Aren’t I beautiful and versatile. Yes you are! we all cry – we can’t help ourselves – the dazzling music sucks us in. Mephistopheles – is that you? It’s impossible not to listen. The depth of the sound goes right through us – racing through our ear canals, swirling round our brains, and whizzing around our bodies along ever fibre, muscle, into every cell. A spell is cast. Not even broken by the haunting start of the second movement – this serves only to give time to draw breath before we hear the hammering of our hearts at the start of the third movement. And yet there is a sense of things getting lighter as this part of the work progresses and reaches its finale – are we to be released? Yes! Mercy? Yes!

Gulp.

Now for Number 2 in F minor. Let’s go. It starts straightforwardly enough, doesn’t it. Perfectly nice orchestral playing. But then – wham! In thunders the piano. Wow. It grabs you right at the back of the molars and doesn’t let go. All those beautiful chords, runs, trills. Underpinned all the time by a boneshakingly fabulous bass part. That’s why it’s so great to listen with headphones – you get the full effect of both the top and bottom notes.

As we move into the delicate second movement, both piano and orchestra have the lightest of parts. Aching in tone, one’s heart breaks with every beat. Until we reach the finale, and with some relief, we skip through a jubilant virtuouso celebration, still resplendent with plenty of juicy bass tones to pummel the solar plexus. And as for that final run – yes? Yes!

I bet you never thought listening to music could be such a physical experience – feel free to go and have a lie down.

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