The Bicentennial Chopin Classical Music Concert filled Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, Central Jakarta, with the sounds of Frédéric Chopin — one of music’s greatest tone poets — on Wednesday night.
Held by the French Cultural Center ( CCF ) and in collaboration with the French and Polish embassies, French ambassador to Indonesia Philippe Zeller opened the event. “We are honored to pay tribute to him,” he said. “Chopin has left a great legacy having inspired many European composers, Claude Debussy, Franz Liszt and Sergey Rachmaninoff among them.”
Four musicians, Ary Sutedja — one of Indonesia’s finest classical pianists, accompanied by cellist Asep Hidayat, French pianist Dana Ciocarlie and jazz pianist Adam Makowicz from Poland, played some of Chopin’s most revered compositions.
CCF Jakarta director Patrick Perez said Chopin was a master composer of his time because he was a perfectionist.
“In France and Poland, he was a very important composer,” he stated.
Frédéric François Chopin or Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen in Polish, was born in 1810, in Zelazowa Wola village, near Warsaw, Duchy of Warsaw ( now in Poland ), to a French father and a Polish mother.
Showing musical talent at an early age, the patriot left his home country for Paris, France, after the Russian Empire suppressed the Polish Revolt of 1830.
Here he became a composer and a piano teacher. His compositions were predominantly written for piano and are reported as technically difficult.
Chopin is known for his innovations of musical forms and techniques such as the nocturne, piano sonata ( piece for solo piano ) and mazurka ( traditional Polish dance ), adding new layers of depth to what were previously more light-hearted toned works. He also invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballade, a term used to describe four major piano pieces.
Out of 30 recitals over his lifetime, he performed publicly only 18 times. He died from tuberculosis at age 39 in 1849.
“This bicentennial celebration will enable people to discover more about the work and life of Chopin,” Perez said, adding that an interactive exhibition about his life at the event was on display at the CCF Gallery in Jakarta.
He added that Chopin’s bicentenary was also a good opportunity to meet the demand for classical music in Indonesia. “It is important, [additionally], because it enables a tripartite cooperation between France, Poland and Indonesia,” he added.
First to perform at the event was Dana Ciocarlie, who studied at the Romanian School of Piano and then at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, France.
Ciocarlie gave a dramatic performance of Chopin’s piano solos including “Polonaise Fantaisie en la bémol majeur” ( Opus 61 ), “Trois Mazurkas” ( Opus 61 ) — a set of three Mazurkas, and Rondeau à la Mazur en fa majeur ( Opus 5 ), to celebrate the 19th century prodigy.
Known for her expressive performances, Ciocarlie mastered the complexity of Chopin’s compositions with what could be described as ferocity. Ciocarlie’s musical repertoire is wide and she has been known to perform anything from chamber music to contemporary compositions around the globe including in Canada, Switzerland, the US and Indonesia.
“I hope you will enjoy Chopin’s great works of art this evening,” she told the audience.
Following Ciocarlie, Indonesians’ Ary Sutedja on the piano and Asep Hidayat playing the cello, performed the Chopin sonata for cello piano in G minor ( Opus 65 ).
Ary, who has a Masters degree in piano performance from Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland, in the US, returned to Indonesia in 1993 after studying at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Russia, and touring with the Bremen Opera Theater in Germany.
In 1994, Ary continued her creative pursuit co-founding music group Classical Nuances with Soun Youn Yoon and Sharon Eng, performing in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Greece and Australia, among others.
Ary then founded international arts, cultural and educational festival JakArt in 1999. “We dream that someday Jakarta will become a city of culture,” Ary previously told The Jakarta Post.
Endorsed by UNESCO, JakArt created the Festival a la Carte, a traveling arts festival, which continues to tour Southeast Asia and further parts of the globe. It is set to encompass 30 cities in 2010.
Asep, a cellist who performed with Ary on the night, said he loved Chopin because the musician of the Romantic period allowed him to play music from that genre.
“Chopin is the only composer during this period who has composed a solo part for the cello,” Asep said, who graduated from the Indonesian Institute of Music. “I enjoy the opportunity to play this great music very much.”
Finishing up the evening’s performance was acclaimed jazz musician Adam Makowicz.
Voted Europe’s top jazz pianist six years consecutively by Polish jazz magazine Jazz Forum, Makowicz has been playing in jazz festivals for more than 30 years and has released more than 50 albums.
Born in Czech Silesia, Czech Republic, in 1940, the music aficionado of Polish parents grew up listening to his fellow nationals’ music. With Chopin strongly figuring in this musician’s life, Makowicz has since interpreted the Romantic’s compositions into jazz, combining the two starkly contrasting genres.
“We always had Chopin playing in our family home when I was a child, so it’s only natural that his music carry through into the music I perform now,” he proclaimed.
Since Chopin’s music leaves little, if not any, room for interpretation in its fully notated form, perhaps his jazz appropriations can be contested.
This, however, did not take away from Makowicz’s natural expression and fluid performance on the night, a man who some may say sat down at the piano as if he was part of its construction.
Makowicz played appropriations of many of Chopin’s preludes — including Preludes No. 2 3 4 ( Opus 28 ), “Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 en do dièse mineur” ( Opus 66 ), a ballade and a mazurka, wrapping up the concert in jovial spirit.
Played straight from the sheet in the manner of Ary or embellished with scales and syncopation as
Makowicz showed possible, four musicians brought a lot of Chopin to life in celebration of his 200th
— Photos by JP/Ricky Yudhistira