Double Chopin’s Birthday with Seong-Jin Cho and Charles Richard-Hamelin

The 206th Anniversary of Frederic Chopin's Birth brought back memories of unique atmosphere of the Great Competition. The audience during concerts at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, already without the presence of the jury, had the opportunity to hear and compare interpretations of Chopin's works of the two winners of the 17th International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition: the first-prize-winner Seong-Jin Cho (March 1), as well as the winner of the second prize Charles Richard-Hamelin (March 2). At noon on March 1, Chopin's music sounded directly from the House of the composer in Zelazowa Wola. On Broadwood piano from 1853 played: Tobias Koch and Szymon Nehring.

Career of Seong-Jin Cho, a Korean pianist now lives in Paris, since the announcement of the verdict of the 17th International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition is developing brilliantly. Director of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Dr. Artur Szklener, during a press conference held at the Chopin Museum on February 29, said that when he was in Seoul - on the occasion of a artist’s koncert (February 2, 2016), as well as the signing of an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon - have the opportunity to observe the fact that Seong-Jin Cho after the Chopin Competition, became a national hero in South Korea. The musician himself modestly admits that he is now often recognized on the street, although his popularity is still a big surprise for him, even when he finds out that his name 조 성 진 is the most frequently mentioned name in Korean Google. Seong-Jin Cho, who, as noted Director Artur Szklener moves - not only because of his master playing - the heart of his countrymen, responsive to his appearance on the stage as enthusiastically as the fans during the the Beatles concerts, became a favorite of audiences around the world. Tickets for the artist’s confirmed concerts in 2016 and 2017, are already almost sold out.

Birthday Concerts were preceded by a press conference of the National Frederic Chopin Institute held in the Concert Hall of the Fryderyk Chopin Museum (February 29, 2016), which was attended by Director of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Dr. Artur Szklener, Artistic Director of the Festival Chopin and his Europe Stanislaw Leszczynski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage prof. Piotr Glinski and special guests - winners of the 17th International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition: first prize winner Seong-Jin Cho and the second prize winner Charles Richard-Hamelin. The conference was led by Agata Kwiecinska.


Similarly, in the case of an Extraordinary Seong-Jin Cho’s Recital in Warsaw, when on December 1, 2015 the sale was announced at 12 pm the tickets were sold out rapidly. The audience's expectations were enormous, because durig the Competition auditions the artist has set the bar very high. Chopin Competition, however, is for each pianist special event, so the performances are accompanied by unique emotions and extraordinary mobilization. Many months of preparation, often involving the exclusion of the exercise other than the competition repertoire and reducing the number of concerts help maintain the freshness of interpretation. The pianist was acutely aware of this, admitting that during the rehearsal he was very nervous and joked that he could feel the presence of the jury. He stressed that waits with great joy at the re-appearance in Warsaw. His appearance on the stage of the National Philharmonic March 1, 2016 at 7:30 pm electrified the audience, which for him came from different parts of the world, including South Korea.

Program Book covers
Editorial team: Kamila Stepien-Kutera, Marcin Wasowski
Translation: John Comber
Photographs: Bartek Sadowski, Wojciech Grzedzinski
Graphic design: Darek Komorek
Printed by Sindruk


Art does not like comparisons. Individuality is after all the greatest value of any artist, but at the Chopin Competition, even so eminent pianists and already titled as Seong-Jin Cho had to be subjected to a comparative evaluation of the jury. From the competition it has been more than four months. Each of the winners follows now own artistic path has its faithful audience, but on the occasion of Birthday Concerts, or Japanese-Korean tour, which in January was attended by six winners (Seong-Jin Cho, Charles Richard-Hamelin, Kate Liu, Eric Lu , Tony Yike Yang, Dmitry Shishkin) it was impossible to avoid some comparisons.

The „Blue Series” is an exceptional recording project, realised by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute Since 2010, presenting the most interesting personalities of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.


The program of Chopin's Birthday recitals of both winners included works performed during subsequent stages of the October competition. Each of the pianists played: Nocturne (Seong-Jin Cho: Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. 48 No. 1, Charles Richard-Hamelin: Nocturne in B major, Op. 62 No. 1), Ballade (Seong-Jin Cho: Ballade in F major op . 38, Charles Richard-Hamelin: Ballade in A-flat major, op. 47), Polonaise (Seong-Jin Cho: Polonaise in A-flat major, op. 53, for which he won special prize of the Frederic Chopin Society; Charles Richard-Hamelin: Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat major, op. 61), Mazurkas (the same op. 33!) and Frederic Chopin’s Sonata (Seong-Jin Cho: Sonata in B-flat minor, op. 35, Charles Richard-Hamelin: Sonata in B minor, op. 58, for which he was awarded Krystian Zimerman’s Prize). Seong-Jin Cho performed, in addition, during the first part of the evening Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49 and ended his recital with Scherzo in B-flat minor, Op. 31. Charles Richard-Hamelin added to the program Rondo in E-flat major, Op. 16, which ended the first part of his recital, on March 2, 2016.

Seong-Jin Cho is an almost perfect artist. He can masterfully show features relevant to the style of Frederic Chopin and bring out, what in each of his works is most important. In an interview after the Preliminary Round in April to the question what the four words he could characterize the music of Frederic Chopin, replied: Chopin's music is noble, poetic, dramatic and nostalgic. All these qualities are reflected in his interpretations. In Seong-Jin Cho's playing draws attention first of all naturalness, incredible musicality and conscientiousness in realizing every smallest detail of the composer's notation. Humility with which the pianist treats Chopin's text is worthy of the highest recognition. Listening to his interpretations of Chopin's masterpieces every time you discover a new musical nuances. This freshness of performances of pieces that, in the past few months, Seong-Jin Cho had the opportunity to play repeatedly on the biggest stages in Europe and Asia retains thanks to continuous studying the musical text. One could see this even listening to Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53, which master ful rendition in the 2 Round earned him the special prize of the Frederic Chopin Society for the best performance of a polonaise. Since the end of the Chopin Competition Seong-Jin Cho performed Polonaise at almost every concert. In the main programs of the recitals, or as the encores, when he player Concerto with the orchestra. Every time the artist reads Chopin’s text anew marveling, especially the Polish audience, at an excellent grasp of the idiom of our national dance. Similarly, in the Mazurkas, which interpretation fascinated with a perfect balance between dance rhythm, and beautifully singing nostalgic melody. Exceptional attention to every detail and at the same time consistent building a whole form characterized interpretation of: Ballade, Scherzo, Fantasia and the Sonata. Enthuse richness of colors, masterful show of individual melodic plans (in lyrical parts of Fantasia and Sonata). Seong-Jin Cho is a poet of sound that brings out the noblest tones of the piano. He is also an artist consistently builds the expression of each piece, keeping the audience in tension to the last chord. On March 1 the chord resounded in D-flat major (the famous tone from anecdotes about Chopin*), from the final part of the Scherzo in B flat minor, Op. 31 - the piece closing the official program of the Extraordinary Recital of Seong-Jin Cho. For the encores the pianist played two Preludes of his favorite Chopin’s Op. 28: No. 17 in A flat major and No. 24 in D minor. The audience, applauding artist in a standing ovation, demanded another encores, which certainly would have happened, if the reception with, among others, Minister of Culture and National Heritage was not scheduled after the Recital, as well as, before the meeting, a long-awaited premiere of the new CD of Seong-Jin Cho issued by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Blue Series presenting the musical portraits of the most interesting personalities of the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competitions.

Apart from the CD of Seong-Jin Cho, that pianist signed in the Mirror Hall of National Philharmonic Chopin Institute has also already released recordings of Kate Liu, Eric Lu and Charles Richard-Hamelin, who played the Extraordinary Recital in Warsaw on March 2. Canadian pianist, winner of the second prize of the 17th Chopin Competition is a completely different artist, operating more theatrical gestures (especially in the Ballade and Polonaise) and less diverse, but also an interesting tonal colors. He started his performance with an interesting, in terms of musical expression, interpretation of Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in B major, Op. 62 No. 1 – the piece, which was, apart from the Etude in A minor, Op. 25, No. 11, the most frequently chosen by pianists in the Preliminary Round of the Competition. Interesting color parts appeared in Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61, performend by Charles Richard-Hamelin in the first part of the evening. The form of Ballad could be more closely integrated, as Charles Richard-Hamelin is a pianist who feels perfectly in great forms, that proved his performance of Sonata in B minor, Op. 58 awarded Krystian Zimerman prize at the Contest. Direct confrontation between two interpretations of the same op. 33 of Mazurkas dropped in favor of Seong-Jin Cho. It turned interesting the inclusion by Charles Richard-Hamelin of youthful Rondo in E-flat major, Op. 16 to the Recital's program. As far as Seong-Jin Cho remained faithful to Chopin, also in the encores, whereas Charles Richard-Hamelin has decided to present for the encore, among others, Pavane from Suite No. 2, Op.10 by George Enescu, that he will record on CD in May. Audience liked the non-Chopin encore, though Chopin’s music at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw sounds always special. Because of the Chopin Competition and CD recordings registered during the Contest music of the most eminent Polish composer reaches the most distant corners of the world, and the performances of the winners, for whom follow many devoted fans update the words spoken 179 years ago (18 March 1837) by Astolphe Marquis de Custine: "people love and understand one another through Chopin".

Marta Polanska

On March 2, at 11 am, Director Artur Szklener together with representatives of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute laid flowers at the urn with the heart of the composer in St. Cross Basilica.


*Letter from Frederic Chopin to Tutys Wojciechowski (Paris, December 12, 1831)

„A few days ago I received from a German in Cassel who is enthusiastic about these Variations , a ten-page review, in which, after an immense preface, he goes on to analyse them, measure by measure; saying that they are not Variations in the usual sense, but some kind of fantastic tableau. About the 2nd Variation he says that Don Juan is running with Leporello; that in the 3rd he is embracing Zerlina and Mazetto raging in the left hand; that in the 5th measure of the Adagio Don Juan is kissing Zerlina in D flat major. Yesterday Plater asked me; where is that D flat major? One can die of the imagination of this German”.