Chopin's bicentenary

2010 was the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth, and to celebrate this the Society organised a concert series, In the Footsteps of Chopin, based around places where Chopin stayed or performed during his visit to London in 1848.

One of the highlight of the series has been the gala at Lancaster House (formerly Stafford House) on May 15th, the same date as when Chopin performed there in front of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. A concert was given in the music room with the cellist Steven Isserlis accompanied by pianist Sam Haywood playing the Chopin cello sonata and Nikolai Demidenko performing other Chopin works on the Pleyel piano Chopin brought to London and had in his Dover Street apartment.

The Bicentenary Gala Concert at Lancaster House

Nikolai Demidenko

Sam Haywood and Steven Isserlis

HRH Princess Alexandra and HRH The Duke of Kent meet The Polish Ambassador HE Barbara Tuge-Erecińska

The scene at dinner in the Long Gallery
More photos of the Lancaster House Gala Concert »

The concert was followed by a dinner in the Long Gallery, and Lancaster House, decorated with wonderful flower arrangements, proved a magnificent setting for this historic occasion. HRH Princess Alexandra was Guest of Honour and other special guests included HRH The Duke of Kent and the Polish, Turkish and French Ambassadors. We were also delighted to have such well-known figures as Sir David Attenborough, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Simon Callow present for the occasion, which was raising funds for the Chopin Society and the Cobbe Collection of keyboard instruments at Hatchlands Park, from which the Chopin Pleyel was lent.

Chopin's death

In 1999, one hundred and fifty years after Chopin's death, there was a Chopin 150 Festival on the South Bank in London and the Society sponsored talks given by Chopin experts from all over the world.

In addition we mounted a Chopin exhibition with the Polish Philatelic Society at the Polish Institute, where we also launched our first International Celebrity Recital series - see the newly-launched Chopin Society archive. In a ceremony at the Polish Embassy, our President, Rose Cholmondeley, was awarded the Knights Cross of the Order of Merit for her work with the Chopin Society.

Chopin's visit to Britain

Princess Alexandra and Lucie Swiatek at the Guildhall gala
HRH Princess Alexandra talks to Mrs Lucie Swiatek (92), founder of the Chopin Society (London).
To commemorate Chopin's visit to Britain in 1848, the Society held 25 concerts at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh in 1998 as part of the Festival Fringe and two more at Hatchlands Park on the newly restored Broadwood piano.

Rose Cholmondeley has written a detailed account of Chopin's visit to Britain.

Chopin's last concert

Chopin's last public performance was given at Guildhall in the City of London in November 1848, less than a year before he died. In 1978 the Chopin Society joined with the Byron Society and the Anglo-Polish Society to hold a concert at Guildhall to mark the 130th anniversary. A bust of Chopin by Jaroslaw Alfer was presented to Guildhall.

In 1998 the Society, together with Marie Curie Cancer Care, marked the 150th anniversary of Chopin's last concert and the 50th anniversary of Marie Curie Cancer Care, with a royal gala at Guildhall. HRH Princess Alexandra was guest of honour and the recital was given by Nikolai Demidenko.

In 2010, again in conjunction with Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Chopin Society presented an evening at Guildhall recreating the spirit of the original event in 1848, with a concert, dinner and ball for 400 people.

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