The delicate nature of Chopin’s pianism

Chopin gave a recital in the Gentlemen”s Concert Hall, Manchester, on 28 August 1848. The audience of 1,200 people was the largest Chopin had ever performed to, but Chopin’s delicate playing was not really suited to such a large venue. Conscious of this fact, Chopin requested that another pianist, George Osborne, who was also performing in the concert leave the room for Chopin’s items, “My dear Osborne, you have heard me playing in Paris, my playing will be lost in such a large room, and my compositions ineffective. You being there will cause pain to both you and me.”

Osborne did leave the room for Chopin’s items, but secretly crept back in to listen. “I was there, in a corner”, wrote Osborne. “I helped to cheer him, but his playing was too delicate and I was so sorry for him.”

The Manchester Guardian reported Chopin’s playing was “the perfection of chamber music – fit to be associated with the most refined instrumental quartets … but wanting breadth and obviousness of design and executive power to be effective in a large concert hall.”

The Manchester Courier reported:

We can, with great sincerity, say that he [Chopin] delighted us, though we did not discover him in the vigour of a Thalberg. Yet there was a chasteness and purity of style, a correctness of manipulation, combined with a brilliancy of touch, and a delicate sensibility of expression which we have never heard excelled. He played in the second act Nocturnes, Etudes and Berceuse and elicited a rapturous encore. He did not, however, repeat any part, but treated the audience with what appeared to be a fragment of great beauty. The room was filled to overflowing by a most brilliant audience.

Source: Zaluski, Iwo and Pamela (1993) The Scottish Autumn of Frederick Chopin. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, p.29-30.