Collins’ fresh focus on Chopin’s short creative life

Collins’ fresh focus on Chopin’s short creative life Finghin Collins
Pat O’Kelly


Thanks to the hospitality of ambassador Marie-Claude Meylan, the Swiss Embassy was the convivial venue for a recently launched CD – Chopin Recital – featuring Dublin-born pianist Finghin Collins. On the Swiss classical label Claves, for which Collins has already recorded excellent Schumann albums, the new disc, 50-1719, is a cooperation with RTÉ Lyric fm.

Collins’ choice of music covers the major part of Chopin’s short creative life – he died from tuberculosis aged 39 in 1849. Beginning with the Op 17 Mazurkas, it concludes with the substantial Op 61 Polonaise-Fantasie. In between comes the stand-alone Op 45 Prelude, a selection of Nocturnes and the wonderful 4th Ballade.

As befits the music, Collins’ playing is delicate and dramatic as well as sensitive and majestic as he follows the richly romantic paths of Chopin’s own artistic genius. Launched in time for the Christmas market, the rewarding disc is well worth serious consideration.

Staying within the Collins family, congratulations are due to Finghin and his highly gifted pianist sister Dearbhla as both were awarded well-deserved honorary doctorates by the NUI. The conferring took place at Dublin’s Royal College of Physicians in Ireland last month.

Chopin is also the focus of attention at Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov’s recital at the National Concert Hall next Tuesday (December 5). Trifonov’s visit is part of the NCH’s Centenary of the Revolution series and his programme is an interesting weave of pieces strongly influenced by Chopin together with music by the Polish-born master himself.

The former includes sets of variations by Rachmaninov and the relatively unfamiliar Catalan composer Federico Mompou who died in 1957. Both works take their stance from Chopin’s Op 28 Preludes.


The second part of the evening is devoted to Chopin’s Op 35 Funeral March Sonata written between 1837 and 1839 mostly at Nohant, the chateau near Paris of the writer George Sand (Aurore Dupin) with whom Chopin had a lengthy relationship.

With its expressive themes of lamentation, anger and revolt, the Funeral March is the Sonata’s slow movement. Often compared to that in Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Siegfried’s funeral music from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, an orchestral version of the March was played at Chopin’s obsequies at the Madeleine in Paris on October 30, 1849.

The College of Physicians was also the location earlier this month for the finals of the Frank Maher Classical Music Awards. Created in 2001 by Emmet O’Rafferty, chairman of Top Security Group, the awards are a memorial to Vincentian Fr Frank Maher, music teacher at Castleknock College who died in 1998.The competition is open to sixth year post-primary students and the €5,000 main prize must be used to ‘attend a recognised institution or on a purchase necessary for the development of talent’.

The 2017 winner is 17-year-old cellist Killian White chosen by the jury of Veronica McSwiney, Dr Gerard Gillen and Dr Kerry Houston. Heard to excellent effect in music by Fauré and Paganini and showing enormous potential, Wesley College pupil Killian hopes for a place in the Paris Conservatoire.