The Friends conduct research to uncover the reception of Chopin’s music in Australia. Please take a look at our current projects and let us know if you are interested in collaborating with the Friends, or if you have complimentary research interests.
Chopin in the Early Colony
Chopin’s music was on sale in the Australian colony as early as 1843, while the composer still lived. This area of research is focussing on the notable pianists of the early colony, any connections to Chopin that may exist, and the public performances of Chopin’s music that would have introduced his works to a wider audience.
Chopin in the AMEB
The Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) has provided a system of graded exams for the piano and other instruments in Australia since 1918, and its precursor organisations since the early 1890s. Our research is focussing on the appearance of Chopin’s music in the AMEB piano syllabus and the people who were responsible for putting his music into the syllabus.
Chopin and the Australian Polish Diaspora
From convicts, explorers, free settlers, fortune-seekers, and the refugee migrations of the 20th century, Australia has a very long history with Poles and Poland. This area of research looks into how the Polish diaspora shaped Australia’s understanding of Chopin, and what Chopin has meant to Poles in Australia.
In 2013, the ANU School of Music (SoM) acquired an 1847 Pleyel Concert Grand piano for its historic keyboard collection. With its initial purchase of the Pleyel, the SoM intended that it could be associated with the Australian International Chopin Competition. And this is something that the Friends of Chopin Australia are very keen to support, but also that this beautiful instrument needs to be heard publicly more often. The Friends of Chopin Australia approached Professor Peter Tregear, Head of the ANU School of Music, and Dr Erin Helyard, musicologist and curator of the keyboard collection, with an offer to financially support the maintenance and restoration, where necessary, of the Pleyel, to enable this instrument to engage the public with the music of Chopin. An offer which they gladly accepted.
At the moment, the piano is under the care of Canberra piano technician Chris Leslie who has been working closely with Dr Helyard. Although the lineage of the piano is not known, it does date from Chopin’s own time, and so is an important historic link to the understanding and appreciation of Chopin’s music.
Ben James of the Friends has acquired an 1857 Erard Concert Grand piano and is engaged in its restoration with a view to historically informed performance, and having it play alongside the Pleyel in historically recreated salon recitals. In beginning to trace the pianos provenance, some tantalising potential links to music in the early Australian colony and also, remarkably, to Chopin himself are emerging. The restoration of this piano is also in the hands of Chris Leslie from Canberra. Grzegorz Machnacki, of Piano Boutique in Melbourne, but formerly of the National Institute of Fryderyk Chopin, the Chopin University of Music and the Fryderyk Chopin Society in Warsaw, and whose own restoration of an 1855 French Erard sits in the Chopin Museum, is also taking an interest in the project of restoration.
1857 Erard Concert Grand
22 Oct 2014
The Friends of Chopin Australia see historic instruments and historically informed performance as an integral part of the understanding and appreciation of the music of Chopin. The Friends are fortunate to be associated with two such instruments, a Pleyel concert grand, and an Erard concert grand. The Pleyel dates from 1847, Chopin's own time, and the Erard dates from 1857.