A brand new exhibition at Manchester Central Library has opened to mark composer Fryderyk Chopin’s one and only concert in Manchester.
The Polish composer came to Manchester in August 1848 as a wave of revolutions known as the Spring of Nations disturbed Europe.
He played just one concert in the city at the prestigious Manchester Gentleman’s Concert Hall, home of the Gentleman’s Concert Society that was established in 1777.
The architectural beauty of the building that hosted Chopin’s only concert in the city can no longer be seen as the building itself was demolished in the late nineteenth century, having stood on the spot where the Midland Hotel now stands.
What is still clear however is just what an impact Chopin’s concert had on its audience and on the city as the composer played before his largest audience.
News of Chopin’s magnificent performance in Manchester spread fast. His audience were amazed at the precision of his composition and his playing, and a review of his concert appeared in the Manchester Guardian on 9 August 1848.
More than 170 years on, and to coincide with the 18th annual Chopin International Piano Competition which runs from 2-23 October, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland has organised an exhibition at Manchester Central Library to mark Chopin’s unique journey to the city and his one and only concert here.
Consul General Michał Mazurek said: “The exhibition provides a closer look at Chopin’s character which is reflected in his unique music and allows us to share the story of his stay in Manchester with a wider audience.
“His music is a perfect example of Polish classical culture and the exhibition gives everyone the chance to find out more about this and to feel the vibes of Chopin’s story.”
Manchester is a city which actively celebrates the rich history and diversity of its music sector.
From Fryderyk Chopin’s guest concert in the Gentlemen’s Concert Hall in 1848 to Charles Halle establishing the eponymous Halle Concerts Society in 1858 – one of the oldest in the country – and from Hans Richter’s tenure as the Halle’s music director 1899-1911 to Stanislaw Skrowaczewski as its principal conductor 1982-1992, Manchester’s classical music sector has always attracted the best and brightest talent from across Europe and the world.
This proud tradition has continued with Gabor Takasz-Nagy who has been at the helm of the Manchester Camerata since 2010.
Manchester is also home of the largest Chopin statue in the world outside of Warsaw.
The unique statue on Deansgate in the city centre stands 2.5 metres tall and 2.1 metres wide and was erected in 2011 as a token of appreciation for the talent of the Polish pianist by British admirers of his music and members of the Polish community in Manchester.
The vision of the sculptor Robert Sobociński it was inspired by Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude in C minor. It depicts the composer playing one of the earliest models of piano, whilst gazing across the keyboard at his Muse. Whether this is George Sand, Delfina Potocka, Jane Sterling or even Jane Lind, the observer must decide for themselves.
The Chopin exhibition is on until the end of the year in the Henry Watson Music Library at Manchester Central Library.