Restaging all public concerts Chopin gave in the UK in 1848

It was in 2019 that the Jane Stirling Project began its idea to restage all the five public concerts given by Frederic Chopin during his stay in the British Isles in 1848, all of which were co-organized by Jane Stirling: two in London, one in Manchester and two in Scotland - in Glasgow and in Edinburgh. To do so was quite a challenge as although the posters or programmes of all concerts have been preserved in the source materials, none of them provide full details of all the compositions performed. Chopin had a habit of not specifying what he wanted to play making repertoire decisions until the last moments before the concert or when already on the stage. He would also change programmes already announced in print. Restaging the 5 original concerts given in 1848 by by Chopin was possible thanks to the analysis of post-concert reviews and press annotations, as well as mentions in composer's letters  and a few private accounts from listeners. In cases of programs not specified anywhere, where determining a specific piece was not possible or left doubts (as e.g. in the case of Andante précédé d'un Largo), different versions were performed so as to be as close as possible to those played by Chopin.

The announcement of the Chopin soirée at the Hopetoun Rooms in October 1848, which appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser and The Scotsman
The announcement of the Chopin soirée at the Hopetoun Rooms in October 1848, which appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser and The Scotsman

What leaves no doubt as to the concerts given by Chopin are the venues of the concerts, most of which the private residences of Jane Stirling's relatives, eg. Gargunnock House near Stirling. The idea of the project was not only to recreate the concert programmes themselves, but also the specific conditions and atmosphere of 19th-century Scotland. The atmosphere and audience profile of the reconstructions of five concerts were meant to mirror those of Chopin's original concerts. Therefore, the restaged concerts were held in places that Chopin visited in 1848 and which have survived to this day (Gargunnock House and the Low Parks Museum building - the only remnant of the demolished Hamilton Palace) or in other residences of the Scottish aristocracy (Bamff House - the residence of Baron Ramsay of Bamff, or Drummohr House near Edinburgh). Chopin's last and only solo recital, performed by him in Edinburgh, was organized at Holy Trinity Church in Stirling, the construction of which was financed by Jane Stirling's father - John Stirling of Kippendavie. The audience of the reconstructed concerts included eminent personalities of the Scottish aristocracy, including Lord and Lady Torphichen, Lord and Lady Stirling, Baron and Baroness Stirling-Aird of Kippenross, and Jane Stirling's great-great-niece - Henrietta Somervell.


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