Chopin: The Romantic Refugee @ British Library

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By M@ Last edited 98 months ago
Chopin: The Romantic Refugee @ British Library

chopinphoto.jpg A new exhibition, opening today at the British Library, celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin.

Perhaps half of the exhibition is given over to describing the political turmoil of Poland in the first half of the 19th Century, when Chopin's home nation was under the control of Russia and other Great Powers. Many, like the composer himself, fled westwards greatly affecting the culture of Paris, London and other cities.

Chopin visited London on at least two occasions, tinkling the ivories of our city's old Johannas in a series of small concerts. He gave his final public performance at Guildhall in 1848, just months before his death in Paris. The exhibition presents posters advertising his visit alongside a letter setting out his opinions of London society.

After several cabinets of musical musing and Polish politics the final section is the most arresting. Here you can see the composer's death mask and a cast of his tiny hand.

It's a good old-fashioned set up, with wall-mounted panels providing context and glass cabinets laying out some of the more important manuscripts and letters from the Polish maestro. It'll take more than a minute walz to get round, but no more than half an hour.

Chopin: the Romantic Refugee runs at the British Library until 16 May. An inevitable (but intriguing) series of events supports the exhibition.

Last Updated 01 March 2010