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Chopin’s one and only visit to Manchester in 1848, was acknowledged at the end of last year when a bronze monument of the composer was unveiled on Deansgate. Around the same time, Elysium Press published Chopin in Manchester, a detailed account of the pianist’s time in the northern English city written by Peter Willis, who incorporates material from his PHD thesis Chopin in Britain: Chopin’s Visits to England and Scotland in 1837 and 1848.

The ending of Chopin’s relationship with George Sand and the political developments in Paris prompted the composer’s decision to come to Britain, and he primarily based himself near Edinburgh, from which he travelled the 200 miles to Manchester by train. Chopin was paid the princely sum of £60 for his recital, held at the concert hall in Lower Mosley Street. Willis includes several quotations from contemporary critics; while the Manchester Guardian dubbed it ‘most brilliant and interesting’, Musical World was not so easily won over. Of course, Chopin was considerably unwell at the time of this performance, and he died the following year.

This is a succinctly written, yet detailed account that gives us a fascinating insight into one of Chopin’s coveted appearances. Having lived in Manchester for a short time and worked right next to the site where the former concert hall stood, I found this research of particular interest; but the work will be warmly received by Chopin fans, British or otherwise. The book itself is luxuriously produced and contains 24 illustrations.

CLAIRE JACKSON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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