Fidelio kicked off their new season of free concerts last week, as guest performer, John McDonough, told the story of composer Frederic Chopin, also called “Mazurka,” and his friend August Franchomme. McDonough was accompanied by Harry Clark, Fidelio’s cellist and artistic director, and pianist Sandra Schuldmann.
The trio gracefully told the story of Chopin’s life and work through stories and music. McDonough told of the final decades in the life of the famed-composer, which he spent living in Paris with his friend Franchomme. Franchomme was the only person Chopin completely opened up to and trusted, and many say that he was extremely lucky to be able to see Chopin’s work and life develop right in front of him. Seeing Chopin compose so many great works must have been a rewarding experience.
Throughout the story, Clark and Schuldmann played the cello and piano in solo pieces and duets, performing these classical Chopin pieces to illustrate his life and work. As the music played, McDonough shut his eyes to take in the sound. Some pieces were calm and slow, and others were more intense. The last piece, “Madame’s Portrait,” was written for a woman that Chopin was deeply in love with. It was originally played with her scarf placed gently over the keys. It was said that Chopin played this work more emotionally than he ever had before.
Katie Rummans, a sophomore English major, thought the music was beautiful. “I thought it was really interesting the way they turned an ordinary concert into a history lesson,” Rummans said.
Chopin led a full life, becoming one of the most well-known artists of his time. While living in Paris, he composed and taught music to students. At his last performance, at age 39, he was very ill, but managed to perform a spectacular show before he collapsed from both pride and consumption. After his death, two of his lifelong requests were fulfilled: to have Mozart performed at his funeral and to have dirt from his homeland of Poland scattered over his grave.
The Fidelio concert series has been a program at Quinnipiac for the last 11 years and the group serves as Quinnipiac’s “Artists in Residence.” McDonough has been involved with many other vocal productions, such as “L’Histoire du Soldat,” recording stories for Recorded Books Inc., and is a frequent guest on the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.” He was recently chosen as the new Captain Kangaroo by the Fox Network.
Clark and Shuldmann, who co-founded Fidelio, think it is great that President John Lahey supports artistic programs such as their performance series, and made their feelings known at the recent event.
“John Lahey is such a wonderful man,” Schuldmann said. “I think you, as students are so lucky to have programs such as this right here on campus to experience.”