Frederic Chopin took a trip to Spain for his health. It ended in drafty, chilly misery. His friendship with a singer, composer and pianist with Spanish roots, however, bore sun-ripened fruit…
Long before Maurice Ravel’s Boléro came on the scene, a Parisian socialite named Pauline Viardot (pictured) introduced the classic Spanish rhythm to Chopin during one of her many visits to the home he shared with writer George Sand. Pauline Garcia-Viardot was a Parisian singer, pianist and composer of Spanish origin. She became fast friends with Chopin and Sand; in fact, she sang from Mozart’s Requiem at Chopin’s funeral.
From Chopin, Viardot took Mazurkas – Polish dances – and turned them into art songs. To Chopin, she offered the Spanish dance, the boléro, which in Chopin’s hands, became this his one and only Bolero in A major, Op. 19. Chopin wrote the piece in 1833.
Chopin’s Bolero – like his Barcarolle or Tarantella - is unique among his solo piano pieces because, rather than being one of a set or series, it’s the only one of its kind. In it, a touch of Spain, and the touch of a dear friend’s hand. - Jennifer Foster