This Week in Piano History: The Concert with an Audience of Legends (Including Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Wieck!)

Frederic Chopin

THIS WEEK IN PIANO HISTORY, Chopin had his premiere at the Salons de Pleyel in Paris on February 25, 1832.1 Chopin’s first concert after arriving in Paris, this debut marked one of the few times the Parisian public was able to hear Chopin’s performances. 

Chopin initially left Poland for a concert tour throughout Europe, but the journey was extremely difficult and he ultimately left Poland for good. His tour began in Vienna, but was immediately brought to a halt due to an uprising in Poland, which nearly resulted in the assassination of Grand Duke Constantin.2 Because of this, he struggled to find any concerts and spent several months waiting for a Russian passport.3 When he finally left for Stuttgart, he discovered the news that the Polish uprising was unsuccessful and he became extremely depressed.4 His arrival in Paris on October 5, 1831 was thus clouded by this nearly year-long journey and his slow adaptation to Parisian life.5

At the Salons de Pleyel on February 25, 1832, he performed a number of his own works during this concert including his Concerto in E Minor and his Variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano.’ The concert additionally featured Kalkbrenner’s Grande Polonaise for Six Pianos and performances by a number of other Parisian musicians. Among the many audience members were Mendelssohn, Liszt, Friedrich Wieck, and his daughter Clara Wieck.6 

The program from Chopin’s debut performance at the Salons de Pleyel.
A mini documentary by Stanisław Leszczyński and pianist Alex Szilasi, which demonstrate a few pianos from Chopin’s time.

A review in Fétis remarked, “Here is a young man who gives himself up to his innate impulses and, taking no-one as a model, has discovered, if not an utter renewal of piano music, at least a fragment of that which for so long has been sought in vain, namely an abundance of original ideas, the origins of which can nowhere be indicated. By this, we do not wish to maintain that Mr Chopin is endowed with the powerful organisation of some Beethoven, […] I speak here of the music of pianists. […] Mr Chopin performed […] a concerto which astounded and pleasantly surprised the auditorium both with its freshness of melody and type of passages, and also with its modulations and the overall arrangement of the movements. There is spirit in these melodies, there is fantasy in these passages, and everywhere there is originality. […] This young artist also deserves praise as a virtuoso. His playing is elegant, light, full of grace, and marked with brightness and purity.”7 To learn more about Chopin’s performing style, read this article, Performing Chopin in the Style of Chopin?, by pianist Beth Chen!

Chopin maintained a relationship with Pleyel & Co. and its owner, Camille Pleyel. Remarking about his experience playing Erard and Pleyel pianos, Chopin stated: “When I am feeling indisposed, I play on an Erard piano and I easily find in it a ready-made sound; but when I feel alive and strong enough to find my own sound, I need a Pleyel piano.”8 Interested in learning more about Chopin’s early experiences and his relationship with Pleyel pianos? Check out this article by Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger translated by Deana Shuman!

  1. Different sources list this date as February 25th or February 26th.
  2. Jim Samson, “Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek,” Grove Music Online, 2001; Accessed 20 Jan. 2023,
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, “Chopin and Pleyel,” trans. Deana Shuman, Piano Magazine 2, no. 3 (May 2010),
  7. “The Years of Adaptation (1831–1835) – 1832,” Calendar, The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Accessed January 20, 2023,
  8. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, “Chopin and Pleyel,” trans. Deana Shuman, Piano Magazine 2, no. 3 (May 2010),

Eigeldinger, Jean-Jacques. “Chopin and Pleyel.” Translated by Deana Shuman. Piano Magazine 2, no. 3 (May 2010).

Samson, Jim. “Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 20 Jan. 2023. 

The Fryderyk Chopin Institute. “The Years of Adaptation (1831–1835) – 1832.” Calendar. Accessed January 20, 2023.

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