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The consensus here is that Chopin’s ‘Ballade Number 1’ is a truly special piece. It’s about ‘grasping life’s darkness, fear, relentlessness’, reckons concert pianist Imogen Cooper. James Kent’s moving, uplifting film (part of More4’s Classical Piano Night running from 8pm to 12.10am and featuring everyone from Benedict Cumberbatch to Alan Rusbridger) meets two individuals whose experiences embody both the horror and the resilience expressed in Chopin’s masterpiece.
Momoka, a 15-year-old pianist from Sendai, Japan saw her community devastated by the 2011 tsunami. ‘Ballade Number 1’ gave her courage and helped her withstand the traumatic aftermath of the tragedy. Perhaps more remarkable still is the story of Paul Murray. Paul grew up in Bellshill, south of Glasgow and felt the pull of classical music as a teenager. A self-taught musician, he worked his way on to a music degree before being struck down and semi-paralysed by MS. Undaunted, he decided to teach himself to play ‘Ballade Number 1’ with his single usable hand.
These two stirring stories will leave you desperate to settle down with the music itself; wisely, Kent devotes the final ten minutes of the film to an uninterrupted recital. Excellent.