As I sat in a small, dark concert hall in Warsaw watching a confusing and meaningless slide show and listening to piped piano music, I felt very disoriented and dissatisfied. I couldn’t stop my mind wandering to Troldhaugen in Bergen, the former marital home of Norwegian composer Edvard Greig. I was in the Polish Chopin Museum, housed in the imposing 5 storey 17th century Gninski-Ostrogski Palace at the southern end of the Royal Route. The cost of admission to this ultra modern multi-media museum recording the life and times of Fryderyk Chopin, Poland’s most famous musician, was only about £8. Many of the sound and vision exhibits were activated by a smart card hanging around my neck, my delight however soon turned to disappointment when I found that much of the commentary delivered through headphones, was in Polish, not my strongest foreign language. I did however enjoy seeing some of Chopin’s original manuscripts and one of his pianos. Further to that, however, I struggled to see any structure to the exhibits and layout of the museum. I noted that Chopin, Poland’s most famous musician, left his native country, toured extensively through Europe and settled in Paris. But I already knew this from my guide books.
There are lots of listening points and booths in the museum where visitors can stand or sit to hear recordings of Chopin’s music, but I felt I could listen to Chopin at home or in my car by playing CDs. And that’s why my mind strayed to the light and airy concert hall at Troldhaugen. Here, a pianist gives a 30 minute recital of some of Greig’s best loved piano works several times a day to appreciative audiences of visitors. That’s what’s missing in the Chopin museum, live performances. A live performer will beat multi-media technology every time.