Poland sets out Chopin bicentennial stall

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Polish organisers of next year's bicentennial of iconic pianist and composer Frederic Chopin on Wednesday revealed the year-long, worldwide programme of events to mark his birth.

"We want to celebrate Frederic Chopin with a broad variety of events: classical concerts and recitals, but also jazz, blues and rock. There'll be operas, ballets, exhibitions, theatre shows, films and cartoons," Poland's Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski told reporters.

Celebrations are to kick off officially on January 7 with a concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic by Chinese pianist Lang Lang - Chopin has an avid following in Asia.

The actual anniversary of his birth, March 1, will see a live-broadcast performance by other virtuoso pianists in Warsaw.

The year will see around 1,300 Chopin concerts in locations ranging from northern Norway to Florida, listed on the dedicated website www.chopin2010.pl.

A highlight will be October's 16th edition of the prestigious international piano competition held every five years in Warsaw to honour Chopin.

The streets of the Polish capital will also buzz to the sound of his works, thanks to 14 "musical benches" where passersby will be able to listen to his music.

The city has launched an eight-language audio guide retracing Chopin's steps, available at www.um.warszawa.pl/wydarzenia/chopin/.

A new Chopin Centre, currently under construction in Warsaw, is due to be inaugurated, while an existing museum in the city documenting his life and work is being renovated.

Chopin was born in the town of Zelazowa Wola, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Warsaw, to a French father and Polish mother. His birthplace has also been refurbished for the bicentennial.

Chopin left Poland in 1830, during a period of upheaval across Europe, moving first to Vienna and then Paris.

He died at the untimely age of 39. His body was buried in France, but his heart was brought back to Poland and lies in a crystal urn inside a pillar in a Warsaw church.