Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Prince of the Romantics

I have finally read the biography of Frederic Chopin written by Adam Zamoyski. This was initially published in 1979 but was not available in English transcriptions for all these years. In his short life of thirty nine years, Chopin elicited very strong emotions. Very few composers have been cherished like him. Plenty of mushy nonsense has also been written about him. This biography was intended to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Chopin. This compelling account manages to cut through the myths that have sprung around Chopin's life and the enigmatic Parisian personalities who were his contemporaries. This group included Berlioz, Victor Hugo, Franz Liszt and George Sand. Zamoyski has captured the social and historical background of Chopin's native Poland and of Paris where he spent most of his days. You will come across many archives of Krakow, Paris and Warsaw in Zamoyski's pursuit of knowledge. This has resulted in a biographical account of complete authority about a man of sensitive intelligence. He was a genius when it came to musical innovation. Heinrich Heine has labelled Chopin as `a man made for intimacy'. An interesting anecdote in this account is of George Sand. She wrote, "A great piece of news is that Little Chip-Chip is going to give a great concert; He does not want any posters and any programmes; he does not want anyone to talk about it. He is afraid of so many things that I have suggested he go ahead and play without candles and without an audience on a muted piano." This was written in 1841 by a cigar smoking Sand. Chopin was a child prodigy and was an inspired improviser. The extraordinary musicality of Chopin is something that the world needs a constant reminder of. Performance of his music has become a routine now but that cannot blind the world to the revolutionary and its unique qualities. Many of the new piano prodigies can rattle off his etudes with ease and it is in times like these that we need to understand the man behind the music, as brought out poetically by Adam Zamoyski.

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