The Artist of the Piano

by C. I. Roman. 0 Comments

Having returned from a much needed rest in the bucolic setting of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia I began to look at the pictures of the fields of lupines’, buttercups and other wild flowers while I listened to my favorite composer Frédéric Francois Chopin and realized that his music besides romantic actually painted pictures of beautiful tranquil scenes like the ones that I had just experienced during my vacation.

Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, considered by some as one of the greats of the Romantic period. The bulk of his reputation rests on small-scale works of waltzes, nocturnes, preludes, mazurkas and polonaises the last two named groups reflect his fervent Polish nationalism. These works link poetically expressive melody and restless harmony to high technical demands. Even his etudes survive as highly appealing concert pieces by emphasizing musical as well as technical values.

His father was French, his mother Polish; he was raised in Warsaw where he completed his music education. Since his family mingled with intellectuals and members of the middle and upper classes, as a teenager Chopin spent two summers in the country, where he was exposed to polish folk music. By the age of eight he was recognized as a child prodigy, performing in elegant salons and beginning to write his own pieces. Early on he studied composition with Josef Elsner, and then took classes in various other music subjects as well as art and literature at the Warsaw Lyceum. In 1830 at the age of 20, shortly before the November 1830 Russian suppression of the Polish Uprising he left Warsaw’s cultural provincialism and settled in Paris in 1832, establishing himself as an exorbitantly paid piano teacher.

After some romantic dalliances with Polish women, including an abortive engagement, in 1838 he began an affair with French novelist Amandine Dupin, aka George Sand. The couple, along with Sand's children, spent a harsh winter in Majorca, where Chopin's health plummeted and he was diagnosed with consumption (tuberculosis). Chopin settled in with Sand in France, composing steadily although his increasing perfectionism slowed his output. By the mid-1840s, though, his health and romantic situation both had deteriorated. The affair ended in 1847 after, among other things, Sand had portrayed their relationship unflatteringly in her 1846 novel Lucrezia Floriani. Chopin then made an extended visit to the British Isles, but returned to Paris to die in 1849 at the age of 39.

I have included a few clips of some of my favorite selections. Now relax, forget about the daily barrage of government scandals, light a few candles pour yourself a glass of wine find a comfortable chair and let the music transport you to a more quiet reflective time and see if you don’t feel refreshed.

Leave a Reply