Frederic Chopin

Frederic Chopin by Eugene DelacroixPlaying Chopin is like unveiling the dream that dwell so mysteriously in our subconscious. The origin of Chopin's phenomenal talent: unique, unsurpassable and individual lay in his enigmatic and often ambiguous "joy and sorrow" personality. Chopin excelled in the art of improvising on piano and organ in the most daring fashion. Out of this free, elusive playing, his own style emerged. Its dreamy poetic quality, profound sentiment and anguished nostalgia for love and beauty, were perfectly expressed in his transcendent musical language. Chopin was wholeheartedly connected with his Polish ancestry and culture. With a Polish mother and French father, he was from birth a citizen of the world, yet his genius was deeply rooted in Polish sentiment and folklore. His piano and composition teachers were W. Zywny and J. Elsner; they gave the young Chopin a solid foundation for displaying his talent. A classicist by inheritance, Chopin immersed himself in the artistic and intellectual movements of his time in Warsaw, Vienna, Paris and London. Paris in particular was a mecca for new trends, drawing composers and artists from all over the world. Chopin found himself surrounded by great personalities: Liszt, Berlioz, Gautier, Leroux, Kalkbrenner, Franchomme, Delacroix, Heine, Mickiewicz, Krasinski, Niemcewicz, Witwicki, Zaleski and of course George Sand, who became his muse. The Parisian aristocracy of the Czartoryskis, the Rothchilds and the Platers regulary hosted Chopin's concerts in their salons. As an extremely elegant and refined artist with highly aristocratic manners, Chopin was perfectly suited to be a guest and performer at this lavish society's celebrations. Chopin was infatuated with the polyphony of Bach and the classical canons of Clementi, Mozart, Hummel and Beethoven; also with Mozart's operas ("Don Giovanni" in particular) and the Italian operas of Bellini. "Norma" overwhelmed Chopin with the beauty of its bel canto singing style. The salon music of Szymanowska, Oginski and Field, as well as memories from his early childhood in the Mazowsze and Kujawy region, where polonaises, oberkas and mazurkas were fervently danced, also contributed to Chopin's highly individual style. Some of his compositions were like mosaics and miniatures drawn with thin ink-pen; others had thick monumental textures, sublime and grandiose tone poems that announced a new era for romantic piano music. His futuristic imagination led toward the immense" oeuvres" of Wagner, Debussy and Scriabin and the theatrical mysticism of "Tristan and Isolde","Pelleas and Melisande", Poem of Ecstasy" and "Prometheus". Chopin's only instrument was the piano with the exception of some chamber music for cello and orchestral accompaniments for the piano concerti. As a composer and performer, Chopin was received with the greatest enthusiasm in Paris. After the April 26th, 1841 concert in Salon Playel, the editor of "La France Musicale" wrote: "Chopin is a composer from conviction. He composes for himself and performs for himself...In truth, nothing equals the lightness, the sweetness with which the artist preludes on the piano. For originality, distinction and grace, Chopin is a pianist, who should not and cannot be compared to anyone. Like the other romantic composers, Chopin cherished total freedom of expression; his credo, "art for art", explains his aesthetics. It was their similar approach to art that made the two artists, Delacroix and Chopin, life-long friends. The famous conversation between Delacroix and Chopin on April 7th, 1849, cited in Delacroix's journal, clarifies the aesthetics and the philosophical connotation of their beliefs: Non, la science envisagee ainsi,demontree par un homme comme Chopin, est un art lui-meme, et par contre l'art n'est plus ce que le croit le vulgaire, c' est-a-dire une sorte d'inspiration, qui vient de je-ne-sais-ou, qui marche au hasard at ne present que l'exterieur pittoresque de chose. C'est la raison elle-meme ornee par le genie, mais suivant une marche necessaire et contenue par les lois superieures. "Science envisaged in this way, demonstrated by a man like Chopin is itself an art. Yet art is not, what the commoners believe it to be: a sort of inspiration, that springs from who knows where, wanders this way and that way and presents only the picturesques exterior of things. Art exists for itself, decorated by the genial creator yet following certain necessary path and entrenched by the superior laws".

 

Nina Kuzma-Sapiejewska

 

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