My category honoring inspirational people is brand new. Of course, this blog hasn’t been around very long as it is, has it? I must confess, many of the people who have inspired me the most have lived in another time. They created their books and paintings and music and poetry in a century far removed from the world in which we live in today. Does this mean we cannot learn anything from them, though? Of course not. Indeed, we can probably learn more from those who have come before us than we can possibly imagine.
The man I want to focus on today is the brilliant Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, Frederic Chopin. I’m sure many of you have heard some of his music, even if you don’t know a great deal about his life. The vast and lasting contribution Chopin made to music cannot be overestimated. In real life, he was an attractive yet reclusive pianist, physically fragile yet emotionally passionate. “A man of exquisite heart and mind,” the French painter, Eugene Delacroix once said. Fredric Chopin was born on March 1, 1810. He was regarded as a ‘child prodigy’ when he was growing up. Later, these prodigious gifts that were so evident in the precocious young boy exceeded anyone’s expectations. Although the majority of Chopin’s compositions were created for solo piano, he was a remarkably innovative composer, inventing such musical forms as the ballade and revolutionizing the structure of the piano sonata, nocturne, prelude, etude, and waltz. In a mere thirty-nine years, Chopin contributed a long list of pieces that have become staples of the piano repertoire as well as beloved classics for those who are lovers of 19th century classical music. Chopin died on October 17, 1849 from chronic pulmonary tuberculosis. He will never be forgotten.
Do you have to enjoy classical music to appreciate Chopin? I would have to answer ‘no.’ I think that anyone who has the soul of a poet or who enjoys romantic films or books would have to enjoy the music of Chopin. The composer has been depicted in many films, including the 1945 production directed by Charles Vidor, “A Song to Remember” (actor Cornel Wilde portrayed Chopin). More recently, a film called “Impromptu” centered around the relationship between Frederic Chopin and the writer and scholar, George Sand, played by Hugh Grant and Judy Davis respectively.
To learn more about Chopin—his life, his compositions, etc.—please go here:
To hear one of my favorite interpreters of Chopin’s compositions, the Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini, go here:
(photos: from top to bottom—Chopin, the composer and pianist depicted in profile; Chopin’s piano; the tombstone of Frederic Chopin; Maurizio Pollini, at the piano)
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