[...] most remarkably, Chopin has come to symbolize a nation. Listening Recommendation: "Revolutionary" Study, Op. 10, No. 12, played by Ann Schein.\n (A recent medical diagnosis has suggested that Chopin suffered from cystic fibrosis, but the evidence is not complete). Sigismond Thalberg transcribed "Casta Diva" for solo piano and published it as his Op. 70 - thereby proving the point that the piano was now ready to match the human voice.
CHOPIN The Voice Of The Piano by Alan Walker Editor’s Note: Alan Walker, an eminent Chopin and Liszt scholar, was the keynote speaker at the 2010 Pedagogy Saturday, held at the MTNA National Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This article is based upon his presentation, which inluded audio clips. A “Listening Recommendation” in the text indicates where the music was heard. would like to begin by making a thousand miles across Europe to I proposition that I cannot prove, but believe to be true. Within a 50- mile radius of where I am standing, Poland. We cannot speculate about his reasons. Whatever they were, the youth broke completely with his past. someone somewhere is either playing In later life he kept from his children or listening to Chopin’s music. Nor all knowledge of their humble French does this proposition depend on my relations. Nicolas Chopin embraced particular location, which happens to Poland as if it were his native land and be Albuquerque, New Mexico. If I Polish as if his native tongue. He gen- were to move my podium to Vienna, erated a powerful sense of patriotism, London, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, which was the single most unifying Beijing or even Sydney, Australia, my influence in the life of his closely knit proposition would remain the same. family. It was not until he was 35 that Whatever the time zone, the sun never he married a Polish woman named sets on Chopin’s music. Millions of lis- Justyna, who was 11 years his junior. teners are held in thrall to it. Radio There were four children of the mar- stations across the world broadcast his riage––three girls and a boy. The boy, compositions. The sale of Chopin CDs Fryderyk, who was born on March 1, holds firm. The “Chopin recital” 1810, was destined to become one of remains as popular as ever, a perma- the leaders of the romantic movement nent fixture in the concert hall. in music. Alan Walker is Chopin competitions continue to As a child, Chopin was precocious. professor emeritus spring up across the globe. Finally, He was writing verse at age 6 and of music at and most remarkably, Chopin has composing music from age 7. His very McMaster come to symbolize a nation. He is first composition was a Polonaise in G University, Canada. Poland’s best-known son. Is there Minor (1817). But the most remark- Before that, he any other composer of whom able thing about him was his predispo- was on the staff of similar things could reasonably sition towards the piano. It is not the music division be said? generally realized that as a pianist of the British Broadcasting Chopin was mostly self-taught. True, Corporation in London, England. Beginnings In Poland the boy took some elementary lessons He has written 13 published books, In 1787, a 17-year-old from Adalbert Zywny, a local Warsaw including a three-volume, prize- youth named Nicolas musician (who was actually a violinist), winning biography of Franz Liszt. Chopin left his native but they were abandoned by the time France and journeyed a that Chopin was 12. His chief studies AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER 19 were with Jozef Elsner––for composi- consider the language that he confides Kalkbrenner, Henselt, Dreyschock, tion. In piano playing, Chopin was left to his diary. It flows from a different Pixis, Herz and Thalberg––affection- to find his own way, and he did so pen. Chopin was seething with anger ately referred to as “the flying-trapeze with such a natural aptitude that by at this moment.
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