CHOPIN: The Voice Of The Piano by ProQuest


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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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