Chopin and His World

Chopin and His World

Jonathan D. Bellman and Halina Goldberg

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780691177755

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abstract

Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849), although the most beloved of piano composers, remains a contradictory figure, an artist of virtually universal appeal who preferred the company of only a few sympathetic friends and listeners. This book reexamines Chopin and his music in light of the cultural narratives formed during his lifetime. These include the romanticism of the ailing spirit, tragically singing its death-song as life ebbs; the Polish expatriate, helpless witness to the martyrdom of his beloved homeland, exiled among friendly but uncomprehending strangers; the sorcerer-bard of dream, memory, and Gothic terror; and the pianist's pianist, shunning the appreciative crowds yet composing and improvising idealized operas, scenes, dances, and narratives in the shadow of virtuoso-idol Franz Liszt. The chapters demonstrate the ways in which Chopin responded to and was understood to exemplify these narratives, as an artist of his own time and one who transcended it. The book offers recently rediscovered artistic representations of his hands (with analysis), and—for the first time in English—an extended tribute to Chopin published in Poland upon his death and contemporary Polish writings contextualizing Chopin's compositional strategies.