Chopin : Life and Works

4.02 (84 ratings by Goodreads)
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In 2010, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Chopin is celebrated. Regarded as one of the most mesmerising performers of his day, Frederic Chopin, the pianist-composer, lives on in his music - his waltzes, mazurkas, etudes, preludes, nocturnes, three piano sonatas and two piano concertos. Here, his life, from his birth in Poland, his famous affair with the French writer George Sand, to his death at the age of 39 in Paris, is told with his music featuring prominently. We think of Chopin as a 'frail, sheltered genius' but this forthright portrait demonstrates he was far more boisterous than that. Cheerful as a youth, it was only later that the glare of publicity, the change from local to national celebrity, made Chopin guard his privacy more carefully. This is clearly presented in Jeremy Siepmann's sympathetic account of the life of one of the key figures in Romantic music.
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Product details

  • CD-Audio
  • 124 x 142 x 26mm | 240.4g
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • English
  • Unabridged
  • Unabridged
  • 9626344563
  • 9789626344569
  • 941,453

Review quote

This is the first of what is bound to be a stream of biographies celebrating the bicentenary of the composer's birth - but none, I bet, will include as much if any of the music. At least half this audio is devoted to the works, played with great passion and even greater panache by Turkish virtuoso Idil Biret. Everyone knows about Chopin's affair with George Sand, but I hadn't realised what a bitch she was towards the end, mocking his pain and accusing him of hypochondria. Fascinating older women, even if they're famous, sexy, clever and French, have their disadvantages. The story about Poland's national treasure penniless, alone and close to death in 1848, being taken to Edinburgh by rich, well-meaning patrons and seeking out a Polish family to talk to in his own all-but-forgotten native tongue, is heartbreaking. Just like his nocturnes. - Sue Arnold, The Guardian More than any musician or composer in history, Fredrick Chopin 'owned' the piano as an instrument, and made it sing. His fascinating life from prodigy to tragic death by consumption at age 39 is chronicled in The Life and Works of Chopinby Jeremy Siepmann, who also narrates, (with actor Anton Lesser reading excerpts from Chopin's letters). The audiobook intersperses biography with a wide sampling of music in such a way that the listener is beguiled into visualizing that bygone era in Paris when Romanticism flowered with imaginative, new melodies and tonal colors grown out of folk tunes and the symmetry of a classical past. Words fail to evoke the timeless and unique beauty of Chopin's creations then, which were not only among the greatest works for keyboard ever composed, but also the most universal. The story behind it all - including Chopin's unusual life and loves - is an intriguing snapshot of early 19th Century France, yet its distance in time shrinks to nothing with such a musical score as accompaniment. (As a companion video, we recommend the movie Impromptu, which starred Hugh Grant as Chopin.) A free thinker, shy and modest, Chopin was an unrivaled poetic genius who evolved, from nowhere, a new style of playing with a gift for composition that was boundless. His was art, not for art's sake, but for the heart's sake. Chopin's own words tell us why: 'Bach is like an astronomer who, with the help of ciphers, finds the most wonderful stars. Beethoven embraced the universe with the power of his spirit. I do not climb so high. A long time ago I decided that my universe will be the soul and heart of man.' - Jonathan Lowe, Jeremy Siepmann, one time Head of Music at BBC World Service and a life time teacher, broadcaster and author, has devoted himself to the cause of classical music. Naxos has already issued his audiobooks on Haydn, Beethoven and Baroque music and now we have the heart rending story of Frederic Chopin 1810-49. Siepmann's graphic and moving biographical narrative is illustrated by Anton Lesser's readings of letters and other historical documentary evidence (together with contributions by Neville Jason, Elaine Claxton and Karen Archer). It is all here, from his early struggles for recognition in his native Poland to later triumphs at Vienna, Paris as leading figure in the salons. Here he was to meet Liszt who fatefully introduced him to Madame Dudevant (George Sand) in 1836. Chopin enjoyed (if that is the word) a tempestuous relationship with her until 1847. He was to receive a triumphant reception in this country, with sensational appearances at London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This arresting and moving story is lavishly illustrated throughout with a vast array of Chopin's music played by Idel Biret. This beautiful set of 4 CDs is biographically led. The music here and there is gracefully faded. The wonder and range of the creative artistry remains dazzling and refreshing. Chopin created exclusively for the piano, I'm convinced of that. He may have drawn inspiration from elsewhere - Mozart, Weber, John Field as well as the singing, arching legato of Bellini and Donizetti and the traditional dances of his native Poland - but his true voice was essentially through the piano keyboard. Throughout his creative career he was refining and perfecting his art as he further absorbed insight from the study of J. S. Bach and Cherubuni. The range of expertise he calls for is fascinating as much of his output can be managed by non experts yet at the height of powers only the virtuoso can make Chopin speak and dance and sing in his true voice. And even here skill alone is never enough. Because his genius is unique it takes a unique soloist to find him, bravura playing such as wins applause and prizes today or sentimentalizing of the classics (also in vogue) just cannot deliver the heart and soul. This is the beautiful sort of music we sometimes hear in dreams. Andre Gide had it when he wrote: '...everything should be made homogenous, so that the melody may remain enveloped in the friendly atmosphere created by the other voices, themselves evoking a continually pulsating, but immaterial landscape'. This took me back. The dear lady who taught me German used to play Chopin to me if I had done well. One Friday afternoon, my mastery of the Plu Perfect Subjunctive earned me the 24 Preludes. 'Chopin was the pianist's pianist' she said, as she sat at my dad's upright. But George Sand was a complete and utter bitch. - Robert Giddings, Tribune Chopin wrote the most romantic music ever composed. Thirty-four extracts are included here, the sensitive Nocturnes and Etudes and the Polish Mazurkas, entwined with his vividly told life-story. His long and rewarding affair with George Sand (which ended in illness and tears) and their miserable winter in Majorca are fascinating. So are his physical suppleness (he had 'boneless fingers' and could place his legs around his shoulders), his daily hairdressing, his flight from cholera, and the dreary teaching necessitated by his constant money worries. - Rachel Redford, The Oldie
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Rating details

84 ratings
4.02 out of 5 stars
5 38% (32)
4 32% (27)
3 24% (20)
2 6% (5)
1 0% (0)
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