Frederic Chopin, Polish-French composer, had his 200th birthday today, and I wish him well:-)
I will not write a long piece about him here, I don’t have the expertise for that, and there is Wikipedia, after all. A few short remarks. As I understand it, the man and his music were very much connected to his Polish roots, and his longing for his homeland. He had gone in exile after the Polish revolt against Czarist oppression in 1830. I don’n have the impression tat Chopin was a rebel in a political sense of the world. He made his upper class music in the Paris elite salons, he had his complicated and often tragic love life, and his health problems: tuberculosis killed him in 1849. Not much time and priority for revolution there. But he gave us his music!
Yet, his music and his life make him recognisable as an outsider, and in that sense he speaks to me. And I am not the only one. Ernest Mandel, on page 48 in his text on the Russian revolution, wtites that, o the frst anniversary of that revolution, names of ‘freedom fighters’ were inscribed on alls of a military acadamy, as a kind of tribute. Names of the usual suspects were there: socialist leaders like August Bebel and Gracchus Baboef and the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, whose adherents were already repressed by the very regime that celebrated him as a hero; the hypocrisy was already growing together with gap between regime and the classes in which name it existed. But that is another story.
Many other names on the walls were artists. We fnd Emile Zola end Victor Hugo. We find the famous punk artist, Ludwig van Beethoven. And yes, we find Frededic Chopin there. Listening to his music one just feels the longing that goes deeper than just another love affair gone wrong. His music speeks of fredmo, however indirecty, and however domesticated the role his music became in upper-class salons. The beauty of it all survives even that.
My favorite Chopin piece? Prelude no 15, opus 28, known as the Raindrop prelude. First the lyrical piano line, relaxed but not without tension at the same time… then the dark, almost threatening sequence of chords in a minor key… and than back to the gentle melody… Ah…