Bicentennial salute to Frederic Chopin
Although Frederic Chopin was probably born in February, he always said his birthday was March 1, so that's good enough for me. And since March 1, 2010, happens to be the 200th anniversary of his arrival in the world, it's a good opportunity to pause for a moment and lift a hearty glass in his memory.
Chopin didn't just write a remarkable quantity and quality of piano music; he gave the piano its soul. The instrument became something richer because of his refined lyricism, his poetic temperament, with its strain of bittersweetness running so often just beneath the surface.
I think Chopin's music provides one of the toughest challenges for would-be keyboard artists, because it requires so much more than digital virtuosity, even more than a good sense of expressive nuance. It demands a kind of honesty and openness that cannot be faked. It requires, I think, a certain vulnerability.
Stick to the notes, so as to appease middle-of-the-road competition juries or strict constructionist critics, and it's just a case of going through Chopin-esque motions. Open up to the full range of human emotions, using flexibile rhythms and subtle gradations of tone as your own personality dictates, and it becomes a matter of living Chopin's music. That's what I like to hear.
I've got a long list of favorite Chopin interpreters, and I may bore you with several of them periodically during this Chopin bicentennial. (Please let me know your favorites, too.) For the actual birthday, I decided to choose only one artist to demonstrate Chopin's creative genius, Krystian Zimerman, who shares the same Polish heritage as the composer and who has a truly individualistic style always makes me imagine that this is how Chopin must have played. One more cool thing about Zimerman. Spookily, he even looks like Chopin in some of these videos: