Learning only a few hours ago that the great Frederick Chopin passed away exactly 160 years ago today, the compulsion to create a memoriam in his honor was indeed compelling. Similar to the fate of far too many of our greatest musicians, his life ended early at thirty-nine years of age. Some of you may be very familiar with his work, and for some, perhaps you’ve never heard of him. That said, there are few who haven’t heard his work at one time or another. In the event that you might want to learn more about his life and his legacy, you can go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…
As a child learning to play the piano, Frederick Chopin became my idol, and by junior high school, I was able to play some of his work, however, nothing more challenging than two polonaises (Military Polonaise in A Major, Opus 40 and the more difficult Heroic Polonaise in A Flat Major, Opus 53), and Fantasie Impromptu, Opus 66. My piano teacher left town after ninth grade, so further formal training ended at that time.
Chopin’s music, perhaps more than any other composer (at least in my own estimation), conveys the entire range of human emotion and would likely touch the hearts of many who otherwise do not care for classical music. Even now, his music, well over a century and a half later, conveys a freshness that suggests something much more contemporary.
Perhaps Artur Rubenstein conveyed it best when he said about Chopin:
Chopin was a genius of universal appeal. His music conquers the most diverse audiences. When the first notes of Chopin sound through the concert hall there is a happy sigh of recognition. All over the world men and women know his music. They love it. They are moved by it. Yet it is not “Romantic music” in the Byronic sense. It does not tell stories or paint pictures. It is expressive and personal, but still a pure art. Even in this abstract atomic age, where emotion is not fashionable, Chopin endures. His music is the universal language of human communication. When I play Chopin I know I speak directly to the hearts of people!