Chopin in Paris (Magill Book Reviews)
CHOPIN IN PARIS: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE ROMANTIC COMPOSER encompasses roughly the second half of the great composer’s life. Tad Szulc presents Chopin as influenced by nearly every major trend in thought of the Romantic Period. Szulc’s Chopin debates the superiority of Neo-Classical and Romantic art with Eugene Delacroix. He lives for the opera, especially the works of Vincenzo Bellini whom he met in 1831. He follows recent developments in literature and radical politics through his liaison with George Sand.
Chopin’s years in Paris also brought him contact with many of the leading figures in nineteenth century music: Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, and Felix Mendelssohn were all either acquaintances or friends. He heard Niccolo Paganini and the sisters Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot, both stars of the operatic stage. Most of all, Chopin loved the poetry of his native Poland. The poet Adam Mickiewicz became a close friend of Chopin. Chopin set a number of his works to music, as he did those of the Polish author, Stefan Witwicki.
Szulc’s strength is his ability to move with ease among this motley cast of characters, explaining the role that each of them played in shaping the style of the great genius. Szulc is as comfortable discussing piano construction in the early nineteenth century as he is addressing performance practice, social history, and political developments. Given least attention is Chopin’s music itself. Szulc is not a...
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Chopin in Paris (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Tad Szulc’s credentials as a biographer were well established with his highly successful Pope John Paul II: The Biography (1996). Two of Szulc’s other works, Fidel: A Critical Portrait (1987) and Then and Now: How the World Has Changed Since WWII (1990), received the prestigious Overseas Press Club of America award for best book of the year on international affairs. Szulc’s background as a biographer, journalist, linguist, and student of world politics serves him well in Chopin in Paris, a highly readable account of the composer’s most productive period.
Chopin in Paris begins shortly after the establishment of the French July Monarchy (1830) and continues until the year of Chopin’s death. Between these two events Szulc uncovers a wide range of information about nearly every aspect of early nineteenth century social and cultural life. Like many of the Romantics, Chopin produced works that were influenced by diverse trends in contemporary thought. He debated the superiority of Neoclassical and Romantic art with Eugène Delacroix. He loved the opera, being especially fond of the works of Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), whom he met in 1831. He learned about recent developments in literature and radical politics through his liaison with George Sand. Chopin’s years in Paris also brought him into contact with many of the leading figures in nineteenth century music: Ferenc Liszt, Hector Berlioz, and Felix...
(The entire section is 2017 words.)