Chopin in Paris

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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 musicologist and is content to allow earlier musical analysis of Chopin stand unchallenged. The result is that CHOPIN IN PARIS is much more a biography and work of cultural history than it is a critique of Chopin’s oeuvre. It brings to life the spirit of a fascinating city that left a major impact on the art of so many Romantic composers.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, January 1, 1998, p. 742.

Kirkus Reviews. LXVI, March 1, 1998, p. 326.

Library Journal. CXXIII, February 15, 1998, p. 144.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. April 26, 1998, p. 10.

Music Educators Journal. LXXXV, July, 1998, p. 54.

The New Leader. LXXXI, April 6, 1998, p. 18.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, April 5, 1998, p. 37.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, January 26, 1998, p. 74.