Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Magic in Chopin's Playing - Relativism?

On more than one occasion the great composer Chopin remarked that he wished he could play like his contemporary Liszt, and at times that statement ruefully connoted a rather benign form of jealousy.
We know that Chopin's physical structure was rather delicate, more from the corrosion of lung disease than from being diminutive, which he really was not; actually, Chopin was around five feet seven, which certainly was not considered small in mid-nineteenth century.
He most certainly was a wonderful, if not great pianist, as he was so much in demand as a performer of his own works , and countless reviews attest as to his pianistic gifts.
Certainly, the playing of Chopin's music by Liszt, arguably the greatest pianist of the nineteenth century, what with that massive pyro- technique unprecedented in actuation by both listener and performer until Liszt appeared, must have had an affect upon Chopin.
According to contemporaries, it appears that Chopin's entire dynamic range was, perhaps, a notch or so below the physicality of a Liszt or a Mendelssohn or other virtuosi appearing during this period.
And, innately or otherwise, Chopin promulgated ways of creating the same range of dynamics by way of a unique method of a kind of relativism that instilled the same kind of pianistic excitement, when called for, as a Liszt. We know that some of the critiques describe the excitement in Chopin's playing as being at the same level as any other pianist during this period.
And so the reality of a kind of instrumental relativism may very well have been the ingredient that seemingly made Chopin a virtuoso in his time, let alone the great composer we know him to be.

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