Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chopin - What Manner of Teacher Was He?

As I became aware today that I have been dealing with the great composer Chopin in some of my more recent blogs, I thought that, perhaps, some of you may like to peer into another lesser-known aspect of his pursuits; in this case, Chopin as a teacher:
Actually, this great composer relied quite a bit upon teaching, primarily in order to aid in supporting himself, as the funds he received from the publishing of his music were not abundant enough to be the sole base of his financial status.
There were many periods, especially when his frail state of health allowed, during which he taught as much as about four hours per day. In general, it seems that he did not disdain the task of teacher, and we know that some of his students were a source of enjoyment and fulfillment to him.
It IS known, by way of contemporaries of Chopin, that his temper would rear itself from time to time, and the combination of a short fuse and the reality of Chopin's respected place in music must have positively terrified some of his students. We also know, through reminiscences of some of his students, that he could be charming, patient and a good listener as a teacher, especially in his teaching of the likes of Bach and Mozart. Interestingly, he did not seem to recognize to a palpable degree the works of Beethoven.
What is rather compelling in interest, to me, is his failure to attract and develop pianists of coming and eventual greatness, as did Liszt. Of course, the gargantuan power and stature that Liszt had summoned through his unprecedented role of, arguably, having become the leader of all the 19th century pianists, attracted the brilliant young professionals of the time in large numbers, and history has recorded the number of great pianists who emerged from Liszt's studio. Conversely, almost all of Chopin's students, however brilliant some of them were, came to him as amateurs.
However, it is a matter of record that Frederic Chopin was not only one of the giants of the Romantic period, both as composer and pianist, but also recognized as a teacher of considerable quality and merit within a very sophisticated society he was an intrinsic part of.

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