Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In Music, a Triumvirate to be Noted...

At times, whenever I am involved with the composer Chopin in whatever pursuit I will have chosen, my thoughts form around the reality of an experience beginning with the birth of this man, and ending just one generation short of  our present century with the passing of Artur Rubinstein. The third component is Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who occupied the last forty years of the 19th century and the first forty years of the 20th. All three were Polish.
There is no need, of course, to discuss the triumph of Chopin - the history book has  taken care of that issue.
And  for those of us who remember the man who could not wait to perform for his beloved public, always bounding to the piano just to project that first note and then  create a world for both performer and listener like no one else, there was Rubinstein.
Paderewski is perhaps remembered a bit less today; however, his unique sense of hubris and a patrician attachment to the art formed a pianist of great recognition during a long career. As a matter of fact, he became a kind of  folk hero  in his beloved Poland, resulting, as an example, of his becoming one of three Premiers, believe it or not, at the time of the Treaty of Versailles.
Three dabs at a   touch of humor, if I may:
The great  painter Delacroix and Chopin were close  friends, which resulted in the famous portrait of the composer. Chopin gratefully acknowledged Delacroix's graceful treatment of the nose in that painting; however, Truth persisted by way of the supposed last words of Chopin on his deathbed, quietly complaining that "I was cursed with a short life and a long nose."
At the Treaty of Versailles, Paderewski represented his country by way of his signature - and he was heard stating a question as he signed,  "what am I doing here?"
I recall that during the last three or four years of his almost 80-year career, Rubinstein could no longer see the piano in front of him, as he had become blind frontally - but only he knew. Finally, into his 90th year, as I recall, he decided to retire as a performer...
But his immense spirit prevailed. I have a short video of this giant, in retirement, traveling to Mexico.
And there he was, at an outdoor  table in Mexico City, a cup of coffee in one hand, a cigar in the other, wearing a sombrero and a smile like no other smile I can remember.
A Trio like no other in the arts...



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