Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Life and Works of Chopin (on Audible)

After listening to A Natural History of Dragons on Audible, I decided to try The Life and Works of Chopin. Audible lends itself very well to books on music history, because they include sample recordings of a composer's music. For example, after the narrator discusses a particular piece of music and its importance to Chopin's life, they play a recording. It makes for a very pleasant and natural format to learn about music history.

I chose an audio book on Chopin because as a violinist, I wasn't as familiar with him or his works (he wrote primarily for piano). Listening to the audiobook, I found Chopin's passion for the piano and his revolutionary approach to it fascinating. While pianists might especially enjoy this audio book, I'd recommend it to any musician or music lover. Jeremy Siepmann, the writer and narrator, goes into loving detail about Chopin's music, from his earliest gems to his great masterworks. He manages to fit Chopin's compositions into his biography in a natural way, without drawing too many false parallels between his life and his work.
Chopin himself comes across as a tragic figure who lived a tumultuous, conflicted life. He left his beloved Poland and became "more French than the French," but never seemed really at home anywhere. He suffered constantly from terrible health, and his painful illnesses often lead him to loneliness, depression, and despair. His passionate, but bizarre relationship with George Sand offered him some comfort and companionship for a few years (which were his most productive time in terms of composition), but in the end their profound differences drove them apart. Chopin died in poverty after a terrible illness, but he left a legacy of hauntingly beautiful music.  


  1. I will put this book on my must read list. I am a Chopin fan. Part of Chopin's conflict was that he was torn for his need to be creative and the pressure from the Polish patriots. The patriots wanted Poland to be a country again. They hounded Chopin to compose music that would help raise money for this cause.

  2. Yes, I think he was a deeply conflicted man. He seemed to yearn for his homeland, but he also never made any effort to visit it.