Chopin's Piano: A Journey through Romanticism (Paperback)Paul Kildea (author)
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A uniquely structured work of musicological investigation, Chopin’s Piano traces both a path through the nineteenth-century composer’s 24 Preludes and the journey of his ‘pianino’ - the diminutive instrument used to compose them on - through the following hundred years. Shining a light into neglected corners of social and cultural history, Paul Kildea’s book is a quiet triumph.
In November 1838 Frederic Chopin, George Sand and her two children sailed to Majorca to escape the Parisian winter. They settled in an abandoned monastery at Valldemossa in the mountains above Palma, where Chopin finished what would eventually be recognised as one of the great and revolutionary works of musical Romanticism - his 24 Preludes.
There was scarcely a decent piano on the island (these were still early days in the evolution of the modern instrument), so Chopin worked on a small pianino made by a local craftsman, which remained in their monastic cell for seventy years after he and Sand had left.
This brilliant and unclassifiable book traces the history of Chopin's 24 Preludes through the instruments on which they were played, the pianists who interpreted them and the traditions they came to represent. Yet it begins and ends with the Majorcan pianino, which during the Second World War assumed an astonishing cultural potency as it became, for the Nazis, a symbol of the man and music they were determined to appropriate as their own.
The unexpected hero of the second part of the book is the great keyboard player and musical thinker Wanda Landowska, who rescued the pianino from Valldemossa in 1913, and who would later become one of the most influential musical figures of the twentieth century.
Kildea shows how her story - a compelling account based for the first time on her private papers - resonates with Chopin's, while simultaneously distilling part of the cultural and political history of Europe and the United States in the central decades of the century.
Kildea's beautifully interwoven narratives, part cultural history and part detective story, take us on an unexpected journey through musical Romanticism and allow us to reflect freshly on the changing meaning of music over time.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 269 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 21 mm
'A wonderful book about music, musicians, cultural similarities and differences, the blood and gore of revolutionary times and the compensations of high art. Kildea writes with elegance and wit, and displays the kind of scholarship that does not come from simply mugging up on a few books. ... A book that will, amongst other things, send the reader back with fresh ears to the delightful, tormented Pole, and hear the music he composed on a borrowed piano in a monastery cell in Mallorca one terrible winter' - Michael Henderson, The Times
'Chopin's Piano takes the motif of this piano - "Out of date before it was completed"; its maker Juan Bauza unknown and possibly an amateur - and uses it to tie together various narrative strands in an original, constantly interesting format. As it does it tells the story of Chopin's work, the development of piano making, and how music became inextricably linked to atrocities in the 20th century.' - Jonathan McAloon, The Financial Times
'An episodic, picaresque tale, woven confidently - at times even pacily - by Kildea. He writes knowledgeably and approachably about music and sympathetically about his cast of characters. It is the story of an obsession, but it manages not to feel obsessional. ... I enjoyed it very much.' - Alan Rusbridger, The Spectator