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#1372434 - 02/13/10 08:13 AM Book Review - Chopin by Jim Samson
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1744
Loc: Georgia, USA

This if one of the Master Musicians series from Oxford University Press.

This biography takes an interesting approach. The chapters alternate between history and musical analysis. So a chapter will detail a period of Chopin’s life, and the next chapter will discuss his compositions during that period. I think that’s an effective approach – those readers who are not interested in detailed musical analysis can skip chapters, and those readers who are interested in the music can use it as a reference.

Of course, no book on Chopin can succeed without dealing with the elephant in the room – his relationship with George Sand. I think this book does an excellent job of reporting the facts that can be verified about their life together without placing blame or passing judgment. It’s much better to report the facts and let the readers reach their own conclusion.

Now that I have read it I’ll weigh in with my opinion, for what’s it worth. Obviously they would not have stayed together as long as they did (9 years?) if each had not gotten something of value from the relationship. The fact that they were probably platonic after the second year means that it wasn’t sex that keep them together. Sand mothered Chopin, and he let her. She provided stability and a place of refuge for him. She nursed him back to health several times. She also reinvented her past to suit her own purposes, probably to justify her own actions. Chopin was jealous and suspicious, which is not surprising given Sand's past (she had at least one affair during her time with Chopin). He seemed easily manipulated by Sand’s daughter, who at least provided the immediate reason for the breakup, when Chopin interfered in the complicated and somewhat sordid episode of her marriage.

But I don’t think the facts, as presented in this book, support the idea that Chopin would have lived much longer and written more and better music if he had not lived with Sand. In my opinion the opposite is probably true. She provided some stability in his life during his most productive periods.

So read this biography and make up your own mind already!


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#1372503 - 02/13/10 10:19 AM Re: Book Review - Chopin by Jim Samson [Re: Sam S]
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
Hi Sam:

Thank you for your excellent "book report." I read Samson's book some time ago. And I agree that he tries to present the facts, as we know them. All "facts" must be from primary sources, as I am sure you know. Two excellent primary sources are Chopin's Letters and Chopin: Pianist and Teacher: As Seen by his Pupils by Eigeldinger. While many, many books have been written about Chopin, man and music, only those who have relied on first-hand information can really be taken as fact. I am not saying that these books do not have merit. But, most, while scholarly, are usually highly subjective in nature.

I recommend the two books mentioned above to get a true and accurate picture of the "poet of the piano."

My best to you,
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891


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