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#398255 - 09/24/08 03:20 PM Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
I'm reading Szulc's "Chopin in Paris". Near the beginning he states that Chopin was almost definitely bipolar(or possibly Schizoid). I have only read one other Chopin bio(Chopin's Funeral) and this topic never came up.

So, for those of you have read more Chopin bios than me, is Chopin being bipolar
1. generally thought to be true by biographers
2. usually not thought to be true
or not mentioned
3. somewhere in between

Thanks.

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#398256 - 09/24/08 03:55 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
He certainly imbibed plenty of opium in the form of Laudanum throughout his life. It was the only thing 19th century medicine had to suppress his coughing.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#398257 - 09/24/08 04:01 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
Auntie Lynn Offline
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Registered: 12/07/04
Posts: 1096
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Fred frequently had great difficulty breathing. Now, kiddies, try holding your breath for half an hour or until you turn purple and it not only has a debilitating effect on your physique, it kinda makes you crazy from oxygen deprivation to the old brainy brain. Not a happy experience...

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#398258 - 09/24/08 04:08 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
I'm pretty sure he was though you're going to get a lot of argument against it from some of the the Devoted members. I'm also manic depressive and I recognize the symptoms he describes in his letters. The most telling thing about the Stuttgart diary is the fact that he welcomed tears. The fact that he was now able to write that grief striken testament, the fact that he was able to weep was a sign he was emerging from a paralysing bout of depression, originally brought on by learning of the fall of Warsaw. With this particular disorder and depression in general an external event can trigger grief that can takes on a pathological life of its own.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#398259 - 09/24/08 04:21 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
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 Quote:
Originally posted by -Frycek:
I'm pretty sure he was though you're going to get a lot of argument against it from some of the the Devoted members. I'm also manic depressive and I recognize the symptoms he describes in his letters. The most telling thing about the Stuttgart diary is the fact that he welcomed tears. The fact that he was now able to write that grief striken testament, the fact that he was able to weep was a sign he was emerging from a paralysing bout of depression, originally brought on by learning of the fall of Warsaw. With this particular disorder and depression in general an external event can trigger grief that can takes on a pathological life of its own. [/b]
Very interesting observation. In the book I mentioned Szulc makes the argument that the fall of Warsaw and Chopin's ever worsening tuberculosis are what triggered his manic depression at around the age of 20.

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#398260 - 09/24/08 08:09 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
loveschopintoomuch Offline
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Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
I’m one of the people from the Devoted to Chopin thread who doesn’t believe that Chopin was bipolar. (And I believe the jury is still out on this subject, to answer the OP’s question.) Mr. Szulc must have some kind of knowledge that no one else has been privy to to make such a bold statement (almost definitely?). Even worse...schizoid!! How can any author make such a statement?

I am bipolar, myself, but unlike Frycek, I do not see the same symptoms as she does. Or, at least, I can’t necessarily attribute them to this disorder.

One of the biggest “giveaways” is making very unwise decisions. But other than deciding to move in with George Sand, (and this is just my personal opinion), Chopin was fairly level-headed, even as a young man. Yes, he did get depressed (who doesn’t) and with very good reason. But the fact that his depression was not that black that he was still able to compose seems to contradict this belief. Anyone who has been depressed (as in the depressed state of manic-depressive) knows that it is a good day to be able to get out of bed, let alone compose some of the world’s most beautiful music.

And the manic phase can literally have one climbing the walls with energy, the mind going a mile a minute, almost making it impossible to concentrate or focus on anything for any length of time. Again, Chopin would not have composed what he did if he were bouncing off the walls half the time.

Now I do believe that he *might* have been more of an OC person (obsessive-compulsive). He would labor at his music for hours upon days to get just the right note or chord. Then after a thousand changes, he would go back to his original. But even after a composition had been published, he would once again, change his mind. Some might call this trying to achieve perfection. But whatever it is, it is not (to my knowledge and from my experience) a sign of bipolar. He was extremely concerned about his appearance to the point of (almost) a compulsion. His reasons were quite acceptable (that an artist must always look his best), but even he complained that he spent a small fortune on white gloves.

I could give more examples, but these are the best I can do right off the top of my head. There is also strong evidence to support the premise that bipolar can and often is hereditary (since it is caused by a chemical imbalance). As far as I know, no one in Chopin’s family suffered the symptoms of this disorder.

JMHO,
Kathleen
_________________________
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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#398261 - 09/26/08 10:57 AM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
Mary-Rose Offline
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Registered: 10/16/06
Posts: 1428
Loc: Essex, England
I feel that Chopin had so much in his life to make him sad: death of a teenage sister who was very close to him, exile from his beloved country and family, loss of his fiancee, increasing bad health etc etc - that it's surprising he wasn't more depressed than he was. But I'm no expert.
_________________________
Best wishes from MR
http://www.extraloudpurrs.blogspot.com

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#398262 - 09/26/08 10:58 AM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
Mary-Rose Offline
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Registered: 10/16/06
Posts: 1428
Loc: Essex, England
(Sorry - double post.)
_________________________
Best wishes from MR
http://www.extraloudpurrs.blogspot.com

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#398263 - 09/26/08 11:13 AM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
Rank Piano Amateur Offline
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Registered: 08/11/07
Posts: 1735
To me, the real question is: what difference does it make? We have his gorgeous music. If he was bipolar (a chemical condition, by the way, which cannot be caused by catastrophe, even the fall of Warsaw), his music is gorgeous. If he was not, his music is gorgeous. The only situation in which it might matter would be if he was a spectacular composer BECAUSE he was bipolar. Even then it does not matter, really, except to make a point about the wonderful contributions that can be made to art by persons who are mentally ill.

In any event, we will never know. That fact actually strengthens what I said in my first paragraph. 1. It does not matter. 2. We will never know. So why waste energy speculating?

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#398264 - 09/26/08 11:25 AM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rank Piano Amateur:
If he was bipolar (a chemical condition, by the way, which cannot be caused by catastrophe, even the fall of Warsaw),
[/b]
I believe I at least implied that, hopefully indicating that the fall of Warsaw was the trigger , not the cause of what was a very serious depressive episode, whether chemically prolonged or not. From my original post:

he was emerging from a paralysing bout of depression, originally brought on by learning of the fall of Warsaw. With this particular disorder and depression in general an external event can trigger grief that can takes on a pathological life of its own.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#398265 - 09/26/08 11:25 AM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
Wood-demon Offline
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Registered: 10/25/07
Posts: 607
Loc: UK
A young British composer who suffers from Tourette's syndrome has divined, from listening to the music of Mozart, that he, too, must have suffered from the condition and devoted an hour-long TV programme to the subject in an attempt to prove his theory. I remain unconvinced; as far as I know there's not one piece of documentary evidence to support the claim.
I suspect that this theory about Chopin is, similarly, just conjecture. It's more likely, judging from the terms of endearment Chopin used in his youthful letters to his male friends, that he was bisexual.
By the way, Mary Rose, what a lovely dog!

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#398266 - 09/26/08 11:38 AM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rank Piano Amateur:
[...] The only situation in which it might matter would be if he was a spectacular composer BECAUSE he was bipolar. Even then it does not matter, really, except to make a point about the wonderful contributions that can be made to art by persons who are mentally ill.[/b]
Robert Schumann is an obvious musical example of this, though many have been unfairly dismissive of the quality of his later works.

The first that came into my mind, though, was British artist Louis Wain . I first learned of him in elementary school, where my classroom had a ca. 1964 Time-Life volume called The Mind; the riveting images in it were engraved in my own mind ever after.

As charming as Wain's "sane" works are in their depictions of cats (and occasionally other animals, too), especially in anthropomorphic settings, the art he created after he was fully 'round the bend with schizophrenia is unrivaled in magnificence (as portraits of cats go, anyway!):



Now that's not something you see every day!

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#398267 - 09/26/08 12:06 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
I have a feeling that I speak for all of us that we couldn't care less about what disorder or disease Chopin *might* have had. As RPA has stated: "What difference does it make?" Aside, of course, as a possible inspiration to those who suffer from a disability.

And yes, MaryRose, being the sensitive person that he was, he most definitely suffered depression caused by events in his life that would have sent a lot of us over the edge.

But, Wood-Demon, I must set you straight a bit about those terms of endearment Chopin used in his letters. At first glance, they would have many wondering, but it was VERY COMMON in those days to address treasured friends (of the same or different gender) with flowery and loving salutations. Chopin had great affection for many of his male friends for he grew up with them and shared many happy times together. It was common (and being Polish I can speak from experience) to not only hug but kiss EVERYONE, not on both cheeks as is done with the French, but actually on the lips. I believe this is still a Polish tradition.

If you read Chopin's letters, you must have noticed the wonderful sense of humor he had and his obvious concern for practically everyone he knew.

There is no evidence that Chopin was bisexual, but even if[/b] it were true...again, what difference does it make? His music transcends everything, as I know you would agree.

P.S. I had better add a postscript to this less some might think that I think that Chopin was perefect. He was not. He was human and exhibited many of the same behaviors that most of us do.

My best,
Kathleen
_________________________
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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#398268 - 09/26/08 12:31 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Wood-demon:
It's more likely, judging from the terms of endearment Chopin used in his youthful letters to his male friends, that he was bisexual.
[/b]
Szulc says in his book that the way Chopin addresed his best friend was very typical of the way people wrote letters in those days and is in now way an indication of his being bisexual.

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#398269 - 09/26/08 12:45 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by loveschopintoomuch:
I have a feeling that I speak for all of us that we couldn't care less about what disorder or disease Chopin *might* have had. As RPA has stated: "What difference does it make?" Aside, of course, as a possible inspiration to those who suffer from a disability.
[/b]
You certainly don't speak for me or the author of the book I mentioned. And I doubt you speak for "all(the rest)of us" either.

If Chopin was bipolar it would be a major influence on his entire life and work and certainly an important point to included in a bio. When people say " who cares?" as long as he wrote beautiful music, I think they're really saying that being bipolar should not be thought of as a negative thing a I cerainly agree.

But it would be certainly as importnt as virtually anything else in his life, so if it is "not important" why should anyone write anything else about Chopin's life? In fact, why should anyone write a biography?

In Szulc's book he just doesn't say he think Chopin was bipolar and give no supporting facts.
I will try later to write another post with his supporting ideas. Of course, this doesn't mean Szulc was correct in his opinion, it just shows he wasn't certainly was not just giving some thoughtless opinion.

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#398270 - 09/26/08 01:05 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
Mary-Rose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/16/06
Posts: 1428
Loc: Essex, England
 Quote:
Originally posted by Wood-demon:
By the way, Mary Rose, what a lovely dog! [/b]
Thanks, Wood-demon \:\) I think so too.

He's raring to get to know Sotto Voce's psychedelic cats. \:D
_________________________
Best wishes from MR
http://www.extraloudpurrs.blogspot.com

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#398271 - 09/26/08 01:21 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Wood-demon:
It's more likely, judging from the terms of endearment Chopin used in his youthful letters to his male friends, that he was bisexual.
[/b]
Szulc says in his book that the way Chopin addresed his best friend was very typical of the way people wrote letters in those days and is in now way an indication of his being bisexual. [/b]
As Kathleen already mentioned, there's no evidence he was bisexual.

But, FWIW, the fact that such displays of same-sex affection were "normal" doesn't mean he wasn't, either.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#398272 - 09/26/08 01:33 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
At the risk of "stirring the pot," Chopin wrote a lot of letters to a lot of male friends. If the effusiveness and desire for osculation was so commonplace in the correspondence of Polish males why are his letters to Tytus the only ones that raise our eyebrows today?
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#398273 - 09/26/08 01:43 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by -Frycek:
At the risk of "stirring the pot," Chopin wrote a lot of letters to a lot of male friends. If the effusiveness and desire for osculation was so commonplace in the correspondence of Polish males why are his letters to Tytus the only ones that raise our eyebrows today? [/b]
Tytus was by far his closest friend so Chopin might not have written to others in the same manner. Just because the way Chopin wrote to Tytus was common in Polish society, it doesn't mean that everyone wrote to everyone else in that manner.

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#398274 - 09/26/08 01:58 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
NikolaTesla Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/23/07
Posts: 71
Loc: WA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Wood-demon:
A young British composer who suffers from Tourette's syndrome has divined, from listening to the music of Mozart, that he, too, must have suffered from the condition and devoted an hour-long TV programme to the subject in an attempt to prove his theory. I remain unconvinced; as far as I know there's not one piece of documentary evidence to support the claim.
I suspect that this theory about Chopin is, similarly, just conjecture. It's more likely, judging from the terms of endearment Chopin used in his youthful letters to his male friends, that he was bisexual.
By the way, Mary Rose, what a lovely dog! [/b]
Sounds like propaganda from the p$ychiatric e$tabli$hment.

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#398275 - 09/26/08 01:58 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
A few quotes from Szulc's book that give some evidence of why *Szulc* thinks Chopin was bipolar. I am not saying that I know or am even quite certain he was bipolar. If that was the case, I wouldn't have bothered to ask this in my original post. There are numerous other references to Chopin being bipolar listed in the index of the book. I will try to add them as I read them. I'm only on page 95:


page59:

"He suffered from typically manic-depressive mood swings that were as violent as his shifts from major to minor in the same composition.....During attacks of rage he smashed chairs, broke pencils, and heaped invective on hapless piano students or visitors. A former student reported that he at least once had seen Chopin's hair stand on end like a dog's hackles. When deeply depressed, he shut himslef in his room for days, weeping softly."

page 40:
" Most psychiatric analysis of Chopin's mental health, based on correspondence, memoirs, and early biographies, does suggest strongly that he was a schizoid or manic dpressive type."

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#398276 - 09/26/08 02:02 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
[
But, FWIW, the fact that such displays of same-sex affection were "normal" doesn't mean he wasn't, either.[/b]
True, but virtually nothing could prove he wasn't homosexual so I think your point has minimal weight.

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#398277 - 09/26/08 02:10 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4690
Loc: Illinois
Yikes, I can see that this thread is going to become another series of posts that will change no one's mind and become more fodder for those who think opinions are biased, which, of course, they are.

I apologize for believing that I spoke for (all) others in stating that his music transcends any physical and/or mental problems he may have had. I happen to believe it is sublime.

And, just using one author's opinion does not make your case a valid or solid one.

So, off I go, never to return, for I just don't see the point in arguing something that CAN NOT be proven.

Kathleen
_________________________
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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#398278 - 09/26/08 02:43 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Szulc says in his book that the way Chopin addresed his best friend was very typical of the way people wrote letters in those days and is in now way an indication of his being bisexual. [/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
But, FWIW, the fact that such displays of same-sex affection were "normal" doesn't mean he wasn't, either.[/b]
True, but virtually nothing could prove he wasn't homosexual so I think your point has minimal weight. [/b]
What's your point, then? Szulc says the letters don't prove he was bi, you say nothing can prove he wasn't homosexual.

Does Szulc, or do you, find any evidence that could prove anything at all about his sexuality?

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#398279 - 09/26/08 02:47 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by loveschopintoomuch:
And, just using one author's opinion does not make your case a valid or solid one.

So, off I go, never to return, for I just don't see the point in arguing something that CAN NOT be proven.
[/b]
If you read my post where i quote Szulc's book, I specifically said that it was only the author's opinion. And in my OP I stated I was interested in finding out what other people had read about Chopin because I had only read one other Chopin bio.

Since medical science in Chopin's time had no way of proving bipolar disorder it's certainly true one can never prove Chopin was bipolar. And I don't see in this thread any need to "argue".

The idea is simply to present other author's/poster's opinions on this topic. If there is a huge consensus one way or the other although it doesn't prove anything, it would be good evidence of probability.

It's just an interesting topic. I don't see the need for something to be provable as a condition for discussion.

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#398280 - 09/26/08 02:56 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Szulc says in his book that the way Chopin addresed his best friend was very typical of the way people wrote letters in those days and is in now way an indication of his being bisexual. [/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
But, FWIW, the fact that such displays of same-sex affection were "normal" doesn't mean he wasn't, either.[/b]
True, but virtually nothing could prove he wasn't homosexual so I think your point has minimal weight. [/b]
What's your point, then?[/b]
To express my opinion that your statement doesn't have much weight in terms of its logic.

You might as well say,"the fact that eating at McDonald's is popular, doesn't mean he wasn't homosexual either."

Having gotten sidetracked, I hope this thread can get back on topic. Was Chopin bipolar?

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#398281 - 09/26/08 02:59 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
NikolaTesla Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/23/07
Posts: 71
Loc: WA
Um what are you guys smoking? Chopin had a female lover, he wasn't a freaking homo.

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#398282 - 09/26/08 03:09 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
 Quote:
Originally posted by NikolaTesla:
Um what are you guys smoking? Chopin had a female lover, he wasn't a freaking homo. [/b]
Yeah, but he still wanted to kiss his best buddy.

Re bipolar - In answer to Pianoloversus, no, the ideal of Chopin being bipolar is by no means generally accepted. I happen to think he might have been based on literally personal experience. Kathleen concludes the opposite for exactly the same reason. So there you are.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#398283 - 09/26/08 03:12 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Love your logic, PLUS, and love the McDonald's reference, too. But you should have chosen Burger King, where you can "have it your way." \:\)

NT, if you think that a "freakin homo" can't have a female lover, you don't get out much. But then using terminology like "freakin homo" for a gay man isn't exactly worldly—unless, of course, you are one and thus have insider's rights to intentionally ironic usage.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#398284 - 09/26/08 03:28 PM Re: Was Chopin bipolar?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19105
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by -Frycek:
Re bipolar - In answer to Pianoloversus, no, the ideal of Chopin being bipolar is by no means generally accepted. I happen to think he might have been based on literally personal experience. Kathleen concludes the opposite for exactly the same reason. So there you are. [/b]
As stated in my OP, I really hope to hear from people who have read several biographies of Chopin about whether or not the authors mention Chopin was bipolar.

I think one can assume that most good authors would have spent a huge amount of time investigating Chopin's mental state and all other aspects of his life. For example, besides Szulc's enormous bibliography he actually visited all eight places in Paris where Chopin lived. (This doesn't mean his ideas are necessarily correct)

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Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Spelling chords and using correct accidentals
by JoelW
Today at 03:11 AM
HELP! Is this strain because of my technique?
by T.M.E.
Yesterday at 11:26 PM
Is it my technique that's causing this?
by T.M.E.
Yesterday at 10:49 PM
Best brand of upright piano 48" or larger?
by WG40
Yesterday at 10:22 PM
Kawai MP11 vs. Kawai VPC-1 Action / Key Length
by jp2011
Yesterday at 10:00 PM
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