Jeremy Siepmann and Naxos Records have created a truly winning recipe with their "Life and Works" series. The combination of an audio book with music is an extraordinarily powerful and compelling way of bringing the biography of a classical musician to life and, at the same time, making the music accessible to a wide audience who may never have had the privilege of listening to some of the greatest music ever written.
Frederic Chopin, like so many of the classical composers that we have come to love, was a child prodigy. Born in Poland to a French father, he was a composer and a leader in the development of Romantic music (a genre he truly didn't even care for himself). Despite being one of the greatest pianists in Europe, his innovative compositions relied more on depth, nuance, expression and musical story-telling than a blatant exhibition of pianistic virtuosity. His prolific output included stylings such as sonatas, mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, ballades, impromptus, études and préludes (some of which had yet to be written for piano until Chopin set pen to paper).
In a listening experience that spans a scant two hours, it's difficult to be scholarly and cover great expanses of music. But, be assured, it's all here at least in brief - his deeply flawed love life, the rumours of his homosexual tendencies, his virtuosic piano skills, his music, his nomadic living style coupled with a fierce patriotic love of Poland, his birth place, his frail disposition and his ill health which, of course, fueled a predisposition to paranoid levels of hypochondria, and much, much more.
Truly an uplifting, entertaining and educational listening experience. Highly recommended.
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