Episode 33: Chopin's Guns and Roses

Mazurka in F-sharp minor, Op. 6, No. 1

rc-newguns-200What do Guns N’ Roses have to do with Chopin? Ask Robert Schumann.

Like salty with sweet, there’s something about polar pairings that attracts us. If nothing else, they make great names for rock bands: Bad Company. Led Zeppelin. Velvet Revolver. Guns N’ Roses.

About that last name: Robert Schumann once described Fryderyk Chopin’s music as “Guns buried in flowers.” Chopin’s own words shed light on the contradiction:

"I wish I could throw off the thoughts which poison my happiness. And yet I take a kind of pleasure in indulging them."

This push-and-pull between giving in and resisting is a defining feature in Chopin’s output. His music, like his nature, is filled with contrasting episodes. Sometimes they happen within a set of pieces--like his constantly shifting Opus 28 Preludes—and often within a single work, like the Mazurka, Op. 6, No. 1.

It was Felix Mendelssohn who noted in Chopin the two ingredients that set great musicians apart: “Something fundamentally personal” and “at the same time so very masterly in his playing.” One Chopin student noticed “unshakeable emotional logic;” another, “perfect freedom and absolute lucidity.” Guns buried in flowers: contradictions and pairings that give birth to art, the charged particles that we recognize as the ions of genius. - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 33: Chopin's Guns and Roses

Mazurka, Op. 6, No. 1