Episode 199: Chopin the Divining Rod

Nouvelle Etude No. 2 in A-flat Major

rc-divining-200With a little effort, you can spend your life falling in love with music. Work after work, performance after performance, your “finds” become life-long companions. They are there for you during the highest of highs, the lowest of lows - for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health. And no, death can’t do you part, or so it feels.

Beethoven once quipped it takes a pure heart to make a good soup. I’ve learned it takes a kindred spirit to play Chopin, and I have fallen in love with four; all because of how they play Chopin.

His music – like Bach’s – is a divining rod: Through some unverifiable magic, a true Chopinist at the keyboard is immediately recognizable. Martha Argerich sits down to play and suddenly, endless rounds are poured for the thirsting – on the house.

I’ll never forget hearing Sviatoslav Richter play Chopin for the first time. It stopped me in my tracks. A thrill. An outrage. How could I have made it into my fourth decade and not yet heard this man play Chopin?

And I can’t not love the infectious, mischievous magician, Shura Cherkassky.

But the one performance that leaves me as electrified and vindicated as a little girl who’s taken pictures of real fairies in the wood was recorded in 1935 by Moritz Rosenthal. When you hear it, it’s as if Chopin himself were playing. Who knows if I’d have liked him as a person. I might not have gotten along with Chopin, for that matter. But I love them both.

Why the ardor? It comes down to this: There’s beauty and pain in the world. To reconcile, there’s music, those who can bear to write it down, and those who can bear to play these wonderful, terrible stories we all share but for which we have no words.

I can’t think of better grounds for falling in love. - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 199: Chopin the Divining Rod



Nouvelle Etude No. 2 in A-flat Major (performed by Moritz Rosenthal)