Cover Image: Chasing Chopin

Chasing Chopin

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Member Reviews

This is a very interesting, readable book with a fairly extensive bibliography that seems to be part-way between biography and travel writing. Despite my near-complete lack of any background in music, I found it easy to understand and enjoy the descriptions of music--and the availability of the companion website made it that much more accessible.

I went into reading this book with an understanding of Chopin as a symbol of Polish national identity far more than of his work as a pianist and composer--as a Polish American who has had some proximity to the cultural side of American Polonia, having some exposure to Chopin in this context is likely inevitable. The book’s narrative seems to approach Chopin almost from the opposite direction, predicting that the reader is familiar with Chopin first as a piano composer and second as a feature of Polish identity worldwide; I suspect that for such a reader, the way the author deals with Chopin-and-Poland would be just as readable and understandable as I found her approach to Chopin-and-piano-music.

There are places in the narrative where it briefly becomes more a story about someone else (the Marquis de Custine for a while, George Sand fairly regularly), but I don't consider that really a weakness--it is important context, and it is interesting.

All in all, it's a really interesting look at Chopin's impact on many people around the world both during his life and well after his death, but also at how Chopin's world shaped him.

I received an electronic copy of this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Hooray for Annik LaFarge for giving us Chasing Chopin! I was transported into another time and place, immersed in gorgeous piano music, and enthralled by the unlikely romance story.

LaFarge uses Frédéric Chopin's music to reveal the history of his beloved home country of Poland, a country only in spirit during his lifetime.

Plagued by tuberculosis, Chopin preferred to play in small venues and publish his music. At a time when Berlioz's bellicose works for large orchestras and opera were esteemed as the highest musical art forms, Chopin remained true to writing for the piano, an instrument still in development.

On first sight, Chopin thought George Sand unattractive. Their next meeting they fell in love. Their relationship traversed from lovers to estrangement.

After every chapter I turned to the companion site WhyChopin where I listened to the music discussed in that chapter. LaFarge offers a variety of artists on instruments contemporary and from Chopin's time. I personally loved hearing the music on Chopin's preferred Pleyel pianos.

I loved this book for so many reasons: because I love piano music; for learning more about author George Sand; for the insight into the history of Poland; and the portrait of the Romantic Era.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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