“Almost from the moment Frédéric Chopin died, in Paris, legends attached themselves to his name,” writes Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in Sunday’s (11/25) New York Times. “A forged diary made the rounds…. Even while alive he became a thinly fictionalized character in a novel by George Sand, his partner of nine years…. For a biographer, there’s a lot to untangle. Alan Walker does so brilliantly in ‘Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times,’ a magisterial portrait of a composer who fascinated and puzzled contemporaries and whose music came to define the Romantic piano…. Drawing on a wealth of letters and fresh scholarship, Walker creates a polyphonic work that elegantly interweaves multiple strands. He … portrays the burgeoning society of Polish exiles in Paris in a way that lends depth to Chopin’s oft-cited patriotism…. The bittersweet pathos that would infuse so many of his compositions based on Polish dances—the mazurkas and polonaises—here appears as the musical expression of survivor’s guilt. Another thread that runs brightly through the book concerns virtuosity… The odd symbiosis between Sand and Chopin … seems as if many of their most meaningful interactions occurred in her salon in front of an audience of gossipmongers.”

Posted November 26, 2018