Great Compositions/Performances: Chopin Fantasy f minor Op 49. Valentina Lisitsa

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Chopin Fantasy f minor Op 49. Valentina Lisitsa

FROM VALENTINA:  “This is Chopin’s response to Liszt’s “Funerailles” ( I know, I know, Liszt wrote it AFTER Chopin died – so let’s say it was Liszt’s response to Chopin’s Fantasy) The same plan – starting with a funeral introduction , same f -minor, same abundance of octaves… But Funerailles is a great piano war-horse, favorite of any “virtuoso” with a decent octave technique – sure and cheap way to impress and thrill the audiences. Fantasy in comparison is a poor cousin , underappreciated and often misunderstood : the worst offenders are often female pianists ( LOL, huuuuuge grin goes here ) playing it in overly sentimental and romanticized way – complete with hands flailing , eyes rolling and hair flying 🙂 Guys just can’t do it  🙂
How did it happen? Liszt was a great self-promotion and marketing guy – he discovered a neat trick of “programming” in music , forcing music “to tell a story”- and listeners suddenly thought ” Gee, now we understand what this music is about , how cool !” This was his trademark -but it was certainly not his invention. In fact , most if not all music has a “program” , something composer thought of when composing and something we think of when we listen .It can be something very concrete and extremely detailed ( Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique for example)- or just a vague hint of an idea that makes us think further ( Beethoven 5th Symphony ).The problem with detailed programs is that music can become “dated” , tied to a certain event that might be of no importance to future listeners. People can relate in perpetuity to ” the fate knocking on the door” of the 5th symphony. But we can never again ( hopefully ) feel what French audience must have felt on Berlioz’ premiere during the third movement with its guillotine strike. I bet their hair was standing up and Goosebumps were covering the listeners who still remembered Terror some years before…I think that even watching Avatar in 3D is nothing in comparison to that experience 🙂
Chopin was much more subtle in his “programs”-he catered to more sophisticated smaller audience of salons rather than big concert halls. These people knew the historical context and could understand him without need to spell it out . In order to fully appreciate his music we must know at least a bit of history too. Then it becomes clear that Chopin was so different from a stereotyped effeminate ,sickly romantic virtuoso image. He was a true titan, not in body but in spirit – singlehandedly ( with few brethren poets ,artists etc.)keeping the whole people from oblivion and cultural destruction. For his people , his country, was at this time a mere geographic term . Formerly a proud and powerful nation ,one of Europe superpowers, Poland has fallen so low because of internal discord that it was picked piece by piece by strong and brutal neighbors until it disappeared. New “owners” were bent on wiping national identity and pride to secure their new acquisitions. They would have succeeded was it not for Chopin. You know that musicologists call him a first” national” composer. For a good reason – he created an epic of his nation in music just as Homer created his in Odyssey or Virgil in Aeneid… And we are not only talking about things like Polonaises or Mazurkas fitting into this “national” category. Fantasy is a prime example of thinly veiled national music. Why? Bear with me while I take you through last foray into history. Chopin and his family ended up in a part of Poland that was grabbed by Russian Empire. He traveled abroad with Russian passport ( Chopin , a Russian composer ? LOL) and he had to lie on his exit visa application ( yes, I am serious ) that he is in transit to New World, Americas. He lived for almost whole his life with a stamp ” in Transit”. The single event in history that changed his life was Polish uprising of 1830-31, a noble but doomed to fail attempt by patriots to overthrow occupying forces ( Revolutionary Etude was written the night he got the news of Russian Cossacks entering Warsaw , he didn’t know if his family even survived all carnage and rape ) . The rebels was brutally destroyed and all the hope of freedom was lost. Chopin realized that he will never see his native land – or even his family. All his life he was carrying in his soul – and in his music – the memory of this event and of its unsung heroes. Fantasy is an ode to all those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom.”

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2 responses to “Great Compositions/Performances: Chopin Fantasy f minor Op 49. Valentina Lisitsa

  1. Pingback: Chopin Etude Op 25 No.11 HQ – Valentina Lisitsa: great performances | euzicasa

  2. Pingback: historic musical moments: Jan Ekier: Nocturne in G major, Op. 37, No. 2 (Chopin) | euzicasa

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