Frédéric François Chopin the Artist

Chopin comes before us, then, as a man of extremely complex make-up, and there is no easy solution to the problems which his personality and the music through which it was expressed present to his modern interpreter.  One can only approach him by sweeping aside the clutter of trivial romantic legend which has accumulated around his name and his works.  When all the sentimentality, pathos, patriotic fairy-takes and garbled ‘memories’ have been cleared away he appears in simple dignity as Thomas Carlyle saw him in 1848-a great artist and ‘a noble and much suffering human being’.  He was more than any other musician of his period the ‘artist’ in that word’s most absolute sense.  His mind was never diverted from its single, absorbing preoccupation by any chasing after will-o’-the wisps in the field of literature, the visual arts, politics, social questions or abstract theorizing.   To some it will seem a weakness that he should have lived in a world of upheaval and rapid change without ever allowing himself to be ‘committed ‘or ‘engaged’, as our modern jargon puts it. Yet it was therein that his strength lay.  He was dedicated to the one task of exploring the world he new best -that of his own heart and imagination; and in giving shape to what he discovered within himself it turns out that he was embodying in his music those unchanging essentials of feeling which ordinary inarticulate humanity recognizes  but cannot express for itself.  In limiting himself to the piano he in no way crippled or tied down his genius, for by his natural affinity with his instrument he was provided with a sufficient outlet for the wealth of sensibility with which his double inheritance had endowed him…
Arthur Hesley

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