A Personality, a Preview and a Passing:

While the composer’s music was sublime, his personality was another matter entirely

chopin31

Chopin is no less fascinating for being a difficult personality. Novelist, journalist, pre-concert talker, blogger — Jessica Duchen joins others, including Chopin’s lover George Sand, in casting a critical eye on the musician’s relationships with others. The exquisite sensibility that produced music overflowing with feeling also made the composer hard to live with. — Eve

It’s never a good idea to judge art by the artist’s character, as we too often do these days, and there are few better examples of why not than Frédéric Chopin. He is set to be the romantic hero of 2010, his bicentenary year: concert halls and record companies are preparing a barrage of celebratory events and CDs. But anniversaries can be mixed blessings for the dead: look closely at any adored individual and it is likely that something less than savoury will be lurking. There’s no doubting the greatness of the Polish pianist-composer’s music; but that greatness came at a heavy price for those who were close to him, or tried to be . . . Click to read more


Emanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax

Ring in the New Year

Stephen Dankner reports Polish-American pianist Emanuel Ax will present a solo recital at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA on Saturday, Jan. 2, at 7:30 p.m.  commemorating of the 200th birthdays of Frederyk Chopin and Robert Schumann, and promises a thrilling experience.


Preble Earle Donoho 122509A brilliant young musician’s mysterious change in direction

A LOCAL LIFE: Preble Earle Donoho, 79

By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post

Starting in the late 1930s, when he was in knee pants, Preble Earle Donoho was the Washington area’s leading piano prodigy.Before reaching his teens, “Prib,” as he was known, was a veteran of major concert halls from Washington to New York. The Washington Post wrote that he played with “brilliance, speed, power and accuracy.” The Washington Star described him as “mature musically and technically beyond his years.” Click to read the full text of Mr. Shapiro’s story.

Newspaper obituaries used to be assigned to rookies. Now they have bylines. Obits can sum up the themes in a person’s life, the key meanings a person gives to those  left behind. Preble Earl Donoho (“Prib”) was a prodigy, a boy for whom music was a gift; and yet he abandoned Chopin recitals to become a newspaper typesetter. Mr. Donoho was raised to be a concert pianist; he wanted to be a spy. What’s the meaning? We all have multiple possible lives. A gift does not always carry with it a compulsion to be used. For Mr. Donoho, the mysteries of everyday life were ultimately more seductive than the melodies of Chopin. -Eve

  • Theresa

    I find the first article to be a little bit unbalanced. True, Chopin was a difficult character to get along with for many people – in fact, I really dislike it when biographers try to pretend otherwise – but it makes little sense to paint Franz Liszt and George Sand, for example, as victims when each had their own highly undesirable personality traits. The author also states that Chopin supported Solange’s marriage to Clésinger while George Sand opposed it, and while that might have seemed true later on, it was quite the opposite in the beginning. Chopin disliked and distrusted Clésinger while Sand supported and even arranged the marriage. Things didn’t change until Clésinger had an altercation with Maurice Sand, though I gather things were souring some time before then.