Chopin Pop Culture References:

Song to Remember

Louisville Courier-Journal – Louisville,KY,USA

Louisville paper’s local Answer Man recalls a 1940s Chopin biopic…

Dear David Inman: My husband took me to see a movie on our first date back in 1945-46 called “Polonaise.” I cannot find any information on that movie and would like to know who the actors were. Hope you can help. — B.C., Louisville

Dear B.C.: In the words of The Little Engine That Could, I think I can.

There isn’t a movie actually titled “Polonaise,” but there is a piece of music by that title composed by Chopin. And the 1945 film “A Song to Remember” is a biography of Chopin in which he spends quite a bit of time on “Polonaise.” So I think that’s the movie you saw!

“A Song to Remember” stars Cornel Wilde as Chopin and Merle Oberon as his love, George Sand, who at one point says to Chopin, “Discontinue that so-called ‘Polonaise’ jumble you’ve been playing for days.” Ouch!

The movie’s on video, in case you were curious.

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Chopin Reviews:

PADEREWSKI: His Earliest Recordings, 1911-1912 – Ignace Jan Padereswski, piano

Audiophile Audition – USA

The thorough online classical-CD review journal belies its “Audiophile” label to review some ancient recordings (on a Chopin-like Erard piano, no less!) by another Polish piano great from the past. “[Need we add – definitely not for audiophiles! The piano has long been the most difficult instrument to properly record, and 1911…well…good luck…Ed.].

Recording engineer Seth Winner has utilized the CEDAR process to remove the most obnoxious ticks, pops, surface abrasions without affecting the dominant acoustical signal, virtually a century old. Paderewski favored the Erard Piano, and its peculiar timbre and resonance manage to survive in varying degrees of presence. At their best, the acoustic discs sound as lively as good electrical recordings, and that is saying something. The A Major Polonaise of Chopin, for instance, rings clearly and establishes the nationalist and poet at once. Schubert’s “Hark! Hark! The Lark!” declaims without sentimentality, while Stojowski’s Chant d’amour suffers from poor sound and decidedly sheds a rueful tear. We detect in Paderewski’s technical arsenal a slight anticipation of the right hand in the left, the minute asymmetry adding to the textural piquancy of performance or the inaccuracy, according to a puritan’s lights. Otherwise filler passages often gain a sense of personal momentum and personality, and the rigors of metrical conformity do not bind Paderewski’s palpable adjustment of music to suit his unique personality.

The little Etude in G-flat of Chopin perfectly conveys this point, as sparkling and impish in its way as that of Hofmann. The Chopin Etude in F from Op. 25 struggles a bit, but when it does fly the effect is aerial. The A Minor Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4 relates a marvelously bitter-sweet canvas, entirely idiomatic, with plastic grace-notes. Sweetly erotic nostalgia informs the Op. 15, No. 1 Nocturne in F, though the middle section offers some dark currents and intimations of muscular power that later technology might have served with more justice. Sensual flirtations mark the F-sharp Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 2, the seduction taking on more passion in its yearning trio….

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