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The Life and Works of Chopin [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Jeremy Siepmann
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 2001
Chopin (1810-1849) brought romantic music to unprecedented heights of expressiveness, as illustrated in this recording by numerous examples taken from the Naxos catalog.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Siepmann presents the lives of Beethoven and Chopin through two musical biographies. Combining each composer's music with narrative, he demonstrates the development of each musician's skills and growth as an artist. Each audiobook contains an eight-page booklet, which discusses the artist's role in the Romantic Movement, his music, and some information on his life. Also included are musical credits and an outline of each cassette, as well as the best-known works of each composer. The diction is clear and precise with either minimal or no accent on the part of narrators Bob Peck, Karen Archer, and Neville Jason, among others. While neither of these tapes provides startling new insights into the composers, they do present a thorough and interesting sound portrait that will hold the attention of nonmusicians. This series would be of special interest to academic libraries and of use to large public libraries. Recommended. Laurie Selwyn, San Antonio P.L.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Review

This is the first of what is bound to be a stream of biographies celebrating the bicentenary of the composer's birth - but none, I bet, will include as much if any of the music. At least half this audio is devoted to the works, played with great passion and even greater panache by Turkish virtuoso Idil Biret. Everyone knows about Chopin's affair with George Sand, but I hadn't realised what a bitch she was towards the end, mocking his pain and accusing him of hypochondria. Fascinating older women, even if they're famous, sexy, clever and French, have their disadvantages. The story about Poland's national treasure penniless, alone and close to death in 1848, being taken to Edinburgh by rich, well-meaning patrons and seeking out a Polish family to talk to in his own all-but-forgotten native tongue, is heartbreaking. Just like his nocturnes. - Sue Arnold, The Guardian More than any musician or composer in history, Fredrick Chopin 'owned' the piano as an instrument, and made it sing. His fascinating life from prodigy to tragic death by consumption at age 39 is chronicled in The Life and Works of Chopinby Jeremy Siepmann, who also narrates, (with actor Anton Lesser reading excerpts from Chopin's letters). The audiobook intersperses biography with a wide sampling of music in such a way that the listener is beguiled into visualizing that bygone era in Paris when Romanticism flowered with imaginative, new melodies and tonal colors grown out of folk tunes and the symmetry of a classical past. Words fail to evoke the timeless and unique beauty of Chopin's creations then, which were not only among the greatest works for keyboard ever composed, but also the most universal. The story behind it all - including Chopin's unusual life and loves - is an intriguing snapshot of early 19th Century France, yet its distance in time shrinks to nothing with such a musical score as accompaniment. (As a companion video, we recommend the movie Impromptu, which starred Hugh Grant as Chopin.) A free thinker, shy and modest, Chopin was an unrivaled poetic genius who evolved, from nowhere, a new style of playing with a gift for composition that was boundless. His was art, not for art's sake, but for the heart's sake. Chopin's own words tell us why: 'Bach is like an astronomer who, with the help of ciphers, finds the most wonderful stars. Beethoven embraced the universe with the power of his spirit. I do not climb so high. A long time ago I decided that my universe will be the soul and heart of man.' - Jonathan Lowe, burjreview.blogspot.com/ Jeremy Siepmann, one time Head of Music at BBC World Service and a life time teacher, broadcaster and author, has devoted himself to the cause of classical music. Naxos has already issued his audiobooks on Haydn, Beethoven and Baroque music and now we have the heart rending story of Frederic Chopin 1810-49. Siepmann's graphic and moving biographical narrative is illustrated by Anton Lesser's readings of letters and other historical documentary evidence (together with contributions by Neville Jason, Elaine Claxton and Karen Archer). It is all here, from his early struggles for recognition in his native Poland to later triumphs at Vienna, Paris as leading figure in the salons. Here he was to meet Liszt who fatefully introduced him to Madame Dudevant (George Sand) in 1836. Chopin enjoyed (if that is the word) a tempestuous relationship with her until 1847. He was to receive a triumphant reception in this country, with sensational appearances at London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This arresting and moving story is lavishly illustrated throughout with a vast array of Chopin's music played by Idel Biret. This beautiful set of 4 CDs is biographically led. The music here and there is gracefully faded. The wonder and range of the creative artistry remains dazzling and refreshing. Chopin created exclusively for the piano, I'm convinced of that. He may have drawn inspiration from elsewhere - Mozart, Weber, John Field as well as the singing, arching legato of Bellini and Donizetti and the traditional dances of his native Poland - but his true voice was essentially through the piano keyboard. Throughout his creative career he was refining and perfecting his art as he further absorbed insight from the study of J. S. Bach and Cherubuni. The range of expertise he calls for is fascinating as much of his output can be managed by non experts yet at the height of powers only the virtuoso can make Chopin speak and dance and sing in his true voice. And even here skill alone is never enough. Because his genius is unique it takes a unique soloist to find him, bravura playing such as wins applause and prizes today or sentimentalizing of the classics (also in vogue) just cannot deliver the heart and soul. This is the beautiful sort of music we sometimes hear in dreams. Andre Gide had it when he wrote: '...everything should be made homogenous, so that the melody may remain enveloped in the friendly atmosphere created by the other voices, themselves evoking a continually pulsating, but immaterial landscape'. This took me back. The dear lady who taught me German used to play Chopin to me if I had done well. One Friday afternoon, my mastery of the Plu Perfect Subjunctive earned me the 24 Preludes. 'Chopin was the pianist's pianist' she said, as she sat at my dad's upright. But George Sand was a complete and utter bitch. - Robert Giddings, Tribune Chopin wrote the most romantic music ever composed. Thirty-four extracts are included here, the sensitive Nocturnes and Etudes and the Polish Mazurkas, entwined with his vividly told life-story. His long and rewarding affair with George Sand (which ended in illness and tears) and their miserable winter in Majorca are fascinating. So are his physical suppleness (he had 'boneless fingers' and could place his legs around his shoulders), his daily hairdressing, his flight from cholera, and the dreary teaching necessitated by his constant money worries. - Rachel Redford, The Oldie --This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Not having known very much at all about Chopin, I cannot vouch for the accuracy in the Naxos entry in their CD and cassette Biography series; but I can vouch for the enjoyment <The Life and Works of Chopin> (NA 421912) afforded me.
Written and produced by Jeremy Siepmann, this audio-bio not only tells the strange story of Chopin's life but also includes generous examples of his music, drawn from the bottomless pit of Naxos musical CDs. An excellent idea was to use actors for the voices of Chopin (Anton Lesser), George Sand and other females in his life (Elaine Claxton and Karen Archer), and other male acquaintances (Neville Jason). It is the kind of reading that would fascinate even if the work were fictional.
His letters are particularly fascinating, especially as they are read dramatically by the small cast; and one would rather hear about all his faults--physical and psychological--from people who knew him well. Perhaps his strange epistolary relationship with his Titus is dwelt upon a bit too much, but such are the times (then and now).
My only criticism in a negative direction is the length of the musical examples. I do not really think the entire "Revolutionary Etude" had to be played or the entire "Funeral March"; a minute or two with a fadeout would have been fine, especially on repeated hearings where one wants the facts. Nevertheless, highly recommended.
By the way, the listing above of this work as "abridged" is simply inaccurate since the text (I am told by the publicity person at Naxos) was written specifically for this recording and is by definition "unabridged."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to boh the life and the work Aug. 4 2001
By F. Behrens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Not having known very much at all about Chopin, I cannot vouch for the accuracy in the Naxos entry in their CD and cassette Biography series; but I can vouch for the enjoyment <The Life and Works of Chopin> (NA 421912) afforded me.
Written and produced by Jeremy Siepmann, this audio-bio not only tells the strange story of Chopin's life but also includes generous examples of his music, drawn from the bottomless pit of Naxos musical CDs. An excellent idea was to use actors for the voices of Chopin (Anton Lesser), George Sand and other females in his life (Elaine Claxton and Karen Archer), and other male acquaintances (Neville Jason). It is the kind of reading that would fascinate even if the work were fictional.
His letters are particularly fascinating, especially as they are read dramatically by the small cast; and one would rather hear about all his faults--physical and psychological--from people who knew him well. Perhaps his strange epistolary relationship with his Titus is dwelt upon a bit too much, but such are the times (then and now).
My only criticism in a negative direction is the length of the musical examples. I do not really think the entire "Revolutionary Etude" had to be played or the entire "Funeral March"; a minute or two with a fadeout would have been fine, especially on repeated hearings where one wants the facts. Nevertheless, highly recommended.
By the way, the listing above of this work as "abridged" is simply inaccurate since the text (I am told by the publicity person at Naxos) was written specifically for this recording and is by definition "unabridged."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another success in a superb series March 13 2010
By Paul Weiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Jeremy Siepmann and Naxos Records have created a truly winning recipe with their "Life and Works" series. The combination of an audio book with music is an extraordinarily powerful and compelling way of bringing the biography of a classical musician to life and, at the same time, making the music accessible to a wide audience who may never have had the privilege of listening to some of the greatest music ever written.

Frederic Chopin, like so many of the classical composers that we have come to love, was a child prodigy. Born in Poland to a French father, he was a composer and a leader in the development of Romantic music (a genre he truly didn't even care for himself). Despite being one of the greatest pianists in Europe, his innovative compositions relied more on depth, nuance, expression and musical story-telling than a blatant exhibition of pianistic virtuosity. His prolific output included stylings such as sonatas, mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, ballades, impromptus, études and préludes (some of which had yet to be written for piano until Chopin set pen to paper).

In a listening experience that spans a scant two hours, it's difficult to be scholarly and cover great expanses of music. But, be assured, it's all here at least in brief - his deeply flawed love life, the rumours of his homosexual tendencies, his virtuosic piano skills, his music, his nomadic living style coupled with a fierce patriotic love of Poland, his birth place, his frail disposition and his ill health which, of course, fueled a predisposition to paranoid levels of hypochondria, and much, much more.

Truly an uplifting, entertaining and educational listening experience. Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
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