« Previous     Next »

Episode 97: Chopin and the Salon

Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 36

rc-salon-200"I am not suited for concert-giving," Chopin once said to Liszt. "I feel timid in the presence of the public; their breath stifles me; their curious gaze paralyses me."

Fryderyk Chopin had a life-long aversion to performing in large concert halls: "It is a dreadful time for me; I do not like public life, but it is part of my profession,” he conceded.

His touch was delicate: George Sand’s pet name for him was “Velvet Fingers.” His physical being was delicate: five foot seven and chronically ill, Chopin’s adult weight averaged around 90 pounds. His sensibilities were delicate: He was more at ease with hand-picked company who could appreciate what Liszt called his "portraits in miniature." In short, the intimate salon was where Chopin could stand to perform.

It didn’t hurt that Chopin adored and perhaps required female attention. Salons were not just crucibles for artistic and intellectual energies; they provided outlets for socially acceptable flirtations. By all accounts Chopin could fall in and out of love several times in a single evening. George Sand noted: “The delicacy of his constitution rendered him interesting in the eyes of women.” These romantic flashes in the pan of Chopin’s heart were invariably converted into new compositions. The salon provided both stage and muse.

Daniel Levitin, author of This is Your Brain on Music writes, “As a tool for activation of specific thoughts, music is not as good as language…but as a tool for arousing feelings and emotions, music is better than language. If you want your potential mate to remember you, you serenade her, or at least get Peter Gabriel to do it.”

...Or Fryderyk Chopin. - Jennifer Foster

Listen in pop-up player Listen to this episode in a pop-up player
Radio Chopin Episode 97: Chopin and the Salon

Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 36

« Previous     Next »
back to top