Episode 197: Chopin's Life Lessons

Prelude in C minor, Op. 28, No. 20; Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66

rc-lessons-200As a life-long listener, and a radio veteran of close to 20 years, I’ve learned a great deal about classical music. But I’m not a musician, and that’s not how I discovered Chopin.

I confess that the pop song "Could it Be Magic" was my introduction to the Poet of the Piano.

Yes, at the risk of being expelled from the Classical Announcers Guild, I have to admit that I was the proud owner of that Barry Manilow record. Something in the music spoke to my adolescent angst. Was it Magic? Was it Manilow? No, I’m pretty sure it was…Chopin – and that characteristic sound: intense emotion expressed with exquisite beauty.

While that was the first Chopin I was able to identify, it turns out I had heard a lot of his music before without realizing it. Listen to “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” “Till the End of Time,” and other chart-toppers of my parents’ generation, and you’ll find Chopin’s Polish heart beating inside the Great American Songbook…and other arenas of American postwar pop culture, from film noir to color cartoons.

Looking back, Chopin’s music was speaking to me then in a language that I could tell was rich and eloquent, but which I had only begun to understand. But with each year I became more fluent. Not so much from the study of his scores (as a musician might), but from the harder lessons taught by life. Chopin knew them all too well, and I learned them: unrequited love, loneliness and isolation, ethnic pride, the heavy toll taken on loved ones by sickness, separation and death. Yet, through it all, the determination to persevere.

Today, the music that once was only intriguing now speaks directly to the heart. Through Chopin’s lesson plan, these life experiences are projected through a prism of beauty and art that makes them both truthful AND bearable. - Frank Dominguez

Radio Chopin Episode 197: Chopin's Life Lessons

Prelude in C minor, Op. 28, No. 20

Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66