Chasing Chopin: A Musical Journey Across Three Centuries, Four Countries, and a Half-Dozen Revolutions

S. & S. Aug. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9781501188718. $27. MUSIC
A book centered on a funeral march? The subtitle of this engaging volume almost says it all. LaFarge (On the High Line: Exploring America’s Most Original Urban Park) became fascinated by Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, op. 35, popularly called the “Funeral March,” and set off on an exploration of Chopin’s music, viewed especially through the sonata. This “chasing” after the composer led her to a probing examination of his long-term relationship with writer George Sand, as well as with luminaries such as artist Eugène Delacroix. She investigates the art of piano making and delves into Chopin’s preferences for the instrument, his teaching techniques, and his method of composing. The author also provides extensive information on the cultural scene and the political situation as they influenced the composer’s music. This slender but wide-ranging volume is impeccably researched, with copious notes and a bibliography, but never seems overly scholarly and will appeal to a variety of general readers.
VERDICT Well recommended to anyone with an interest in Chopin, though those seeking a definitive study of the composer’s life and music are directed to Alan Walker’s Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times.
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