Yearning For Chopin (Baptismal Birthday)


Frederic Chopin Thinking About Sand

Frederic Chopin’s 200th birthday, as measured by the date recorded on his baptismal records, is today (February 22, 2010).   Chopin himself always gave his birthday as March 1.  Poland, playing it on the safe side, is celebrating the birthday from today through the beginning of March.  That sounds good to me.

Actually, what sounds good to me is Chopin’s music.

Actually, what Chopin’s music really sounds like to me is yearning.  (Yes, that’s a cliché, but only because it’s true.)

The music sounds like that prickling that you get at the back of your eyes when sad, or nostalgic, or…yearning.

That prickling at the corners of your lips when thrilled, or happy,  or ….yearning.

Like cattails by the side of a Northern lake.  (There’s a jump.)  Not cattails, perhaps so much as autumn, brown and deep and gold clinging to blue and light and green.

Speaking of green, some of the music sounds like thick, slightly damp,  grass against young bare running dancing feet.  Then like your mother’s hands on your forehead, when, flushed and tired after running dancing in thick, slightly damp, grass,  you lay your head on her lap.   Only the music is fragile and yearning and sweet enough to sound more like the memory of those things (perfect/gone) than the things themselves.

The lighter chords, especially at the end of a piece, sometime remind me of the light slap of a boat in water, a sound reflecting reflections (the water is glassy, the bright color of the boat shows in its rippled surface.)

The stronger chords sound like justice (never without its somber side, even when triumphant).

And the really really soft chords (as in the Nocturnes) sound like the feel of the nape of your neck, rather, like what the nape of your neck feels.

Sometimes, when I get very specific in my memories, the music reminds of Arthur Rubenstein on a TV talk show (he used to actually be on those ) telling, with a curved rueful smile, of the time he tried to commit suicide as a young man, feeling a complete failure, and failing even in that (his bathrobe belt noose broke), he decided to just live.  Playing music, loving life.  For a very long time.

Only, the music makes one think of life and love cut short.

I’m being sentimental.  (The music can be too.   But in the best sense of the word—it makes you feel.)

I’m sounding confused.  (There are sometimes an awfully lot of notes.)

I’m all over the map.  (How could he write so much, so widely, wildly, creatively, in such a short time?)

It’s hard to think ‘happy birthday, Frederic.’  Too much sickness, too few years.

It’s enough to just sit and listen, awed (and yearning.)

PS–for another watercolor portrait of another great guy who was maybe born on February 22,  check out post on George Washington, Cherry Pie.

Explore posts in the same categories: children's illustration, music, Uncategorized

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