Posted tagged ‘Frederic Chopin’

Picking Me Up At the Train Station at the end of a Long Week

September 17, 2017

Frederic Chopin Thinking About Sand

Picking Me Up at the Station at the End of a Long Week

He promises as we walk to the car
that the CD is “coming up
on Chopin.”

He says this because he knows I like
the familiar–

And I do like Chopin,
yes, because I’ve heard him many times before,
but more because
the music flows,

and when you are in a dry place–no,
when you are in a place that may be dry or wet
but you yourself are a desert,

and there comes this music that sounds
like walking on water,
waltzing on water,
weeping while walking or waltzing on water,
wanting while walking or waltzing
on water,
music which wells,
the wanting (sometimes)
you (if you are me)
simply wade into
the swim.

Yes, please, let in
the Chopin.



A belated poem for Sanaa’s prompt on Real Toads to write something just taking in the atmosphere.  The pic is an old watercolor of mine of Chopin thinking of Sand (as in Georges).  



Chopin at the World Financial Center–Heavy Hands Were Needed

March 1, 2010

Chopin at World Financial Center (Heavy Hands Were Needed)

Today is the official 200th anniversary of Frederic Chopin’s birth date.   (This is based upon Chopin’s dating of his birth at March 1, rather than baptismal records that stated his date of birth as February 22nd).

I celebrated Chopin’s birthday by realizing,  by chance, that there was a free concert going on next door to my lower Manhattan apartment at the World Financial Center, and (after hurrying my dog through her evening circuit) rushing over there to listen.  (Anxious not to be too late, I considered dragging my dog along too, but figured that the Financial Center’s security guards would not understand either Pearl’s affection for Chopin or her incredibly quiet nature.)

The celebration at the World Financial Center is quite remarkable;  they have set up grand pianos throughout the public spaces upon which preludes, etudes, scherzos, and fantasias are being played all day long (by student pianists.)   This evening, more student pianists, from NYU’s Steinhardt’s Music School, played in the Palm Court under huge cloth awnings that seem to have been set up to try to harness the space’s execrable acoustics.   Heavy amplification of the main concert piano was also used.

The student pianists were wonderful, but heavy amplification does not work well for Chopin—the runs of notes tend to run together, the swirls of arpeggio to become eddies, the little fillips at the end of lines to muddy into ponderous fillips.  Heavy amplification was required, however, because of the constant din of very loud talk.   I don’t mean just from people sitting in the audience, or the occasional child in stroller who would try to sing Happy Birthday in response to a maternal explanation of Chopin’s special day;  I don’t even mean people walking through.  (The concert I went to was “after hours” so there weren’t that many passers-by).  The talk seemed mainly to come from the very few restaurants and bars in the Financial Center, particularly, the Grill Room, that sits up above the Palm Court.

It’s really hard to understand how people’s talking (even when punctuated by the occasional hoot) can be so loud; it couldn’t be called a hum, even a buzz.   Din–the din of a busy market, the barrage of commerce.

The market/commerce aspect arises because it is hard to imagine that there are many people eating at the Financial Center’s few restaurants  other than employees of tenants, i.e. Merrill Lynch, Amex, Cadwallader, Wickersham and Taft, the Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal.  (Lehman Brothers used to be a tenant; don’t quite know what happened to that one.)

It really is wonderful that such tenants arrange for Chopin to be played; too bad they won’t shut up for it.

Okay, okay, I’m being unfair, snobby, hypocritical.   I make my living from commerce too, as does New York City.  I really am grateful.  The Center sponsors all kinds of strange and wonderful free events–parades of tubas, kayak races, outdoor movies, dance performances, avant garde music, non-avant garde music.   (The Chopin festival, for example, is to continue for five days.)   In our culture, such cultural events rarely happen  without corporate largesse.

But even as I am truly grateful, I am also conscious that every evening, there are also lines of limos and private cars waiting outside the Financial Center, blocks and blocks of big black cars.

It’s very possible that the people who will get into those big cars are not the same ones making so much noise.  Who knows?  Still, I  can’t help but feel that the financial world would spin in a slightly different way if everyone working in it took the subway every day (or at least some days.)  And was a bit quieter while Chopin was being played, live.

Yearning For Chopin (Baptismal Birthday)

February 22, 2010


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.