Mark McKenzie

January2019

Composer Fryderyk Chopin / Józef Elsner / The Lost Child

Sometime ago, while in Paris I ran across this Louvre portrait of a composer I enjoy possibly more than any other: Fryderyk Chopin. I love the ground breaking new definitive biography of Chopin called “Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times” by Alan Walker. Chopin’s piano virtuosity was not bombastic which was in vogue at the time with Franz Liszt and others but rather his playing was deeply sensitive so much so that some complained his pianissimo was too soft. He was a very compassionate, sensitive young man,  loving to his parents and family, deeply concerned about the brutal Russian oppression of his Polish people, hurt by two failed marriage attempts and ended up living for 10 years with probably the most independent and most forward thinking woman’s liberation thinker of her day: George Sands. He also had a sense of humor and playful side to his closest friends.  I am especially taken by Chopin’s composition teacher Józef Elsner and his maxims to his students posted on his office door. They demonstrate how a fine composition teacher thinks. Here they are: “It is a bad master who is not surpassed by his student.  The study of composition should not be restrained by observing too many petty rules, especially by students who’s gifts are self evident. Allow them to discover the rules for themselves. One should never expose a student to just one point of view. It is not enough for a student to equal his or surpass his master, rather, he should create his own individuality. * An artist should open himself to his surroundings. Only then, and only through such influences can he attain his true self. Each part of a composition should share the same objective. It should belong to the whole. Otherwise the beauty of a work is lost, for all beauty arises from the union of multiple parts.” Józef Elsner’s ideas encourage creativity. There is some Chopin / Elsner influence in my music and particularly in the “Lost Child.” If you are a pianist pick up the sheet music to “The Lost Child Suite for Piano” in the music shop.

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