“Chopin has attracted and repelled me all my life; and I have heard his music too often – prostituted, profaned, vulgarized…” Italian composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni made that confession in 1924, but overcame his repulsion to compose a set of variations on a Chopin Prelude.
Busoni has had plenty of company in his mixed feelings for the poet of the piano. Sure, the Chopin-phobic have a familiar laundry list: His Polish nationality, his “overly-impassioned style,” or his body of “drawing-room miniatures for ladies.” But sooner or later they concede: The man produced an extraordinary body of work.
The list of composers who wrote Souvenirs, Homages and other memorials is long and star-studded. Curiously, almost all were born – or were still in short pants - after 1849, the year Chopin died. Take Tchaikovsky. Six months before his death he composed his final work for piano, Eighteen Pieces, Op. 72. Each is dedicated to a friend. Number 15 in marked, Un poco di Chopin. It’s a mischievous mazurka that plays with accents on beats in a way that would have pleased the Puck in Chopin.
And how could Edvard Grieg, the man dubbed “The Chopin of the North” not tip his hat? Like Tchaikovsky’s, his homage to Fryderyk appears in his last work for solo piano, Stimmungen, or Moods, Op. 73. East, West, North, and South, Chopin’s successors paying tribute to a true pioneer of the piano. - Benjamin K. Roe & Jennifer Foster