This engaging documentary highlights the emotional power of his music – and his liaison with France’s most famous woman
Rereleased as part of special screenings for all of director Phil Grabsky’s Great Composer series, this 2014 documentary is a studious, attentive resumé of the genius Polish émigré one European aristocrat liked to call “Chopski”. What it lacks in the kind of central episodic hook much favoured by the modern biopic, or visual virtuosity, it doubly pays backs in informed piano-side commentary by top pianists – including Daniel Barenboim, Leif Ove Andsnes and Ronald Brautigam – that gets to the essence of the music.
Chopin himself, a teenage prodigy in his native Warsaw, was chary about simply giving this away. He gave only 30 public concerts in his short life (he died of tuberculosis aged 39 in 1849); his preferred method of musical communion was more intimate salon recitals that suited the existential keyboard pieces to which he dedicated himself once he arrived in Paris in the early 1830s. As Grabsky traces the pianist’s progress across Europe, Juliet Stevenson provides an appropriately dulcet narration, while David Dawson reads the composer’s surprisingly chipper correspondence.
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